If you’re here, you’re probably planning for your engagement photos and scrolling for tips. I definitely did this too, so I decided to add my two cents with 10 tips and tricks we used for our engagement photo session. Maybe you aren’t sure an engagement session is worth the time, effort, or money. If so, I REALLY suggest that you consider giving it a try.
Why should we take engagement photos?
Engagement photos capture this special “sweet spot” of planning one of the most important days in your life. Why not capture the joy this time of your relationship? I’m a huge fan of documenting various stages in life so that I can look back on them later.
These photos can be used for save-the-dates and serve as a test run for your wedding in a few ways: getting comfortable in front of the camera and with your photographer, bridal hair and/or makeup trials, and learning how to stay organized for your wedding day.
There are no rules. Just like your wedding. So your choice to do an engagement session is your choice. If you decide to do one, it should be true to who you are as a couple. Try not to get too caught up in what you see while scrolling social media and bridal websites. Looking back at these photos years from now, they should represent YOU.
1. When should we schedule our photo shoot?
Some will say this should be done immediately after you get engaged, but it really depends on when and what you’re using the photos for. If you’re planning a short engagement, get them done ASAP. We are using them for save-the-dates, so we planned our shoot about 9 months out from our wedding date. 6-8 months allows time for the photographer to edit and time to design save-the-dates. If you aren’t using the photos for this purpose or have a longer engagement, there is a bigger time cushion, but definitely consult with your wedding planner if using one!
2. Choose a photographer that matches your style.
It comes down to how you connect with them and how they edit photos. When looking for a photographer, ask within your network, search local hashtags such as #HoustonEngagementPhotos or ask your wedding planner. When scrolling on your phone, pay attention to photos that catch your attention. Are they vibrant or less saturated? Sharp or soft and dreamy? What style would fit best with the theme of your wedding? Every photographer has a unique editing style, so select a photographer that matches yours.
Most photographers will ask what your vision is or the vibe you’re going for at the time of inquiry. Be specific and ask questions! By checking out their social media pages and/or setting up a quick call you’ll get a feel for who they are, their communication style, and what to expect working with them. It’s important that your personalities match. You’ll be spending a significant amount of time with them. Especially if the photographer is shooting your engagement photos and wedding.
Be sure to ask about the turnaround time for edits, the number of final photos delivered, and any additional fees.
We decided on our locations less than two weeks before our shoot. Don’t be like us! Pay homage to your ceremony location or places special to your love story. Maybe you met at a bar, love shooting pool every weekend, or enjoy museums. If you decide on a public space, be sure to communicate with your photographer. This will allow them time to check out the spot and get any necessary approvals. Search local hashtags on social media, rely on your wedding planner, or ask your photographer for suggestions if you still aren’t sure.
4. Use a professional for hair, makeup, and nails.
Unless you’re a pro, I suggest getting your hair, makeup, and nails done by a professional. I’m sure you’re a tad stressed, so you deserve a mini spa day anyway. If you aren’t stressed, you still deserve to be pampered. This can also be used as an early bridal hair & makeup trial. Try some styles to see what you like. You’ll know exactly what you want when your wedding day arrives.
For nails, pick a style that’s true to you and the theme of your photos. Search Pinterest, Instagram, etc., and save all your favorites. While I typically go crazy with colors and designs, I opted for a simple, neutral color. I want our photos to look timeless 30 years from now, so this worked out for me.
5. Preparation is everything. No procrastinating.
You don’t want to be stressed the day of your shoot, so let’s try to avoid that, shall we? Shop early, prep major components you’ll need, and practice. Yes, I said practice.
Try to shop for your clothes as soon as possible. This will give you a cushion of time to make any necessary adjustments. Try on each outfit (complete with accessories and shoes) at least 1 week before your shoot. You’ll still have a week to find other options vs. running from store to store frantically. We all know you can never find what you need in the mall when you’re actually looking for it. How annoying!
Steam/iron all clothes and hang them up in advance. Here’s a great travel steamer if you need one! Pack other items early to ensure you have time to double and triple check. I’ll cover a few essential items a little later.
That really nice ring you received, please clean it so it can shine like it never shined before in your pictures! I’ve been obsessed with TikTok lately and learned to use equal parts Windex, blue Dawn soap, and warm water. I let mine soak for about 10 minutes before brushing it with an old toothbrush and…..BABY!!!! My ring almost blinded us haha!!!
This one may sound silly, but I’m not ashamed to say I practiced my poses and facial expressions in the mirror. I actually highly recommend doing this (with your outfit on) for any photoshoot. It works because you’ll be prepared!
6. Don’t get caught without the essentials.
You’ll remember the major items like your ring and clothes, but those smaller items we don’t think about can be a bigger impact than you may think. Be sure to pack practical items: flats for when your heels start hurting, lotion (especially for my melanated friends because we need that glow honey!), chapstick, a towel for sweat (definitely if shooting outside), fan, changing tent, makeup wipes, extra lipstick, and liner, pressed powder for oily makeup, etc.
Try to mentally go through your outfit changes and what items are required. Be sure to pack those! I thought I had everything covered, but forgot my flats, so I had to wear Jordans with my dress lol. Also forgot a screwdriver to remove my bracelet, but our photographer had one. Lifesaver!
7. Use props to add to the story.
Along with those essentials, bring props that will help tell a story in your photos. Love beer? Bring a case. Can you both complete a rubrics cube? Bring one. Love completing puzzles or playing board games? Bring it! Pet’s aren’t a “prop” but I would definitely suggest bringing your furbabies! We used champagne & flutes because we love to sip and a bridal bouquet to add a little romance (also for me to practice).
8. Clothes: Comfortable and Complementary
I originally wanted to wear an overly dramatic down that I knew would photograph well and make jaws drop, but quickly realized I’d rather be comfortable. I believe the more comfortable you are, the better your photos will look. Who wants to be tugging at clothes or constantly trying to get comfortable the entire shoot?
We naturally want our outfits to match our partner’s. However, I recommend selecting outfits that complement each other instead of going overboard with the matching. Trying to find exact matches in the men & women departments of a store can be a headache. Aside from that, it’s the perfect time to let both of your personalities shine. Pick outfits that are in the same color scheme, but are true to your style. Patterns don’t always photograph well, so try sticking to solid colors or minimizing patterns.
9. Create a photo shot list for your photographer.
Do you freeze up when it’s time to take a picture? Don’t know what to do with your arms or legs? Just feel awkward in general? Same sis! Create a shot list. This is exactly what it sounds like: a list of camera shots you want to capture. Doing this will help your photographer understand your needs, save significant time and guide the flow of your session.
I searched Pinterest, Instagram, really anywhere to get inspiration photos. I looked for a mix of close-up shots, full-body, interesting angles, and candids. From there, I created a spreadsheet with those photos and any notes for us and the photographer. If I wanted a similar shot, but from a lower angle I wrote that down. Also, emphasize shots that you absolutely must have and others that would be nice to try. Be sure to communicate with your photographer during the shoot too! Ask to see a photo or two on their camera to gauge any changes you may need to make in your poses.
10. Bring a friend for backup.
One thing I HIGHLY recommend is having someone from your bridal party attend the shoot with you to assist and capture behind-the-scenes footage. While you’re waiting for final edits, you’ll have photos and video to swoon over! For content creators like myself, this is extremely beneficial to use for content across your social channels.
Along with capturing small moments while the photographer is doing their amazing job, this person will make sure your hair looks okay, assist you with changing clothes, keep you calm and organized, etc. Please communicate with your photographer beforehand and ensure your assistant is not in the way of the photographer.
11. Focus on your partner. Let it flow.
Use that shot list as a guide for you and the photographer, but don’t get too caught up in it. The best photos are candids because they’re organic. Try to forget the camera is there. Focusing on your fiance will naturally make you more comfortable and the love will jump through the camera lens. Tell each other funny jokes, reflect on how you got to this stage in your relationship, do a dance, or those quirky things only you two understand.
The most important tip is to just RELAX! Everything will work out, but the key is to prepare and focus on the love of your life. The rest will come together. What lessons learned do you have from your engagement session? I’d love to hear!