Street-style wedding portraiture

When Sarah, an old friend, shared news of her engagement and related visit to Kuala Lumpur, I could not help but ask if she was interested in a pre-wedding shoot here. I told her this would not be a typical engagement shoot at the park or by the beach. I wanted to do something unusual and different for Sarah by bringing her and Gregor, her fiancé, to my usual street shooting grounds and do their portraits there. Outdoor street-style pre-wedding is not new to me, I have done a few rounds with other clients but this was the first one I did around the Petaling Street area.

I planned a simple session, about 3 hours in the morning at various spots around Petaling Street. As these are my regular stomping grounds and have been for a few years, I knew the key locations I wanted to use as my backdrop. I asked Sarah and Gregor to dress casually and comfortably and only use light make up. There was a lot of walking involved so we did take multiple breaks as both of them were not yet accustomed to the extremely humid air in Malaysia (they are currently based in Perth, Australia).

In terms of style and approach I wanted to shoot something different from the usual ultra-polished studio look with perfect lighting, barbie-doll like make up and extravagant dresses or costumes. Basically, I was doing the total opposite of what is commonly expected from a wedding shoot. Instead of doing it at breathtaking locations (sunset over the beach, under the Eiffel tower, or rooftop overlooking a vast city skyline), I chose to shoot the couple at back-alleys of old streets that don’t get much foot traffic. No wedding gowns or make-up to magically transform them into some unfulfilled fantasy. I wanted an honest photo-shoot celebrating Sarah and Gregor’s love for each other, and I wanted them to simply be themselves.

For this session, I was shooting with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko lenses 7-14mm F2.8 PRO, 25mm F1.2 PRO and 45mm F1.2 PRO.

The biggest challenge was getting the couple not to feel awkward in front of the camera. I wanted them to be completely comfortable and as natural as possible with minimal posing and direction from me. A suggestion I made was asking one of them to whisper something funny (or naughty) to the other. I’d have the camera ready to spring into action to capture their reactions. By allowing them to spend time with each other, opportunities started to surface naturally. I always emphasize that the shoot is about the couple and I must be able to shoot them as they are. I particularly dislike typical wedding poses and styles that are so repetitive and stiff that they seemed to be mass-manufactured.

I worked with available light for this shoot. I did consider using off camera flash for some of the shots but the set up can be time consuming and inconvenient as we were constantly on the move. For smooth and beautiful skin tones I chose to shoot most of my images under shade. Lighting was not an issue since this was an outdoor shoot. The great thing about being on the street was the abundance of backgrounds to play with. Knowing the location well helped a lot too as I had some key locations mapped out, such as the old shophouse in the first image. There was minimal post-processing to the images to keep them natural looking. In fact, I can boldly say that these shots can be achieved by just shooting JPEG. Once more, this is against the norm for pre-wedding shots which are usually heavily manipulated to the point that unicorns and spaceships make an appearance (I have seriously seen this happen). So much editing is performed that the couple may not even recognize themselves in the images.

During our several breaks, when the couple were sipping cold drinks at a coffee shop, I took out my old Nexus 7 and connected it to the camera to show them a preview of what was shot up to that point. Open communication is important; listening to the couple enabled me to shoot better as I knew what to look for or what to avoid. At the end of the day these shots will be delivered to them. One main concern was with the humidity and walking induced sweating, but I assured them that as the day got hotter, I would switch to wider angle shots with the couple appearing smaller in the frame.

Another great thing about this outdoor style shoot was the opportunity for the couple to explore the city as we walked to different locations. Of course we did not shoot anything too commercial looking or touristy but it was also like a half day tour around the city centre. We ate local delicacies, starting with a very Malaysian breakfast of Nasi Lemak and toast with kaya, and slowly worked up an appetite for a Bak Kut Teh lunch. It was not just a shoot but also an opportunity for the couple to experience Kuala Lumpur along the way.

I had a lot of fun shooting street-style pre-wedding portraits. It is definitely something I want to do more of in the future. To Sarah and Gregor, congratulations again and I look forward to attending the actual wedding.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is available from B&H


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Images and content copyright Robin Wong 2019 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. olivia.els says:

    I’m no photographer myself, but the pictures are amazing, and wonderfully done. I love the whole idea behind the shoot. Amazing!


  2. I am by no means a photography expert, but I like the vivd colours and the good composition. Nice job!


    Deliria Rose

  3. Great job, Robin! I love the concept. A few years ago I did my daughters engagement shoot, and we took it to the streets of Pittsburgh, which is where they decided to settle. They loved the pics!

  4. Great job, Robin! I love the concept. A few years ago I did my daughters engagement shoot, and we took it to the streets of Pittsburgh, which is where they decided to settle. They loved the pics!

  5. beautiful shots

  6. Glad to see such refreshing engagement photos.
    I bet the couple really love these shots. Good job Robin.

  7. Lovely set Robin; if I were one of the couple, I would look back on these as being real: this is what we were feeling on the day. Excellent, for me.

  8. I am sure that any couple would be happy with those photographs for all the reasons you said. I like the way the people stand out but still look part of the scene. The bold matching colours of their clothing probably contributes to that – a wise choice that ties the couple together from shot to shot.

    • Robin Wong says:

      The bold and striking colors are important for Chinese traditions, during happy occasions we want bright colors to symbolize joy and good luck. Dull or dark colors are unwelcome, and only applicable during mourning seasons.

  9. Peeter Moor says:

    Very nice and refreshing.

  10. Different but a very relaxed and happy couple

  11. Beautifully captured!

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