There are lots of different reasons people want engagement portraits. Some people want to get practice in front of the camera. Others want prints to display at the wedding. Some folks want nice images to use for their save the dates. Or they just want a few nice photos of themselves together in—if not regular—at least non-wedding attire.
In any case, planning engagement photographs is just like planning other sorts of portrait sessions, with a few special considerations, mostly in the interest of timing your session out before the wedding. So these tips are also good for people looking to plan a bridal session, a family portrait session or a children’s session (well, except you want to keep in mind kids’ naptimes and happy vs. grouchy times in mind, too, not just lighting).
I. Imagine a Concept
I always think the most successful sessions have the simplest concepts. Choose somewhere meaningful, like where you had your first date, or re-create your proposal, or take photographs at home, particularly if it’s a home you’ve built or remodeled together. Choose something fanciful (you know, I’ve had a few couples choose underwater photographs). Choose something you love doing together – my twin sister, Meghan, just did a portrait session with a couple skiing (so cute!). Your photographer might be able to help you get your ideas flowing, so definitely ask for help if you need it. She may be floating an idea around in her mind, just waiting to match it to the right couple.
II. Choose a Location
Your concept may dictate a specific location, but if not, it’ll certainly help narrow down to the type of location you want to find. In Los Angeles, be mindful of location permits and use fees (insert groaning and rolling-of-eyes). Other places aren’t so strict. Your photographer may have some ideas – you may have some ideas – and scouting is almost always very helpful, particularly if you want to use a location you aren’t familiar with.
III. Think About Time of Day
There are a few times of day that are generally excellent to take photographs: early in the morning, during that last golden hour before sunset, and, in some locations— think urban locations with lots of lights—just after sunset when the sky is deepening blue.
IV. Think About What You’d Like To Do with the Images
This might be counter-intuitive, but with engagement photos specifically, planning ahead for the output is important in case you want anything ready in time for the wedding. Do you want a single stand-alone image to print? Do you want a collection of prints? Are you looking to make a book? Would you rather have one or a few handmade prints? Does any of this need to be ready in time for your wedding?
V. Plan Your Wardrobe / Look
I think the best looks for engagement photographs are flattering and special. I’m not crazy about costume-like looks, but you want to look your best for sure! Note: though both partners should look equally dressy.
VI. Schedule Your Session
With all this information gathered, all you’ll need is to coordinate with your photographer. If you would like prints or albums in time for the wedding, be sure to ask how much lead time your photographer needs to put those things together. With destination weddings, “engagement photos” might not happen until the day after the wedding. But otherwise: give yourselves plenty of time before the wedding, if at all possible. And once you settle on a session time, stick to it! If you’re planning photos during the busiest part of wedding season, missing a session might make rescheduling tricky.
We’ll talk about getting great results at your session soon!
photos: Gia Canali
* This couple opted to take their photos on the Malibu hillside where he proposed to her!