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Engagement photos are a great way to get some more casual photos in advance of your wedding. They also are a great way to get to know your photographer, how they pose and interact with you, as well practicing being in front of the camera. And since most of us don’t do a photo shoot every year, this could serve as quite a good practice for the big day, especially if you’re camera-shy or consider yourself awkward in front of the camera! There are many other reasons why engagement photos are a great idea, but for now, I want to focus on ways that you can get the best engagement photos out of your own session, so read on if this is something you’d like to learn about, and keep these tips in your back pocket for a successful engagement phoot! It goes without saying that a good photographer with plenty of experience in wedding and engagement photography, will have their own set of tips and tricks, and will be able to guide you towards the best experience! As a photographer who guides their clients towards natural and intimate wedding portraits, these are my own set of tips I provide to my own clients. Most importantly, just go with the flow of the day, and enjoy!
Top 10 Tips for Getting the best engagement photos
Don’t be afraid to show emotion in front of the camera. At first it might feel awkward but try to block out those thoughts and pretend you are both alone. Don’t worry if PDA is not your thing – there are other ways to show emotion with each other – get creative and intimate.
The “Movie Kiss”
Ever wonder why the kisses in the movies look so “perfect”? When we kiss each other, naturally a lot of couples pucker up and reach for each other’s lips, but that doesn’t look as good in photos! We want to think of our kisses as “movie kisses”. Lean in slowly towards each other, get super close so that a pencil can fit in between you, tease each other, and then go in for it by touching your lips together first, before kissing, rather than puckering up and then kissing. Try it at home and see how it feels!
Make Eye Contact
Eye contact is one of the best ways to show a connection between each other. Make sure you are looking at each other during the session (unless instructed to do so) – think about each other while you stare. It will bring out a special expression in your eyes that is almost unseen but can really make a difference to the feel of the image.
Use Your Hands
The hardest thing about having your portrait taken is knowing what to do with your hands. It has to be my top question at engagement sessions and wedding portrait sessions: “What should I do with my hands?” Well luckily you have another person to put them on! And using your hands is a great way to show affection. Think about all the ways you might show affection to each other with your hands such as brushing little hair away from your face, a sweet caress, a back scratch, playing with each other’s facial features, or simply just placing your hand on each other for comfort. Sometimes I like to have my couples play games with each other with their hands (no, not like clapping games), stretching, interlacing, and just simply dancing with each other’s hands, to get the focus off of you both and put it somewhere else. Believe it or not, it creates a real connection. And when you’re doing a solo shot, find little things to fidget about with your hands.
Speaking of fidgeting, movement is a great way to get you through the session. It helps to not make the engagement photos about a specific pose, but rather more of a mood and an action. Incorporating movement and actions into the poses that you’re put in, even as small as moving your arms or your hands a bit, can make your engagement photos feel more natural and less stiff. This is especially great for people who feel awkward in front of the camera. If your photographer puts you in a “pose” think of a way to make it feel real to you, find a reason to be in that pose, and act it out.
Be the Lead Actors in your own Romantic Movie
Again, with the acting! Are we shooting a movie, Carolina, or taking engagement pictures? No but really, this is the one chance in your life that you get to have a whole photoshoot dedicated to you both and your love, before the wedding day. What do you want to tell your kids about your relationship before mom and dad got married? Tell that story through your actions, through your eye contact, and your interactions with each other. This is your chance to tell your story in a romantic, intimate, and thoughtful way.
Connect with each other – it’s pretty obvious to me, but to a lot of people when they get in front of the camera, they forget! I often joke with my clients that they will fill their quota of PDA and cuddling in their session with me for the whole week. Just remember that whatever this means to you, connecting with each other is important to having a successful engagement shoot.
Talk to Each other
Talking to each other is a great way to connect, speaking of which. A lot of times we get uncomfortable in front of the camera and don’t know what to do, or how to display affection in front of another person (especially a stranger you just met!) Sometimes talking to each other helps in easing that photography anxiety. Try not to get too serious with your conversations. Remember to keep it light, carefree, and casual, as the more serious conversations will show in your facial expressions. Think about fun things, funny moments, or random thoughts, but probably not “what should we have for dinner?” tonight, as that might lead to a lot of eye scrunching and question mark facial expressions.
Add Your Pets
Anyone that asks me “can we bring our pet along to our engagement session” knows that I’ll immediately say YES! I am a big animal lover for many reasons, but also they are great to incorporate into your engagement sessions because it helps to take the focus off of you and onto the natural interactions you’ll have with your dog (or other pet).
Also, it’s a great way to incorporate more meaningful memories into your story as a couple as you tell your future generations about the “fur babies” you had before they came along! A word to the wise, if you are planning on bringing a pet, to your engagement session, I’d recommend having a friend come help you out, so that once they get tired, they can scoop them up and take them away so we can continue with more engagement photo fun!
Be in your own world
Once you are maybe about half way through your engagement session, believe me, it gets a lot easier and more comfortable. Blocking out all the external distractions, and getting into your own little world with each other definitely helps to make your photos feel more intimate and true to life. If you can just pretend for the hour of your session that you are by yourselves, having a date, with no one else around, what would you do? Or imagine that you’re on one of your first dates that you had with each other? What did that feel like? look like?
Try to recreate these feelings in the photos by truly connecting and being with each other throughout the session, and I promise you, you truly will have the best engagement photos that you’ll cherish just as much, if not more, than your wedding photos.
A Few Real Engagement Sessions
If you’re curious as to how this might look all laid out, after following this advice, below are a few of my best engagement sessions over the years!