Engagement photos used to be standard poses, with the groom sitting and the bride standing behind him, wrapping her arms around him -- with the engagement ring showing, of course. Before we had the Internet, newspaper engagement announcement columns actually required this type of pose in vertical form to fit their dimensions. But a lot has changed since then; now, couples are getting very creative with their engagement portraits, choosing beautiful natural settings like beaches and gardens and adding artistry to their shots, such as the bride holding a huge collection of vibrantly colored balloons.
The artistry has evolved to new heights of creativity and personalization, as engaged couples are now choosing themed engagement photos. Amanda Picone of Amanda Picone Photography says: "Themed engagement sessions are definitely hot right now. I think couples do them for a number of reasons -- to live out their favorite movie or TV show, take on a new persona for a few hours, or to showcase an important part of their life together. I mean, really, who doesn't like playing dress up? And your engagement session is one area where you can really show off your personality."
Picone says the trend often reflects what's hot in pop culture. "'Mad Men,' for example, is huge right now." Sports themes are also popular with couples who share a passion for a particular team or who are fans of rival teams. For this theme of engagement photo, the bride and groom each wear a team jersey with their favorite player's name on the back. Or, if they're fans of rival teams, they each wear the jersey of their team and pose on a football field, in football stadium stands, or simply in their backyard holding a football. "If the bride isn't a sports fan herself, throwing on jerseys for a few shots can be a great way to get your man excited about the engagement session," says Picone.
Bridal Guide magazine recently showcased a collection of its favorite themed engagement portraits, and some of the entries were "Star Wars"-themed or circus-themed (with the couple kissing in front of an old-fashioned carousel). The most popular themed engagement photo collection was inspired by the movie "The Notebook," with the couple dressed like the characters, kissing in the rain in one shot and cavorting in the ocean in another shot. That was the most often tweeted photo from Bridal Guide's collection. Also popular was a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" engagement portrait collection of six photos shot at an actual Tiffany store.
To plan your own themed engagement portrait session, first choose your theme. It could be any favorite movie, show, book or era. "Twilight" was one popular theme this past year, and "Harry Potter"-themed photos were also in demand. Other book-inspired themes include "Pride and Prejudice," "The Godfather" and "Under the Tuscan Sun." Disney-loving couples had their photos taken at the Disney theme park, with characters surrounding them.
Picone shares her top tips for planning your themed engagement photo session once you choose your theme:
"Your setting should definitely reflect the theme. If you're aiming for vintage, steer away from modern locations or streets with a lot of car traffic. Nothing will mess up your romantic vintage scene like a 2007 Honda hanging out in the background. Call around locations that you think might suit your theme. You never know who may agree to let you shoot there -- maybe a vintage movie theater, a diner or a baseball stadium. For a fairy tale theme, you can find a wooded park and do some light decorating with a creative lace tent made from sticks and fabric, hanging some paper lanterns from the branches. Just be sure to take along everything when you leave and stay off trails so you're not disrupting others."
"Props can be great, but be selective; the focus should be on the two of you!"
"Remember to talk through all of the details with your photographer beforehand, as they may have some incredible ideas of their own. Most importantly, have fun with it and don't be afraid to go all out."
You're not limited to just one style of photographs during your engagement portrait session. Plan fun, themed photos, and then change into "regular" outfits -- whether a dress and suit, or jeans and T-shirts, a sundress for the bride and khakis and a white button-down shirt for the groom -- for the next round of photos. In the end, you'll get a wide range of fabulous photos for framing and displaying in your home or at the wedding itself and for sharing with parents and grandparents.
Another perk of an engagement portrait session is that your wedding photographer will get to know you and your style better before shooting you on your big day. That familiarity and your rapport translates into better wedding photos, as well.