Recently engaged couples glow with the happiness of the special bond they have acknowledged and decided to formalize. It is the promise of the life together, the glimpse of seriousness amid the promise of future happiness. It’s the confidence that, together, you will work things out. It’s the dream that you are living.
A beautiful way to immortalize this feeling – as well as get to know your wedding photographer – is to schedule an engagement photo shoot. Many photographers offer this as part of a package – which makes it also very affordable (yay for something you can get for free, while spending so much money on everything else!)
Should you do an engagement photo session?
Many people love taking pictures. You will never be as young and beautiful as you are today… Plus, it’s healthy for your Facebook and Instagram followers. If that line of thinking describes you, you don’t need convincing. An engagement photo session is your kind of thing! Scroll down to the next section for some pointers and inspiration.
And if you do need reasons… there are many.
Maybe you live a busy life and find it hard to pause, look around, and take pictures. Your first thought may be that an engagement photo session is an unnecessary distraction. Still, you should consider doing it. In the short term, romantic pictures of you two will get everyone really excited about your upcoming wedding. And over the long haul, they will become great memories that you, your families, and any children you may have will treasure forever!
If the artistic quality of your wedding pictures means a big deal to you, doing an engagement photo shoot in advance of the wedding is the best way for you to see what the photographer can do for you.
But maybe you, like many people, get a little tense or nervous around a camera. It may surprise you, but in this case it’s even more important to get to know your wedding photographer beforehand. This gives you a chance to establish a connection, develop mutual trust, and see for yourself that this photographer can make you look forever beautiful – which will help ease the tension on the day of the wedding.
An engagement photo session will also help your photographer do their best for you on your wedding day. Having a better connection will make it easier for them to put you at ease and make you laugh. Getting to know you early on will help them understand your personalities and quirks. They will understand how you two interact with each other, and whether you need encouragement to show affection toward each other. Finally, they will have a low-pressure environment and extra time to teach you the most flattering poses and looks. Really, it’s not rocket science – by the way, you can start by learning the basics of posing with us – but it helps to be prepared for the wedding day.
An advance photo session also gives you a great opportunity to talk to your photographer and convey any thoughts or special requests about photography on your wedding day.
Finally, professional images capturing your romance will be ideal to use in your wedding stationery and decor: think save-the-dates, invitations, thank-you cards, menus, posters with directions for guests, sign-in books, and many other creative solutions.
How do you prepare?
Select a location or two for the photo shoot.
There is an endless number of locations that will be great.
- parks, rivers and other beautiful outdoor settings,
- urban scenes,
- your favorite restaurants,
- beautiful buildings,
- museums and art galleries,
- quaint small towns or wineries,
- other places that reflect your shared interests or are special for you,
- or even your home.
You shouldn’t take for granted that taking professional pictures at private locations will be allowed, but you shouldn’t assume the opposite, either. Just reach out to the location to confirm and schedule the session with their availability in mind.
You may have a number of top contenders. Remember that you will be taking pictures on your wedding day, too, and reserve some locations close to your venue for the wedding day. For the engagement photo shoot, consider spots that are further away, or busier during weekends.
Before you finalize your choice, try to personally visit your top contenders and see what they look like for yourself. You don’t want to arrive and be disappointed to find that it doesn’t look as pretty as it did on the website.
On the other hand, though, do not underestimate how cool certain unassuming locations can look on pictures. Wooden textured fences and walls, graffiti (no profanities), and mossy rocks look great as camera backgrounds.
Consider selecting two locations to show off different aspects of your relationship. Perhaps an outdoors scene followed by indoors, or a park after an urban scene. A more relaxed environment will balance out a more dressy scene.
Select the date and time.
You may want to select a season that’s different from the season of your wedding. That will add vibrancy to your eventual wedding photo album – think intense greenery of the summer next to a white serenity of a winter, budding leaves of spring next to the rich warm auburn tones of the fall.
Likewise, you should carefully consider the time of day for your photo shoot. If you like outdoor shots, for example, consider scheduling the engagement photo shoot around sunset to get advantage of the warm light of the Golden Hour. If you want your engagement pictures to look different, photographs taken in the evening certainly have a unique vibe to them. If the timing doesn’t work out, you can aim for a sunset photo shoot on your wedding day as well.
What day of the week should you schedule the engagement photo shoot? It may be a little surprising to you, but there are benefits to scheduling an engagement photo session during the work week – if you both can leave work a few hours earlier, of course.
- the pictures will look unique,
- your favorite spots may be less busy,
- it will be easier to schedule beauty appointments (it’s a perfect opportunity for your trial hair and makeup appointment, although you may want to tone down the intensity if you aim for a more casual look),
- and finally, your photographer’s availability may be a factor. Popular photographers get booked up during the busy wedding season – summer and fall – leaving no weekends available.
Keep in mind that evening shots will require the photographer to bring quite a bit of lighting equipment, which in turn will require each photograph to be more carefully set up than in daytime.
Also, remember that your photo shoot location may determine the hours of the shoot. At different times in the day, art galleries and restaurants may be closed or too busy for picture-taking.
Select clothes and props for the photo shoot.
What clothing would be appropriate for the location? You want to be dressed appropriately for the weather and the environment. You also want to stand out against the background (it is often advisable to avoid any blacks and whites, as well as distracting patterns). For example, sweater, jeans and boots are perfect for an outdoor photo shoot in the fall. You want to be relaxed and comfortable. You may end up laying down in the grass in this outfit, and it may get a little dirty. For something different, dress up in your Halloween suits, favorite sports jerseys, or something related to your wedding theme (vintage style clothes are a great idea).
Ensure that the clothing looks good on you – the color should enhance your facial complexion and make your body features look proportionate. Take a good look at yourself, in your full attire, in a full-sized mirror and in daylight before you head out.
After that, consider props. Umbrellas, flowers, hats, musical instruments, wine glasses, blankets, cars. Ask your photographer for ideas.
If you want to hit a couple of locations, prepare two sets of clothes and shoes – and props, if any. Plan for a place to change your outfits (if you plan to change in the car, consider starting with the dressier clothes and putting on more casual clothes in the car).
Consider bringing your pets or children (bring food and toys to get their attention for the camera, and a friend or family to take care of them when they are not being photographed).
If you plan to have a choreographed dance for the wedding, perform it in your more dressy clothes in front of the camera. That would give you lots of shots in great, effortlessly elegant poses.
What to do on the day of?
Check the weather. If the weather doesn’t work for your plan (ie, it’s raining), either have a back-up plan or reschedule.
Schedule beauty appointments – even simple hairdo and makeup – before the shoot to give you an extra boost of confidence.
Pack Tylenol and water, snacks and kleenex, lint roller and spare tights (if required), makeup and insect repellents for outdoor shoots. Confirm with the location once again that you have permission to shoot there at the scheduled time (your photographer may need to bring proof of insurance). Try not to be late – you don’t want to miss the timing windows that you so carefully planned for.
When on camera, be playful and physically demonstrative of your affection to each other. Act as if you can’t keep your hands off each other. Stay in a good mood, and let the photographer do his (or her) magic.
This post was inspired by Neal Urban, the Art of Engagement Portraits.