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The Perfect Engagement Shoot

Why engagement photography matters, and how to make the most of your shoot.

Engagement photography is getting more and more popular, but why?

Is it worth your time and money to have an engagement shoot?

What should you be getting out of it? How do you prepare?

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This guide goes through all the reasons why you should have engagement photos, what you should expect, and the 7 steps that will get you the most gorgeous pictures from your shoot.

At the end of it all, you should be ready to get some breathtakingly lovely pictures from your engagement shoot, and perfectly prepared to look even more fabulous on your wedding day.

Chapter 1

Is an engagement shoot worthwhile?

Engagement shoots are becoming an essential part of the wedding experience, and it’s for a whole host of reasons, from the practical, to the artistic.

Yes, they cost money, but lots of couples consider it well worth the investment. Your engagement shoot doubles as a test run for your wedding day for you and your photographer, as well as giving you gorgeous professional photos of the two of you that you can use.

Been here before?

Have you ever been professionally photographed before?

Unless you're a model or a celebrity, the answer is: probably not

There are big differences between taking a nice photo and taking a professional portrait, and your photographer is probably going to ask you to do some things for photos that might make you feel a bit silly at the time.

The great thing about an engagement shoot is that you can get used to the slightly awkward stuff, and you'll also get the proof that in the pictures, it looks amazing.

There's nothing like photographic evidence to help overcome any nervous feelings - particularly if you don't enjoy having your picture taken.

So many people feel uneasy or uncomfortable about a photo shoot, and that's the last thing you need on your wedding day.

And even more than that - if you feel uncomfortable it's going to come across in the photos themselves. So getting used to the process and working out all those awkward kinks is going to be hugely important to feeling relaxed on your wedding day and getting photos that look fab.

Setting a style

Getting your engagement photos back is also going to help you visualise what your photographer plans to do for your actual wedding shoot.

You'll also get the chance to tell them what you love, but also if there's anything that doesn't look quite right, or if you didn't like one of the photo styles.

At the end of the day you'll have a true example of how your style and theirs work together, and (fingers crossed!) it will give you a massive sense of confidence that your wedding photos are going to be incredible.

engaged couple walking down a path

As well as the actual photos, spending the day with your photographer will also give you a good idea of what it's going to be like to have them at your wedding. You'll most likely be spending as much time with them as any of your guests, so it's really helpful if you click.

Your photographer should also be able to create an atmosphere where you feel calm and confident, whether you're a little introverted or the life of the party, they should be able to match and manage your energy, and an engagement shoot is a great test run for that.

More stuff

Lots of couples use their engagement photos throughout their wedding, and some people even use them to announce their engagement!

You can use your engagement photos for all sorts, including Save the Date card or invites (if your shoot is early enough), websites and guest books. Some people like to use them for signage around the venue, or just as decorations either at the wedding or to hang up at home.

You can get really creative with your engagement photos too, I've seen couples print them on stickers to go on sweet jars given as wedding favours and used instead of table names to make things a bit more fun.

Chapter 2

7 steps to the perfect engagement photos

Your engagement shoot can help set up your wedding day perfectly, give you confidence in your photographer (and yourself!) and also means you’ve got some glorious photos that you can use both at the wedding, and just in general life.

So, now you’ve decided to go ahead with an engagement shoot, how do you get it right? Here are 7 steps to Engagement Shoot Perfection!

Step 1, Preparation

You might think this is obvious, but the first step in getting glorious engagement photos is to prepare by having a really good chat with your photographer well before the shoot date.

Let them know what your wedding theme and colours are, tell them about your relationship and what you like to do together - even consider putting together a mood board or Pinterest board of photos you like to give them an idea of what you're after, it's much easier to show what you mean than trying to explain in words

The more your photographer knows about the two of you, the better they'll be able to prepare. They might have some very useful suggestions for you about where to go, what to wear, or extra things you might want to bring.

It can also be a good idea on the day to start with a coffee with your photographer, not to talk shop, but to chill out, relax and get to know each other a bit better before you start.

Chances are this will be the first time you've ever met, so it's great to have a bit of time to break the ice and warm up to each other.

Step 2, Where?

Choosing the right location can make a big difference to your engagement photos, so it's important to consider all the options.

Some couples want a location that means something to them, the place the proposal happened, where you first met or your favourite place to visit. It can also be a good idea to use your wedding venue - especially if your photographer hasn't worked there before.

If you use your wedding venue you can scope it out for good backdrops for the big day - although please make sure you check with the venue before going, you don't want to be crashing someone else's wedding!

If you're struggling for inspiration, always ask your photographer. They've probably been to a lot of different locations, and can help you choose one that suits you.

And suiting you is important. If you like rambling around in the woods, a cityscape backdrop isn't really going to be your style. If you love being snuggled up by the fire, maybe a windswept beach shot isn't right for you.

You should always pick a place you're going to feel comfortable, because that's going to come across on camera and make a huge difference to your photos.

Step 3, When?

Most couples like to do their shoot a couple of months before the wedding, when you're close enough to start to feel excited, but far enough away not to be worrying that Auntie Muriel has changed her dinner choice for a third time!

If you're planning to use your engagement photos for invites or save the date cards though, you might want to arrange it a bit earlier to give you enough time to get the photos back, pick your favourite and get the stationery sent out.

If possible, it's good to do an engagement shoot in the springtime - especially if it's an outdoor shoot. It gives us a good chance for good weather, and the daylight is lovely to work with at that time of year.

In the summertime, try to avoid taking photos in the heat of the day as the direct sunlight can make things difficult. However an evening or sunset shoot can be absolutely breathtaking - it's what we call The Golden Hour, so you do have to plan carefully to take advantage of that short window.

For winter shoots, don't be afraid to go with the weather. There's a lot to be said for a cosy fireside and some chunky knitwear!

Of course, when you have your shoot is always going to be affected by whatever the weather is doing, so if you're having an outdoor engagement shoot at a time when it's likely to rain (which in the UK could be ANY time!), it can help to have a backup indoor location just in case.

black and white photo of an engaged couple looking happy

Step 4, What to wear?

Picking clothes for your engagement shoot doesn't need to be over complicated, but it's a good idea to plan in advance what you're both going to wear - and maybe even bring a couple of different options just in case.

Be comfy

Your engagement shoot should be a pretty relaxed affair, and you're always going to look your best if you feel comfortable.

That doesn't mean you should chuck on any old thing though, pick an outfit that you know fits great and makes you feel fabulous.

It's a good idea to dress for your location and weather as well - if you're going to the beach you probably don't want to wear stilettos!

Be a perfect match

Some couples like to be perfectly coordinated for their engagement photos, choosing the same colours or even full matching outfits, but most people like to keep their individual styles.

If you don't want to be the perfect match (only in your clothing of course!), then it's still a good idea to make sure you're not picking styles that completely clash. If one of you is in formalwear and the other in sweats, it's probably going to end up looking a bit odd.

Same with colour choices - keeping things similar is going to give a more consistent style to your photos so it's best to stay within the same colour palette, maybe soft pastels or stick to monochromes to keep everything in a complementary style.

Bring another option

You can't ever really rely on the weather, so having a couple of options in your bag in case there's a sudden downpour or a heatwave is a great idea.

Not to mention that a couple of different clothing options can really help if you aren't 100% confident that you've chosen the best outfit for the day, or if you are shooting in a couple of different locations and want something appropriate to each setting.

Don't worry too much

Your engagement shoot isn't supposed to be formal, it's supposed to reflect you and your partner in your normal life (normal life at its gorgeous best, of course!).

Sure, you want some instagram-envy-inducing pictures at the end of your day, but let it be you who are the stars of the show, not the designer dress you're wearing, or the swanky location you've never been to before.

So just be yourself, wear your actual clothes, go somewhere you actually love and do something you enjoy doing together. These photos should be about you guys enjoying your life together - just shot as prettily as possible!

Step 5, How to look

A brilliant idea for your engagement shoot, is to arrange it on the same day as your hair and makeup trials.

Lots of brides do this so that they can look fab in the photos, but also to get a good feel for how those styles are going to look at the actual wedding.

I've done engagement shoots before where my bride's hair has looked gorgeous for the first half an hour, but simply hasn't been able to stay put in the heat of the day, or has been unmanageable in the slightest breeze.

But if you've chosen a hairstyle that doesn't stay up, or makeup that's too big or too subtle, then your engagement shoot will show that up for you and give you a chance to make some alterations before your big day.

Also, the more beautiful you feel for your shoot, the more confidence you'll have, and the better your engagement photos will be!

engaged couple embracing while looking at each other

Step 6, Bring stuff

What do I do with my hands? We have all been there, overthinking about how you're standing and what you're doing, and suddenly everything feels horribly unnatural.

But bringing a couple of props can really help you avoid those awkward moments, it gives you something to focus on and actually DO during your shoot.

Of course, it's important that those props aren't just there for the sake of it, but if you enjoy making music - bring your guitar for a jam! Enjoy chess? Bring a set with you! Love climbing or badminton - work that into your shoot for something that's unique to you both.

One of the most fun props you can bring is your pet.

Maybe I'm a little biased because of my own gorgeous pup, but I think it's wonderful when people want to have their whole household in their photos - furballs included!

Of course if you are bringing your dog on your engagement shoot, be sure to check at the location that it's ok first - you don't want to turn up and be disappointed if your pooch isn't actually allowed.

Step 7, Have fun!

This might sound like an impossible task to some people, but believe me, even the most camera-shy person can actually have fun on their engagement shoot.

This is the step where your choice of photographer could be absolutely crucial.

Part of your photographer's job is to help you feel relaxed about what's happening - because, let's be honest, it can be a pretty weird experience!

But if you're there with someone who can make you laugh, set you at ease, and who you feel comfortable around, then it's all going to go a lot easier.

At the end of the day, you should enjoy your engagement shoot, it should be something you look back on with fondness.

The big key is to find a way to relax, and a lot of the steps we've gone through should help with that fairly naturally, but don't be afraid to say if you need a bit of a break.

In fact, a pause for you to just be yourselves is often the time for taking a sneaky couple of candid shots - and don't be shocked if they end up being your absolute favourites too!

Chapter 3

Adding the final touches - my top tips!

Now you’re all prepared for your engagement shoot, you’ve got a great photographer, a beautiful location, and a fantastic outfit (with a spare in the bag if needed).

So what next?

With everything set up and ready to go, all you need now is to take the perfect engagement picture.

As you’re perfectly prepared, most of this is now going to be down to your photographer, but there are still some great tips to bear in mind once you’re in front of the camera to give them all the help you can.

Embrace the awkwardness

Yes, it's going to feel really weird at times, but the best way to deal with it is to run with it!

Your photographer will set you up with some poses that will make you feel unnatural - but that's because we know how it's going to look in the photos (amazing, in case you were wondering!).

The more you can embrace the moment, the better - even if that means having a giggle half way through.

Don't worry

It's not your job to make you look good - that's MY job!

So don't worry about pulling a funny face, or your double chin, or what you're doing with your hands. I'm not going to use anything that isn't 100% gorgeous, and I often show couples shots as we go along, just so you can see how great it looks too - no matter how weird it feels at the time.

Ignore me, I'm not here!

The best photos are often taken when you've forgotten you're on your engagement shoot, so please don't look straight down the camera (unless you've been asked to), and try to focus on your partner. After all, this shoot is about the two of you together.

A good photographer knows how to blend into the background and give you space to be yourself, so take advantage of that, relax and enjoy your day out together!

Individuals, together

Make sure you get a few shots of each of you individually as well as the photos of you as a couple.

Of course your engagement shoot is about the two of you together, but some individual portraits will not only look great (I've seen lots of walls where couples have used their individual pictures either side of a beautiful shot of them together), they also give each of you the chance for a breather.

While your partner is having their photo taken, you can go grab a snack, have a sit-down and chill out, or take a moment to enjoy the experience.

engagement shoot photo of a couple embracing in the countryside

Bring ideas, not instructions

There are some couples who prepare for their engagement shoot with a checklist of images they want.

Sometimes that checklist can be really helpful, as it can give your photographer a solid plan of the direction and style you're after.

However, if you're expecting them to follow it to the letter, then you're probably not going to get the most out of your shoot.

Sometimes your checklist isn't going to match up with the location, style or setting you've chosen. You may have even chosen a selection of images that don't work together, which can make the shoot incoherent or feel a bit random.

It can be really hard to let someone else take control, but you need to be able to trust your photographer, and be flexible to make sure you get the shots you want, but also so your photographer can use their expertise and creativity to engineer the shots that you'd never dreamed of, but take your breath away.

So, suggestions are fab, but instructions are probably going to get in your way.

Make a day of it

You're looking fabulous and feeling confident, so why not turn your engagement shoot into a mini holiday?

Book yourself a lovely meal out together, go out dancing or arrange it all for a day you've got a party planned - make the most of looking and feeling your absolute best and turn your engagement shoot into your dream date night (with a few photos to prove it!).

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Bring some tunes

Silence isn't really a comfortable atmosphere for taking photos, it's usually best if the two of you are able to chat with each other (and me!) during your engagement photos.

But if you're the quieter types, then it can be nice to bring a bit of music to help you relax and to give you something to focus on while we're out and about.

Some couples like to bring along the background music playlist for their wedding ceremony, a shortlist of songs for their first dance, their normal soundtrack to life or sometimes (if I'm really lucky), they'll bring along their own instrument and play something themselves.

Is that a phone in your pocket, or…?

You would not believe how often I find myself editing pockets out of pictures! Before we start taking your engagement photos, please make sure you've emptied your pockets of phones, keys, wallets - everything.

Full pockets break the lines of your clothing, and can really pull focus - and it's such an easy fix! So bring a bag with you ad leave it to one side during the shoot so you don't have weird bulgy pockets in your photos.


Chapter 4

Great ways to use your engagement photos

So, you’ve had a brilliant day on your engagement shoot, and pretty soon you’ll be getting the photos back from your photographer.

So what next?

Firstly, I always advise you sit down together and go through them. Dedicate some time, open a bottle of wine, put on some music and enjoy yourselves!

As you go through, maybe pick a few favourites that you want to use yourselves, but also remember to pick out some shots you really like to tell you photographer about!

That's not just so they get some nice feedback (although that's always lovely!), but it means they'll know to try include these sorts of shots on your wedding day too. After all, that's what your engagement shoot is really for - setting you up for a perfect wedding shoot.

But that doesn't mean your engagement photos aren't fabulous on their own, I've known couples who've based their entire wedding decorations on them, and many more who get them printed to hang at home.

So here are some ideas of how to use your engagement photos once the shoot is over.

For your wedding stationery

Engagement photos are great for using on save the date cards or even your invites. There's nothing that says “happy couple” quite like a photo of you together!

Of course, if you're going to use engagement photos for invites, you'll need to give yourself enough time - you don't want to be leaving your invites to the last minute because you're waiting on your engagement shoot. So plan it nice and early if you think you'll want to use the photos on save the date cards or invites.

Lots of people also set up a wedding website to make it easier to do rsvps, find wedding lists or even so people can donate to a charity or honeymoon fund if you're not doing gifts. This is the perfect opportunity to use your engagement photos - no-one's going to get the wrong “Dan and Emma” if they can see photos of you on the page.

And don't forget the social media announcement either! Stunning pictures of the two of you on your Facebook page or Instagram are a great way to announce your engagement publically, and make people just a little jealous of how fantastic you look too!

For your wedding day

Large prints of your engagement photos around the venue can be a lovely touch, but you can also use them a little more subtly - on signs directing people to the venue or maybe on the table name cards.

Although wedding books are becoming less popular (it's SO difficult to think of something meaningful to write when you're a little tipsy!), alternatives where guests sign their name, stick a heart or leave a fingerprint are really taking off, and they usually use a lovely engagement photo in the centre.

Favours are also a way you can make use of your engagement photos, and they can actually let you be a little more creative too.

At one wedding I went to recently, the favours were mugs printed with a photo of the bride and groom and their wedding date. Not only is that a unique favour, it means that every time I get that mug out of the cupboard for a cup of tea, I remember them and their wedding - it's a lovely reminder!

Forever

Of course the most common use of your engagement photos, is to have them at home. Small photo frames, multi photo displays or big prints, I've seen every type and style.

One of the nicest wall displays I've seen was a couple who used their individual engagement photos either side of a wedding photo as a sort of triptych. It's a lovely way to celebrate your relationship!

engaged couple walking down a path looking back at the camera

Now you're ready

Fingers crossed you've now got all the information you need about engagement photography!

Make use of our Seven Steps and Top Tips, and most of all - trust your photographer. They will be the key to keeping all of this running smoothly and looking incredible. You've seen their work, you know what they can do, so trust they can do it for you too.

Listen to their advice, but don't forget to be honest about what you want from your shoot and how you feel on the day too.

Remember that your engagement shoot could be just as important as your wedding day photography, and you might find that you cherish these photos just as much.

That's why I always have an engagement shoot for my couples as part of every wedding package.

If you still have questions about getting perfect engagement photos, or want to talk about booking a shoot with me, feel free to get in touch and I'll be delighted to find out more about you and your wedding.

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