Photography vs. Art Direction … and Large props should be about you

I struggled with this post today. My idea for this week’s Friday Fusions (engagement shoot ideas) was to list some large prop ideas. With the sun coming out, the weather getting warmer, and daylight saving coming up … I’m getting more engagement shoot requests and large props appears to be the way to go.

So I started compiling a list of engagement pictures and shoots that had large props. For example: engagement shoots that had pianos, vintage cars, planes, row boats, caravans, beds, ovens, horses, vintage cupboards, couches, trucks, old boats – basically any piece of large furniture that’s difficult to move.

But half way through compiling these pictures I was completely uninspired. My draft post blog post was full of pretty pictures but it meant nothing to me and I was bored with my own blog. Abort!!

It occurred to me that this could potentially be the biggest distinction between me (an art director) and a photographer.

Photography vs Art Direction
With a good photographer, give them any scene, any location, people or no people … they’ll still take good photos. It may not be their ideal scenario, but generally speaking, with a good photographer, give them any content and they’ll interpret it through the lens and produce some great shots.

Content vs Context
My brain doesn’t work like this. As an art director, Content means nothing without Context. I need to know where the couple are at right now and where they want to go with the photo shoot. What’s the vision or essence or story that they want to capture? Where do they want to go and which direction am I leading them?

I recently realised (I’m a bit naive) that it’s quite common in the wedding / photography industry to come up with an engagement shoot concept and fill it with models and props etc. I don’t know why I was so shocked by this because I actually think it’s a great idea.

But to be honest I don’t actually think I could do it. I have a whole gazillion engagement shoot ideas in my head but they lay semi-dormant. I know they’re there, I know the scenes, I’ve dreamt of them many times … but it’s like … each scene or idea is waiting for the right couple to show up.

You know I really do use the couple’s personalities and traits (what makes them unique) to inspire my photo shoots so filling a beautiful love scene with a two models who don’t know each other and who aren’t connected to any of the props doesn’t make sense for me personally.


Engagement Shoot Tip >>

So my engagement shoot tip for you is a pretty obvious one. If you are opting for large props remember to keep your engagement shoot personal and about you and not the prop. It’s easy to get carried away with props and easy to go bigger with the illusion of thinking it’s ‘better’ … but really, bigger is not better when the people who know you can’t see you in the images (all they see is the amazing prop).

If a couple came up to me and said they wanted a piano in their engagement shoot and they previously have had no connection to music or playing a piano, I would really want to dig deep to find out what the piano represents to them. Because it’s not about the piano, it’s about what they think it means. And that essence then becomes the vision for the photo shoot.

So if you play or love the piano, then incorporate the piano. If you love old cars, incorporate old cars. If you love horses, incorporate horses. Keep it very real to who you are and then add a twist to the vision / shoot to get a bit of shock value. But start with you in the centre, not the prop.

And on that note, I’m going to leave you here with one of my favourite engagement shoots, a piano on a sand bank. I’m not sure how you can get much more romantic than that! Enjoy!


Photo by Clayton Austin via Green Wedding Shoes
Clayton Austins is definitely one of my favaurite photographers. Not only does he have an amazing eye and knack for capturing beautiful romantic pictures, I love his post processing style. His images are dreamy and I can just spend hours on his blog.

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3 Responses to “Photography vs. Art Direction … and Large props should be about you”
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