A couple sitting on top of a rock in the snow.

Tips for Great Engagement Sessions (For Couples & Photographers)

Unlock the secrets to memorable engagement sessions with expert tips for both couples and photographers to capture authentic pre-wedding moments.

Engagement sessions can be a fun aspect of wedding planning and result in great photos of this special time in your relationship.

This article will talk about the engagement shoot, including everything from what to expect to what to wear.

Your goal for your engagement shoot might be great photos, fun memories, or simply getting comfortable in front of the camera, pre-wedding.

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The tips below will help you make the most of your (likely) first professional photographs with your future spouse.

Couples, you may know your future spouse pretty well, but this is a first date with your photographer.

Photographers, this is your chance to set the stage and build trust with your couples, so I have tips for you too.

Whether you’re looking to look good or make someone else look good, we’ll also talk about how the engagement shoot can help prepare for the wedding day.

What is an Engagement Session?

A couple blowing bubbles in front of a mountain.

An engagement session is a photography session that happens before the wedding while the couple is engaged.

Typically, a couple will do an engagement session with their wedding photographer as a way to get to know their wedding photographer and get an idea of how their images will turn out.

Sometimes couples have a different engagement photographer than wedding photographer for geographical reasons, but it can be nice to do engagement photos as part of your wedding package.

Sometimes couples have their actual engagement captured, but this would be proposal photography.

The difference between proposal photos and engagement photos is that everyone gets a chance to prepare – this is the key to nailing natural wedding photography for brides who may be nervous about the big day.

Sometimes we shoot proposal photos followed by some engagement photos, but it helps if whoever is proposing has a plan for making sure their soon-to-be fiance has the clothes they would want to wear.

Engagement photos are a great way to document this time in your relationship with professional photos.

You can use professional photos for a variety of things, such as save-the-dates and your wedding website.

They are a great way to get in front of the camera before the wedding day and get to know them so that you’re comfortable with them.

And engagement photos can be a really fun way to connect and celebrate through a unique experience.

How Does an Engagement Session Usually Work?

Every photographer structures their engagement sessions a little differently, so you can always ask your photographer if there’s anything you need to know or look at their engagement photos to get an idea of what to expect.

Usually, you select a time and place to meet your photographer.

Then, your photographer takes your picture.

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It sounds awkward, doesn’t it?

That’s why the session usually involves some time chatting, walking around, loosening up, and getting to know your photographer.

With our couples, we’re usually exploring some beautiful locations and watching the sunset.

What starts as awkward slowly becomes fun as you look into your fiances’ eyes and laugh and joke.

My main advice is to not overthink it but to follow your photographer’s lead.

However, if you do have an idea of photos that you like you can look closely to see what you like about them and determine if it’s the lighting, posing, emotion, or photography style.

With that in mind let’s talk about what makes great engagement photos.

How To Get Great Engagement Photos

A couple standing on top of a snow covered mountain.

In this section, we’ll talk about how to get great engagement photos.

Each of these topics is good to consider, and together they combine to make magic.

Some aspects of great engagement photos are objective, but others are subjective.

You’ll want to put thought into location, timing, outfit, and posing before the engagement session.

Your photographer will be your guide and should help you with all of these decisions.

If you’re a photographer, it’s good to think through these topics and how they will impact how you shoot your engagement sessions.

Vision, Style, and Priorities

One of the first things to think about is what you like in terms of style of engagement photos.

Similarly to wedding photography, there are different styles, from romantic to edgy to candid to fashion-inspired.

Your engagement photographer likely has a certain style that will dictate the type of engagement session that you’ll have and what types of locations you look for, as well as how much posing is a focus.

Being able to identify what you like is the first step to getting great engagement shots because you’ll pick the right photographer, location, outfits, and more.

Photographer Selection and Client Fit

One of the keys to a successful engagement session is the right photographer selection and client fit.

Sometimes you might need to choose your photographer based on how much engagement photos cost.

However, when you can, you’ll want to choose a photographer who’s a good fit for your vision, style, and priorities.

If you’re a photographer reading this, you’ll want to make sure your branding, marketing, and website communicate your style and attract the right clients.

Otherwise, the engagement photo the couple wants and the engagement photo the photographer takes will be two different photos.

This is a good general tip for your wedding planning journey, you want to be on the same page with all of your wedding vendors.

Location Selection

A couple standing on a rock at sunset.

Part of getting great engagement photos is choosing the right location.

As an engagement photographer, I’ve spent a lot of time scouting for a new location so that I always have fresh ideas for my couples.

It helps to think about what you want from an engagement session setting.

Are you looking for something natural or urban, simple or epic?

Often we try to find two locations near each other with different backdrops for some variety.

Our engagement sessions are typically about having fun exploring nature together, we like to get to know our couple before the wedding day.

So our location selection is about having a great experience somewhere beautiful as well as getting amazing photos in that landscape.

Sometimes people want to go to their favorite place or a location that is meaningful to their relationship.

It would make for a meaningful photo if you shoot at the location where you got engaged or somewhere that’s been on your bucket list.

Timing for Engagement Photos

A couple walking on rocks in the mountains during their engagement session.

Once you’ve selected the right location for your engagement photos, you’ll want to think about the best time to shoot there.

This might mean seasonally, such as shooting in Aspen trees in fall or wildflowers in summer.

It might also mean the time of day.

Golden Hour is a popular time for engagement photos because it has that soft, flattering light coming in at a low angle with a golden and romantic glow.

Photographers use different tools to determine the best time to shoot particular locations.

Engagement photo sessions are one of my favorite aspects of wedding photography because I have the luxury of being able to plan a great location at the perfect time.

Unlike on the wedding day when you have to worry about what time dinner is, engagement shoots can be planned whenever is most beautiful.

Shooting sunset is one of my favorite things, and it’s a win-win because it often results in amazing images.

Outfit Suggestions

When it comes to clothing, you’ll want to think about where you’re going, what you’re doing, and what the weather is going to be.

If you want to wear a summery outfit in the winter, that might be a challenge.

From there, you want to be comfortable and look and feel like yourself but a slightly dressier and more put-together version of yourself.

Don’t wear something you would never normally wear because you won’t look or feel like yourself and therefore you won’t feel comfortable with the photos.

However, if you have a unique style, by all means, be you!

I usually recommend one formal outfit and one casual outfit as a minimum for variety, but every couple is a little different, so there are no hard and fast rules.

I like vibrant solid colors because I need my couples to pop from the landscape behind them since most of my engagement sessions are outside.

Additionally, if your outfits complement each other without being too matchy-matchy, that can be a good balance to aim for!

Beyond the outfits, you’ll want to consider footwear and hair, especially if you’re going to be out in the wind on a mountain.

Some couples use this as a time to test run with their professional hair stylist.

Thoughts on Posing

A couple walking down a snowy road with mountains in the background.

It’s important that you think about flattering poses but that you don’t think about them too much.

The most important thing when it comes to engagement photo poses is feeling natural, comfortable, and like yourself.

Most photographers have some go-to instructions that they’ll give their couples to help them loosen up, laugh, or smile.

Every photographer’s style is different, and some are much more directive than others, so it can help to find a photographer that seems like the right fit for you.

If you like their images, trust their process.

But don’t be afraid to ask questions about what you’re doing or can be doing differently

My most common advice to couples is to get closer and touch more, closer than you think.

Some couples are more comfortable with public displays than others, but engagement photographers are used to people kissing in front of them, so don’t be shy!

I want my couples to look connected, and usually, that connection results in fun emotions that are also real and not forced.

One of the cool parts of the engagement session is that you get to work with your wedding photographer and learn how they shoot.

When they show up on your wedding day, you already know that they’ll make you look good, and you’ll understand their posing directions because you’ve done it with them before.

As a wedding photographer, I love this because it makes the wedding photos more efficient and the wedding day less stressful.

Engagement Photography Tips for Photographers

When it comes to photography tips specifically, there is a lot to focus on. (Pun intended.)

You’ll want to understand lighting and composition techniques as well as how to capture people in a way that tells a story of their love.

When it comes to lighting, you’ll want to remember that soft light can be flattering, harsh angles can be dramatic, and golden hour and sunset can create that romantic vibe.

I suggest using a variety of focal lengths so that you have some landscape portraits as well as some close-ups.

You can use depth of field to highlight a detail or compress the background.

When it comes to composition, this is where you can level up your work by making your images tell a bigger story.

I see so many nicely lit photos with a cute couple that could be improved by some intentional framing choices.

This can be as simple as using leading lines or white space or incorporating foreground into your images.

Composition is what takes snapshots and turns them into professional engagement pictures.

Lastly, you’ll need to watch for or possibly create moments between your couples.

The image tells more of a story if we see the couple laughing, smiling, connecting, kissing, or generally looking like they’re in love with each other.

Lastly, my advice is to be sure to take some classic shots as well as creative ones.

While you may love getting creative and trying new things and making everything look natural and candid, it’s probably a good idea to at least get one solid picture of the couple smiling at the camera.

Like it or not, mom and grandma usually want to print the ‘boring’ shots, so make sure you have at least one or two solid classic portraits in addition to whatever your style is!

What to Do with Your Engagement Photos

For many, engagement photos are the only professional photos a couple has of themselves.

And how great is it to see how you look from the lens of a professional photographer?!

It’s time to use these photos to remember this special time in your relationship.

Many couples will print an album of their engagement photos and use it as a guest book at the wedding.

We’ve also seen prints displayed as part of a table centerpiece.

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Engagement photos are great for invitations, save-the-dates, and the wedding website.

Lastly, you can use this experience in front of the camera to feel more comfortable on your wedding day and trust your photographer.

Other Concerns and FAQS

A man and a woman standing near a waterfall in yosemite national park.

Should I bring my dog to my engagement shoot?

To many couples, their dogs are an important part of their relationship, and they want them in their photos.

You might want to make sure you are allowed to have dogs at your chosen locations and think about how well-behaved your dogs are.

It can be fun to have your dogs in your photos, but you don’t want them to distract you from the shoot and negatively impact the photo shoot.

How do I prepare for inclement weather?

If you’re having an outdoor engagement shoot, you’ll want to have a weather plan.

This is good practice for the fact that you also need a weather plan on the wedding day.

Based on your location, you might need to bring warm clothes or an umbrella or talk to your photographer about the rescheduling policy.

Note that sometimes rain means rainbows and stormy skies can be unique, so embrace it if you have to.

How long will it take me to get my photos?

If you’re planning to use your engagement photos for something like save-the-dates, you’ll want to know your photographers’ turnaround time.

Most photographers will have a two-week to two-month turnaround policy, and it may depend on how busy they are whether you get your photos faster or not.

This is a good time to communicate and get on the same page as well as find out the turnaround time for the wedding photos.

Summary of a Successful Engagement Shoot

Whether you’re simply googling all the winter engagement photo ideas that you can or preparing for an upcoming photoshoot, I hope this article sheds some light on one of my favorite aspects of my job.

Engagement pictures are fun to shoot, fun to be in, and fun to have as a tangible memory from your engagement.

They help you prepare for your wedding photos, get comfortable having your photo taken, and celebrate this time in your relationship.

Your engagement images help document how you felt during this key moment in your story; they tell of your love and anticipation of your big day.

Many people don’t have much experience in front of the camera, and your engagement is one of the times in your life when you’ll have professional photos taken.

Enjoy the engagement, enjoy the engagement photos!

As a photographer, they’re one of my favorite aspects of wedding photography, and we find that our couple has a blast throughout the experience too!

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