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.