When preparing for photo shoots, I always prepare ahead of time for the shoot by scoping out the chosen location, seeing what time of day provides the most flattering light at that location, get my equipment ready, organize any props I will be using, etc. The MOST IMPORTANT thing I do to prepare for a photo shoot is I prepare my clients for their shoot. This is especially true with Engagement Sessions.
Engagement shoots have become increasingly popular over the past several years and most newly engaged couples are booking engagement sessions as soon as they get engaged. Engagement shoots are great because they can help you determine what wedding photographer to use, they can help you and your photographer get to know each other and talk about the final plans for your wedding; they allow you to get some beautiful photos of you both as a couple that you can use for Save-the-Dates or Invitations or for some personal décor at your reception. Most importantly they allow you to ‘practice’ in front of the camera before your wedding day, allowing you to get comfortable taking photos together and to get rid of the nerves!
Before a couple’s engagement shoot, I always discuss a list of things with the couple to prepare them for their session. Below is my list of tips and things to discuss with your photographer in order to have a fun and successful engagement shoot and get the photos you have dreamed of.
Location: The location of your engagement photos is SO important. Fist, the location needs to support the purpose of your photo shoot. Why are you having engagement photos taken? Do you plan on using them for Save-the-Dates or for your Invitations? Do you plan on putting them on tables at your reception to personalize the decor? Engagement photos can really help reinforce your theme. If you are having a beach wedding, photos taken by a pier or on the water would be a great idea if you want to use them on your Invitations. If you are getting married at a more rustic location and you want to display some of your engagement photos at your reception, it really wouldn’t make much sense to have a beach background for your photos. Discuss the location or purpose with your photographer, as they will probably be able to make relevant suggestions.
I photographed an engagement session a couple months ago for a couple who is getting married in the fall at a very rustic spot, on the water with a beautiful barn and gorgeous old trees on the property. They want to use their photos on all of the tables at their reception so we decided to have their engagement shoot done at Boone Hall Plantation. This location provided a backdrop that matched the theme of their wedding; rustic charm with fall colors.
I shoot a lot of engagement shoots in Downtown Charleston, SC for couples when their families will be travelling from out of town for the wedding. It’s such a fun and charming idea to use these photos on the Save-the Dates and/or Invitations so your guests can see a glimpse of the city they are going to be travelling to for the wedding.
I also encourage couples to choose locations that have meaning to them for their engagement session. The place you first met, got engaged, or a place you love to spend a quiet Sunday are all fantastic ideas for engagement sessions. To achieve the most romantic and flattering lighting, I recommend starting your session a couple hours before sunset.
Style, Clothing, and Makeup: Just like your location, the purpose of your engagement photos will determine how you style your session. For example, if you are having a formal wedding you would want to dress up for your engagement photos. I had the couple whose wedding I mentioned is at a barn on the water wear more casual clothes for their engagement photos so to match their venue and wedding theme.
I always tell couples to consider having two outfits if your engagement photos will be serving more than one purpose. In the photos below, this couple was sending out their Save-the-Dates in the spring so they decided to wear more spring-time attire for some of their engagement photos. They also wanted to use some of their photos at their fall wedding so I had them change into more fall-like clothes with colors that matched their wedding colors.
Aside from clothing style, think about how both of your outfits will look against one another and against your locations’s backdrop. Wear colors in the same palette but try not to be too matchy- matchy. Solid colors or small patterns are best so the clothes aren’t the main focus of the photos. I prefer when couples wear color rather than blacks and whites because color is less harsh and more interesting.
You really want look and feel your very best on your engagement shoot. If that means wearing a dress and heels or jeans and boots, if you feel like you look great you will be more comfortable and confident taking photos and will love how you look in them. A tip for the girls is to wear a little more makeup than because makeup doesn’t show up as much in photos as it does in everyday life.
Props: Props can be a great addition to an engagement shoot when kept true to who you are as a couple and are not overwhelming. Simple props can add visual interest to the session and to really personalize it. Popular props include blankets, signs, banners, balloons, and even cars. Bringing your dog along will be sure to make it a fun experience!
Posing: My absolute favorite photos from an engagement session are when the couple are just interacting with each other and being themselves. You need to trust your photographer’s direction during your shoot but if a certain pose feels awkward, change it up and make it your own. Couples often feel awkward in the beginning of their engagement shoot and that is to be expected, so just try to relax and be yourself. Hugs, candid forehead kisses, laughing, hugging, and practicing your first dance provides a romantic and authentic interaction without needing too much direction from your photographer.
Session Quick Tips: Here are a couple quick tips I have learned from photographing A LOT of engagement sessions:
- Make sure to take your hairband off your wrist. I have had several shoots that we didn’t catch this small detail and it took hours of special editing to remove it in every photograph.
- If you don’t know what to do with your hands, guys should out theirs in their pockets and girls put hers on her hips.
- You’re going to be very close to each other for about an hour with a lot of kissing so grab some breath mints!
- Clean your engagement ring before your shoot. Trust me, it makes a world of difference in close up shots.
- If you have “must-have” pictures, tell your photographer ahead of time so they can prepare and make sure you get everything you want.
Best of luck with whichever direction you take your engagement session. Happy planning!
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