Image Credit: Idaila Photography
Getting engaged is one of the most exciting moments in any couples' lives. Whether you have been patiently waiting for your soulmate to pop the question for a while, or he or she took you by complete surprise, your engagement is likely to be a story you will recount time and time again over the years.
It's only natural then that many couples want to capture this once-in-a-lifetime moment on film. And, let's be honest—it's also a shameless opportunity to showcase your beautiful engagement ring!
To get you inspired, we have spoken to eight experts including award-winning photographers and professional image editors, to get their best tips for taking insta-worthy engagement photos that you will be proud of.
Why should you take engagement photos?
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit / Angela DiPaolo Photography
Looking back at photos of special moments like engagements, weddings and the birth of babies is such an important ritual in celebrating and passing on our stories. Our experts share some reasons why taking engagement photos can be a great idea.
Savour the special moment
"Engagements are such an amazing time in a couple's life and a photo shoot is the perfect way to capture this time to turn it into tangible memories to be treasured for years to come," says Alex from Idalia Photography, who specializes in discovering beautiful love stories and capturing timeless images.
"Engagement photos are not only a beautiful way to start a marvelous journey and to announce the good news to family and friends, but most importantly, they tell your love story and who you are as a couple," says the team at Praise Wedding, an international wedding and family online magazine for modern brides and newly weds.
Audra Wrisley, a fine art film photographer based in Washington DC & Amsterdam agrees: "Engagements are such a special time but it all goes by so quickly. Taking photos provides a unique opportunity to have stunning images of you and your fiancé captured in your favorite locations. These are all things that you won't necessarily have time for on the wedding day itself."
Use it as a warm-up for the big day
Engagement photo shoots are also a great practice run for your wedding day. "Many of our couples love doing engagement sessions as a warm up for the real thing," says Audra Wrisley.
"When the wedding day rolls around, the last thing we as photographers want you thinking about is posing or camera-jitters. An engagement session will help build your relationship with your photographer and become comfortable in front of the camera so that you'll be fully able to focus on celebrating your big day," she explains.
Turn it into a date
"Your engagement is such an exciting milestone and sometimes couples overlook documenting this time in their lives," says Melissa from Iron + Honey Photography, a Chicago-based photographer specializing in weddings, portraits, commercial, and travel photography.
"It's important to take some time out of the wedding-planning whirlwind for just the two of you," she says. You could even turn it into a date with dinner afterwards so you can continue the celebrations while you're still giddy with excitement.
Image: Iron + Honey Photography
It's a great opportunity to get to know your photographer
The secret to creating beautiful photos is feeling completely comfortable with your photographer. "Many couples will use their engagement photos as a way to get to know their photographer, so the wedding day doesn't appear to be a trial run," says Jeremy Chou, a fine art film wedding photographer.
Professional photo editing service ShootDotEdit stresses the importance of cultivating a good relationship with your photographer and believes an engagement session is a great way to do this: "Wedding photographers are committed to capturing the sparks between two people about to say "I do." But, for those images to be authentic, there has to be trust," they say.
International wedding photographer Jessica Frey always encourages her couples to book an engagement session prior to the wedding: "That hour together allows us to not only celebrate this once in a lifetime joy but to practice poses and get to know each other," she says.
"We get all the ‘awkward jitters' out of the way since 99% of couples have never modeled or spent an hour having their photos taken together. We work through poses that fit their personality and most importantly, the engagement session allows my couples to build trust with me.. That way, on the day of their wedding, they know what to expect and can be more of themselves around the camera."
Use the images for wedding announcements
Getting engaged and married is a very personal affair and one you want to share with those closest to you. Engagement photos don't just have to sit in an album or on your wall—they can play a bigger part in the proceedings, as Jeremy Chou explains: "Engagement photos can also make a great addition to save the date announcement cards, gift registries, or a website for the couple," he says.
It's a chance to have some fun!
While the pressure might be on when it comes to capturing the perfect wedding photos—engagement shoots can be a bit more playful and relaxed.
Try taking photos in a spot that is special to you as a couple. If you met in a coffee shop, for example, that could be a great location to get some cute and unique photos.
You can also use the engagement shoot as an opportunity to style a killer outfit. This is a great time to style a look that might be totally different from your wedding so have fun with it.
Expert tips for taking beautiful engagement photos
Image Credit: Jeremy Chou Photography
Lighting can make or break your shoot
"Trust your photographer with regards to timing for your engagement session," says Alex from Idalia Photography. "He or she will be a great resource for picking the time that best suits their style of photography and the location you have chosen."
Lighting can make great photos into incredible ones according to Audra Wrisley. "Usually the best times for photos are an hour or two after sunrise and an hour or two before sunset, depending on the location. Sunrise sessions can be so dreamy, even if it involves a little extra coffee to make it happen."
Jeremy Chou agrees that most photographers prefer to shoot towards sunset time, in what's known as the "golden hour." "This is when light is softest and most flattering for skin," he says.
Wear clothes to set the mood
Clothing is a major factor in how happy you will be with your photos. Wear something that complements your style and allows you to pose naturally, while also feeling "special" in this beautiful moment.
"When choosing clothes, always go with what makes you feel amazing," says Jessica Frey. "Whether that's the color you look best in or your own personal style—if you don't feel good in the clothes you chose, it'll come through in the photos."
Alex from Idalia Photography encourages couples to take the opportunity to dress up—it's not often you get the chance to have professional photos taken after all. "For the ladies, long flowy dresses are huge right now as they add romance to any photo and for the gentlemen, a well-fitted suit is the perfect complement," she says.
Choosing clothing that fits the location is also an important factor when decided on your engagement shoot attire. ‘'What you choose to wear is likely going to dictate how good your photos will look. Make sure your outfit looks good with the photoshoot location you've chosen and complement each other: the colors match to present a comfortable look without blending into the background, and the formality scale of your clothing fits the overall style and atmosphere of the environment'' says Praise.
Complement each other's style but avoid matching
You want to match, but not be matchy-matchy. For example, if you choose a patterned dress, your partner may want to select a solid color from the pattern as the palette for their outfit.
Jeremy Chou agrees: "Compliment each other's color palette and avoid any loud colors or patterns as they tend to be really distracting." He also advises against wearing any logos or statements on clothing. "You really don't want the photos to become dated in a short few years."
Melissa from Iron + Honey Photography also recommends sticking with neutral colors and complementing your partner's outfit in terms of formality. "Dress like you're going to the same event".
Dress to suit the season and your setting
"If we're shooting in the city, don't be afraid to rock those heels, but be sure to bring a pair of flats to change into if we're changing locations. Conversely, if we'll be out in a field somewhere, those same heels will sink right into the ground, so think about wedges or a killer pair of boots if the season fits," says Audra Wrisley.
Don't be afraid to ask for professional fashion advice
If you're struggling on the fashion front, don't be shy to ask for some expert advice. "A stylist can make such a difference in putting things together that look chic, polished and still very you," says Audra Wrisley.
Choose a meaningful location
Image Credit: Audra Wrisley Photography
"Choosing the best engagement shoot location requires some strategic thinking," says Praise Wedding. They suggest starting by listing places you love or that are meaningful to you, then make your final decision based on which location offers the best lighting and natural backdrop that best fits your vision.
Jessica Frey says that it's important to make sure the area reflects your personality and relationship. "If you hate hiking and nature, don't go to a park. If there's a special and meaningful location to your relationship, go there!"
Don't overthink your posing
Most of us are not professional models and posing in front of the camera may not come naturally. Thankfully, a good photographer will be able to provide direction and put you both at ease.
"I always tell my couples to not think about posing for photos, I'll take care of that," says Audra Wrisley. "I love giving enough direction to couples so that they don't feel awkward, but keeping things light and fun with lots of movement and extra close snuggles," she says.
When it comes to posing, the most important thing couples can do is relax, says Jeremy Chou: "If couples start overthinking their poses, it can come across as awkwardness in the photos. A great photographer should only make you do things you normally would do, except they have the skills to make the couple look much more relaxed while doing it," he explains.
Melissa from Iron + Honey Photography agrees: "Do what comes naturally to you and your photographer will tell you if you need to adjust. Just have fun and keep moving. Movement in photos is key—it adds variety and helps you to loosen up and not look so stiff."
Finally, Audra Wrisley says there's no such thing as too close for photos. "I'm always telling my couples, lean in more, a little more, super close," so get ready to snuggle up!
Consider getting your hair and makeup done
If you're investing the money to have professional photos taken, you will want to look your best. You can get your hair and makeup done by a professional to feel even more confident, which will reflect back in the images. It's also a great trial run for your wedding day.
If you want some beautiful close up shots of your engagement ring, it's also a good idea to get a manicure before the shoot.
Don't forget to enjoy yourselves!
Image Credit: Jessica Frey Photography
In the whirlwind of engagement and wedding planning, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. "Our number one advice for couples is don't forget to be happy and enjoy your photo session, because joy is the key to becoming photogenic," says Praise Wedding.
Things to avoid when taking photos of your engagement
Having professional engagement photos taken is an investment, so it's important to spend some time planning and researching your shoot. Our experts share some common mistakes to avoid.
Working with a photographer you don't connect with
This is probably the biggest mistake couples can make. Choosing a photographer you don't click with and who doesn't share your vision can end in huge disappointment.
"Choose a photographer that speaks to you," says Audra Wrisley. "If you can see yourself in their portfolio and you feel a connection during the consultation, that's a great sign."
Jessica Frey understands the importance of this connection: "I always start my session with giving my couples permission to be awkward. The first 5 minutes are always tough for them and for me as we get used to being comfortable around each other."
With the right photographer, you'll have a great session and end up with photos that represent your love story.
Trying to copy specific poses
No two couples are exactly alike, so choosing images from Pinterest with specific poses never works out as you plan, says Audra Wrisley: "Although it makes sense to brainstorm on how you're visualizing your gorgeous session, being too set on specific shots always means that you're missing out on the magic happening if you let it unfold naturally," she says.
Failing to secure proper location permits
According to Jeremy Chou, one of the potential pitfalls in planning a shoot is not securing proper permits for locations: "Always err on the side of caution and don't assume just because it's an outdoor area you don't need a permit. Even some public areas will require a photography permit." He recommends calling your local City Hall or Ranger's office for more details.
Choosing the wrong outfit
Whether it's an outfit that doesn't suit the location or wearing something you feel uncomfortable in, clothing can be another major challenge for couples.
As Jeremy Chou explains, "A cocktail dress might look really out of place in the forest, the same way a business suit might look really out of place on the beach." Always dress for the location you are shooting in so the images appear natural.
You'll also want to ensure that your clothes are well-fitting and comfortable so that you can relax and enjoy the session.
Not planning the shoot properly
Just like any event, planning is required to pull all the elements together and achieve a result you're happy with. "We've seen couples who know exactly what they want, hired the best photographer, picked their favourite locations and the outfits, but ended up with undesirable results because they did not have a clear timeline or plan to follow for the day of the shoot," says Praise Wedding.
They recommend setting up a timeline so you consider travel time (if you want to shoot at different locations) and preparation time (if you need to change outfits) to maximize your time in front of the camera.
Not putting faith in your photographer
If your shoot is going to work, you need to put your trust in the photographer you have chosen. They are the experts and have likely conducted hundreds of shoots before yours.
Melissa from Iron + Honey Photography highlights the importance of building trust with your photographer. "If you need help choosing a location, tell them what you have in mind and they'll help guide you. Chances are, they have locations they've been dying to photograph and they'll be so excited to take you there".
"The worst thing you can do is send the photographer a Pinterest board with ideas to copy. You booked your photographer for their style and you should trust them to use their expertise when it comes to your session."
Trying to do it all
Trying to squeeze in too many locations and outfit changes can add stress and affect the outcome of your images.
"Ask your photographer about the best times of day for photos and narrow down locations and minimize clothing changes," says ShootDotEdit. "Remember, the best light never lasts very long, so you'll stress less (and so will your photographer) if you hone in on favorite spots and choicest outfits ahead of time"
Not communicating with your photographer
Your photographer is there to guide you and get the best possible results from your shoot. If you have a question - ask! "Don't like kissing photos? Have a better side? Share that info with your photographer," says ShootDotEdit.
Letting your nerves take over
A professional photo shoot can be quite daunting for some people, but try to remember why you are here—to celebrate your love! "Don't be nervous—enjoy the session and trust that your photographer will make you feel comfortable and look amazing," says Alex from Idalia Photography.
Taking beautiful photographs of your engagement ring
One of the most exciting things about becoming engaged is the beautiful ring now adorning your finger. Whether you have a classic diamond engagement ring, a unique vintage inspired engagement ring or a modern rose gold engagement ring, a good photographer will help you take some gorgeous shots of your sparkler.
Regardless of whether you choose to capture your engagement on a sweeping mountaintop or in your favourite local coffee shop, sharing the excitement of your upcoming nuptials with loved ones is something worth celebrating. And remember, your other half is your partner in life, so don't forget to let this beautiful friendship shine through in these precious captured moments.