An Engagement Shoot in London and What to Consider
Have you recently got engaged and are considering have a London engagement shoot? An engagement shoot can be a lot of fun and provide images you will cherish forever. An engagement shoot in London has so many possibilities you should plan ahead to get the most out it. This post was written to give you some ideas on what to consider when planning your London engagement shoot.
Why an Engagement Shoot in London?
One of the key things you need to ask yourself is do you want to have your engagement shoot in London? Understanding your motivation can help you get the most from your engagement photography.
For example, is it simply close to home and convenient, or is London as a place special to you? Perhaps it’s where you met, fell in love or simply live and enjoy. The answer to that question can help you think about how important it is to capture London life in the backgrounds of your images. If your want your engagement photography in London because you love the place, you want to capture it in your photographs! If London is simply close to home, do you want your engagement photographer focus more on you?
Generally, couples choose a mix of both wider establishing shots and images that focus more closely on them. It is still an important consideration however, as it will feed into a later question. Where exactly in London do you want to have your engagement photography shoot?
Engagement Shoot locations in London
London is a big place! There are a number of locations you could choose to have your engagement shoot. Each has its character and ultimately the choice will be determined by what you want to get from your engagement photography.
London is a funny place for engagement photography however. As a tourist it is fine to take pictures but as soon as it becomes a ‘Professional’ shoot, permits apply, and they are expensive! For example if you want your engagement shoot in any of the Royal Parks, they charge £120, per hour! Permits also apply in Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, The South Bank & London Underground. It’s a crazy situation, but it is what it is.
Of those options, the only location that offers a way around it is the South Bank. Here you only need a permit if we use a tripod, which is easy to avoid in daylight hours.
Westminster Bridge & the South Bank
The area around Westminster bridge and the South Bank are what I call classical ‘postcard’ London. The area has classical landmarks such as Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and of course the London Eye. A nice wide pedestrian path along the river also allows us to linger without fear of blocking access or being run over. A walk up along the Thames towards Tower Bridge provides several backgrounds. It is possible to get a great shot of London skyline in the background with iconic structures such as the Millennium Bridge, St Paul’s and the Walkie Talkie in the background.
Perhaps less obvious, is an area of graffiti used by skateboarders not too far from the Millennium Wheel. This can add a touch of variation to the backgrounds and can really work well.
The official position of South Bank London is that permission is required when using a tripod or any kind of lighting stand. The easy solution is to choose a time of day when it is light enough not to need one. The South Bank is made up of individual land owners however, so is technically private property. It is possible we could be asked to move on by individual security guards.
The South Bank is still a great location for an engagement photography shoot, you just have to accept it is what it is. Generally if we move from location to location and don’t linger too long, we will not have any problems. To all intents and purposes we will look just like any other tourists.
Canary Wharf offers some interesting backdrops for your engagement shoot. If you like modern architecture, interesting shapes and textures then you should like Canary Wharf. Here there is less of sweeping urban landscape of the South Bank but lots of interesting lines.
From an engagement shoot perspective, a big plus of Canary Wharf is that it is relatively quiet at the weekend. It is neither known as a tourist or retail area. As a result once the office workers go home it gets relatively quiet. This gives us a bit of space and time to plan and move around. The down side of this however is that the reason for being there is obvious. You do need a permit to shoot a Canary Wharf and a public liability insurance of £10 million. I know, its kind of ridiculous, but again, it just is what it is. You will need to arrange this beforehand should you choose to shoot here.
Canary Wharf isn’t your classic London however. If you are looking for big red buses and a background of a historic city, it is not for you. If however you like the shininess and clear lines of modern architecture, it has a lot to offer. It’s just a shame about the inconvenience of it all in relation to permits and insurance.
There are a number of Royal Parks in London, however I do not recommend you have your engagement shoot in any of them. The reason for this is quite simply the cost. All of Royal Parks require you to have a permit which costs £120 per hour. It makes more sense to spend a fraction of that on a train ticket or petrol in getting to somewhere pretty that isn’t so Draconian!
What to Wear on Your Engagement Shoot
You will keep your engagement photos forever, so try to choose a style of clothes that will not age. Ultra trendy styles, particularly those with large logos tend to age the quickest. Think Paisley shirts with fly away collars from the 70’s and the ‘big hair’ of the 80’s. Classics such as plain t-shirts and jeans and smart jackets tend to weather the ages much better.
In terms of colours, try to wear colours of similar tones. These need not be the same colour, but you want one of you wearing a ‘loud’ colour and the other a ‘quiet’ colour. Remember the aim is to look good together as a couple rather than individually, so your colour and style should be similar. It would odd for one of you to be in a smart suit and the other to be dressed very casually.
If you know where your location is, it’s a good idea to choose colours that work with that location, but offer some contrast from it. For example mid-Grey in a mid-Grey urban environment may not stand out. But a darker Blue against a textured lighter Blue wall would both complement and stand out. It’s impossible to dress for every colour we may come across, but you can tie yourselves in to your environment with a selection of ties, scarves, hats and other accessories.
Day & Timing of Your Engagement Shoot
London, like any capital city can get very busy! That said, there is a certain rhythm to the rise and fall of traffic on London’s streets. The morning and afternoon rush hour during the mid-week are best avoided. Saturdays along the South Bank are always busy, but can be quieter early on Sunday morning when commuters are taken out of the mix.
Weekends around square mile and Canary Wharf can be very quiet.
The summer holidays around the South Bank become busier than normal as the area receives a large influx of tourists. If possible it’s a great idea to try to go slightly earlier or later in the year, just remember other countries school holidays do not necessarily tie with ours!
Using a tripod brings a lot of unwanted attention from the photography police, so its best to choose a time of day when there is enough light. This can easily be planned in advance using a sunset calculator to calculate the sunrise and sunset times for any given date.
Your Engagement Photographer in London (or not)
Another important thing to consider is your engagement photographer. Because of the need to avoid the unwelcome attention of security guards your photographer must work quickly. Because people are constantly walking between you and the photographer they need to be able to seize opportunities.
It’s also necessary to be able to travel light with minimum equipment. It’s simply not practical for your photographer to have to rely on traditional studio flash systems. It takes too long and draws too much attention! A camera, a backup, a couple of lenses and a small flash are about the limit of what is practical to manage. That is a much more streamlined kit than most photographers, including myself wold take to a wedding.
Another choice is does your photographer actually need to be London-based? I would argue not providing they know the area well. One advantage of using photographers outside of London is that their prices are typically lower. This is partly to reflection of what their local markets will bear and partly their living costs. For example I live in Farnborough, Hampshire. It takes me just 35 minutes to get into London Waterloo but my living costs are a fraction of what they would be in London. I also used to commute into the South Bank every day so know the area quite well.
To arrange an engagement shoot in London with me please contact me using this link.