Most couples hire a wedding photographer to shoot their wedding, but not every couple hires a professional photographer to shoot engagement photos. If that's you, you might want to reconsider your decision.
"For couples who care about photography and want to look natural on their wedding day, the engagement session is the best way to get eased into being photographed and to establish a connection with the photographer," says photographer Mike Peyzner of Choco Studio. "It's a chance for us to get to know the couple and the dynamics between them and capture their special bond and unique characters with more ease."
Photographer Ben Evans of Photo Images by Ben agrees, saying, "When I photograph a wedding, I tell a complete story, and without engagement photos, a chapter in their story is missing."
Shooting engagement photos is also an opportunity for you to get to know how your photographer works.
"Getting to work with them before the big day builds confidence and releases a lot of pressure," says Sofia Negron of Sofia Negron Photography, who finds that couples wonder how they'll look in photos. "This way, all those anxieties are swept away, because if your engagement photos look good, then your wedding photos will. It also allows everyone else to relax."
Did you ever pose for a photo and feel stiff? That's because you're not comfortable in the moment.
"Portraits look much better when we feel at ease," says Peyzner. "The engagement session helps change the relationship between the engaged couple and the photographer from that of strangers and turn it into a friendly rapport where everyone feels more comfortable to express themselves."
The e-session, as it's known in the wedding world, can also be an advantage for the photographer.
"The engagement session is also a way for the photographer to know what to expect," explains Negron, noting the photographer can figure out the couple's best angles, photo preferences and personalities during the engagement shoot.
It's important to be happy at the end of the e-session. "If you feel like you have just spent the whole day with your BFF, then the wedding day will be perfect," says Negron.
You probably know where you want to shoot your wedding photos, but what about your engagement photos?
Evans prefers outdoor settings with natural lighting. "Great locations for these types of photos are a local park, near a lake, tree, water fountain, monument, historic house or one's very own backyard," he says. "The possibilities are endless, and if the couple own a pet, include it in some of the photos with you."
While nature settings are popular, so are urban shoots, like those in the middle of the city.
"Urban settings can be really fun to work with because the shoots tend to be more spontaneous and offer more diversity in terms of settings, but the photography will be less emotional and more editorial," says Peyzner.
You can also shoot your e-session images at various locations.
"The engagement session is also a great way to capture things that are special to you as a couple but that you may not have time for on the wedding day," says Negron, who often has shoots at two or three locations that are meaningful to the bride and groom.
One thing to avoid? Shooting engagement photos in front of a landmark, such as the Golden Gate Bridge. "The point is to capture the connection you have with each other," says Peyzner.
*When To Shoot Engagement Photos
If you decide to shoot engagement photos, don't wait too long.
"Typically, most couples I have photographed schedule their engagement photo session six months before their wedding day, and consideration should always be given to the weather," says Evans, who explains it's not a good idea to shoot photos in extreme heat or cold because you won't be comfortable.
When you shoot engagement images early, rather than late, you can use the photos for wedding-related items like save-the-dates, your wedding website and engagement notices in your local newspaper.
You can dress and look any way you want for your engagement photos. Some couples like dressing up, while others keep things casual. You can even get professional hairstyling and makeup. Whatever you choose, just be comfortable in front of the camera and have fun!