From the very first email, I knew Caitlin, Jay, and I would get along. Caitlin let me know exactly what they were after, when they were hoping to get it done, and what was important to them as a couple. Since they were visiting from their home in the States for their pre-wedding shoot, having this information gave me an immediate headstart on offering locations, timing, and suggestions. As the conversation progressed, I learnt that Jay had actually grown up in downtown Seoul and that shooting in somewhere like Ikseon-dong or Nakwon-dong would add a little extra meaning to their session.
Once both were on the ground in Seoul and out of quarantine, we caught up for a coffee to discuss final details before the session and get to know each other more than email allows. This is something I highly recommend to anyone who has the time during their visit. Even just a quick coffee is enough for us to clear up any questions we might have on either side and put faces to names. At this meeting, we plotted our final course for the morning of shooting and sorted out clothing details for the day. When it came to the actual shoot day, we were ready to get rolling as soon as we met.
Ikseon-dong – Modern Hanbok and Suit
Our shoot began at 7:30 in the morning so we could make use of the empty streets of Ikseon-dong before the cafes and restaurants opened for their morning trade. This gave us the freedom to move around, take off our masks, and get a good collection of images without any passers-by ending up in the frame. While the early start had us all begging for a cup of coffee, it was absolutely worth it to make the best of the morning light and avoid the crowds.
Ikseon-dong is an anomaly in downtown Seoul with its mix of Korean and Western-style facades on single-story buildings. The surrounding city towers over it and it feels like stepping back in time as you walk the cramped alleyways. This section of the shoot was rapid-fire as we tried to get in as much variety as possible before heading over to our second location, Changdeok-gung. We wanted to get there for the opening of the palace grounds so we could also work without other visitors around. Wrapping up with a wall the couple had mentioned in our conversation, a dim sum restaurant to include their love of eating out, and a couple of spaces I’d found on my walk around the area, we made a beeline for the palace gates.
Changdeok-gung – Traditional Hanboks
As we arrived at the palace, Caitlin and Jay quickly got changed into their hanboks while I did a quick run around to ensure nothing had changed that would affect our shoot. Not only do hanboks look great, they also eliminate the entrance fee to the palaces. So, the couple were able to simply walk in the gates.
We started with some of my favourite locations close to the gate and kept a mix of romance and play as we’d talked about in our meeting. Jay had rented a fan to go along with his hanbok, so we made sure to have a little fun with that. As the sun got progressively higher, we began to duck under the awnings of the palace and make use of the shade to show off the colours of the clothing.
Jay and Caitlin had spent quite a bit of time trying to find hanboks that were just right. Many of the rental houses offer mostly over-the-top options that don’t convey the true beauty of Korea’s traditional clothing. But after visiting a few different stores, they managed to find a gorgeous matching pair of hanboks that toed the line between modern and traditional. So, we made sure to show those off as much as possible.
As we were walking over to our final location, a persimmon tree that Caitlin had mentioned to me, we noticed that there was no line for the Secret Garden. We got lucky and there were still tickets available. So, we pushed back the coffee we all wanted so desperately to drink in order to make the most of being able to visit the Secret Garden. After a quick few images down in the most beautiful part of the complex, we headed back up to get a few shots with the persimmon tree. From there, we called it a day and headed to a gorgeous coffee spot nearby to refuel.
Thanks go out to Caitlin and Jay for having me be a part of their journey together. It was wonderful working with you guys and I wish you all the best for the upcoming wedding!
If you’re looking to have your own photoshoot in Seoul, you can see more of my couple sessions here and family sessions here. Please also follow me on Instagram for some more images that don’t make it to the blog. Stay safe and healthy, everyone!