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How To Take Engagement Photos – An Actionable Guide

Bride and groom posing for wedding photograph in nature

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Engagement photos are a fun, optional tradition that more and more couples are opting for nowadays. It’s not really anything new – people have been doing engagement photos and portraits for years. But it’s undoubtedly an increasingly popular tradition.

If you’re wondering whether to snap some engagement photos and how exactly to go about it – here’s our quick guide.

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Do I need an engagement shoot?

First things first, is an engagement photoshoot something every couple should do or is it cheesy to take engagement photos? As far as we’re concerned – it’s entirely up to you. Engagement photos are not a set-in-stone tradition and if you don’t like the idea of it, you can skip it. No one’s going to judge you for it.

Then again, you’re (hopefully) only getting engaged once so why not capture the moment while you can? If you’re afraid that it’s a cheesy tradition you can just take the photos in a simpler, non-cheesy manner.

Here are the pros and cons of an engagement photo shoot.

Why you should take engagement photos?

Bride and groom photo shooting for wedding photo

You can have a lot of fun during the process and capture your couple style.

  • It’s a special moment that deserves to be captured. Even if you don’t feel like it at the moment, you may regret not taking your engagement photos decades down the line.
  • You’ll silence any possible dissent of your friends and family. It might not be a must-do tradition but it’s definitely a beloved one.
  • You can have a lot of fun with the shoot itself as long as it’s true to who you are as a couple and you’re comfortable with the process.

Why you shouldn’t take engagement photos?

  • If you’re going for something more special and hire a professional photographer you can end up spending quite a lot of money that you could’ve saved for the wedding.
  • Additionally, such staged engagement photo shoots can be viewed as clichés. Holding hands on train tracks, hugging trees in the woods, kissing on the beach at sunset – it’s all been done at this point. Which isn’t to say that clichés are bad – if you enjoy it then good for you. But it is something to keep in mind.

We’re already engaged, that means we missed the boat, right?

Not at all. In fact, most engagement photos are taken days, weeks or even months after the engagement itself. Sometimes they are taken just before the wedding itself by the same photographer you’ve hired for the big event.

Of course, you can just snap a photo or two with your phone during/after the proposal– that’s a “true engagement photo” in a sense. It’s also much more budget-friendly and arguably more romantic. But if you want to make a separate engagement photoshoot a week later to celebrate and commemorate the engagement, you can do that as well.

What if there wasn’t a big romantic proposal and the couple simply made a practical decision to get engaged? That’s still romantic in its own way and there’s no reason you shouldn’t celebrate it with a photoshoot if you want.

How to take your own engagement photos

Bride and groom cuddling

Setting aside the case of simply snapping a selfie with you and your beloved just after the proposal, you can also try and take a semi-professional approach with a special photoshoot somewhere. Even if neither of you has the background and photography know-how, if you get the right equipment, research how to prepare for engagement photos, and choose the right location, you can still create something special. Here are some tips on how to take engagement photos yourself:

  • Find a third person to help. Even if you’re not going to hire a professional and you don’t have any amateur photograph friends, the third set of hands and eyes can be of great help during your engagement photoshoot. Without a third person you’ll end up having to use the camera’s tripod and timer function which is going to make the whole process much more difficult.
  • Preparation is key. The less photography know-how you have the more you’re going to need to acquire before you start. Most people don’t know more than 2 or 3 settings on their cameras so take the time and research about the different types of photos your camera is capable of, the different techniques you can use, and so on. Of course you won’t end up becoming an actual professional overnight but every little bit counts. Plus, you can find out quite a few new ideas this way.
  • Get the necessary equipment and props for engagement shoots. If you don’t have a nice HD camera and you don’t want to spend too much for one, you can always ask a friend to loan you theirs (and to come help too!). In addition to the camera, however, you’ll also be smart to get a tripod and remote control. Outside of that, look for some additional props to use in the photos – balloons, flower bouquets, chocolate boxes, or other holiday-themed props that are related to the time/season of your engagement. If you want to make it even more interesting, make it a period-piece or role-play inspired photoshoot – your imagination is the only limit you need to have.
  • Location is key. As with almost anything else in life, the right location can make all the difference. It’s easy to just go to a nearby park and snap some photos among the trees but you can also think of something different – something special that will make the whole thing truly unique. Or, if the nearby park is that special thing for you (maybe you met there?) – go for it.
  • Timing is vital as well. In outdoor photography, there’s a term you might have heard of – “the golden hour”. It refers to the period just before and after sunset or sunrise. This is the best time for all types of outdoor photos as it:

1) reduces the chance of unwanted shadows on your faces

2) ensures less busy locations

3) makes it easier to pose for photos without having to squint your eyes

4) sunsets and sunrises are gorgeous

  • Take a large variety of photos. If you’ve gone through all the trouble of prepping and investing in the photoshoot, at least make sure that you take every kind of photo you can think of – vertical, horizontal, Dutch angles, serious/cringe-y photos, joking/meme photos, etc. In short – make sure you have enough B-roll footage.
  • Have fun with the editing. If you lack any editing skills – don’t worry, engagement photos are a perfect opportunity to hone your editing prowess. Not only can this be a very fun process but having basic editing skills is quite useful nowadays anyway.

Should you get a professional photographer and how should you work with one?

Classical couple photo shoot on wedding day

If you don’t feel you’re up to taking your engagement photos yourself, you can always hire a professional. If your wedding is getting close, you can use an engagement shoot as a “test” of sorts for the photographer you’re about to choose for your wedding.

The average cost of engagement photoshoots in the U.S typically ranges between $200 and $500, depending on the state, how many locations you want to shoot at, if you want the photographer to supply you some special costumes such as a suit and a dress, how much editing you’ll want for the photos, and so on.

Still, even if you’re going to work with a professional, that doesn’t mean that everything will be automatically taken care of. There are multiple tips and insights you might want to keep in mind to get the best possible bang for your buck:

  • Meet with the photographer ahead of time before you commit to anything. Set up a meeting in a coffee shop or something familiar and spend some time together – go over all the details, the pricing, all your preferences, and all the advice and suggestions the photographer might have.
  • Brainstorm locations together. You may have a couple of locations in mind, but if the photographer is experienced, he/she might have a lot of suggestions you haven’t even thought of. Be open-minded and think things through – you’re getting one chance at this.
  • Follow the photographer’s directions. As long as you’ve managed to find a truly good professional that you can trust, follow his/her directions as they’ll probably know much better how to get the best possible photos. If you feel like the photographer’s ideas or suggestions go against your vision, then you’ve either hired a mediocre professional or – more probably – you haven’t gone through your concept well enough before the shoots.

At the end of the day, there’s no “right” way to take engagement photos. A staged, choreographed, and detailed photoshoot with 100+ photos at several different locations can be as special to you and your fiancé as a simple selfie taken right after the proposal. It’s all about taking the photo(s) that you know will bring a smile to your face whenever you look at them.