Engagement Photoshoot 101 [how to prepare]

March 4, 2016

Welcome to everything you need to know about preparing for and loving your engagement shoot! Whether you are celebrating your engagement, an anniversary, or just enjoying a fun day together, you two can just be yourselves while the magic that make up your unique relationship is captured in intimate and often humorous imagery. Sometimes, the groom to be will hire a photographer to actually capture the proposal – in which case the photographer hangs out secretly somewhere while it goes down. Afterwards, I will flow it into an “engagement” shoot and get some photos after the surprise!


You might be thinking: Engagement photos? Yet another thing I have to figure out!

Fear not, this everything E-shoot guide will have you feeling excited and relaxed. Engagement shoots have evolved into an integral part of the wedding photography.

It’s a great way to get to know how your photographer works, and it will help you and your beau feel at ease in front of the camera. Consider it practice before the finale – because you’re going to learn a lot of tips and look like a rock star. It’s a great trust builder between you and your photographer because some of the poses may feel contrived but the end result is not.

Most importantly, this is a special time in your life together as a couple, which can be overlooked in the hustle and bustle, and often stressful, whirlwind of event planning. You will be married for the rest of your life but only engaged for a short period of it and many couples don’t have any well composed images of them together.

Take this photo shoot time to refocus on what you are really celebrating – your connection.


Your only job is to have fun!

You are not un-photogenic. Period. If you kiss with your eyes open, your photographer will tell you but the bottom line is, if you are having fun then you will look good. Smiles and laughter are amazing like that. For the most part, you will be cuddling up, as natural as you do on the couch 🙂

One of the biggest benefits of hiring an experience photographer is that they will know how to direct you and help you to feel comfortable even if the poses don’t feel normal. I specialize in photographing people who have never been professionally photographed before, so my shooting style includes 110% direction, so just kick back, run around, goof off and have fun with your other. You’ll be surprised at how fun it is and how comfortable you will actually feel.


Now let’s talk business:


Think about locations that mean something to your relationship – nothing is too boring or bizarre. How about that coffee shop where you noticed each other for the first time?

Or maybe that park where he proposed or that beach where you had your first kiss? Or just somewhere where you both like to venture together. You can also ask your photographer who will likely know some good spots – I always have ideas!

Rural is a more rustic look – open fields, beaches, forests, anything nature.


Urban is something modern and upscale, often including interesting architecture, lighting and cityscapes.


Sometimes you can do both looks in one shoot, depending on how far away the commute is among the different locations. Be sure that the commute time doesn’t eat up the playtime. Engagement shoots are typically 1-2 hours long.

If you are looking for both Rural and Urban elements, the city park is the happy medium where you can start in the park at the golden hour and end in the city for some city lights after it gets darker.

The Rural vs. Urban rule is just a basic guideline though; I personally love out of the box settings and quirky ideas. When I have a couple that is up for anything, we tend to end up with some very unique imagery.

Consider going for acrylic prints with unparalleled vibrancy for your engagement photoshoot.


Be sure to check the weather when booking a date. It if calls for slight showers, I don’t worry about it too much as it often just ends up being overcast (which is my personal preferred lighting). Here on Vancouver Island, we have learned to adapt to bi-polar wet weather. Bring an umbrella just in case. Even if we do get a little drizzle, that can look spectacular when lit from behind with a strobe and stormy clouds can look dramatic as well. It’s always good to have an indoor location as a backup. If the weather is just too torrential, I offer re-shoots at no charge. Ask your photographer what their policy is on that.


Time of day is important.

High-noon without cloud cover is not the most forgiving lighting (1:00pm on a beach), in these cases, shade is our friend.

Dusk is referred to as “The Golden Hour” and is popular for creating stunning sunset and pixie dust photos. It is very flattering light.

As the sun continues to descend, we have a window of opportunity to play with additional lighting such as external  flashes and existing ambient light such as street lights etc.  “Night time” engagement shoots have increased in popularity, especially if you live in a city or somewhere with beautiful evening light – like stars.


What should we wear?

Here are some tips:

-Don’t wear the same thing (unless it’s intentional humor)

-Do wear something comfortable

-Do dress to match the location (those stilettos are for the city mouse)

-Do bring more than one outfit (a casual dress for movement, and skinny jeans for later are popular)

-Do bring accessories

-Do put a little oomph into your makeup (because it translates subdued on camera). Many of my brides go for the professional hair and makeup discount with my styling team – it really enhances the experience and may help you nail down a stylist for your walk down the aisle.

-Don’t stress about it at all, these are just guidelines – ultimately you should be yourself and wear what represents you (from ripped jeans to a mascot costume-anything goes).


Are fun and optional. Bring anything that you think would look cool. Popular ones include:

-Bikes – Your pet – Umbrellas – Bubbles – Balloons


I love taking some photos with props but I prefer to do most of the shoot where you are just each other’s prop. Ask your photographer if they recommend props and see if they have any prop related ideas.

Themed shoots

This is a trendy new take on the engagement shoot. You have your basic themes: Rural and Urban, but you can take it to the next level. If you are a big fan of a certain romantic movie or novel, you could recreate some scenes some amazing Notebook and Twilight renditions. There was a Breaking Bad engagement shoot that went viral – the sky’s the limit!


So, now you’ve had an amazing experience which resulted in amazing photos – what to do with them?

Many couples like to incorporate their engagement photos into their save the dates and/or wedding invitations and also on a wedding website if they have one. I work with a graphic designer (who is also my sister!) to offer beautiful custom designed save the dates and invites, we also custom design websites as well.

But my most popular product by far is the engagement reception guestbook. People like it because it doubles as a high quality engagement album as well as a guestbook where your guests can leave their mark as the layout is custom designed with lots of white note space. My designer works with you and a virtual album proof where you can leave comments for changes on each spread before we order it.

A sign of a good quality book is a lay-flat binding, this means there is no gutter in the centre that will eat up part of your photo to allow double page image presentation. Another thing to ask is if the album is on photographic paper – usually lustre or matte. Many low-end book companies do not print on photographic paper and use a thin magazine paper instead. It does not portray your images at the maximum quality and it is not acid free so your images will yellow over time and not have that archival longevity.


Classic presentation is a gallery wrapped canvas print for your home or gift to mom and dad. A more modern take is an acrylic block mount print. I love these because you don’t have to hang them and they match any interior decor – country or modern. The bottom line is that it’s nice to have photos of yourselves that are not in your wedding garb because you will have loads of those after the wedding!


Have fun and make memories!


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