Yonsei University, Seoul Korea: I will never tire of photographing proposals. NEVER! Being invited to capture one of the happiest moments of a couples life is nothing short of an honor. I think my love of these events boils down to these three things:
1. Pre-production – I love the planning stage, brainstorming ideas and working out every detail.
2. Feeling Like Special Forces – For the longest time I wanted to be in the special forces, SAS, SWAT, JTF… but I’ve been know to tear up when logging trucks roll by. Planning out a proposal allows me to “recce’ a location, use techy-gadgets to calculate sun trajectories, maps out rondevous points via satellite imagery, create a cover story, move stealthily and shoot memories instead of bullets.
3. REAL Motions and Emotions – No one asks “should I look at the camera?” prior to asking “will you marry me?”. The proposer is engaged, leading out the plan we’ve been working on over weeks and the propose-ed has no idea I’m even there and is thus completely consumed by the moment. The motions are real, the emotions are real.
Benjamin and Jungmin’s proposal was absolutely REAL and so beautiful. Benjamin had arranged for a friend to take Jungmin to Yonsei university. The location was significant to Ben and Jungmin because they’d met at University of Utah. They were both exchange students there (Benjamin is French). Benjamin was organizing a road-trip to California with some Japanese & Korean friends during the fall break. One of his friends suggested to JungMin, whom he didn’t really know her at that time, join. Jungmin was initially reluctant to join, brainwashed by frat movies to believe ALL Western uni are irresponsible. She figured he wouldn’t plan the trip well but once she saw how carefully Benjamin was coordinating the schedule and budget in the “road-tip preparation meetings” she her thoughts changed and she signed on. The rest is now history.
When I asked Benjamin what attracted him to Jungmin he told me this story:
“I recently read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and, as some point, the main character mentions that he likes his girlfriend for the attention she pays to casual things. That’s definitely what attracts me to Jungmin: she always takes care to do the things well, with passion and patience. A month ago she found a tiny snail in the salad. Whereas most people would have just ignored it, she put the snail in a small box with a leaf of salad and some water. Every day she cleaned the box, fed the snail and gave it water. She waited for a rainy to “release” the snail and took care to release it in an area with a lot of grass, away from the road.”
It’s pretty clear from the photos that these two are brimming with love for each other. Their interactions were so kind, thoughtful and genuine. Going through the images, I chuckled at how many times Jungmin checked out that stone on her finger, as though confirming this was all for real.
Thank you Benjamin and Jungmin for allowing me to capture your day. Wishing you two all the best!
— CREDITS —
A huge thank you to Maira Naba who was my second shooter, assistant and behind the scenes recorder. I hope to make a little BTS post soon!
This is where you enter ALT tag information in PhotoMechanic for WordPress
For the past week I’ve been trying to figure out how to add ALT metadata to my images that would be recognized on upload by WordPress. I THOUGHT WordPress stripped everything but my caption, headline and copyright. Today I had this astonishingly simple epiphany, just have a look at one of Nordica Photography’s sublime images inside of Photo Mechanic. There it was, “Iceland Photographer”, the same ALT text from their page. It turns out WordPress pulls the ALT tag info from Photo Mechanic’s “Title/Object Name” field under the “Status” section.
Of course, there are other ways you can ALT tag your images prior to posting on WordPress. Nordica Photography personally recommended Storyboard along with the following promo code “wayupnorth10” that will net you 10% off. (I’m assuming using that promo helps them out so it’s the least I can do in return for their time… and metadataI haven’t tried Storyboard yet because I’m hesitant to drop $90 without a “try before you buy” or some money back guarantee. Then just today I found out BlogStomp is also capable of ALT tagging. It seemed you had to go through their blog editor to make it work though. I wasn’t patient enough to figure it how to get it to connect to my WP page and honestly, if I’m going to invest the time into writing ALT tags then I want them to be embedded into the original images otherwise for future use. So, I’m happy I found a way to add all my metadata including ALT tags for SEO to my original images using PhotoMechanic. I’m eager to see how my images start ranking in the near future.
Gangnam Rooftop, Unauthorized Entry Prohibited: So how do you photograph two older siblings, of the opposite sex, capture their relationship, and NOT make it look like an engagement session? That was the challenge Hannah and Eugene presented me with. I could write a synopsis of out photo session but I think reading excerpts from our emails is not only more interesting, it’ll give you a good idea of the coordination and planning that goes into every one of my photography sessions from a single head shot to a full blown commercial project. A big thank you to Hannah and Eugene for being so open to new ideas and allowing me to use their words in this write up.
Dear Greg, My name is Hannah and I’m a rising junior in college in the US. I will be home this summer with my parents and a younger brother who will also be a junior in high school – I am wondering if there would be any chance that you work with “big kids” for a family photo shoot. It’s been years since we had a family photo shoot and I wanted to find a chance to document the moment while we’re still around our parents. From your portfolio I understand that you mostly work with families with young children, but I thought I would ask. Thank you!
I always ask my clients to share some of their own images. It helps me get a feel for their personalities, history and what kind of angles, colors and poses appeal to them. Chances are pretty good you wouldn’t post and share images you hated.
I’d love to do a “big kids” shoot. Seeing as you are “big kids” it would be really fun to try something a little more adventurous than a park etc
Thank you so much for your quick response. I’m so happy to hear that you’d be willing to help us out! I just loved your photos that capture families interacting so naturally, and wanted to see if you’d be available over the summer. After talking with my parents, we decided that the photo shoot will be of me and Eugene. I hope this change is okay.. We’re just two kids trying to make fun memories!Also regarding our ideas/vision: I just looked at your recent blog post- loved your photos of the couple at DDP and the Market. Do you think we could do some shoot around the city where the background reflects our home city/country? -I always wanted to have a photo taken in a busy crowd. I think those are really cool! Public transportation? -Explore around the city wall of Bugaksan Mountain? The route has a lot of green, traditional city wall, mini palace/gates, and some looking-over-the-city view.
Tuesday August 11th, 5pm at Changgyeonggung sounds good. We could head to Gangnam after the palace. There are a few inherent “risks” with that Gangnam rooftops: -they are HIGH so your should be comfortable with heights -we may not be able to get access -we may be asked by security to leave at any point If all of the above gets your adrenaline pumping then we should go for it. Another option would be to head down to the Hangang River or into Samcheongdong, Myeongdong etc to get some urban views.
We’d love to go for Gangnam rooftops- hopefully we’ll get lucky to do some shoot there. If it doesn’t work out, we could still get some urban shots in Gangnam area right? Since getting there will take some time – we don’t have to come back for Myeongdong or Samchongdong. If we do the palace and urban area, I think it’ll be a good balance!
Just thinking about our upcoming photo session. I visited a really cool spot the other day called Common Ground near Konkuk University. Let me know if the location appeals to you, it’s mix of trendy urban style and then more traditional urban a few streets to the side. We could do this instead of Gangnam if you like it.
Regarding our shoot location, thank you for sending us the photos of Common Ground. The place looks really interesting and I think we will find many cool backgrounds! Very modern, trendy, and reminds me of the States side. Eugene is a little worried about doing a shoot surrounded by a lot of people, but I think we’ll get used to it once we get started.
Common ground does get busy but EVERYONE is taking selfies so we probably wont even be noticedThe venue definitely is more western looking so if you’d prefer to have some more typical “gritty” Korean street life then we just need to go a few blocks in any direction to find that look.
We’ve been thinking a lot, and the more we look through your work and posts, I think we can do somewhere more dynamic than the Palace! Do you think we could take out the palace and maybe start from the rooftop place (earlier evening with daylight) and head to Common Ground towards the end (sunset time looked pretty with the lights..)? I think this will also be a balance between populated and less populated area shoots. If you think it’s a good idea, may I ask where the rooftop buildings are located in Gangnam? We should look up a few places along the path to Konguk Univ. just in case the rooftop option doesn’t work out. Please let us know what you think about it!
Okay, so I’m putting together an inspiration file and man is it tough to find GOOD shots of brothers and sisters and way too many creep me out!. I am making progress though and I have some ideas of my own. Personally I LOVE doing conceptual work such as this.I would love to communicate something about your sibling relationship though and image. In my case it would be “mouth noises”, they drive my oldest sister absolutely mental so I’d figure out a way to show that it one of our images. (Of course there will be nice ones too like… how my oldest sister stood up for me when I was a tot and that kind of thing…) I know it’s a little short notice but let me know if you could both come up with a concept that’s fairly easy to execute by tomorrow.
I know right? They are SO hard to find!! Most of them seem very structured and directed. Maybe we’ll be able to set the bar high for other sibling shoots! 😛We’re very easygoing and flexible, ready for your suggestions and guidance throughout the day.One question: could you please capture some solo portraits for us? We don’t have to spend a chunk of time for it, but along the way whenever we get a chance. Now in college, I’ve been asked to provide headshot images for resume, profiles, etc. It’d be very useful!
No problem, lets try a few head shots at each location. See you tomorrow!
A typical photo shoot timeline I do up so everyone is on the same page.
Changgyeonggung Seoul: If you can book your engagement and wedding session with the same photographer, I highly recommend it. Spending a half day with Monica and Lehsung a month before their wedding really gave us a chance to get to know one another. The nearly-weds got a good feel for how I worked and we were able to talk over the details of their wedding and how they wanted it covered while cooling and refueling between shooting locations. Speaking of locations, lets talk about choosing locations in a little more detail because it really is the hardest part.
Choosing an Engagement Location in Seoul
Seoul has so many great backdrops it makes choosing a spot for an engagement, wedding or any photo shoot for that matter a challenge. First, consider the length of your photo session and how many locations can comfortably fit into it. My rule of thumb is 90 minutes per location. (Just to be clear, a “new location” for me is defined as fifty meters past the furthest point BOTH of you would be willing to walk in high heels) The 90 minutes per location rule allows 50 minutes for photos, and 30-40 minutes for travel which in Seoul seems to be the amount of time required to get ANYWHERE – be it five blocks down the road or the opposite end of the city… strange I know, I can’t explain it either.
Once you know how many locations will fit comfortably into your session narrow them down by category. Do you want urban, traditional or natural? From here it’s worth sharing your top choices with me, your photographer. There’s a good chance I’ve been to the selected locations and can offer my insights as to how they will work photographically speaking. I can also suggest how sequence the locations to get the best light, avoid the crowds and flow from point A to point B smoothly. This is exactly how I helped Monica and Lehsung as can be seen in our email excerpts below:
M&L: We have listed some places we thought could be good below. – Changgyeong Palace – (Tickets until 5:30pm, open until 6:30pm) There are many trees(nature) here alongside with the traditional palace buildings and little more modern looking building (like the botanic garden). We thought this place has all the elements we would like in the pictures but it will close a bit early.
– Samcheonggak – This was one of the places we thought about as the wedding venue. Similar to Changgyeong Palace (but much smaller) with some trees and traditional looking buildings. It is higher up in the mountain, so has a good view.
– Samcheong-dong – As you mentioned, around Samcheong dong area is good too. If possible, we would like to have more modern feelings in Samcheong-dong mixed with the traditional Korea scenes from the places above.
– Hangang River – As you mentioned, Han River shortly after the sunset would be great as well!
Greg: That’s really interesting that you mentioned Changgyeong as I’ve been wanting to photograph there for some time. My colleague told me it was much more quite and relaxed palace to visit. I spent a while researching all the areas you suggested this afternoon. Our two hour time frame is definitely too short to fit all four locations in but we can definitely do two. Based on my research I’d prioritize Changgyeong and Samcheongdong. As nice as Samcheonggak looks it just doesn’t offer the same variety that Changgyeong has. Furthermore it looks like we loose the great light sooner on the mountain than down in the city. Changgyeong is also close to Samcheongdong so we won’t have to spend a lot of time commuting. The Han River is quite far from our main shooting area. Let’s see how we all feel (you’ll have had a long day by now), how my baby sitter and daughter are, and how the traffic is. If everyone is good for it I’ll happily throw in another hour so we can go and shoot a sunset down by the river.
This post is getting lengthy, perhaps even intimidatingly long for some so let me wrap up by saying the engagement session with Monica and Lehsung was superb. There were a few little plan changes on the fly. I booked Monica a hair appointment in Myeongdong and had my favorite Seoul makeup artist Natasha Che show up and work her magic. Everyone was ready a little ahead of schedule, yes EARLY, so I suggested Monica and Lehsung meet me at a cool cafe I had discovered with some irresistible light to familiarize them with how I work and grab a few photos!.
From the cafe we hit Changyeonggung which was both calm and beautiful in the late afternoon light. We ended up having a lot of fun with the fallen fruits we found lying around there. When we were all done at the palace Monica and Lehsung made the executive decision to swap Samcheongdong out for the Han River. It had some pretty serious significance for the them:
“It was the last day before I was going back to the US in January. We were already wedding planning, but Lehsung knew that I wanted a formal proposal. He made a reservation at a French restaurant, and then after dinner we went to the Han River. I had lived near the Han River in college and had walked there many times. When I visited Seoul the year before I really wanted to bring Lehsung there and said that when I was in college I walked it alone and hoped one day to be able to walk there with my boyfriend. Lehsung remembered this and brought me there. After walking for a bit he brought me to a pier and proposed. He mentioned that comment I had made the year before and said that while our paths had been apart for many years, we would walk our paths together going forward.”
And with that I leave you to view the gallery. Don’t forget to check out their wedding photos after!
“Hello! My brother and his fiancée will be visiting Seoul in June and are looking to have their engagement photos taken around the city. They are both excited about their visit – Clair is Korean American and has introduced Ross to so many aspects of Korean culture, particularly food, so it’d be great to have their surroundings reflect that. A temple or palace backdrop, a food market like Gwangjang Market, cafe scene, subway station chaos…”
Of course I was elated when I got this email, I contacted Ashley immediately and let her know that I had always wanted to do a shoot in a traditional Korean market at at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). As I’ve mentioned in many of my previous blog posts, there’s nothing I like more than weaving a couple’s back story and locations of significance into an engagement shoot.
Ashley, the thoughtful sister gifting this engagement photo session to her brother Ross and his fiancée Clair, CC’d them in once the planning commenced. The trio wanted to get in photos at Gwajang Market, DDP, Cheonggyecheon Stream and Changdeokgung however I advised against trying to cram too many locations into our two hour session. Getting ANYWHERE in Seoul takes a minimum of 20 minutes. Four locations would mean spending over half of our shooting time in transit. Changdeokgung posed a challenge due to it’s early closing time. I proposed that we start with the covered traditional market while it was still hot and bright out, then move to the DDP for the best light of the day and up to Seoul City Wall (our Changdeokgung alternative) which was stones throw away for sunset. Everyone liked the plan.
Clair, Ross, Ashley and I met near Gwajang Market. It was awesome having Ashley around to assist on the photo shoot. She also shot some cool behind the scenes stuff on her phone. Clair and Ross were a blast to hang out with. Talk about a photographers dream, they did exactly as I suggested a went full on fun and flirtatious for our shoot. Clair had a knack for knowing when to bend her leg, flick her hair and give Ross a peck on the cheek while I was shooting.
The pictures are coming up next but just before that here’s a little back story on our couple:
“Clair: Ross and I both met in college. We met at a bar where his fraternity was throwing a party. We became friends from there. We took classes together and hung out more. We just clicked from the start. I love his smile and laughter. He knows what he wants and is very driven. He is very friendly and can spark up any conversations. He is intelligent, charismatic, and of course very handsome. He’s thoughtful and caring.
Ross: Clair brings happiness and joy into the room every time she walks in. She is kind and always thinking of others. She has a lot of perseverance whenever the times get tough and I know that I can always count on her. She is gorgeous. She makes me the happiest person ever.”