8 Tips Photographers Want You to Know Ahead of Your Engagement Photo Session

You’re engaged! Congratulations, and welcome to the crazy world of wedding planning. First things first, take a minute and soak it all in. Take all the ring selfies, make all the calls and posts you want, and then get to it! While some couples opt to get started on other important wedding details first (like choosing a date and venue) before taking engagement photos, others want to schedule their shoot ASAP to memorialize the excitement of the moment. Whichever way you choose, you’ll want to make the most of this special photo session.

If you’ve never had professional photos like this taken before, you probably have a ton of questions buzzing around your head. What do you wear? Where do you go? How do you pose? Will it be awkward? Relax, we’ve got you covered. I talked to two wedding photographers to find out what to expect for your engagement photos and how to plan for the ultimate photo session.

Meet the expert
Mikkel Woodruff
Luxury and destination wedding photographer
Mikkel is an East Coast-based wedding photographer who specializes in celebrations ranging from grandiose weddings to intimate elopements.
Meet the expert
Erica Weinand
Small Wedding and Elopement Photographer
Based in Des Moines, Iowa, Erica centers her wedding photography business around capturing real, honest photos that showcase the personalities of her clients.

Prep Your Hands Before Your Engagement Photos

As with most things in wedding planning, your engagement shoot requires some prep work. After all, you want to show up ready to take some incredible photos! Perhaps most importantly, Mikkel Woodruff of Mikkel Paige Photography recommends getting your nails done. “Your hands will be photographed a lot during your session,” she said. “If you don’t usually get your nails done, you can definitely go with a more simple look by using neutral colors.”

The reason your hands will be photographed a lot? The ring, of course! So you’ll want to make sure that it’s ready for its close-up, too. Woodruff recommends bringing it to your jeweler to have it cleaned and sparkled up ahead of your session as well.


Consider a Pre-Shoot Glam Session

As for hair and makeup, getting it done professionally can make a world of difference in your shoot. Erica Weinand of Erica Jane Photography suggests having a professional take care of your hair and makeup for the session as “they can elevate your normal hair and makeup to really pop for your photos.”

While all this may sound like a long list of chores when it’s not even the big day, both photographers agree that it’s worth it. “There’s nothing like looking your best, but feeling your best will show in photos, too,” Woodruff said. “When you feel like a million bucks after having your hair and nails done and your jewelry cleaned, you’ll emulate that to everything and everyone around you, including your fiancé, your photographer, and the camera.”


Plan Your Outfits Strategically

What you wear for your engagement photos is completely up to you, but there are a few tips that can help you look your best. First, Weinand recommends sticking with neutrals or solid colors, which tend to photograph better than busy prints. Woodruff’s advice: “Stay away from anything too ‘loud’ that you may regret later, like crazy patterns or any words or brand names on clothing.”

The number of outfit changes you want to do is also your call. “If you want the entire session to look cohesive, stick to one outfit,” Woodruff said. “If you want to have an option of two outfits, I recommend one more casual (like what you’d wear on the weekends, just hanging out) and one more ‘formal’ like what you’d wear to a nice dinner.”

As Weinand noted, there’s no way you can go over the top. Play dress-up with your fanciest formalwear if you want—it’s totally up to you!


Choose Complementary—Not Matching—Colors

Have you ever seen those funny memes of matchy-matchy couple photos from the ’80s and early ’90s? You definitely don’t want to do that for your engagement photos, but you do want to look cohesive. As Woodruff put it, you should “complement each other but not look like twins.”

Weinand explained that if you choose colors that are too closely related, they can actually clash on camera. For a more flattering look, vary your outfit colors but stick with a general color palette. For example, if you’re wearing a patterned shirt, pull out an accent color from the pattern and have your partner wear that shade, Weinand suggested. Or if you go with a brightly colored outfit, have your partner wear something a little more neutral.


Don’t Forget the Accessories

Shoes matter. Yes, even for your partner. Wearing a pair of beat-up tennis shoes is going to limit the angles and poses your photographer can use, Weinand explained. Make sure the footwear you choose is clean and comfortable—or it’ll show on camera. To spice up your outfits even more, consider adding a hat, jewelry, or even a bouquet of flowers for some added personality.


Select Locations That Feel Special to You

Location, location, location. It can be hard to narrow down the perfect spot (or spots) to take your engagement photos, but both experts agree that picking the “where” is one of the most important considerations ahead of your session.

Woodruff loves when couples select a location with the opposite vibe of their wedding. “So if their wedding is in the countryside, do an urban engagement,” she explained, “or if their wedding is during spring, go for a fall engagement session so you get the fall leaves.” (Full disclosure: This is what my husband and I did, and Mikkel was our photographer!)

Weinand, on the other hand, suggests choosing a location that’s meaningful to you as a couple. “Locations can tell your story in a way that a lot of things can’t,” she said. “If you and your partner are more relaxed and love a laid-back date night, a bookstore or a park might be more your style! But if you like to go out and have adventures on your date nights, a brewery, downtown area, or even an activity such as hiking or kayaking might be more your style.”

With the world as your oyster, talk with your partner and photographer to find the best spot for you. You might opt to shoot somewhere with a gorgeous backdrop or a place that plays a part in your love story.


Source: Erica Jane Photography

Plan for Poses and Candids

Having to pose for a picture can be a bit awkward, to say the least. While some couples are more natural in front of the camera than others, it can help to be prepared and have an idea of some “staged” shots you’d like, as well as some ideal candids. As for the poses, Weinand has a few go-to’s:

  1. Put your arms around your partner and kiss them all over but not on their mouth. This gets giggles and smiles every time!
  2. Grab each other’s hands and just dance for a minute. This totally shows your personality—whether you’re goofy, sweet, or chill.
  3. Run up behind them and spin them around or sway while kissing.

Your photographer will guide you throughout your session, so no worries if you don’t have poses picked out ahead of time! The most important thing is to relax and have fun with your partner.


Have a Backup Plan

While you can hope and wish and cross your fingers, unfortunately, you can’t control the weather—even on your wedding or engagement photo shoot day. What you can do, though, is have a plan B, whether that’s a backup date or an alternate location.

If your outdoor session gets rained out, for example, you could switch to an indoor, weather-proof location instead. When the outdoors are out of the question, some of Weinand’s favorite indoor locations include breweries or coffee shops, your house or apartment, a professional studio, or an indoor garden.

And if you don’t want to shoot indoors, rescheduling is always an option. “The nice thing about the weather is that you can usually predict rain about 24 hours in advance,” Woodruff said. “Also, your engagement session (unlike your wedding) has a flexible date. Ensure that if it’s looking like rain, you’ll be able to easily reschedule with your photographer and any appointments, like hair and makeup, in advance, so you’re prepared for all scenarios.”


Source: Erica Jane Photography

Feeling a bit more prepared? All that’s left to do now is to have fun!

“This is a wonderful time to have fun as a couple and with your photographer, in a relaxed setting,” Woodruff said. “Don’t put too much pressure on your engagement session. Just know that you’ll get some awesome photos of this time in your lives to look back on years from now!”


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