The Journal for New York City's Top Wedding Photographer Jide Alakija

How to shoot a destination sunset engagement session : Charles and Claire, Aruba engagement Photos

Aruba engagement photos by black destination wedding photographer

It seems so unfair, having to get off a plane, go through the strain immigration of immigration and customs, be driven to your hotel then handed only a glass of water to quench the rumble in your stomach, yes you only had a small bag of nuts and a ginger ale on the 4hr flight over. Then you proceed to the beach to do an engagement session with what is probably the most awesome couple in the world. You have to share your time with the videographer in creating your compositions. So it’s so essential that you are well prepared before shooting. I’ve listed out some tips on how to prepare and what to do on the shoot. I worked with a very capable wedding coordinator (Victoria from Victorious events) on this job who made it easy for us to achieve our goals under the strenuous circumstances.


Prior to the shoot it’s important to determine the attire of your couple. I usually prefer to NOT have couple wear white or black because they tend to be lost in the scene that’s colorful. I also love complimentary colors, in this case green and red are complimentary. Since we are shooting in the beach it is also important that the look is in keeping with the scene, so in this case they look prepared to have fun on the beach.


Although this may sound cliche and obvious but it’s so important that you bring the right energy to the shoot. I bolster this by also bringing with me a loud waterproof bluetooth speaker to play music that your couple love. Sometimes it works well to bring a playlist of love songs, dance pop songs or something that will help lift the energy of your couple. If you notice (and this sometimes has happened to me before) that your couple have had an argument and are trying so hard to conceal it, deal with that situation first. Let them have time to make peace, there isn’t any room for negative energy at the shoot as it will show in the images.


Since we have decided to shoot at sunset, I check what time the sun will finally set and start shooting about 1 hour before. This is know as the Golden hour. The hour when the colors in the sky start actively being part of the shoot for you. This is the reason why I prefer not to shoot in the peak of day. Not only are there no couples in the sky usually, but the intensity and direction of light is a lot more challenging to work with.


I pose based on the energy I am feeling. This can also be inspired by the music or the couple. Always find out what the best angles are with your couple. What parts of their look don’t they feel is flattering. It is perfectly ok to ask them about perspectives they don’t feel comfortable being shown in the camera, in fact I insist on this so they can feel at ease. You don’t want them secretly trying to hide from you every time you choose to shoot in a particular direction. Watch out for what I call LEMs - Limbs, Eyes and Mouth. These are the things that really make the shoot. Work out what you want each part to do as the tell the story of the shoot.

Setting expectations

Probably the mist important part of the exercise. It’s so important that you tell your couple that this is solely about them. They are the governors of this shoot. You don’t want to put too much pressure on them but you want to make sure that they be themselves. I personally don’t like to over pose my couples but rather inspire them by telling them what to do as opposed to posing them on what to do. Ultimately the shoot is about Style, happiness, beauty and fun. You need to make it clear to them what this really means and have them work with you to produce the images you want. They are trusting you to be the artist. If your couple make suggestions on what they want you should listen to them, this is their one time opportunity to express themselves they way they see themselves, you need to go with their vibe. If you also have ideas of what you want to do suggest it to them, most likely they would want to work with your suggestion unless they feel uncomfortable with it.

An amazing Lightroom preset for consistency - Our DVLOP Presets

One of the great things about Adobe Lightroom is the ability to post process images in batches. But sometimes you struggle with keeping the consistency in your edits. Imagine a scenario where you have a large group of photographs all taken with different lighting conditions and all the subjects are all wearing very colorful clothing. You want to make sure that the colors stay consistent under the varying lighting conditions. It’s tough at the moment this has been difficult using the current color profiles.

Another thing that is also very frustrating is the fact that you are using one brand of camera equipment (i.e., a Nikon D750) and your second shooter is using another brand (EOS Canon 5D Mark 4), the images look very very different. Applying a standard preset based on the profiles do not yield the same results. As a result of this, you end up having to create many presets for different lighting conditions for each camera. It seems entirely pointless because it’s a real struggle! 

And, this is where DVLOP comes in to your rescue. I teamed up with them to produce a set of presets based on the look of images that I like. Not only do they work by keeping the colors very consistent under different lighting conditions they also match the response curves to most modern digital cameras. 

We packaged 6 presets into a collection called the “Zauberchroma”, meaning “power” and “color.” 4 color and 2 black and whites. 

You can purchase the presets from the DVLOP website.

The Addison Grove, Austin, Texas Wedding - Paul and Kunbi

I haven’t shot a wedding like I had when I shot Paul and Kunbi’s wedding. They had a beautiful outdoors ceremony and an indoor barn reception at the Addison Grove in Austin, Texas. They are both very free spirited and free, whilst particular about wanting to have very little interference with their event. Our approach in this wedding was pretty simple, we just took the photos. Sometimes we get requests to pose our couples but Paul and Kunbi were just natural, apart from little guidance here and there there wasn't any need to tell them what to do. We thoroughly enjoyed photographing this event. 

All images were edit using the "Dory" preset (for color) and "Inifinity" preset (for monochrome) from the Zauberchroma collection in Adobe Lightroom. You can find out more about these presets which we developed by the amazing talent at DVLOP. We are going to be talking about these presets in our next blog post. They really do so well with dark skin post production in ways other presets don't.

Venezia Palace Wedding, Antalya, Turkey - Otty and Ibiene

Ibiene has always wanted a destination wedding. In fact I remember before she got engaged she and I always talked about how she would get married in Santorini. When she got engaged to Otty she called me and told me that she would be looking for a location that would suit her vision unfortunately Santorini wouldn't be the location that I would shoot her wedding. Antalya provided a really interested backdrop that I was so excited with. I flew out there with my buddy Beena who was the most amazing second shooter through out the trip. In fact this almost a vacation that we just happen to be shooting Otty and Ibeine's wedding. 

We had the opportunity of shooting a day after session, something we always try to do whenever we shoot a destination wedding. You get a lot of VERY interesting compositions and also images that reflect the location of your destination. Why wouldn't you?

Otty and Ibiene's guests were one of the most expressive I had ever shot. Always had something to surprise us throughout the day. This was one fun event to shoot.