2003 Korean pre-wedding photoshoot

Lee Korean prewedding photobook

1995 (덕수궁) deoksugang palace

Things are certainly done differently in South Korea! I first encountered Korean pre-wedding photoshoots literally during my first week in Seoul, way back in 1995. My best friend Yvonne and I decided to visit Deoksugung Palace (덕수궁) just opposite the City Hall midweek. We were so surprised to see at least four bridal couples posing at various beautiful spots throughout the grounds. Initially, we thought a bridal catalog was being shot (the couples were so picture-perfect), but it turns out that Korean couples do a wedding shoot prior to the actual ceremony and traditional locations were very popular.

our first wedding

Fast forward to September 2003, Kwangjeon and I were actually married in secret at Jameson Park in Durban – the ceremony was attended by my gran, mom, dad, and sister Charene. I am so glad that my Gran attended this ceremony because she passed away just a month later. We then returned to Korea and began planning our formal wedding, which would take place at Shakaland, Eshowe in December.

My beloved Gran – I wrote many postcards to her from Korea about Kwangjeon and my travels, we loved rereading them countless times

unique korean pre-wedding photoshoots

We decided to do what most Korean couples do – have a photoshoot done before the wedding. These days the uniqueness and professionalism of the studios in Korea are a huge tourist attraction. Many Chinese and other Asian couples flock to the country booking “Wedding Photoshoot packages”.

choosing a studio

The first difficult task was to select a studio! Competition between studios to attract couples was fierce. One of my students Hwanglye 박황례, who became a close friend over the years, recommended her brother-in-law Jipyo 전지표 and his studio PhotoACE 포토에이스. Her photo album was actually the first layflat book I had ever seen – and from that minute, I knew if I ever got married, I wanted something similar.

His studio owned three super expensive cars including a Porche, which was a huge drawcard, as Western cars were very rare in Korea at that time. Couples loved the idea of being draped over an expensive car, parked in a beautiful location. This didn’t interest me at all, I wanted something more traditionally Korean. Their studio had three unique backdrops which they would change each season, so as to continue to attract the most prestigious clients. We visited his studio in the trendy Apgujeong suburb, in the wealthy Gangnam neighbourhood (made famous in YouTuber Psy’s Oupa Gangnam Style song). This was where I got to page through PhotoACE’s 2003 season’s photobook – I WAS BLOWN AWAY!

the inspiration for na-nu-ja

I still have to pinch myself to believe that Kwangjeon and I have been handcrafting these beauties for the last 16 years – but this was where the love affair began.

Couples paged through the lay-flat photobooks, which showed the studio backdrops, off-site locations, and whatever “bells and whistles” drawcards the studios had. There and then, you would book your all-inclusive package – what I didn’t know until later, was that each couple ends up with almost identical photobooks, the only difference being that THEY are in the poses and locations. Later, I found the experience to be a little conveyer-belt-like but very financially efficient! I always thought that photographers had to try and make their clients as unique and different as possible – but it wasn’t like this in Korea.

na-nu-ja Korean word meaning “let’s share”

on the day of the photoshoot

Fast forward to the day of our shoot: Typically your day would begin at the Studio – hair, makeup, and clothing were all included. Both the bride and groom are treated like professional models. Being larger than most Asian women, I brought my own clothing, as I honestly couldn’t see myself fitting into the petite Western white wedding dresses, the various traditional hanboks, or other themed clothing provided (Victorian clothing was a particularly popular trend).

lights, camera, action

Well, I had no idea how directed the photoshoots were – we were told exactly where to put our hands, how to tilt our heads, where to turn, how to sit, how to stand, at what degree we need to stand angled away or towards each other! Medium format cameras, hairdressers, and stylists continually touching up here and there – HELLS BELLS, I could never be a professional model.

Kwangjeon, Me, Yvonne and Hwanglye 박황례 on set

on location

About two hours later it was time to head off to our location segment of the shoot. We all piled into a luxury van, heated thankfully as the temperature was around 5-8 degrees! When I say we all, I mean the photographer and his assistant, stylist, the couple, my friend Yvonne, plus the driver. After some time, we arrived at a stunning lake venue along with quite a considerable number of other couples. The photographer somehow skilfully managed to ensure that there were no other couples in the background of our photos.

I have to add in a small detail here, at that stage I was almost 3 months pregnant (Jedin was literally a Hong Kong honeymoon baby) – so being outside in the winter cold and being told to strike various poses, in an almost sinking boat, that was pushed out into the lake was NOT FUN AT ALL. The photographer kept saying, “just 5 more minutes, we need to get that perfect shot”, I honestly couldn’t have cared less, by the end I was so frozen and couldn’t wait to put my winter coat back on and climb back into the warm van. I have to add that I am born and bred in South Africa and am adverse to cold weather!

My teeth were chattering, my feet were wet, the boat was filling with water!

The small boat we used had a leak, I was freaking out that the silk of my hanbok would get damaged – I explained to the photographer that I needed to wear my hanbok at my wedding in South Africa, a few days later. He replied that that was what drycleaners were for and could I please just tilt my head slightly more to the left. He was not phased in the least by my paranoia.

This was one of the most delicious meals ever! The temperature outside this plastic enclosed restaurant, was less than 8 degrees! So happy to be off the sinking boat. Yvonne, Me, Kwangjeon, Jipyo and his assistant.

our beautiful album

I’d love you to take a look at our beautiful Korean pre-wedding photoshoot. I did finally redesign this album just a few years ago. I wanted to add some headings, to include photos of my friends and give it a modern timeless feel.

ProductPanoramic Album
Size12 x 12 inch
Number of pages36
ServiceNegative scanning, design, print, bind

Coming soon our South African Wedding Photobook…

Posted in by na-nu-ja on 2021-02-25