If you read my post on whether you should have an engagement photo shoot, you’ve probably decided to have one. But there are some things to do and decisions to make before the actual shoot.
Choose Engagement Shoot Location
First you should choose the city in which you want to have your photos taken. This could be the city where you live, or a place nearby, or a completely different city. You could decide to travel elsewhere for the purpose of having your engagement photos taken, or you could do engagement photos in a city where you already have a trip planned.
If you live near, but not in, a large, famous city (like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles), you might want to consider having your engagement photo shoot in the larger city, especially if there’s an iconic location in that city. Think of the Golden Gate Bridge, or Central Park.
Once you have the city chosen, you’ll need to select an exact location. Maybe it’s a spot that’s special to you and your fiancé(e), or even the place where you got engaged. Some couples opt to do their engagement photos in their own home.
Your photographer may allow you to shoot at multiple locations, especially if they’re reasonably close to each other. For example, in Washington DC, many of the monuments and memorials are relatively close to each other at the National Mall. You could easily shoot some photos near the Washington Monument and then switch over to the Lincoln Memorial and the reflecting pool.
Check with your photographer to find out how many locations your shoot includes.
Choose Engagement Photo Outfits
Most engagement photos sessions are designed with one outfit change in mind (so, a total of two outfits). But check with your photographer to see if they can accommodate more than one outfit change. Your photographer may also send you a style guide to help you select the right type of outfits. If not, you can always snap a quick cell phone photo of the outfits you’re considering and run them past your photographer.
Generally, you will want one dressy outfit and one casual outfit. You and your fiancé(e) want to complement each other without being matchy-matchy or clashing. Some patterns may also not photograph well, which is why it’s helpful to get your photographer’s input. They should know what will look good in photos.
Footwear & Accessories
Be sure to consider terrain when choosing your shoes. If you’re doing a beach photo shoot, you probably don’t want to wear stilettos. If you’ll be outside on uneven ground, it’s wise to bring a pair of flats for getting into position. Then you can change into a wedge heel or something that won’t sink into the ground for the actual photos.
Plan your jewelry and other accessories in advance as well. Watches, hats, scarves, jackets, or anything else you normally would accessorize with is on the table. But your engagement photos are probably not the place to experiment with a new look or style. You want the photos to be a reflection of you!
Photo Shoot Props
Think about any props you might want to use in your photos. Maybe you want to bring a picnic blanket and basket and stage a mock picnic. Maybe you want to have Champagne flutes and some sparkling wine to do a toasting photo. If you plan to use your engagement photo on save-the-date cards, you might want some signage to hold up. “We’re engaged!” or the date of your upcoming wedding are popular choices to put on the sign.
Instagram and Pinterest can be great sources of ideas and inspiration if you’re trying to come up with ideas for cute photo ops.
Time of Day
Most photographers like to shoot during “golden hour,” the best light that happens around sunrise and sunset. If you’re planning your engagement shoot for the summer, sunrise might not be the best idea because it can be really early. You’ll have a hard time finding someone to do your hair and makeup at 4 am.
Be prepared to take some time off work for your engagement photo shoot. Engagement photographers are usually also wedding photographers, which means they will be busy shooting weddings on the weekends and will want to schedule your engagement shoot for a weekday.
Primping for Your Engagement Photos
Ladies, you probably want to have your hair and makeup professionally done for your engagement photos, but you don’t need to go crazy. For hair, you can just make an appointment at a salon for a blowout or styling earlier on the day of your shoot. For makeup, I recommend having a makeup application at a department store makeup counter. There’s usually a reasonable fee for this service, or they may instead require you to make a minimum purchase at the makeup counter. I prefer the latter, because then you also get product out of the deal!
Guys, you’ll want to have a haircut reasonably close to the day of your engagement photos. And if you want to be clean-shaven for the photos, you might need an afternoon shave just before the session, especially if you’re subject to “five o’clock shadow.”
Don’t forget about your nails! Ladies may want a full manicure, and guys should at the very least make sure their cuticles are trimmed and their nails neatly filed. A gentlemen’s manicure may be in order. It could be a fun couples’ activity!
Lastly, be sure to clean your engagement ring just before the shoot. Your ring will be featured in some of the photos, and you want it to look its best.
Remember to relax and have fun! You will get tired of smiling, but it’s good practice for your wedding day. And if you feel awkward or silly in the poses your photographer is asking you to do, just remember that they want you to look your best. Trust them and let them do their thing, and you’ll get some fantastic photos out of it!
TL;DR here’s the video version
This post was written by Sacramento wedding planner Risa Weaver-Enion. If you're feeling overwhelmed by planning your wedding, we are here for you! Read more about what we do on our Welcome and Packages pages. Email email@example.com if you have questions or want to inquire about getting help with wedding planning. And if you'd like to have future blog posts delivered to your inbox, please join our Insider’s Club on the Welcome page.