Engagement Photo Basics: 8 Tips to Capture Great Pictures

So, you’ve got the man and the ring. You’ve maybe even chosen your wedding photographer. Now what? You have to address several big questions regarding documenting your love story.

Do you want to have an engagement session? Where should it be? What should you wear? Don’t worry, we have you covered with our engagement photo basics.

1. Have one. Period.

Many photographers tell their clients that engagement sessions are essential and equally important as wedding photography.

“They are very different from each other. The engagement session is about telling the story of the young couple in love, whereas wedding photography is about telling the story of an important day. Don’t miss out on capturing both!

Nathan Moreau Photography

“Engagement sessions are the perfect opportunity for the couple and the photographer to get to know each other better. Weddings are sometimes hectic, and you can lower your stress by already having a working relationship with your photographer, knowing in your heart that they are going to take care of you and capture your Big Day.”

Veronica and Jim Warnock of 2now1 Photography

2. Treat your engagement session as your dress rehearsal.

Most likely your engagement session is being done by the same person that is doing your wedding photos, so use this time to get comfortable with your wedding look and with your photographer.

“Take this opportunity to iron out the kinks in your relationship. Try out different poses that you’ve seen online (you know you’ve looked), do they look natural to you? How does it feel to do that pose? Is your photographer giving you the direction you need, too little or too much? Think about these things after your engagement session and discuss them with your photographer after your session, so you are both on the same page, and most importantly, you have zero concerns going into your wedding day.”

Joanna Moss Photography

“Knowing how to work with the photographer before your big day will help the process move more efficiently during the wedding day sequences when there will be less time to work to get in all the necessary and creative shots.”

– Jessica Chapman of Brio Media Photography & Design

On that same note…

3. Get your hair and makeup done professionally.

“Don’t hesitate to invest in a good hair and makeup session prior to your photo shoot,” says – Fritz Photography.

“Yes, it will cost a little more money, but the results will be worth it!” Another perk? “This way you know what your makeup will look like,” says Nicole of Medcalf Photography.

“Engagement sessions always look better with a bit of professional makeup application. Great makeup is always better than computer retouching.”

“Have your hair and makeup professionally done by the stylist you are considering using for your wedding? Chances are she will give you a lower rate on the engagement session if you also book her for the wedding saving you money while helping you to look your most beautiful in your engagement photos. This will also allow you to see if you like working with the stylist in advance leaving you plenty of time to find a new one before the wedding if you don’t.”

– Dawn Nash Photography

“Even consider getting a mani/pedi. All the little details add up and can help make your photos better. Don’t you want to look your best?! Ask your photographer if they have a preferred hair stylist and makeup artist.”

Josh Fisher Photography

Romance Specialist, Dawn Nash, also highlights some general makeup tips: “Use matte makeup only, avoiding any shimmers, glitters, or sparkles that can reflect light back into the camera.”

4. What to wear?

In general, avoid white. Dress comfortably, and be prepared to walk around a lot. Check out our What to Wear for Engagement Photos post for more detailed information.

“When you are picking outfits for your engagement session, you don’t always have to match. Try outfits that coordinate well, or that feature your wedding colors or themes, and avoid stripes or distracting logos. When you hang your engagement photographs next to your wedding ones, they will look cohesive if they follow the same color scheme.”

– Kristin Griffin Photography

5. Location.

Choose a location that means something to you, where you got engaged, or perhaps your first date. It’s great to be creative, but understand that what might have made an awesome engagement photo for someone else might not work as easily for you.

“Any good photographer will have an arsenal of great locations available for photographing portraits. But a great photographer will ask you this question first: do you have a location that is special to you as a couple? Perhaps the place where you got engaged, went on your first date, or had your first kiss? Or do you have a house that you’ve remodeled together or a destination that you love to get away to? By utilizing a location that’s extra-special to you, your engagement portraits can be an even more meaningful celebration of your relationship.”

– Fritz Photography

6. Timing and Lighting.

Go for the “golden hour” (the first two hours after sunrise and the last two to three hours before sunset). The location of the sun during certain hours (usually 11:00 am-3:00 pm) can cause a lot of harsh shadows on the face and adds the risk of overexposed photos.

“The truth is that if you don’t do photos during these hours, you will likely end up with “raccoon eyes” and contrary to popular belief, not everything can be fixed to perfection in Photoshop.”

– Jessica Chapman of Brio Media Photography & Design.

“Usually, the last hour before sunset has the most beautiful light of the day. It is known as the Golden Hour. Try to appoint your engagement session to take advantage of this flattering light.”

– Veronica and Jim Warnock of 2now1 Photography

“This time of day often provides the beautiful sky colors and softness that make for exceptional photos, and is great for achieving fantastic silhouette shots! Additionally, if you are doing a session around a city full of high rises, as the sun angles and hits the tops of the buildings, it can often reflect beautiful natural light back down on the subjects depending on the location. If you are feeling a little more creative, have your photographer bring an off camera flash or video light to do some night shots after the sun goes down!”

Jessica Chapman of Brio Media Photography & Design

7. Photo ideas and posing.

Decide on a shot list, practice in the mirror, and learn what is called the “almost kiss”. Read more about these techniques in our “Engagement Photo Tips” or our “Couple’s Posing Guide” posts.

“Solve the riddle, “What should I do with my hands?” It’s easy. Guys, you can put ’em in your pockets occasionally (even if Momma always said not to). Girls, your hips are a great go-to place. But change it up! Cling to your skirt; play with your necklace; pick up a flower; stretch your suspenders; run your fingers in your hair. Just be creative and, as they say, “don’t be caught with your hands in your pants” (except in pockets, which we’ve established is OK).”

Phillip of Blume Photography

8. Ditch the nerves and have fun!

Act like you love each other! Bring props to help distract you from feeling awkward, and prepare for lots of kissing and snuggling.

“Get ready to love on your mate. Engagement sessions are all about you as a couple and expressing your personalities and love for one another. If you need a drink to loosen up a bit before photos, that is a great idea, just not too many ;) Yes, there will be a lot of kissing, hugging, snuggling…so pack along your lip gloss for touch-ups.”

– Nicole of Medcalf Photography

“It’s ok, not everyone works as a model, so it’s normal to feel butterflies before your engagement session. To get comfortable with the session, try looking at your fiancé instead of the photographer. Whisper jokes to each other. Bring props like funny signs, mustaches, hats, scarves, balloons, or a “save the date” notice – it’ll give you something to do with your hands. Take a deep breath and relax.”

– Kristin Griffin Photography

“Act like you love each other! I know, this over-used direction feels insulting, which is why I never use it with our couples. (“Of course, we love each other!”) But the antidote to looking distant is easy: Pull your partner close, and rest your heads together. No more reaching out to her with a 10-foot pole.”

– Phillip of Blume Photography

And that’s a wrap! We hope these engagement photo basics will help you to nail your session and create photos that will forever remind you of this special time in your life.

A final tip from Josh Fisher Photography:

“These are your engagements, so make sure they reflect your relationship style and be yourselves. When your guests, friends, and family see these photos, you want them to say to themselves ‘Yep… that’s so and so’. So if you are romantic… be romantic! If you are fun, then do something fun. Active = active…. you get the idea.”

Leave a Comment