Sunday, October 14, 2012

Photography: Engagement Photo Shoot Tips

Engagement photo shoots are such a happy time. Spending a few hours with a couple who are totally in love is a lot of fun.  Whether you're doing a photo shoot for work or for pleasure, it is an afternoon well spent. 

But what do you need to do to get ready for the big day? Here are my tips from the engagement shoots I've done, using some photo examples from the more recent of the two.

Before the Shoot: 

Talk to the couple about what feel they're looking for. Serious and formal or casual and carefree? Maybe they want to wear their favorite football jerseys... get some ideas from them and then scout out some locations.

In terms of choosing a location, I’d try for something that has multiple different types of locations within walking distance (or perhaps a short drive). I did one shoot near the ocean but there were different areas along the shore- grassy areas, the beach itself, a dock where boats came in and a huge stretch of rock. Then the second shoot I did, we started out in downtown Boston in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, which had great brick and cobblestone streets and old buildings... then we walked to the Boston Common which is a park setting. Its nice to have different settings without involving too much travel time in your day.

If you have time and if you’re new at this, I’d recommend going to that location and scouting out good shots in advance of the shoot- ideally with someone else who will let you take some test shots of them. I did this before one shoot and my mom graciously came along with me. It helped me find different shots and see what angles would work well. It also took a lot of pressure off me on the actual day because it felt like I’d had a dress rehearsal.

Find ideas you like online. Use a pinterest board. Save some images to your phone or a Word document. Whatever works best for you. Or simply make a list of poses you'd like to try. If you get nervous, pull out your list. Bam! Your answers are right there. If nothing else, it will get your creative brain in motion...

The Day of the Shoot:
Take advantage of natural light but aim for morning or a couple hours before sunset so you’re not competing with bright mid-day sun.

ISO: 400 f/1.4 1/1600 

Get shots from a ton of different angles. Shooting from above can be really flattering- no double chin look from that position :) The lady you’re shooting will be happy about that.
ISO: 400 f3.5 1/100

Always aim to make the woman look beautiful. She’s likely the one who’s most interested in the whole photoshoot idea anyways.... that’s not to say to make the man look terrible, but you know what I mean. Aim to make her look slim and gorgeous and the couple will likely be satisfied with the photos. If her hair is out of place- fix it. Ask nicely before touching her if you’re not comfortable, but she can’t see herself and if you think she looks amiss, she probably will too when she gets the prints. Take a few seconds to make her look perfect.

ISO: 400 f/1.4 1/1225

Go for a wide-open aperture if you can.
ISO: 800 f1.4 1/2000

I almost exclusively use my 50mm 1.4 lens for photoshoots. I love it. I can get a nice crisp focus on faces and that really makes the shot. This is the only other lens I currently own for my DSLR and its a great investment. If you are looking for a lens, look into this one (and I'd strongly recommend saving the extra pennies to get the f1.4 over the cheaper 1.8).

Focus on each individual. Make them each the center of attention for a shot or two.

ISO: 400 f/1.4 1/200

ISO: 400 f4 1/125

Get some kissing shots. Its sweet. They'll appreciate it when they're 70, even if it feels a little cheesy now. Insider tip: Giving the soon-to-be-groom an alcoholic beverage or two in advance of the shoot is not a terrible idea. Just enough to loosen him up, mind you. You need a coherent subject.

ISO: 400 f4.5 1/160

Focus on the ring. Its special. Its new. Its something the bride will want to show off. Use the close-up on the ring to highlight special moments and small, more intimate touches between the couple. This is one of my favorite shots. Its not a traditional portrait- their heads are purposely cut off, but look how much emotion is still portrayed.
ISO: 400 f5 1/50

ISO: 400 f1.4 1/2000
ISO: 800 f.14 1/1600

Don't be afraid to get silly! Encourage them to tell each other jokes- or have some of your own at the ready. Go spur of the moment and try something you hadn't planned. It can pay off big!
ISO: 400 f/1.4 1/1000

A little tickling can go a long way. The person being tickled may obviously laugh, but getting the natural reaction of the tickler is even more priceless!

ISO: 400 f2.5 1/320

Mix up the backgrounds. A hanging flower basket below a window adds a little femininity and warmth to the brick and mortar of the city.
ISO: 800 f2.2 1/1800

Go for the shots that may not be so obvious. We can't see their faces, but we can feel the connection between these two. Its going to be a long {happy} road ahead.
ISO: 800 f1.4 1/2000

Don't forget that your subjects will need some direction. I wanted to capture another side of their faces that I hadn't yet seen. In this case, I asked them to look up at a lamp post. I think there was a bird nearby and I got talking about the bird... maybe we named the bird, or made up a silly story. When in doubt, give the direction and just keep talking. It will make even a fairly comfortable subject more at ease with a rather forced, unnatural situation- not to mention that the uneasy subject will be very grateful.
ISO: 800 f1.4 1/2000

ISO: 400 f8 1/20

Bring some props if you think it will help. A picnic blanket if you’re going to a park. Maybe some wine glasses if you want them to pretend to toast. A flower for the man to present to the woman... be creative. And again- make sure it fits what the couple is looking for.

I hope this is helpful for you budding photographers out there. My best advice it to practice, get familiar with your camera so that you can enjoy the experience. Do whatever you can to avoid being nervous and just have an enjoyable day!


  1. Thanks so much for these tips Jen! The pictures you took of this couple are awesome! :D

  2. You have great tips. One of my favorites is the walking shot. I melt at those always and take them often of my kids with my folks, my husband and each other.

  3. You have shared amazing engagement photography pictures here. I want to book best Port Macquarie Photographer who can take lovely photographs in wedding. It is my wedding next month and hope to find a photographer who can make it memorable for me.

  4. This photography is truly awesome. Really liked it. On my sister’s wedding at one of corporate event venues San Francisco my cousin did all photography. He captured beautiful pictures and made the day memorable. He will be doing my wedding photography too.