It’s a recent Saturday afternoon, and
I — at long last — am a male model. I’m dressed in stylish clothes,
sitting atop the colorful pillows of Chef Karim’s Moroccan
restaurant, and holding my head at the perfect tilt beneath the
bright lights. In front of me is a photographer contorting his body
to get the right shot while simultaneously directing me where to
look, how to sit, what to do. I am fully at ease, surprised to be
enjoying this momentary glimpse of the glitzy life between sips of
a mimosa and nibbles on catered snacks. He, however, is sweating
profusely, working hard to get the right shot as if he were
shooting for the cover of GQ.

“Okay, now it’s your turn,” the photographer says to my fiancée
Joanna, who then lays across the pillows and flicks her hair at his
command. Despite a stressful morning that included a makeup
overdose from a nearby salon and a non-delivery of flowers I had
ordered, Joanna’s eyes sparkle, her smile widens, and she begins
fulfilling a childhood dream of being a fashion model.

During the next couple of hours in the restaurant, atop the
bluffs, on the beach, and beneath the county courthouse, Joanna and
I pose together and separately, we kiss for the camera, we pretend
we’re famous, and we laugh a lot. But mostly, we eagerly anticipate
the shots that result from the special treatment that’s usually
reserved for celebrities and supermodels. It’s funny, it’s fun,
it’s Damian Langere’s Fashion Engagement Shoot.

In the cutthroat world that is wedding photography, the constant
challenge is to be unique, to rise above the competition by
offering more than the typical services and standard experience.
For Damian Langere — a onetime Olympic gymnast hopeful, UCSB grad,
former photo editor for UCSB’s Daily Nexus, and geographer by
trade — the path to wedding photography success exists somewhere
between the worlds of fashion and love.

Ever since his mother gave the Eagle Rock, California, native a
camera when he was 14, photography has loomed as a career goal in
his life. Throughout the ensuing years, Langere, who never took a
photo class in his life, moved through photography’s various
worlds — sports, news, travel, outdoors, lifestyle, and even
weddings for friends. He eventually settled on the dream of
becoming a fashion photographer, hoping to one day move to New York
and set up shop.

But then he had an epiphany: “I was able to make a lot of my
friends into models who had never modeled before. Then it clicked,”
Langere said. “I like doing weddings, and nowadays fashion is all
over, and people are really part of it. Why don’t I just merge the
two?” The idea of a fashion engagement shoot was born. Though still
in its nascent stages, Langere’s full package — in addition to the
standard practice of photographing your future wedding — will
include a visit to the salon and a consultation with a stylist
who’ll help get you outfitted in new clothes that you get to keep.
Then the three-hour engagement shoot — fully catered — features
professional lighting, is staffed by at least two additional aides,
and involves multiple locations around town, from Elings Park to
Knapp’s Castle. Along the way, Langere’s pleasant demeanor keeps
everything moving fluidly, and that’s his goal. “I want it to be a
fun day, not a strenuous experience,” he explained. “Anybody can
look good in front of the camera. I’m a good coach. But it’s not my
thing. I want you guys to look the best you think you can look.
You’re it for the day.” By the end of that day, Langere watches as
the couple unwinds, relaxes, and starts acting naturally, as if
there’s no photographer around. That’s when he snaps the best
shots. Afterward, Langere touches up the photos like a fashion
magazine editor, and voilà!, you’ve got photographs to show your
grandchildren that prove you were, in fact, a model in your younger

Langere realizes it’s not for everybody and that his target
market is more likely those glamour-loving Angelenos who see Santa
Barbara as a relaxing wedding destination. But he’s had plenty of
interest from Santa Barbarans, too, and Langere claimed that many
in the S.B. wedding photography community are “going crazy” about
his idea, especially since “most wedding photographers have just
done weddings.” He believes his fashion background will set him
apart from the pack.

The sun is falling fast, and rain clouds are quickly
approaching. We are outside the courthouse, and Joanna and I are
embracing much more naturally than when we had posed earlier at
Chef Karim’s. The flutter of the camera shutter is in the
background, but Joanna and I are whispering to each other, still
pretending we’re supermodels but acting like no one is

“That’s great guys — just like that,” says Langere, kneeling to
get the whole majestic building in the background. And then, a few
seconds later, “Okay, that’s it. We’re done.”

“Can we see some of them?” Joanna asks immediately, and we peer
into the tiny screen on the back of Damian’s camera. It’s too small
to see, but already, we can tell we look different, more special
than ever before.

And at the end of the day, that’s the basic idea behind
Langere’s Fashion Engagement Shoot. After all, who doesn’t like
looking good?


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