6 Smart Tips for a Successful Engagement Shoot

What exactly is an engagement session?

Some may ask: „What exactly is an engagement session?” Well, that is namely an occasion for the couple to be photographed before the wedding and for the photographer to establish and build up a relation with the couple.

Photographer’s benefits from engagement shoot

Why should we bother? Well, there are number of reasons why. First of all, for the photographers it is a unique chance to get to know the couple better, their personalities and expectations. It is always nicer to greet the couple on their wedding day with a friendly smile and well-known “Hi!” instead of cold handshakes. The photographer often captures intimate, personal moments. It is a lot easier to do so with someone you already know and worked with rather than almost complete strangers.

Couple’s benefits from engagement shoot

And for the couple? The benefits are countless! Establishing a relationship with the photographer easily translates to actual wedding photos. The outcome is really different, as the couple feels more comfortable with the photographer. That’s because they know his or her style of working and created a level of trust before.

What’s more, some couples don’t like being photographed, as they do not feel very comfortable in front of a camera. Engagement session is a kind of “rescue wheel” as it helps people understand that professional shoot can be fun and that obviously takes a great deal of stress out of the actual wedding day, which again, has an unquestionably positive effect on the pictures from THAT Day.

And something often forgotten about, but immensely important, especially for the bride-to-be. Has anyone ever told you that an engagement session could be a fantastic test of the bride’s make-up? They often arrange a “trial make-up” before the wedding- why not use it on our engagement session day? Thus, the bride tests not only how she looks but also how that make-up presents in the photographs.

Engagement Shoot Tips

So, what us, the photographers can do to make an engagement shoot perfect? Preparations may at first seem to be a daunting experience. What to do to make my pictures creative, entertaining and love-struck? These questions can get really nagging if we do not prepare correctly. But the good news is that there are some tips to help you get organized and be successful! So, let’s start, here are the engagement shoot tips:

Post-processing done with Delicious Recipes for Lightroom 4/5 + Color Efex Pro 4

1. Couple Preview

It may sound a bit odd but what I meant was a kind of unofficial meeting with the couple, over a cup of coffee. The purpose: getting to know each other in advance. The photographer should get the feel of what kind of couple they are. It’s all about showing in pictures their personalities, their emotions, laughter, love and interests.

One and very important way of being successful with your engagement session is actually listening to the couple and being aware of their expectations. This meeting will help you get that. This is the time also to get some information from the couple. If you’re more formal, you could ask the couple to fill in a kind of form. Actually, I, personally, am in favor of a simple chat and taking down notes. The questions you ask should help you be able to plan your session better and organize it. You also leave the feeling of a really personal attitude towards the couple and actually this is how it works.

Such attitude will help you direct the shoot, create correct reactions and evoke feelings and emotions. You could ask them to describe themselves with the use of adjectives or you can ask about the methods of making their partner laugh! – That is actually my favorite question! Immensely helpful during the photo shoot!

You can ask also about which of them is more open and more easily expresses emotions, how they express feelings toward each other, what they like best about their partners. This information could be a key to true emotions on the pictures. Not only the on the engagement ones but also the ones from the actual wedding day!

Post-processing done with Delicious Recipes for Lightroom 4/5 + Color Efex Pro 4

2. The Spot

Usually photographers are able to suggest some interesting locations for the session. Yet, it is always advisable to let the couple speak their minds. Maybe they have a place that for some reason is dear to them. Maybe they met there for the first time? Maybe they often had dates there? Maybe it is connected with their hobbies. Golf players? Horse riders? Why not!

The question asked the couple beforehand “where do you usually go when you want to hide from outside world?” could ring the bell. Taking their suggestions into consideration will make them have this more personal feel towards the pictures. And from my experience I can tell, that especially the grooms often act as if they didn’t care about this whole photographing issue. Taking pictures of him at a place he’s familiar with or somehow connected with his interests will surely make him more relaxed and important.

I wish to stress out once again the importance of getting to know the couple beforehand as some people feel more comfortable in quiet and peaceful places, far from all the hustle and bustle of big cities. Others may wish to be photographed in places full of people, like playgrounds or busy city streets. It all depends on personality – some people will look better on pictures taken early morning, some on evening romantic shots.

If you choose more than one location, make sure they are within a close proximity to the other. This saves you from getting stuck in traffic or losing precious light while travelling from one spot to another. Obviously, it would be ideal if you could go and explore the places before- just to take a look at the spot itself, the textures, or backgrounds that could turn out to be really inspirational.

3. The Props

Some may occur to be really helpful in the session just to show the unique feelings between the couple and emphasize them. In order to make the props effective think about your style. If funny clown boots are not coherent with the way you- forget about it.

Just ask yourself what the value of such prop is, what additional information it brings. It is always a good idea to ask the couple if there is anything that they would like to have with them on the pictures. I remember photographing guitarists – it is not hard to make out what they wanted. :)

If they have no idea, be creative and suggest something. Things that usually work are tandem bikes, balloons, cupcakes, chalkboard tablets, ice skates or snowman. It could even be an old vintage piece of something. It all depends on what kind of couple you photograph.

4. The Outfit

The clothes they wear are important for the overall impression of the picture. It is always good to have a back up of clothes, not only because clothes get cramped or could get dirty, but also to give the couple the opportunity to change for different locations. This makes the shoot more creative.

However the correct schemata for planning clothing is thinking about locations first. Then, accordingly we combine the outfits so that the pictures do not look weird. Yet, it doesn’t mean that you can’t play with clothes vs. backgrounds. Sometimes contrasts play well, provided it is done with awareness and style.

Most importantly make them feel comfortable and themselves. Then you can add what colors or textures/patterns would not be a good idea for such and such location, as you don’t want them to mesh. Also, keep in mind that texts, logos or any graphics on clothes unnecessarily draw the viewers’ attention away from what is important in the picture.

Post-processing done with Delicious Recipes for Lightroom 4/5 + Color Efex Pro 4

5. The Posing

The usual and absolutely normal thing for the couple, and even sometimes for the photographer, is this slightly awkward feeling at the very beginning of the photo session. It usually takes a few minutes before the couple warms-up. They often do not know how they should behave or pose and feel slightly embarrassed. It is your role as a photographer to lead them but in such a way that they don’t feel posed. That’s easier to do later on.

My strategy for the first few shots is simply telling them that I’m just checking the lights and setting and I’ll be clicking the shutter a few times for testing while talking to them all the time. They respond, laugh, look at each other and in this simple and fairly quick way they get used to the camera and me. Then everything becomes magically easier.

For some couples however, guiding is a better idea- especially at the beginning. This makes them feel more secure. Generally, we as photographers, love taking pictures of people being relaxed, having fun and acting naturally. A lot of couples achieve that stage after some time of the session but some practically never.

In such case, it is good just to give them slight suggestions on how to act or what to do. You want them to feel secure and more and more confident with you. Assuring them that they are doing great throughout the shoot will make them open-up faster and trust in the final result.

Sometimes you’ll have to make them be willing to e.g. walk into that high grass (in spite of bugs!), take off some clothes and shiver, splash into water get completely soaked or act goofy. And again, if the “homework was done”, you know the couple and know what methods to use to encourage them. You want them to get awesome pictures but also that they remember that day as a fun and once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Also, don’t just tell them to laugh. Fake laughing is not the effect we wish, right? If you prepared yourself before and know the couple, you know how to make them laugh ( if you happen to be funny :) ). Sometimes you’ll have to be vocal and run a “full-time commentary”. If it helps, fine. But also be cautious about that precious moment when you just bite your tongue, keep quiet and record when the couples takes their own path and cherishes the moment. This happens practically always! Make sure you don’t miss it!

6. Follow-up ideas

You as a photographer, should give the couple a hint how they could use their photographs as for them an engagement session could be a new experience they’ve never heard of. One idea could be a framed image or collage images that could be used as an overhead decoration at a wedding reception venue. Or just add some warmth to their new homes.

Engagement photos make also perfect gifts for family or friends. They can also be used on the cover of wedding CDs or included on wedding invitations or wedding program if there is such. Another good idea would be to make a signature mat where the guests attending the reception could sign on. Alternatively, they could personalize their guest book to make it more attractive. Be prepared with the ideas to make the couple see the potential benefits of such an engagement photo session.


I’m sure you photographers are full of creative ideas. These engagement shoot tips are here to help you get more organized and thus, more professional in the eyes of the couple. Most importantly, feel relaxed, act as if you were to photograph your best friends and have fun with it. And then you’ll be only left with post-processing, which also could be fun with Delicious Presets for Lightroom, as they’ll keep your pictures cohesive. The ability to edit each preset accordingly to your own style will help you stay unique and at the same time will speed up your work. You’ll have more time to have fun with other couples. Simply.