I had SO MUCH FUN at Julie and Ryan's engagement session! We first met at the Ship Bottom Brewery on Long Beach Island, NJ. Getting to start our session in a casual environment really helped us get to know each other and hang out before getting too focused on taking photos (but we captured some really cool moments here anyway!). I always strive to become friends with my wedding couples, so I think having a couple drinks really helped us connect and loosen up before the beach photos.
Next we made our way down to the grassy area of the dunes, laying down a blanket and doing some intimate photos with calm romantic music playing to set a good mood. It's always great to go mostly for candid images instead of the typical "look at the camera and say cheese", and often times I tell the couple to act like I am not even here and they are just having a date by themselves. Doing this candid style makes the couple feel way more comfortable and less intimidated, since most of us do not usually have a big professional camera being pointed at us!
If you can tell by the photos below, I also aim to get a mix of wide/medium/closeup angles that help to either show more of the large scene, or to focus in on the emotions and expressions that are happening.
Next it was time to make our way towards the water! Fortunately Julie and Ryan were super willing to get their feet wet, and it ended up being more than just feet after a few big waves came our way! It's important to make sure that you can capture the waves crashing and spraying on their legs to show the exciting energy going on.
When you have such harsh sunlight like we did, it can a great opportunity to get creative and use the light at different angles. Often it is actually best to use the sun as backlighting, basically only getting the couple on their shadowy side, because this avoids any harsh light/shadows and adds an extra glow around their silhouette. However, getting the direct sunlight while walking through the water really allowed for a lot of contrast which I also love!
After their nicer clothes got a bit too wet, Julie and Ryan changed into more casual sweatshirts that are absolutely iconic down here at the Jersey Shore. The sunset colors were really starting to set in at this point, and we were blessed with a near-full moon right above the horizon!
If you thought we were done getting our feet wet, you are underestimating our willingness to have fun! This time we did make sure to keep a bit of distance from the deep water, but it wouldn't be a beach photoshoot if we didn't really make the most of the ocean itself. Julie had a super cute idea to write their last name in the sand (with amazing calligraphy I might say), I loved it and wanted to show just a bit of their hands together with the name.
It was really fortunate that I had my off-camera flash and lightstand ready, because after the sun dipped below the horizon we did not have great natural lighting. The extra flash helped a ton with adding light and detail back onto the couple, but I always try to maintain a natural look with a flash, not letting it become too overpowering or jarring. Any pro photographer should be experienced with an off-camera flash and be ready to have it working in a moment's notice, especially for sunset sessions where natural light can be unpredictable.
Chris Bray Photos is a photography company specializing in weddings, families, and individual portraits. Based in Marlton NJ 08053, servicing all of New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. Chris has been capturing weddings for 4+ years and has loved growing his business and working on his craft since the start.