Why engagement photos are important

Image by Patricia Sampson

He got down on one knee and with a smile offered up a sparkling ring. Or maybe she popped the question. Each couple has their own unique proposal story, but regardless, the outcome is the same. They are engaged and want to tell the world, or at least their friends and family. Let the wedding planning begin.

While not part of the wedding day celebrations, engagement photos can and should be an integral part of your wedding photography services. For the couple, an engagement photo is the perfect memory of the time they decided to get married. It traditionally accompanies the engagement announcement, and as a great portrait of the couple, often finds a special place in their home for years to come.

One often-overlooked advantage to taking engagement photographs is the free marketing the photographer receives from shared engagement photos. These are the best photographs the couple has ever had taken and their first photographs on their official journey toward marriage. They will use them in the engagement announcement, on their wedding Web site, and most likely on their Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking sites. 

Some couples even play slideshows on their wedding day, and they may include the images you photographed at their engagement shoot. They will also likely purchase prints for themselves and their parents or other family members. In fact, by the time the guests arrive at the wedding, many of them will have already seen and been impressed by your work, making them more likely to order prints and recommend you to their friends. 

Think of the goodwill you will have earned by the time the wedding comes around if the couple and many of their friends and family have been admiring your work since the engagement shoot. Every time they look at the photo they will think how great their photographer is and will be much more likely to trust you to deliver the goods on the wedding day.

Uses for engagement photos:

  • Accompany wedding announcements
  • Posting on wedding Web site, Facebook,
  • MySpace, and other networking sites
  • Portraits for couple’s home
  • Gifts for couple’s parents and other relatives
  • Wedding day slideshow
  • Wedding program
  • Wedding favor
  • Save-the-date products

As each couple is unique, each engagement shoot should create unique images that are both stunning and truly representative of the couple’s style and personality. If this isn’t the case with your engagement shoots, then you’re not doing your job as a photographer. The theme and feel of the engagement shoot can go a long way toward giving a couple their dream photos, and many factors contribute to creating the theme and feel. Variations in location, what the couple is wearing, and how they pose will determine if the images are casual and relaxed or more staged and formal. What feeling is portrayed in the photo will depend on the personality of the couple and their comfort level with you as their photographer.

With engagement photos, you are not limited with the location as you are when it comes to the wedding. In fact, the engagement photos can be taken anywhere and the location should be picked with care. Consider a location that means something special to the couple, such as where they first met, went on their first date or where the proposal took place. The location might also be a place that reflects their personality. If the couple loves the outdoors, then a city landscape is a poor choice. Likewise, if they both love the hustle and bustle of the big city, then a serene park setting just won’t cut it. 

Selecting a meaningful location for the engagement shoot can turn an ordinary portrait into an extraordinary collection of images that the couple will love and cherish forever. Some couples have a difficult time choosing a location, so it is up to you to be prepared with suggestions as well as questions regarding their personal preferences. This will not only ensure the photos will have special meaning, but also help you learn more about the couple and in doing so, grow that rapport that is so important.

Another consideration when making recommendations is the opportunity a location offers you as a photographer. You may like to pick places you haven’t shot before; places that can offer me something new as well as provide a great background for the couple. When you shoot in areas you’re not familiar with, ask local photographers for suggestions.

Engagement shoot location list :

  • Wedding ceremony site
  • Reception site
  • Fancy hotel
  • Local park
  • Engagement site
  • First date site
  • First meeting place
  • The beach
  • The lake
  • Botanical gardens
  • Their home
  • Downtown
  • Scenic neighborhood
  • Industrial area
  • Local store (e.g. record store for music lovers)
  • Vineyard
  • Local landmark
  • School campus
  • Museum grounds

Tips for Selecting Locations
Peruse travel magazines to get ideas for your next photo shoot. They offer a variety of locations and fun facts about those places that allow you to choose a location that fits the style of your couple. Stay connected with other photographers. They can be a wealth of knowledge about locations you have never been to before. Using online social tools such as Twitter and Facebook allows you to ask questions to photographers you are connected to, especially when you need questions answered immediately.

When shooting the wedding, the apparel is set by the event. Usually a bride wears a stunning white dress and her groom looks dapper in a tuxedo. When it comes to the engagement shoot, however, the outfits can be varied and should reflect the couple’s true taste. Suggest couples to bring a few choices of attire to a shoot, allowing them to change during the session. A change in clothes can create an entirely different look and feel between sets of images. Keep in mind that very light colored or very dark clothing can cause the camera’s built in light meter to give faulty exposure values, and solid colors are more pleasing than busy prints.

Clothing suggestions:

  • Dress clothes - for a more formal look to their images
  • Casual clothes - the standard black top with jeans or light shirt with Khakis
  • Favorite clothes or item of clothing – if he always wears shorts or she is known for the wild shoes
  • Military dress – If the military is a big part of their lives, he or she will want to be in their dress blues
  • Favorite sports team apparel – Do they both love the same team? Or maybe they enjoy a little rivalry

For many couples, the engagement shoot is the first time they will have posed in front of a professional photographer. This is a great opportunity for you to coach the couple on how to stand and pose in front of the camera, and get them used to being the center of a photographer’s attention. This really helps when it comes to the wedding day. They will likely be more comfortable in front of the lens and taking direction from you, which will result in capturing the best possible images on the wedding day.

Pose suggestions:

  • Looking at each other
  • Holding hands
  • On bended knee
  • Stagger the couple
  • Couple really laughing
  • Back to back
  • Sitting with bride-to-be in front of groom-to-be 
  • Kissing

In the beginning these poses are necessary to help them “warm up” to your coaching and instruction. While these poses may help the couples look nice, eventually your goal should be to allow them to be themselves. You will soon notice that as the session goes on, your couples will naturally laugh, smile, hug and do not feel as shy about public displays of affection. These are the moments you want to capture, so think of these poses as a safe set of shots and a stepping stone to getting the real natural moments.

Engagement photos are an important part of your wedding photography services. These images are very sentimental, allowing the couple to relive that fantastic time when they decided to get married. The shoot is also a great opportunity to impress and develop a good working relationship with your clients. Utilize engagement photo shoots to create great experiences for the couples you shoot, help them preserve once-in-a-lifetime memories and create great samples of work in interesting locations.

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