There’s no better way to get to know a bride and groom-to-be than with an engagement photoshoot. Not only is it a great way to ensure their wedding photography is totally relaxed and stress-free, it also provides you, the photographer, with additional income before the big day.
As weddings are often booked 18 months or more in advance, an engagement photoshoot is a great source of revenue for your business and can be scheduled for your quieter seasons.
Engagement images generate excitement for your couple; they are extremely personal, packed with emotion, and they’ll help reinforce that the couple has picked the right photographer to cover their big day. Over the years, I’ve had numerous brides-to-be book me for their wedding on the back of a referral from a friend who loved her engagement shoot.
Remember that a lot of brides-to-be will have many friends who are also in the stages of planning their wedding. If you can put the happy couple at ease and make the whole photography experience fun, exciting, natural, and relaxed, you’ll get a recommendation that really does go a long way and soon start generating inquiries to your inbox.
So how can you carry out a successful engagement photoshoot? Below, I share 10 engagement photography tips for consistently amazing results!
1. Break Down the Barriers and Get to Know Your Couple
Break down the barriers and put your engagement couple at ease with a pre-shoot Zoom call. If you want to create an engagement photoshoot that is both meaningful and filled with emotion, then you need to know a lot more about your couple than just their names.
Start by finding out their story. Ask them how they met, how long they’ve been together, and who popped the big question. Then do a little digging; the more you can learn about your couple, the more personal you can make their photoshoot. Remember, the more unique and personal your images are to them, the more emotion they will evoke, the more they’ll love their photographs, and the more they’ll want to buy.
What are their interests, what do they do in their free time, and how do they spend their days off together? Are they outdoors people who love nothing better than a walk in the countryside, or do they prefer to dress up and hit the town?
2. Choose a Location That’s Special to Them
Your choice of location makes all the difference. Instead of picking a place you love, have the couple pick a place that is special to them. This could be their favorite park, the beach, the venue where they first met for a date, or the setting of their surprise proposal.
Because the location will be meaningful to them, your images will be far more personal and unique. When planning your engagement photoshoot, be very aware of the surroundings. Yes, you’ll want to focus in on the couple, capturing the closeness, their expressions, and their love – but you’ll also want to ensure that a handful of your shots record the entire scene.
Try a variety of shots where your subjects aren’t the main part of the image and the scenery takes on the primary role in the photograph. This works beautifully for shots where the couple is walking away from the camera, maybe even lost in conversation. For a more creative effect, you might plan their shoot so it takes place in the evening, then finish the session as the sun lowers in the sky and your subjects are beautifully silhouetted against the landscape.
3. Pick the Right Outfit
Picking the right outfit is just as important as choosing the right location. Your images should tell a story and reflect the couple’s personality. It’s no good getting them dressed up in ball gowns and tuxedos if they much prefer jeans, hoodies, and hiking boots.
Try to avoid overly patterned tops or outfits, which can be distracting. Likewise, big logos or prints on t-shirts and sweatshirts can soon go out of fashion.
On the other hand, simple blue jeans and a smart white t-shirt look as stylish now as they did 50 years ago and won’t date your photographs.
Be aware of clashing colors, too. Tell your couple to pick complementary outfits in colors that work well together. For example, they might dress in a blue shirt and a yellow dress or a black t-shirt next to a white blouse.
Accessorize outfits to add variety. In the summer, this could be as simple as asking your clients to bring their Ray-Bans with them for a few shots. And for winter shots, they could snuggle up together with woolly hats and scarfs for the last few photographs of the session. If you’re out and about with nowhere to change, then make sure they at least bring a change of jacket. This will give some variety: jacket off, jacket on, and a second jacket with a different style or color. The key is to make every image different and every image unique.
4. Make Them Look Like a Million Bucks
Nothing gives a subject more confidence and makes them relaxed in front of the camera more than feeling like a million dollars. Having photographed thousands of makeover photoshoots over the years, I’ve experienced first-hand how professional makeup and hairstyling can transform a photoshoot.
We can all be self-critical at times, but nothing lifts our spirits more than when we love how we look in a photograph; it’s a real boost of confidence. Also, when a subject loves how they look, they’ll be a lot more open to purchasing additional images (maybe they’ll even upgrade to a premium engagement album!).
Many of the couples I’ve photographed over the years have made a full day of their experience. This starts with professional hairstyling and a makeover prior to the shoot, then finishes with a meal out on the town after their photo session to make the most of their million-dollar look. It really does give them a day to remember and an experience they truly value.
5. Provide Variety in Every Shot You Take
Nothing sells photographs better than variety. Back in the days of shooting film, I would plan out an entire shoot using only two or three rolls of film. I’d take just a couple of shots of a pose, make a few adjustments, then move to a new location.
These days, because of the ease of digital photography, we tend to overshoot. This means we often spend way too long on one pose and in one location. So change it up a bit; take three or four shots of a pose, then make a change.
Try a different angle, change position, get down low, or shoot from a slightly elevated viewpoint. Then after two or three poses, move the couple to an entirely new spot and try to change the posing, so it’s not just a repeat of the last set of images with a different background.
Think about your composition, too. Don’t just place your subjects in the center of the frame; remember the rule of thirds! Putting the couple on the far left or right of an image can have a dramatic effect, drawing attention to the scenery or background. Don’t forget that the location is an important part of the story.
6. Expression Is Everything, You’ve Got to Keep Talking
The best engagement photography features genuine expressions, such as laughs, smiles, and adoring looks. But nothing kills an expression quicker than silence, so do everything in your power to keep the conversation going.
Make sure the couple is entertained, talk to them, and coach them throughout the shoot. Crack a few jokes, make fun of yourself, and work hard to get natural smiles, because those are the images they are going to simply love. When photographers go quiet or start looking at the back of their cameras for long periods of time, that’s when the smiles stop. If the silence continues, the couple might start to feel uneasy and a bit self-conscious.
If you have to adjust your settings or do a few test shots, tell them what’s going on, then ask a question or two just to keep everything flowing. I’ll often ask if they have any holidays planned, what are they up to on the weekend, etc. – anything to avoid silence while I’m working out my exposure or swapping over to a different lens.
7. Watch Out for Hands and Heads
It’s the little details that can really make a shot. When it comes to posing couples, hands and heads are key areas to watch. Once I’ve posed a couple, I’ll always do a final check of their hands and heads to make sure everything is just right before pressing the shutter button.
Hands are a big part of the picture because they can be very expressive. Always give hands something to do: put them in pockets, ask the couple to hold hands, or ask them to rest their hands on their partner’s shoulders or chest. Don’t just let the hands hang loosely down by a person’s side.
Hands can also help communicate love and closeness, for example, imagine touching your partner’s face while gazing into their eyes, or putting your hand gently on top of the back of their hand. These little gestures with hands make a big difference to the feel of a photograph.
Likewise, attention should be paid to the heads. If your couple is looking directly toward the camera, then ask them each to tilt their head slightly in toward each other (just a small tilt, not an exaggerated one!).
8. Include Props – Bring the Children and Dog Too
Over the years, many of the couples I’ve photographed have brought along props; i.e., bottles of champagne, matching t-shirts, or hats. Some have brought their children or beloved pets along to their engagement photoshoot, too. This is fine; it’s their shoot, and they can have it however they want it.
I will always do a combination of images, so if they do want to bring their kids or pets, I’ll advise them beforehand to ask another family member to come along. This means that after a few initial photographs with the children or dog, the other family member can take the dog for a walk or the kids for ice cream while the couple has some time to themselves for more photographs.
For many couples, their children will be a part of the wedding – maybe as the ring bearer or a flower girl – which is about making the child feel special in the run-up to the big day.
So, it’s only natural that they are included in the engagement images, too. These images also make for fantastic wall art and great presents for doting grandparents.
9. Plan the Engagement Photoshoot with the End Result in Mind
At the beginning of every engagement photography session, I will always ask the couple how they plan to display their images. Are they looking for a large piece of horizontal wall art for their living room wall, with a couple of vertically oriented frames for the alcoves? Or would they prefer a beautiful coffee table album with two matching smaller book-style albums for their parents? Knowing how a couple plans to showcase their images allows you to work out the orientation for the majority of your shots.
Their purchases will complement their future wedding album, making a great addition to their collection, enhancing the memories of their big day, and completing the full story of their journey from proposal to marriage.
10. Include a Wedding Signing Board or Save the Date Cards
Finally, engagement photographs make fantastic save the date cards, as well as wedding signing boards for wedding guests to write their messages of congratulations at the wedding. Signing boards and save the date cards are extremely profitable items that cost very little for a photographer to produce.
If your engagement couple purchases an album or wall art, it’s always a nice gesture to really over-deliver and surprise them with a complimentary wedding signing board or save the date cards.
But don’t stop there; this is also a great time to supply your couple with a handful of referral vouchers. These can be passed on to friends who are also planning their big day and are looking for a photographer. For every wedding referral booking you receive, you can reward your engagement couple with a meal-for-two voucher at a local restaurant, or flowers and a bottle of champagne.
Engagement Photography Tips: In Summary
If you aren’t already utilizing engagement photoshoots, now is the time to start. Remember that an engagement session is a great addition to your photography business. It can:
- Build better, more relaxed relationships between you and your clients prior to their big day
- Bring in additional revenue for your business during the quieter seasons
- Act as a great referral opportunity to target friends of your clients while they are in the wedding planning phase, too
- Complete your clients’ story, showcasing their journey from proposal to marriage.
Wishing you many successful and profitable engagement photoshoots for the future!