If you are looking for a few practical tips for your engagement photos, you are in the right place.
I am a wedding photographer and have photographed over 500 engagement sessions over the past 15 years
I have put together some excellent tips for engagement photos that will make your session stand out above the rest.
Here is what we will cover in this article:
- Why have an engagement session
- What should you wear for engagement photos
- Clothing to stay away from
- How many outfits
- Hair and makeup
- When should we get engagement photos taken
- Where should we do our engagement session
- What time of day is best for engagement photos
- Should we bring anything like props
- Posing tips for your engagement photos
- What do you do with your engagement photos
1. Why have an engagement shoot?
Engagement sessions allow you to work with your wedding photographer before your wedding day.
You will find out the types of shots that you absolutely love (and, just as important, the shots that you could do without).
Think of your engagement session as part of the wedding rehearsal.
The bonus is that at the end of this rehearsal, you will have some amazing photos of yourself and your partner to remind you of this amazing time in your life.
2. What should you wear for engagement photos?
When choosing your outfits for engagement photos, the first rule to follow is to dress like the best version of yourself.
Wear an outfit that you would wear on a date night. There is nothing wrong with dressing casual for your e-session, but make it the nicest version of casual as possible.
So if you prefer going barefoot in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, wear the jeans that have the most flattering fit. Buy a new t-shirt to ensure your collar is not stretched out.
We have 3 more tips for you…
- Coordinate but don’t try to be twins
- Try and fit in with your location
- Add some contrast to your photos by wearing a color that “pops.” Adding in a single item of color can give your images that “wow” effect.
- A bright skirt or dress when everything else is neutral colored
- A colorful pair of shoes or heels
- Bright accessories like jewelry, scarves, or hats.
Have fun with it and show off your personality!
* If doing your session between November-April when everything outside is still gray, we definitely recommend including a pop of color.
Bonus tip: Wear your best shoes during your photos but consider bringing a pair of walk-around shoes.
3. What should you not wear for engagement photos?
Knowing what to avoid is just as important as what to wear when it comes to engagement photos.
We recommend staying away from the following:
- Clothes that feature large graphics or logos.
- Mixed patterns. We recommend staying away from anything too distracting (like stripes and polka dots together). If wearing a pattern, keep it to a single item of clothing or accessory.
- Neon colors (especially on top). If you are doing your session in direct sunlight, the light reflected onto your partner will be that color. Nobody wants to look neon green.
- Brand new clothes that have never been worn. You don’t want to be tugging at a top that doesn’t fit right.
If purchasing a new outfit for your engagement session, wear it around the house for a full day.
- If at all possible, stay away from bright white shirts. Your eye is typically drawn to the brightest spot in a photo. If that spot is your entire bright white shirt, it’s what you and others will notice first in the photos.
4. How many outfits should you bring to our engagement session?
We recommend wearing 1 or 2 outfits during your session. This gives you the opportunity to get dressed up with one outfit and get comfortable with the 2nd outfit.
If you plan on wearing only 1 outfit, we recommend adding some accessories so you can get a few different looks.
A few examples:
Wear a blazer or coat that you can take off to reveal the top you have on underneath.
Add a colorful hat or scarf.
Carry a colorful purse for a few shots with color.
Are you both big sports fans? Sports jerseys could be a great option for a 2nd outfit for your engagement photos. Maybe you could bring a football or a baseball/baseball glove to get some fun action shots.
Are one of you a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and the other a Philadelphia Eagles fan? Show off your team colors and make it a fun rivalry.
Something else to consider when choosing your outfits:
Consider two outfits if your main outfit is hard to move around in.
Do you want fun and playful images of giving each other piggyback rides?
Do you want to take photos of the two of you sitting or lying in a field?
Lifestyle photos like these might look or feel awkward if you are wearing a form-fitting short skirt or a nice suit.
Make your 2nd outfit comfortable and casual. That way, you can finish the session with some awesome lifestyle images.
*Bonus tip – Bring one more outfit than you plan on wearing. So if you are planning on two outfits, bring 3. This will give you a backup in case of a wardrobe malfunction.
5. Should I have my hair and makeup done for my engagement session?
While having your makeup and hair done by a professional is not required, we highly recommend it for the same reason we recommend it for your wedding day. It will make you feel more confident, and that confidence will show in your photos.
It does not mean that you have to make yourself into someone that is not the real you. The goal is to look like the best version of yourself.
This might be the perfect time to do a makeup trial for the wedding.
We recommend getting a manicure before the session (or at least taking care of chipped nails).
Your photographer will probably want to take gorgeous photos of you showing off your ring.
Speaking of rings, we recommend having your ring cleaned just before your engagement session. That way, it will really sparkle in your photos.
6. When should engagement photos be taken?
There are many different opinions on when you should have your engagement photos taken, but it comes down to the purpose of the engagement session. Here are a few tips that will help you pick the right date:
Are you using these images for save-the-dates?
If you are using the photo for save-the-dates, you will want to have your engagement photos taken, edited, and delivered 7-9 months before your wedding date. You will want to send your save-the-dates 6-8 months before the wedding, so this gives you a month to pick your favorites and design your save-the-dates.
If you are having a destination wedding or if your wedding date is over a holiday weekend, you will want to give guests even more time. We recommend sending your save-the-dates 9-12 months in advance (you would want to have your engagement photos back 1 month prior).
Are you using your engagement photos as a way to “try out” your wedding photographer?
If this is the case, schedule your session as soon as possible (after securing your wedding venue). Maybe you have found two different photographers that you love, but you are having a hard time deciding between the two. We recommend hiring each of them for a 1-hour engagement session. This gives you a chance to see how each of them works with you and your partner. You will quickly know which photographer is right for you.
If you already know your photographer and their style and will not be using these photos for save-the-dates, you can take your engagement photos anytime you like.
You could even do your session a couple of weeks before the wedding just to get relaxed in front of the camera. Think of it as a dress rehearsal for amazing photos on the wedding date.
*Bonus tip: Think about the elements when scheduling your engagement session.
Do you get super sweaty or shiny when it’s humid? If so, you should probably avoid a July or August engagement session.
Does your hair not get along very well with the wind? You should avoid months like October and November here in PA.
Does your nose look like Rudolph’s at the first sign of cooler weather? You will want to stay away from sessions between October-April. Stick with a summer session.
*A double bonus tip: If you do your engagement session during peak fall color or spring when the trees are in full bloom, you will want to schedule your session in advance. We recommend setting this up as soon as you book your photographer. Photographers get dozens of requests for these popular times of the year. These dates are typically first-come-first-served, so you want to get your request in as early as possible.
7. Where should we have our engagement photos taken?
There are no set rules when choosing the location for your engagement session, but we have a few tips to get you started.
Choose a location near and dear to your heart
Taking your engagement photos in a spot that is meaningful to you as a couple will bring back some awesome memories later in life. It is a great way to document this stage of your relationship.
Here are a few ideas:
Think about doing engagement photos where you met.
If you met in college, do your engagement session around your campus. Include areas that are meaningful to you as a couple.
Where did you go on your first date or get engaged? Include the spot in your session.
Do you have a local state park that you spend a lot of time in? That would be a great place to take your photos.
Tip: If you have no idea where to start, here are the 16 best Harrisburg engagement photo locations that we could think of.
Do a destination engagement session
This is a great idea if you are planning a trip together before the wedding (or maybe it’s a good reason to plan a trip together). These photos don’t have to be taken by your wedding photographer.
Do a search online for local portrait photographers from the area that you are visiting.
Find someone who fits your budget and whose work you love.
You can use this as your main engagement session, or you can make this a 2nd engagement session, in addition to the one you do with your wedding photographer.
Having more photos together is never a bad thing.
Consider a fun lifestyle session
Some couples cringe at the thought of posing for a camera. If this is you, a lifestyle session might be the perfect fit. It gives you a chance to get some awesome images without having to pose for the camera nonstop.
Here are a few ideas/activities to get your mind fired up:
Do you love playing sports together? Think about incorporating that into your engagement photos (golf, tennis, bowling, MMA, etc.)
Do you spend the weekend doing home improvement projects? Take your photographer along to Home Depot or Lowe’s and do a fun lifestyle session.
Do you love amusement parks? Head to Hersheypark, Knoebels, or Dorney Park and have your photographer take photos of you having fun on the rides, playing games, and sharing cotton candy.
Stick to one location (two at the most if they are close by)
Some couples try to cram everything they can into their engagement session. All this does is lead to stress and disappointment.
By spending your time in one location, it allows you and your photographer to explore all of the possibilities. The session will be more relaxed, and your photos will show that.
8. What time of day should we take our engagement photos?
Most photographers will want to photograph your engagement session about 1-2 hours before sunset. This is known as the “golden hour.”
You get a very beautiful quality of light at that time of day.
This average sunset time guide might help you with choosing the best month for your session.
Average sunset times by month:
- January: 4:30-4:50pm
- February: 5-6pm
- March: 6-7:30 pm (time change happens in early March)
- April: 7:30-8pm
- May: 8-8:30pm
- June: 8:30-8:40pm
- July: 8:20-8:40pm
- August: 7:30-8:20pm
- September: 6:45-7:30pm
- October: 6-6:45pm
- November: 4:40-6 pm (time change in early November)
- December: 4:40-4:50pm
Another option for beautiful light is doing your session early in the morning.
Keep in mind that if you live in a place with high humidity (like we have here in PA), the ground will most likely be wet from dew in warmer months. It can make morning engagement sessions a real bummer if you plan on using grassy areas.
9. What should I bring for engagement photos?
In our opinion, props can be a distraction if they are not there for a reason.
When planning your engagement session, it can be very easy to get carried away with Pinterest and Etsy.
Some couples end up showing up to their session with a trunk full of props that have no meaning.
They will likely think it all looks pretty silly when looking back at the photos in a few years.
If the props are meaningful or add to your session’s theme, definitely include them.
Do you enjoy having picnics together? Bring a blanket, a bottle of wine, and a few other items to go with that scene.
Do you spend the weekend riding bikes? Bring your bikes and include them in a few photos.
Definitely include props that go along with any hobbies that you do together.
The more personal you can make the session, the more fun you will have taking these photos.
Another idea: Include your dogs if you have them
Including your dog in your engagement session is a great way to get some fun candid photos.
Including your furry friend can take your mind off the camera being pointed at you.
We recommend bringing someone along who can take care of the dog when you are taking photos that do not include him or her.
10. Engagement photo posing ideas (what should I do with my hands)?
When we asked couples about their biggest concern with photo sessions, posing was the number one thing mentioned.
Most couples are not professional models. It’s a very common concern.
A good photographer will get you into comfortable poses that look and feel natural.
But what if my photographer isn’t that great at giving direction?
Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.
Follow these easy posing tips for great-looking photos:
What do I do with my hands?
We’ve all asked that question (or at least thought it) while having our photo taken.
You want to avoid having them straight down and locked at your side. There is nothing wrong with having your hands at your side, just don’t stiffen up and clench your fist. If they are down at your side, just keep them relaxed.
Keep your engagement ring front and center when holding hands or in any pose that shows your hands (don’t hide it behind your partner’s hand).
If you are having a hard time keeping them relaxed, here are a few tips:
Put one hand around your partner, and put the other hand in your pocket (thumb out), or thumb in your pocket or belt loop.
If going in for a kiss, bring your hand up and touch your partner just under the chin, on the side of the neck, or on the cheek (see example to the right)
- Hand or thumb in the pocket. Don’t try stuffing your entire hand into your jeans pocket. It will look just as awkward as your hands straight down at your side. Just put part of your hand into your pocket.
- Try touching your hair or clothing.
- One hand up on your hip
- Hug your partner’s arm with both hands.
- Hands on your partner’s cheek/neck when kissing.
- When in doubt, hug your partner’s arm and put the free hand in your pocket
Smile and kiss
If you go in for a kiss, don’t make a “kissy” face. It looks awkward and unnatural.
Instead, smile softly as you go in for a kiss.
Warning: You might laugh your butt off while trying this. You will love the candid photos that come from these real laughs. Try it multiple times to get a big variety of expressions.
Close your eyes when you go in for the kiss (unless you’re going for that awkward, creepy look)
Walk and bump
Hold hands while walking toward your photographer. If you want some playful expressions, bump your hips a few times while walking.
When you see those photos on Pinterest of couples laughing and holding hands, these are the types of things they are doing to get those reactions.
Face to face
You can get a variety of shots from pulling each other in close.
Go forehead to forehead and close your eyes for a few seconds
Eskimo kisses (nose to nose)
Depending on your personality, these poses might result in some beautiful intimate photos, or they might result in laughter and hysteria. Either way, the results will be awesome.
Carrying each other
If you want instant candids with laughter and cuteness, a few piggyback rides will give you everything you need.
11. What do you do with engagement photos?
Once you get your digital files back from your photographer, it’s time to print some photos for your wall and home.
Most photographers offer digital files, but make sure you ask beforehand.
Some photographers require that you purchase products through them, so that should be one of the first questions you ask when hiring a photographer.
Neither is right or wrong, but you want to know all the details, so there are no surprises later down the road.
Here are a few ideas for printing and displaying your engagement photos:
- Make a guest book for the wedding using some of your favorites
- Print a couple of canvases for your wall. We love the look of canvas clusters. It allows you to show off a few different photos in one display.
- Make a nice quality book or album. This is one of the things we recommend most for your engagement and wedding photos.
- Digital files are great, but they typically get lost in the sea of computer files as the years go by.
- These days, album and book companies have easy-to-use drag-and-drop templates.
- Get an awesome metal print for your home (I have a few of these in my house, and they are so vibrant and lifelike.)
- Make a photo book for your parents or grandparents. These make great Christmas or birthday gifts.
- Print some of the photos to display at your wedding (mounted prints or canvas look best)
The bottom line is…get your photos off of your computer and into a book or album.
Posting them on social media is not forever (anyone remember My Space?), but definitely share a few of your favorites on social media. Use some of these engagement quotes and captions when posting to Instagram or Facebook.
We hope some of these tips help you plan your engagement photos.
Most of all…
Don’t forget to relax, have fun and be yourself. The best photos happen when you relax and focus on each other.
- Check out our post on the first 7 things you should do after getting engaged.
- Don’t forget to check our favorite engagement photos locations near Harrisburg, PA
- What if my engagement ring is too big or loose?