The Engagement Shoot
Making the most of your pre-wedding snaps
By Jean Donnelly
August 24, 2011
Engagement photos are the set of professionally shot images taken before your wedding day. These are incredibly personal photos that youre bound to treasure for a lifetime (as well as plaster all over Facebook for years to come). They tend to feel more intimate and fun than the formal wedding shots because the images are more casual. There is more flexibility in the tone, dress and location.
The engagement photo session also offers practical benefits. It allows you and your partner to work with your wedding photographer long before the ceremony. In your engagement photo session, youll learn how the photographer interacts and communicates, and youll have an opportunity to see samples of how you are shot. Another benefit is that you can use these beautiful images for your ceremony and reception. Shots can be included in a slideshow, or a framed photo can adorn a table or two.
An engagement photo shoot typically takes place a few months before the wedding. The session is roughly three to four hours long; hundreds of photos are shot. Some couples head directly to a studio for the shoot, while other couples choose outdoor settings. Of course, you can request both.
After the shoot, couples will receive a CD containing the best photographs. The cost of prints and ordering processes differ by photographer. If the shoot occurs early enough, some couples will use an engagement photo for the wedding invitation. Or, one of these photos will be used to submit to a local newspapers wedding announcement section.
Most photography houses will include this engagement service as part of the entire wedding photography package. When the photos arrive, youll see what poses were the most flattering. If you feel drawn to photos that used a certain filter or lens, you can also point that out to your photographer.
The setting will set the tone for all of the pictures. Try to choose a spot thats meaningful to you and your partnereven if the personal connection is loose. If you feel no connection to the location, you might not look comfortable, relaxed or even excited. You also run the risk of looking stiff. Consider the park where you had your first picnic, the beach where your partner proposed, your favorite bridge in the city you live in.
- The subway station
- The empty cornfield near the houses you grew up in
- The pier and promenade with a Ferris wheel in the background
- The old-fashioned cobblestone streets of a nearby neighborhood
- In front of a mural or street art
- Your own garden full of roses
Provide your photographer with a list of potential spots. Choose a location together. Lighting and access differ with each location, and your photographer will need to take these factors into consideration. Dont forget to ask the photographer for location adviceespecially for recommendations on hidden gems or non-traditional, lesser-known sites.
Feel free to use props. The engagement photos provide an opportunity to show your youthful, creative or silly side. Stand on wooden crates in a sunflower field. Push each other on swings. Sit on a park bench in matching jeans. Run down the beach holding a huge yellow umbrella.
On the day of your engagement shoot, you and your partner should dress in solid colors. Avoid bold patterns, bright colors or logos. Clothing that is only white or only black is also discouraged. Some couples coordinate their outfits, but many couples dont. Bring at least two complete outfits in different colors.
Wear makeup, even if you normally dont; a bare face might look washed out in the images. The hair doesnt have to be professionally styled, but it wouldnt hurt to get a cut before the shoot. Though engagement shots are more casual than wedding portraits, you still want to look fantastic. The groom can wear a casual blazer with a thin sweater underneath. Dark denim is acceptable but try to avoid t-shirts. Invest a bit in your appearance: buy a new dress, ask a make-up savvy friend to do your face, get a blow-out, do your nails, wear a stunning pair of heels. During the shoot, freshen up with oil blotting paper (him, too). Going casual (bare feet and summer dress) is perfectly acceptable, but bump it up a notch by getting your hair done.