Whether you’re a photographer or a recently engaged couple, engagement photos can be quite a fun adventure. For couples, it can seem a bit daunting when it comes to selecting a location, outfit and potentially a few props.
For this post, I’ll be offering my advice as a wedding photographer to both photographers and couples for engagement photography sessions. These photos are from my most recent engagement shoot at Terrain with an amazing couple whose wedding I will be photographing this weekend. I couldn’t have lucked out with a more easy-going couple—they were willing to do all of the poses and ideas I brought up and they looked stunning while doing so!
For the photographers: Always arrive early. Even if you’ve already visited your location, be sure to get there before the couple to scout out beautiful backdrops. You’ll want to be able to lead the couple around with confidence, which is why being prepared is so important. It also doesn’t hurt to greet the couple as they arrive, since they will most likely be nervous and looking for a familiar face.
For the fashionable or not so fashionable couples: Dress like yourselves. I strongly recommend that my couples don’t wear black or light pants. Men tend to look best in dark-colored pants or jeans, but the gals can pull off a lot more looks. It doesn’t hurt to bring several options along, the couple can always get the photographer’s input on a certain outfit. The more the merrier!
For the self-conscious, shy couple: Don’t worry about posing. Try to ignore your gut reaction of smiling into the camera, and just enjoy simple moments with your significant other. It’s always nice to get a few formal photos for the fam, but for the most part, these photos should capture your relationship together and appear effortless.
For the gadget-friendly couples: Be sure to leave your cell phones, pagers, walkie talkies, lightsabers and all other bulky objects in the car (or I can always carry them for you). Nothing is worse than trying to Photoshop awkward cell phone bulges out of jean pockets after the fact. For the ladies, you’ll end up feeling a lot more comfortable without having to haul your purse around, so feel free to either leave it in your car or have your photographer carry it around so it doesn’t end up being something you constantly have to toss aside.
For the city-dwelling couples: Do things in public as if no one else is there. Despite the fact that there might be nearby shoppers or tourists, act as if you two are the only people in the world and everyone else is in their underwear (except for me, please).
For the fellow goofballs: You are my people. Don’t worry about looking “cool.” Like Lester Bangs said in Almost Famous, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.” Don’t be afraid to be silly…the more ridiculous you are, the more personal your photos will be. My favorite engagement photos are almost always the unposed, “blooper” images, which just happen out of moments of self-conscious giggle fits.
For the photographers who can’t seem to tell a joke: Don’t worry, we’ve all been there (at least I’m telling myself that). Sometimes I’ll say something random and ridiculous, in hopes of making the couple crack a genuine smile, but it just ends up in an awkward moment of blank stares and crickets chirping. As a photographer, it’s important to remember you aren’t Richard Pryor and you don’t always have to be funny to make the couple laugh and share a smiling moment. I’ve found that all it takes is simply asking the couple to stare at the camera in a serious, GQ manner, and they will be bursting into a fit of laughter in no time.
For the not-so-natural couples: Don’t feel like you have to wait for the photographer’s directions at all times. For the most part, the photographer will direct your pose in a specific location, but you will have to fill in the gaps. Don’t be afraid to just enjoy these quiet moments with your significant other. Your movements should feel natural and not like you are reenacting those posed Glamour Shots your mom still has on her mantle.
For the couples who need an outfit change/smoke/potty break: Sometimes there are lulls during an engagement shoot when the couple will be changing their outfits or freshening up. Take this time to politely ask the bride-to-be if she would mind you photographing the engagement ring while they are away. Pinky swear not to steal it and/or drop it down a drain and she’ll give it to you in no time. It’s always nice to have several minutes to photograph the ring and place it in different artistic settings, so this is the perfect time to do so without feeling rushed.
For the indecisive photographer/couple: Can’t come up with a shoot location? Trying to figure out if an abandoned field or busy storefront would best suit your personality as a couple? Sometimes the most convincing photos are taken by following the couple around on a real date. Strolling through storefronts and admiring organic pickles or roaming through a record store together is just as romantic as being surrounded by nature. For couples who prefer to shoot in Ansel Adams-like landscapes, consider bringing props from home which sum up your interests and hobbies. A rustic quilt from your Grandmother, some of your favorite books or a picnic basket with handmade snacks can really warm up the atmosphere.
For the chatty Cathy couples: If your photographer gives you the a-ok to ramble to each other, make sure you leave moments of brief silence where they can capture you at your best. This way there’s no blinking or half-opened mouths. It’s a beautiful blend of talking about puppy dogs and rainbows, but leaving a few seconds of smiley stillness.
Hopefully these tips will be helpful to you, whether you’re engaged, a wedding photographer or as bad as I am about being in front of the camera!