“Anyway, I wanted to ask your advice on something if you don’t mind. I got my first request for an engagement shoot (exciting stuff) but I am struggling to figure out where we should do it. Ideally I would think of a park or the beach but I don’t know of any parks on the island / mainland and I am really worried about being harassed by area boys on the beaches.
So just wanted to check if u cud give me some advice on potential locations and give me a few pointers on dealing with area boys.
Hope to hear from you.”
Above is an interesting mail i received recently, asking about how I go about an important challenge most photographers face in the course of shooting. Normally when i get a question via email i tend to respond to such mails via my blog. The reason i do this is that most of the questions could benefit a lot of people, so rather than having to reply everybody when ever they ask me the same question, i post it on my blog and just direct them there.
A fellow wedding photographer in Nigeria who just got into the business sent me the above mail and asked me quite a number of things, i will be addressing one particular question i know would be of great benefit to wedding photographers based in Nigeria.
First and foremost, i really don’t mind at all, as photographers we all need to network and share information as much as possible, like i always say i’m still learning myself and always appreciate all the input i get from other photographers out there.
Shooting engagement sessions in Nigeria can be very tricky especially in Lagos, photographer have different ways of dealing with this challenges, what i share here are tips that tend to work for me:
1) You need to realize that the shoot is all about the couple in question, so its important they are very comfortable wherever you will be shooting them.
2) Its probably no longer news that i avoid shooting this sessions in a studio because in my opinion, those sort of shots tends to be a bit devoid of feelings, i want my engagement sessions to connect, i want everybody that sees the pictures to be drawn into it.
3) You really don’t need to go to an exotic location to shoot your engagement sessions, i can’t count how many times i have shot photo sessions right in front of my house, i have also shot sessions on the streets not too far from the same place, the secret to doing this is often to use a very fast lens so you can knock out the background to hide all the distractions.
4) Positioning also helps when the location you are using is not so flattering, shooting your couple from the ground up or from an elevated location could also add some quality and character to your pictures. Something i also love to do is to shoot through an opening such as leaves or from unusual point of views.
5) Also the couple often have a location they both love, such as a restaurant they both met or somewhere they both love going, somewhere they both have control over, shooting at such locations is a blessing as they really do tend to come all out with expressions.
6) When you do decide you have to shoot in a more public place in Lagos such as the beaches or on more exposed locations, you really need to be very careful of touts that “controls” the areas you will be shooting in. It’s such as sad situation that you can’t work around most public areas in Lagos, Nigeria with a DSLR in your hands without been attacked and harassed by the hoodlums. If this sort of shoot is a must for you then this is what works for me.
a) I recce the location i will be shooting a few days before the actual shoot without a camera in hand. If i have to take a camera, i take a small point and shoot which doesn’t attract as much attention. When i do my recce i try to assess the situation and even make friends with some of the guys there, i let them know what i intend to do in a few days and surprisingly because i have no camera in hand and am actually asking them for permission they are often very receptive. At the end of the day i part with a few naira bills (let’s just call it mobilization fee) to enable them buy some drinks.
b) On the day of the shoot itself, they all usually turn up and surprisingly offering me support. I also spend a few minutes taking their pictures (You would be shocked how much this guys love being photographed). Some of them actually have email addresses where i send them soft copies via email. At a particular location in Lagos Island very close to the waterfront, i now go whenever i want and i get loads of support from them.
The important thing for me is to be friendly and accepting, you need to come down to their level. I know of a wedding photographer who took a couple for such a session with the backing of a policeman and they all got lynched as he thought the policeman (who didn’t have a gun by the way) could offer them protection.
Finally, i hear things are getting better too, with all the cleaning up taking place in Lagos, i shot recently at a beach in Lagos and wasn’t harassed by anybody. Please note that this is what works for me, different photographers have different ways of handling the situation. If you are a photographer shooting in Lagos Nigeria, it would be nice to know how you handle your outdoor engagement shoots.
Back to my very first point, always remember that the shoot is all about the couple in question, so its important they are very comfortable wherever you will be shooting them, shooting them in front of a bunch of hoodlums probably won’t bring out the best expressions.
Have a great engagement shoot!