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  1. #1
    jough is offline I'm new here!
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    Question Engagement shoot for two men

    Hi,

    I've been asked to do an engagement photo session for a friend of mine and his fiancée. Both of them are men and while I have no issues with this whatsoever, I'm a little nervous about a photo session on this as it's not exactly something I take photos of everyday.

    My main issue comes with posing as nine times out of ten when you see engagement photos, there are obvious roles for the man and obvious roles for the women (i.e. while not hard and fast rules, the more dominant position in photos is typically of the man and when done oppositely, is done with that specific goal in mind). This is of course not the case with two men (although, logistically, one is mush shorter than the other).

    Does anyone have any helpful tips on things I should know or watch out for when doing a gay engagement photo shoot? Any help you can provide would be immensely appreciated. Thank you in advance!

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    Rentham's Avatar
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    Them being gay doesn't change anything. There, doesn't that make it easier?

    Every relationship has roles, and gender/sexual orientation is not the sole determining factor. Our primary objective as portrait photographers is to show the person. All of the poses you are referring to are mostly tired cliches we fall back on when we're not really doing our jobs.

    The hard part will be to make them comfortable and get them to express their personalities naturally. If you can get them to interact like they would any other time, the poses and situations will come naturally.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rentham View Post
    Them being gay doesn't change anything. There, doesn't that make it easier?

    Every relationship has roles, and gender/sexual orientation is not the sole determining factor. Our primary objective as portrait photographers is to show the person. All of the poses you are referring to are mostly tired cliches we fall back on when we're not really doing our jobs.

    The hard part will be to make them comfortable and get them to express their personalities naturally. If you can get them to interact like they would any other time, the poses and situations will come naturally.
    Extremely well-said.
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    LTA
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    This is a great question and you've raised some interesting points about the "traditional" engagement photo with a male/female doesn't really compare to what you are going to do. You want both men to look like men. Lets face it, they ARE men and the soft headtip that is usually reserved for women just isn't going to cut it.

    To get some ideas, a good place to start is the internet. Sure, you could always find photos of two men together, but you'll miss that romantic loving engagement feel that you really need for this kind of photo. So, you have to think... what kinds of guys are more loving or affectionate in their photos? Google adult father and son poses/portraits. Yeah, a little odd, but it shows how to pose two men together. Another place to check is what others have already done to get ideas. You can look for gay couples. I found a one that might help, it shows different couples with a variety of poses that might inspire you.

    There really is a ton of possibilities, but you might find yourself getting stuck if your looking at this in a more traditional way. This isn't a traditional couple. Their portraits are as unique as they are. Show their personalities in the photo. Are they a fun loving couple? Funny? Adventurous? Into sports? Serious? Try to focus more on who they are and what they enjoy doing, and you might get a better photo then all those boring "hey look, we're getting married" photos that we are all a little tired of seeing.

    You really have a unique opportunity to be able to be a trend setter in these types of portraits, if gay marriage isn't as common where you are from. I come from Massachusetts, and for us, gay couples (and marriages) are more commonplace and accepted than in most other places in the world. Other people may look to YOU for inspiration one day to be able to solve the same problem you're getting stuck on. So, have fun with it, good luck, and best wishes to you, and the happy couple.

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    jough is offline I'm new here!
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    All great answers. Thanks! I guess I've been more focused on getting "the shots" than getting their personalities to show through in them. You're both right. It shouldn't matter. I think the only part I'll still keep in mind is the height difference, but only for practical reasons. I'll focus more on the relationship side of it.

    Thanks again!

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    jough is offline I'm new here!
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    So I thought I would relay my experience on this as I think LTA is right that this doesn't seem to be a well-explored area. At least not from the Google searches I've done, anyway. Most relate to the wedding and not the engagement shots. I certainly made my own flubs in making them feel comfortable, so I'll just relay this as things that went right and things that went wrong. A true learning experience!

    Mike is absolutely right that them being gay doesn't change how you pose the portraits. The worries I had about placement of one person vs. the other were never an issue. It's still very important to get them comfortable. However, it's the comfort part that can make things different from a "traditional" shoot. Some of the photos they wanted to take were where they had their first date. It was in a busy coffee shop. Taking photos of anyone in a public place can be tricky enough to make someone feel comfortable. Putting them in a situation that is still sadly not seen as normal everywhere and having it out on display by photographing it does not go over well at all (to the couple). As fine as a couple might be with their lifestyle choices (as I am with theirs) there is just another level of comfort you need to be at when being photographed in front of strangers. I should say here, that I don’t like this part of the culture we live in, but I’m speaking practically here, not ideally. It's just something that all the talking in the world doesn't change once you're actually in the situation. And these were taken in Minneapolis, "The Gayest city in America" ; (Minneapolis is the gayest city in America according to The Advocate - Minneapolis News - The Blotter). But as my research beforehand has shown me and those above have commented, gay engagement photos aren't as commonplace as one might think.

    The couple is a quiet and reserved pair to begin with, so I did what I could to make it as casual as possible. I sat with them for a drink, talked about their first date to get them comfortable, snapped photos like street photography (from the hip, wide shots) so it didn't seem like a paparazzi affair or anything. I don’t think it was a complete success, but salvageable.

    Things I learned from this part:

    1. If there are public places you are shooting, AND the couple are more reticent to be photographed to begin with, don't start with those. Big mistake on my part. Leave those locations for the end, once they've gotten more relaxed about being photographed. To be honest, that was never my intention, we were going to meet at their house and I was going to do some warm-up shots there, but this is just how it worked out.
    2. Exterior shots at those locations can be easier as they are less crowded and could still allow for the memories they are looking for. Not always a guarantee, but it's an option. I took a lot of photos with them outside too and the difference in their comfort level was night and day, truly.
    3. Small camera, small lenses. This can be true of any situation in a public location, but it seems like a good idea here too. I had one camera with a battery grip and a 70-200 2.8. That one stayed in the camera bag. I had another with a 35mm without a grip. Much easier to use in this situation. It's wide enough to get what you need at the table without too much distortion that a wide angle lens would bring, and small enough where it isn’t imposing.
    4. Move quick, move silent. If you're switching gear, do it casually, but quickly. Try not to make a ruckus. It just distracts people and reminds them they're in a photo shoot. Might be a rookie tip, but an important one, I think.

    More locations

    We did several more locations, mostly exterior places to take advantage of the natural light. A few more things I learned that could help an uneasy couple:

    1. Use this one at your own risk: Make a scene of yourself. If you have a couple that is uncomfortable being photographed, it might just be they don't like the attention of people around them looking their way. To remedy that, I made a bit of a scene to keep people looking at me and not them. I fell over once while crouching, laid on the ground for photos, talked a little too loud in places. It made people focus on me and not them. The 70-200 helped on that as well. It really is eye-catching. I say use this at your own risk because if the couple doesn't know you, it could look as a sign of being unprofessional and you would lose their respect. As a result, you lose their trust and you're back to photographing uncomfortable people. It worked for me because the couple knows I'm a goofball as it is.

    2. Listen to the details of what the couple is talking about at all times. Often they might be talking about something completely separate from the current task, but it can be useful information later. An example, one person mentioned that what they did last night was watch the third Austin Powers movie. If anyone isn't familiar with this, there is a running gag in the movie about Fred Savage's character having a big mole on his face that Austin keeps misspeaking and mentioning it (my molestake—MISTAKE!, etc.). Why would this be important for me? I've got a birthmark on the top of my forehead. So when it came time to get them to smile, I said, "Look at each other... great, now, stare at my mmmmmole." It took a minute for them to realize that behind the camera it sits right behind the lens, but once they got it, laughters galore. I got great shots from that.

    I think I still have a long way to go in this of course, but it was a great experience. While I don't think everything above applies to just a same-sex couple, hopefully someone can take some tidbits of advice. Thanks to all for the advice as well. I would say it’s 95% true that there is no difference between this and a male-female shoot, and the other 5% are issues you would find obvious once you’re taking the photos.

    I hope someone can take some useful tips from this. My goal here was to let anyone know what might help. Hopefully I didn't offend anyone as I can understand this might be a touchy subject. It wasn't my intent if you are. Feel free to leave tips as well if you have them!

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    Great feedback, glad it worked out for you.

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