engagement photoshoot
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Engagement Photoshoot Survival Guide

This engagement photoshoot survival guide will help the engagement session be a fun and memorable part of the wedding planning process. There is so much stress around the wedding day that it’s nice to have something enjoyable to do. That’s what the engagement shoot can be.

For us, as wedding photographers, we love the opportunity to get to know our couples so that when we show up on the wedding day they relax. Not only do they know that they’ll look good because they’ve seen the results of the engagement session but they know us too. They also know what to expect when it comes to how to pose because they experienced it through their engagement poses.

This guide will talk about engagement photoshoot styles, poses, and other little details to make the engagement session a success. Whether you’re a bride or a photographer looking for ideas I hope one takeaway is that engagement photo shoots can be enjoyable! I’ve been a wedding photographer for over a decade and am excited to share what I’ve learned.

engagement shoot prep

Engagement Photoshoot Outline

  1. What is your engagement photo style?

  2. What to wear for an engagement shoot

  3. Questions from Brides

  4. Capturing candid engagement photos

  5. The little things

  6. Final Tips for Photographers

First, let me just discuss the questions are engagement photos necessary? I personally think engagement photosessions are a great way for the couple and photog to get to know each other and know how to work together before the wedding. If you’re hesitant, look for engagement photo inspo that speaks to you such as if you want engagement photos with kids, look for engagement photo ideas with kids.

When it comes to engagement photo pricing you want to make sure whatever you get results in actual tangible engagement photographs. Engagement session pricing might start around $200 but most photographers charge more like $800+ with digital files included.

What’s Your Engagement Photo Style

First off, I think it bears mentioning that every photographer is different, and therefore every engagement photo shoot is going to be a little different based on the photographer’s style as well as the bride’s style. For example, we have a certain photography style but we also customize our shoot based on the individual couples and what they’re looking for in their engagement photos. The point is that our wedding photography and engagement photography are cohesive.

Our couples know what to expect if not on their engagement shoot then on their wedding day. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen if they have an engagement photo idea, in fact as I said I like for the couple to get unique engagement photos that really speak to their style.

You may have heard of wedding photography styles, the traditional versus photojournalist versus romantic or fashion. As you can imagine, engagement shoot styles are similar from artsy engagement photos and beyond. Below I’ll describe some photography styles and then some of the reasons our couples like our engagement photos and then you can use that to help guide you to define your style.

Photography Styles

I dive deeper into this topic in my post on understanding wedding photography styles. Essentially, photography has evolved from traditional portraiture to be as unique and numerous as the photographers that shoot. Wedding photographers might specialize in photojournalism, fine art, editorial, trendy, timeless, adventure, fashion, or many other styles of wedding photography.

Then, photographers might have a variety of styles of engagement photography too. Do they do a short session or a long session? Who pics the location?

To give you an idea, let me talk about what many of our couples want or expect from their engagement photoshoot. For example, when it comes to our couples we want to have plenty of outdoor engagement photo ideas. Keep reading for engagement photos inspiration based on theme from sunset to romance and more.

engagement photoshoot colorado

Sunset Engagement Photo in the Mountains

Most of our engagement photo ideas revolve around the environment. In fact, it’s less about engagement photo ideas and more about engagement photo locations. Where is a cool place we can go to get unique sunset engagement photos in the mountains of Colorado?

For us, the engagement shoot is a portrait session with fewer time restrictions so we almost always plan around sunset. The exception might be when we talk our couple into sunrise. For us fun engagement photos involve allowing our couples to experience a beautiful and memorable location.

The setting is important in our style of photography, it’s the background for the love story. While on the wedding day, we might be limited on how much time we can spend on portraits, the engagement photo shoot doesn’t have the same time restrictions. Therefore if we have an engagement photo idea we can take the time required to make it happen.

engagement photos

Romantic Engagement Photos at Golden Hour

Golden hour happens before the actual sunset and is the perfect time for those romantic engagement photos. When the sun is low in the sky the light is very warm and that warm light of golden hour is what contributes to that romantic look you see in engagement photos. The warm light of golden hour is also soft and flattering light.

Sunset and Golden Hour are two different things technically but the point is that it’s beneficial to plan your engagement photoshoot around great light. There’s nothing like golden romantic light, it’s one of the tried and true engagement pic ideas.

Sure, photographers should be able to take great photos in any light. However, photographers should also know how to plan and prepare for the best light possible. We always plan around the best light possible and use an app or our knowledge of an area to time everything as perfectly as possible knowing that we can’t control the weather.

engagement photography

What to Wear for an Engagement Photo Shoot?

Dress how you feel most comfortable. If you have a unique style embrace it but don’t wear something you wouldn’t ever actually wear. Instead of aiming for matching outfits, aim for a matching level of fanciness.

We personally love vibrant solid colors that will pop from the background. We shoot a lot of environmental portraits where we want the couple to stand out from the trees or scenery. In fall you might choose colors that compliment fall colors, for example.

Avoid busy or distracting patterns. Avoid clothes that don’t stay in place when you move around. And I’ll say it again, avoid anything you won’t feel natural in. If you have an engagement photo idea that involves a certain style of outfit, incorporate that and you can always try multiple outfits. In fact, we typically recommend at least two outfits with one being more casual and one being more dressy.

Dress for Comfort

The first tip that we always tell our couples is that we want you to be comfortable. That’s the number one thing to consider even as you go through the remainder of these tips. We’re not saying you should wear your sweatpants but we want you to feel like yourselves. The more you feel like yourselves, the more you will like how you look in the photos. This might mean you dress up or are fairly casual or a little of both.

Planning for Variety

Now, something that will help with how comfortable you look is choices. Many of our couples buy new clothes for their engagement shoots. You definitely don’t have to do that. I think that it can kind of be a fun part of the planning, assuming you like shopping. However, sometimes if you haven’t worn something you won’t know if you like how you look in it. That’s why we generally recommend at least two outfits. We also recommend one more casual outfit and one more dressy, this give you variety in your artwork when you end up hanging photos in your house or using them for wedding details.

Considering Colors

Marc and I really like vibrant colors. Vibrant is defined as bright and striking. If you think about our style of photography, we think it’s beautiful when the couple stands out from the background. Complementary colors for engagement photos depends on the background. Check out this vibrant red shirt and how it pops!

Don’t Forget Footwear – Shoes

As much as we love the environments that we shoot in, there are some practical issues to consider. If you’re planning to wear dress shoes, consider bringing a change of shoes to hike from point A and point B. Alternatively, consider shoes that are both fashionable and hike-able (and then send me what you find because I’m always on a hunt for some!)

Bring Layers

Even though we had been sunning ourselves in California prior to our move, I’m a Colorado native. This means that I know that the trick to what to wear in Colorado begins with layers. The temperature can go from hot to cold, the weather can go from rain to sun. Layers aren’t always what you’re looking for in your engagement photos but it’s nice to have something warm to put on for the transitions especially if we’re hiking to and from a location.

Taming Hair

When it comes to the wind, our philosophy is generally to embrace it. We can turn you into or away from the wind to make your hair blow one way or the other. If you choose to get your hair done, let your stylist know that you’ll be outside in the environment. Many wedding hairdressers can make sure your hair looks good despite wind or crazy dance parties.

Environmental Concerns

The locations that we photograph have a tendency to be windy and mountainous. Our couples look amazing and we don’t think that you can be over-dressed for the dramatic settings. We love the magical and romantic wind-blown look that the wind can create with flowing dresses and hair.

windy engagement shoot

7 Engagement Photo Ideas to Take the Pressure Off and Have fun

can’t go wrong with a picnic:

Many couples main concern is feeling unnatural during their engagement shoot. They’re worried about not knowing how to pose or how to be. Don’t worry, posing is the photographer’s job. Your job is to be you (check) and to be in love (double check.) Having a picnic is an easy way to give yourself something to focus on other than the camera

loosen up with a hike:

If you like to hike, let’s go for a hike on your engagement PhotoDate. Hiking has two main benefits. Number one, it get’s us to some beautiful destinations to enjoy and view and take some epic pictures. Number two, it gives us a chance to loosen up, bond, and take our mind off the pictures. One of the best ways to “be natural” is to do something that makes you feel natural.

My favorite engagement picture poses are natural so doing something natural will help with that.

let us be your guide:

Too much to plan? Too many decisions to make? Give us an idea of the where and what and let us take it from there. We’ve gotten pretty good at picking locations and being tour guides especially if you want to do engagement photos outdoors. We love showing people around some of our favorite places or taking them somewhere new. If you can relinquish control, your engagement shoot becomes like a guided trip.

return to the scene of the crime:

Did you get engaged or have a first date somewhere special? Is there a place that has become important to your relationship? We’d love to see it, hear the story, and capture you in that location. Not only does it give us context on your relationship in order to capture your love, it gives you a reminder of what is really important to you.

When thinking of an engagement photos themes, think of something that means something. You don’t need an engagement photo theme, it just can be a fun way to think about it. Its great for inspiration for funny engagement picture ideas.

who needs an excuse for a vacation?

We travel. We’re at the coast or in the mountains or somewhere else cool for someones wedding or an adventure of some kind. Meet us there. Turn your engagement shoot into an excuse for a weekend getaway, we all know you need it. Have you been dreaming of wine tasting, hiking, or relaxing on the beach? Let us know where you want to go and we’ll find a time that works. But don’t let our map hold you back. If you have a unique location in mind, we’ve been known to be talked into going all kinds of places. The only limit is your imagination.

neighborhood highlights:

Is there a place that documents this phase in your life? Are you living somewhere that you might be leaving soon? Let’s hit the highlights of your favorite place and document it for your memory. (Not that you’ll forget, just in case you need a little reminder now and then.) Let’s stop at your favorite coffee shop, walk through your favorite park, sit in your thinking spot, and do the tourist activities that you never actually do as a local.

hobbies shared or not:

Some people love doing things together and it is a hallmark of their relationship. If you met at the tennis court or climbing gym, maybe that should be incorporated into your engagement shoot. If you always hike together or go to the beach, lets capture that. Alternatively, maybe one of you wants to teach the other a favorite hobby. You don’t have to share everything for all time, but maybe you like teaching or sharing new things.

Questions from Brides

What if I’m not photogenic?

A lot of our couples tell us they’re nervous or not that photogenic but by the end of the shoot, they are comfortable and having fun! The pictures always turn out great. As it turns out, most of us believe we aren’t photogenic but have just never had professional pictures taken.

Not to mention, we look our best when we’re staring into the eyes of our significant other since our smiles and expressions are real.

What should I expect?

Our engagement shoots are called PhotoDates. We like you to think of them as part photoshoot and part double date. It’s a chance for us to get to know each other so that you’re familiar with us on your wedding day. It’s a chance for you to get comfortable in front of our cameras. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a chance for you two to celebrate your engagement. We like to have fun and make memories in addition to taking your photo. We often start by meeting up for a beer or coffee. Sometimes we’re getting to know each other on a hike or drive from various shooting locations. Therefore, if there’s anything you’d like to do on the PhotoDate, let us know.

Can I bring my pets?

A lot of our couples like bringing their pets on engagement shoots. We completely understand that a pet can be like part of the family, our dog Riley certainly was. We enjoy photographing dogs and their playful personalities.

That being said we sometimes go places that dogs can’t go so make sure you’re ok leaving the dog in the car for part of the shoot. Additionally, if we are somewhere with a leash law we ask that you keep your dog on leash and obey all rules.

Think about your dog and how well he or she listens, we want you to have a great experience whether that means bringing your dog or leaving him or her at home.

engagement shoot with dog

When should engagement photos be taken?

There is no time constraint for engagement photos unless you plan to use your engagement photos for save-the-dates. In that case, you’ll want to have them taken with enough lead time to count for your photographer’s editing time and the time it will take to design and print the save-the-dates. Many of our couples actually plan their engagement photos around the best Colorado season for the location they’re interested in having their engagement photoshoot: fall, summer, winter, or spring.

Most of our engagement shoots take place in the evening. We love the sunset. We love the hour before sunset called “golden hour” when the golden light created by the sun being low in the sky creates a romantic look. We also love it when the sky explodes with vibrant colors after the sun goes down.

Not all locations allow for both sunset and golden hour within one session but when we can we like to shoot both. We can’t control the sunset (working on that) but we can certainly plan to be in the right place at the right time. Due to this, our engagement shoots don’t typically have a strict end time. We are done when you’re tired of smiling, too cold, or the light is gone.

How long do engagement photos last?

Engagement photos might last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on your photographer. Our engagement shoots are often about an hour and a half. We often do two locations with some travel time and an outfit change between the two.

We like to have enough time with our couples so that we can get to know each other, loosen up, and get some really amazing shots. Our sessions might go longer if the sunset is really epic and just keeps going or we need to plan more time to hike to certain locations. We have done extended engagement photoshoots where we spend more time doing something more technical or going somewhere harder to access.

engagement photoshoot sunset

How much do you spend on engagement photos?

We include engagement photos as part of our wedding packages because we believe they are a win-win-win. Not only do you get some great professional portraits in non-wedding attire but you get a chance to be in front of the photographers’ camera before the wedding day. It always builds confidence and saves time for wedding day portraits.

We also love getting to know our couples before the wedding day and photographing them in conditions where there are no time constraints. Often we can take couples somewhere beautiful or meaningful that we might not have time for on the wedding day.

Typical engagement photo pricing seems to be in the $600-$2000 price range depending on what you get from the session and how long it is. That’s a big range so it’s key to think through your priorities and budget.

Do people still do engagement photos?

Engagement photos are an amazing addition to wedding planning. Like cake tasting, engagement photos are one of the fun things a couple gets to do in preparation for the wedding. An engagement shoot is a great way to get to know your photographer, get comfortable in front of their camera, and know what to expect from your wedding photography.

When it comes to engagement photos vs wedding photos you’ll see that engagement photos give you more time to capture something artistic which will help you prepare for great photos of the real moments of your wedding day.

How many photos should I get for engagement photos?

Again, ever photographer is different in how they structure their sessions which means what they deliver will be different as well. For an hour long engagement shoot I would probably expect around 50-150 images depending on the experience level of your photographer and the cost of the session. We personally deliver on the higher end with our goal being to deliver a variety of types of images without duplicates.

Our engagement shoots generally come with two photographers so we’re also delivering photos from two cameras but generally we just deliver higher quality rather than quantity. When we’re working together one of us is able to spend more time perfecting one particular shot verses needed to get a variety.

What are engagement photos used for? Getting to know your photographer, getting comfortable in front of the camera, and then having professional photos as a couple just for enjoyment or for save-the-dates etc.

Do you take engagement photos after proposal?

Typically engagement photos are scheduled after the couple is already engaged. A few times we have done some engagement photos after photographing a proposal. This can be fun if you want the proposal captured because you already have a photographer hired.

The main downside is that the bride or whomever is being asked might not be expecting it so they might not be dressed as they would be if they were planning on an engagement photo shoot. Some of our clients plan for this by telling their partner they’re going to a fancy dinner after a walk or by scheduling a longer shoot so that they can have time to go back to their hotel and change.

When it comes to the engagement photos timeline it really depends on what you need the photos for. If it’s just for getting to know your photographer you’re in less of a rush than if you’re using them for save-the-dates.

winter engagement photoshoot

Capturing Candid Engagement Photos

Let’s talk about engagement photo poses. A lot of couples want candid shots but it’s also clearly an engagement photoshoot so how do we feel natural in such an unnatural setting? Engagement photo poses are a great opportunity to practice being in front of the camera so that the couple knows what to expect on the wedding day.

The couple may be ready to get married but it’s their first date with the photographer. Sometimes it takes some warm-up pictures before you’ll be able to capture an intimate moment. It will get easier as the shoot goes on.

For me, it’s not about some staged fake pose that I force a couple into but the precious moments that capture the couple’s personality. The real moments make the best photos which is why the best poses for couples are natural candid and connected. Candid engagement photos are hard because it’s hard to act natural which is why it’s important for the photographer and couple to connect too.

Engagement Photo Poses

The best engagement photo poses, again, are the ones that look natural to the individual couple. If the couple is fun, a fun pose might work best. With a cute couple, a cute pose will be a better fit.

How does the couple naturally interact with each other and how can we expand on that? Sometimes it’s more about starting with simple poses and then adjusting them based on the light or the mood. From there, I focus on building engagement photo poses that compliment the style of the couple, play to the camera, and allow for moments to happen.

One challenge might be dealing with height differences. Sometimes you can’t do anything about a height difference and focusing too much on trying to make it disappear will only make it more prominent. However, there are some things you can do such as having the taller person stand in a wide-leg stance which makes them shorter and then you shoot tight so that the viewer doesn’t see the legs.

To Smile or Not to Smile

It’s our job to make you look good in your photos. We consider it your job to relax, have fun, and enjoy spending time with your soon-to-be husband or wife. Therefore, we’re not heavy on posing. Instead, we have you move into positions that are more natural for you and work from there.

Walking, holding hands, and hugging are some examples. Every couple is unique and we want to tell your individual story. That being said if you have any photo concerns such as liking your right profiles better than your left you can let us know.

Get Them Moving, Talking, Laughing, Interacting

Sometimes it’s not about the pose but what happens between the poses. Let them talk to each other, ask them questions about themselves, get them moving around and having fun. Whatever your personality, use it to bring out the best in your couples.

The best photos often happen towards the end of a engagement photo shoot both because that’s when the light is best and that’s when the couple is the most comfortable. That’s the secret to awesome engagement pictures.

colorado engagement photoshoot

The Little Things

Don’t forget about the little things that can make an engagement shoot special. I don’t always remember to focus on engagement rings but a nice shot showcasing the engagement ring can tell a great story about what the photo is saying.

Another important thing I try to do is shoot people from different angles and discover what I or they like. Does a bride like her smile or her serious look better? It’s best to find out those sorts of things at the engagement shoot.

Other small but important details are where the eyes are looking, what the hands are doing, and where you crop the images. Did you cut off fingers or put a tree behind someone’s head? Some details like a ring enhance the images whereas others detract from the images.

Final Tips for Photographers

Let’s talk about a few more engagement photoshoot tips for photographers. Hopefully, these tips will help your engagement photo shoot be more fun and your engagement pictures be more breathtaking.

Do an engagement shoot

You should either include an engagement shoot in your wedding packages or at least encourage your couples to do them. They are one of my favorite parts of being a wedding photographer because there is less of a time crunch to create magic than on the wedding day. I also get to build trust and a relationship with my clients which always makes the wedding day go smoother.

You can give your clients ideas for what to do with their engagementpictures such as engagement photo book ideas. Or, I’m even open to engagement videography as a fun add on to the wedding website. Think how you can serve your clients.

What makes a good engagement photo?

A good engagement photo captures the love and chemistry between a couple in a style that matches them or their personalities. For me, location plays a big part as it’s the setting for the love story. Then, it’s about conveying a message of love, joy, or passion.

Great engagements photos are personal to the couple or go beyond a typical session. For example, imagine a astrophotography engagement for space lovers.

We need to offer something better than when you can take your own engagement photos just by googling “engagement locations near me.”. That means going beyond engagement photo prop ideas. You can even do a studio engagement photo shoot as long as you bring something unique like playful lighting.

Don’t just have a script

Some photographers just do the same thing for every client. But every client is different. And every couple is very different. (Thus their engagement pictures should look different.)

Some couples are very comfortable with PDA while others are less so. Some we to wear flowy dresses while others want to wear jeans. The more you focus on capturing the client in front of you in their best light, the better the photos will be and the more they will mean to that particular individual.

Don’t force anyone into a pose that doesn’t make sense for them. I mean you can, but some poses work for everyone and some don’t. Go with the flow and get creative and inspired by your unique couple.

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Don’t hesitate to reach out for our availability or engagement photo session prices.

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We are Marc and Brenda Bergreen, a husband and wife photography team specializing in mountain wedding photography and other adventures. Capturing people in nature and the mountain lifestyle is a passion that became a dream that became a life. Thanks for stopping by our blog, we’re here to help and we love talking about love.

Based in Evergreen, CO we travel throughout the state as Colorado adventure wedding photographers. We also frequently travel to California and other wedding destinations to document love and adventure in a variety of memorable settings. Don’t hesitate to contact us and let us know how we can help! Be sure to follow us (weddings instagram & adventures instagram) and/or like us (facebook) to stay tuned.

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