It almost feels like a nuptial decree:
“Engagement photos must immediately follow the proposal.”
Much like the ceremony itself, this particular wedding standard can demand a significant amount of preparation. You have to figure out where to take your photos, in what style, and what to wear. It’s also one of several important “firsts”– it’s your initial interaction with your photographer as well as a lasting marker of your new life together.
“Engagement photos are the first chapter of your story,” says professional wedding photographer, Diana P. Lang. “A good story has an interesting location, an amazing cast of characters, details and a happily-ever-after ending.”
To make sure your engagement photo session is a snap, here are some tips on how to best prepare and what to expect once you’re in the spotlight:
Find the perfect fit
If you go to Central Park on a nice spring day, you might run into five different engagement-photo sessions. In one, a couple might be looking lovingly into one another’s eyes, while another pair is goofily running around.
Which of these vibes do you prefer?
“Decide whether you want something that’s kind of fun, or something that’s a little bit more formal,” says photographer Steven Rosen. “Then find a photographer who fits your particular style.”
The best way to gauge whether or not a professional can illustrate your personality as a couple is to take a gander at their portfolio and see what kinds of poses he tends to capture.
The possibilities can be endless when it comes to picking a photo-shoot location, so start with places that are important to you as a couple.
“Maybe it’s the cafe where you had your first date or the spot where you got engaged,” suggests photographer Kristina Hill. “Or how about the farmer’s market where you shop together on Saturday mornings, followed by where you brunch directly after?”
A familiar spot can also put people who are camera shy at ease.
“If the location is a place that holds significance, you will feel much more comfortable interacting naturally,” says Hill.
Feel free to ask your photographer for recommendations if you can’t figure out where to have your session.
“Most photographers have stock places in mind that they have used before,” says professional Kathy Valentine. “Or places that they have scouted and kept in the back of their minds. A photographer is always thinking about photo shoots wherever they go.”
Keep in mind that most engagement photo sessions are shot outdoors. So, before settling on a location, evaluate whether you would feel more relaxed in a public space or somewhere more secluded.
It is also important that you find a photographer that you like personality-wise. He will be around you like white on a wedding dress the entire day of your wedding, so make sure you feel good and at ease around him.
A matter of time
Good photography is dependent on lighting. If you want your photos to have a particular look – and look your best – think about where the sun will be when you schedule your shoot.
“Early in the morning or right before sunset are your better choices,” says Valentine. “Bright sun and the heat of the day will not look well on anyone!”
A great way to save money and look fantastic is to schedule your shoot the same day as your makeup and hair trials.
“This will also give you an opportunity to see how your makeup photographs,” notes Hill.
Get in your comfort zone
Your photo session can last several hours and you may end up running around, jumping up and down, or lying on the ground. You don’t want to be restricted in any way so make sure to bring comfy threads the complement the location. And remember, wardrobe changes are encouraged.
“Bring at least three different looks from casual to sporty to dress-to-impress,” says Lang.
Compliment each other
A couple sporting matching Chuck All-Stars can be cute, but you don’t want to show up wearing the same color shirts and jeans.
“I tend to recommend that couples think in terms of coordinating rather than matching,” says Hill. “Consider textures, colors, layers, and patterns when picking out outfitss. And choose clothes that you feel good in. We all have a shirt that brings out our eyes or a dress that we feel flatters our figure.”
Use props properly
This one is for all you Pinterest addicts. Props can certainly be included in your engagement session, especially if your wedding has a strong theme, but Lang warns against going overboard on the details.
“Props work well for a limited number of shots, but be careful not to overuse them,” she says. “Simplicity is the key unless you are planning a stylized session.”
Some ideas she recommends include a flag or uniform if you’re in the military, writing the wedding date on a chalkboard, or wearing shoes that say “I do” on the bottoms.
Another great idea is if you’re a same-sex couple, using something rainbow-colored as a prop. Or, if you feel more at ease around your pet, involve Fido in a few shots.
Don’t expect replicas
It helps to look at a photographer’s past work to get ideas, but don’t expect carbon copies of sample photos. Different times of day and year can result in altered lighting, which means photos are almost impossible to replicate. Plus, you want to give your photographer some room for creativity.
“You don’t want to limit the photographer by asking him duplicate an image,” says Rosen. “I can get a general idea of what you like based on other images, and then run with that.”
Trust your photographer
If you like your photographer’s portfolio, have faith in his ability, even if he recommends a pose or a location that bewilders you.
“Trust is super important,” says Rosen. “A lot of times, the blandest, most boring ‘why the hell are we here?’ spots can give you the most gorgeous pictures.”
This may be the most important tip of them all. For all the stress and expense that can go into a planning a wedding, it’s important to remember why you’re doing it in the first place.
“Ultimately it’s not about posing, props, or Pinterest,” says Lang. “It’s about the two of you and your love.”
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