Traditionally, people put a lot of thought and effort into their wedding photos but engagement photos tended to be more of an afterthought. This seems to be changing. These days people are more enthusiastic about celebrating the little milestones in their lives. While they are still a little understated compared to wedding photoshoots, engagement photoshoots have become increasingly popular. With the pandemic causing most people to push forward their wedding dates, couples have become more willing to spend time and money on engagement photography.
So if you are a photographer looking for unique engagement photo ideas for your clients, you are in the right place. By the time you have finished reading this, you will have a good understanding of how to plan and set up an engagement photo shoot that will impress your clients as well as their friends and family.
Think About the Aesthetic for the Engagement Photos
Engagement photos, in general, are somewhat understated but that is not a rule set in stone. Seasons, personal style, even favourite movies or series can be great aesthetic themes for engagement photos. Discuss different engagement photo shoot ideas with your clients before moving on to the next steps.
General Aesthetic Vibe for Engagement Photos
Determining the general aesthetic vibe for the photos is important since this will dictate the other aspects of the photoshoot as well. For example, if a client wants fall engagement photos, you will need to choose a location that is appropriate for a fall-themed engagement photoshoot: a park or wooded area with a lot of beautiful autumn foliage, or a cosy indoor living room with autumn wreath decorations etc. It will also determine the kind of clothing your clients wear. Cosy, slightly rustic, autumnal clothing in colours that stand out against and complement the foliage would be perfect.
Sometimes clients are not very sure of what kind of aesthetic they want. To help them out you can ask them to set up a mood board. Mood boards are visual tools that help communicate concepts through images, fonts, colours etc.
You can have your clients send you pictures from Pinterest or other websites that match the general tone and vibe of what they want. These pictures don’t all have to be engagement photos but rather pictures that convey the feeling of a certain atmosphere. This will help you determine and set the general aesthetic tone and vibe for the photoshoot. For more ideas, do read our article on 10 Expert Tips to Take Great Aesthetic Photos.
Colour Palette for Engagement Pictures
With the general aesthetic decided, you can confer with your client to decide on a colour palette. A good colour palette gives a sense of theme to the photos without feeling too monotonous. While muted tones are the traditional choice in engagement photography, feel free to experiment with brighter tones. Keep in mind though that brighter colours tend to reflect more, especially during sunsets or other similar lighting conditions. Choose a colour palette that complements the aesthetic of your photoshoot without blowing out the colours too much.
Another thing to consider is the season. If you want winter engagement photos, for example, you will need to find a colour palette that works well with the colours of winter. Complementary colours like red, stand out and look beautiful on snowy winter landscapes. Going with whites and blues may cause the subject to blend in with the snowy background.
A good understanding of colour theory and how to use it is important for all photographers. The colours in a photograph should add to the viewer’s visual experience. Awkward colour blocking, lack of theme or coherence, colours that cause the subject to blend into the background etc. make for unpleasant photos.
Also, keep in mind the lighting conditions you will be shooting in when deciding a colour palette. Different intensities, warmth levels and colours of light alter the colours of the subjects and of the background. While some of this can be adjusted through editing, it is always better to keep lighting in mind from the very beginning.
The Location of the Engagement Photoshoot
What is the best place or location for an engagement photoshoot? Again, this partly depends on the aesthetic you are going for. Location plays a huge role in setting the tone and aesthetic for your photos. If there is a beautiful, old building or cottage nearby, it can act as a beautiful backdrop for some rustic engagement photos.
You should always be on the lookout for lesser-known but picturesque photography spots where you can shoot some romantic engagement photos. Well known locations can be overcrowded and difficult to shoot in.
It is a very good idea to ask your clients if they have any special location in mind. This could be a place that holds some special memory or significance for the couple. For example, the location where first met, their first vacation or date etc. If your clients have the budget and time, you could even do multiple locations.
Multiple locations in an engagement photo shoot can be used to tell a story. You can travel to various places that are special to the couple and take photos that tell the story of their journey as lovers. For something like this, it is better to choose locations that are local or at the very least close by.
Destination engagement photos, taken at a scenic location or during a vacation are popular with couples but touristy places can be overcrowded. Discuss these things with your clients. If they have their heart set on a particular tourist destination, try to find out timings when there is less crowd. Also, see if you can get special permissions to shoot on a day when the place is normally closed to the public.
A very important thing to consider when deciding on a location is whether or not you need special permissions for photography there. This is often the case with private property or estates, hotels, country clubs etc. As a photographer, you must make sure you have the appropriate permissions to shoot at the location. If you do not take care of this, you risk being held liable for trespassing or other legal issues.
What to Wear for the Perfect Engagement Photos
There are no hard and fast rules on what to wear for engagement photos. Unlike with a wedding, you do not need to stick to traditional wedding dresses and formal wear. Engagement photos can be a lot more low-key or even casual depending on client preferences. What is important is that the colours should align with the colour palette and the style should be in tandem with the style of the photographs.
Generally, long flowy dresses for women are preferred because they photograph well. They can be styled and posed in many different ways and with a little bit of wind, they can give a beautiful, romantic, princess-like look. Long, open hairstyles are also preferred for the same reason. Too much wind, however, can make both of these a liability. So choose a still day and carry your own box fan so you can control the wind direction and intensity. Also, keep alternative clothing and hairstyle options on hand.
Makeup for photography tends to be a little on the heavier side. This is because the lighting and high-resolution cameras tend to highlight every little detail and flaw in faces. Even if the makeup looks heavy in real life, it will look a lot more subtle in photography. Have the clients hire a makeup artist who is experienced in doing makeup for photography.
Another thing to consider is that the engagement photo sessions can last long. Ask your clients to dress comfortably. Tight, structured clothing can be restrictive and uncomfortable, particularly in outdoor environments. It is also a good idea to carry a pair of comfortable shoes or flats. Heels look great in photos but in between takes they can get uncomfortable really soon.
Talk to your clients and let them know these things before the day of the shoot.
Couple Poses for Great Engagement Photos
If you or your clients are looking for some good engagement photos ideas, you should try to find some interesting couple poses. Some of these poses are classics that you should definitely have in any engagement photo album. Along with these, you should also consider some more unique poses.
A classic pose that should never be missing from the engagement photos album. Even if it's simply a reenactment of the original event, the proposal is an important moment that you should not forget to capture.
This can give the couple an opportunity to be themselves and show some of their personality. An album full of serious, introspective photos can be a bit droll. Let the couple play and tease each other and capture those moments. These photos make the entire album come alive.
Taking a Walk
This relatively simple pose allows for a lot of scope for using different angles and shooting some truly unique photos. Since this pose requires movement, it can help camera-shy subjects loosen up so they don't appear stiff. This pose works especially well for outdoor shoots near water bodies.
Candid photos can be a great opportunity for showcasing the couple's love and intimacy with each other. Have them look deeply and introspectively into each other's eyes while taking a shot from a distance or a close-up of their faces. These intimate photos tend to be a favourite with couples and are often the most requested print.
Another must-have engagement photo for the album. Sometimes couples may be a little camera shy or otherwise reluctant to display public affection. Make them comfortable, and take these shots towards the middle of the shoot when everyone has gotten a little used to the camera. Try not to be too in your face for these shots, instead, try zooming-in from a distance.
The Perfect Time for Engagement Photoshoots
Early mornings and late afternoons are preferred by photographers for outdoor, natural light shoots. During these times of the day, the so-called golden hours, the sun is not directly overhead which prevents harsh shadows. The lighting is also gentler and more diffused rather than harsh and bright. This gives a beautiful, soft glow that works well for engagement photos. Harsh lighting can also cause the subjects to squint, preventing the photographer from capturing delicate expressions in close-ups.
An additional advantage of early mornings is that they tend to be less crowded. If you have a relatively popular or well-known location in mind, an early morning shoot can help you avoid crowds which can make photography difficult. Crowds and strangers can also be intrusive and make the couple uncomfortable when taking some of the more intimate shots.
When it comes to seasonal engagement photoshoots, ask the couple to try and avoid the middle of summer or the very dead of winter for outdoor shoots. The weather during these seasons is not very comfortable or amiable for photography. Humidity and sweat during summers can ruin hair and makeup quite easily. Chilly winters make posing difficult and limit the kind of clothing that can be worn. For these seasons, an indoor shoot may be more ideal.
Be clear with your clients about how long the processing of the photos will take. This can help them plan and choose an appropriate date so that they can receive their photos on time. After all, receiving your engagement photos after your wedding day is hardly something anyone would want. To avoid these kinds of circumstances, proper planning is important.
Here are a few tips for taking Perfect Engagement Photos
- Start with the Portraits
- Have an Assistant
- Be Prepared and Have a Backup
- Take Your Time with the Shots
- Communicate with the Clients
- Keep it Fun and Relaxed
- Encourage Affection
- Capture the Candid Moments
- Have Props at Hand
- Don't forget the Details
- Mix it Up
Start with the Portraits
Couple portraits are a good way to start your photoshoot. It helps both the photographer and the clients to ease into the session as it is a fairly predictable and easy part of the shoot. Once the portraits are done and you have got a feel for the surroundings, you can move on to more elaborate poses and start incorporating props and pets etc.
Have an Assistant
The last thing a photographer likes is a crowd. Too many people at a shoot can be more of an obstacle than a help. However, having an assistant on location can make your life a whole lot easier. It can be a task moving gear and equipment around the location, keeping track of props, helping with posing off frame etc. By delegating these tasks to an assistant you can keep your focus on your shots.
Be Prepared and Have a Backup
Photographers know to always keep backups of their photos, spare SD cards, lenses and cameras. But you should also have backup plans for locations, outfits, props etc as well. Sometimes a location may not work out the way you thought it would or the outfit proves too restrictive. Keep your options open and make sure your clients do the same.
Take Your Time with the Shots
Do not rush. Take your time with your shots. Try multiple angles and put thought into each shot. Go for quality over quantity. At the end of the day, not all of the shots will make it into the final album, but make each shot worth the effort.
Communicate with the Clients
It is very important to be constantly in communication with your clients. Oftentimes clients have a very specific idea or concept in their head of how they want their engagement photos to be. This idea can be way beyond what is realistic or possible for the photographer. Always make sure that the client expectations are in line with what you are capable of offering.
Keep it Fun and Relaxed
Shoot day should be fun and relaxed. Joke around with your clients and make them feel comfortable around you. Engagement photos need to be intimate and romantic and some couples may not be very comfortable with the PDA or being photographed like that. Helping them relax can help with their attitude and demeanour in the photos.
There is nothing worse than a stiff, awkward couple during an engagement photoshoot. Encourage them to be affectionate with each other. Couples leaning in to each other, touching and kissing make for beautiful engagement photos. Make sure your clients are comfortable and relaxed for best results.
Capture the Candid Moments
Be on the lookout for cute candid moments outside of posed shots. Pay attention to the couple while they are just talking or hanging out for opportunities to get some good candid shots. These kinds of photographs are great because they show the couple at a level of comfort and relaxation that may not be possible with posed photos.
Furry Friends are Great Additions
Pets can be a wonderful addition to the photoshoot. Not only do they help the couple relax and lighten the atmosphere, they help you bring a part of the couple’s daily life together into their engagement photos. As cute as they are, pets can also be intrusive during a photoshoot. So, if you are looking to incorporate animals, advise your clients to bring a friend or family member who can look after the animal.
Have Props at Hand
Props are a great way of bringing some fun and life to an otherwise dry and run of the mill shoot. Talk to your clients beforehand about what kind of props they would like. Balloons, flowers etc are great props for building the atmosphere. You can also use items of clothing like cute hats or scarves as props for a bit of fun.
Don’t Forget the Details
While focusing on the couple, don’t forget the other small details. Make sure to get at least a few pictures of the ring. Get close ups of the couple holding hands. Make sure to adjust your camera settings to ensure the photos come out picture perfect.
Mix it Up
Always make sure to get the traditional, normally expected photographs and poses but also mix them up with some more interesting and unique photos. A lot of couples, or at least their families, are always eager for the traditional, cliched photos for family albums and other such uses. Mix those up with more editorial style photos that push the envelope and showcase your skills. After all, this is not just about the couple but is also an opportunity for you to build your own portfolio.
Here are a few must-see Photography Portfolio Websites for Inspiration
Wedding Day by Atul Pratap Chauhan
Atul Pratap Chauhan and his team are one of India’s most sought after photographers. Their wedding and engagement photography portfolio include the wedding of Shahid and Mira Kapoor. They are experts in big-budget wedding and engagement photography as well as videography. Atul and his team understand Indian weddings and are able to capture the colour and vibrance without taking away from the soft tenderness and elegance.
Ikin Yum Photography
London based photographer Ikin Yum is another international expert in engagement and wedding photography. Ikin’s speciality lies in the beautiful way in which he incorporates locations and surroundings while maintaining the focus and spotlight on his subjects. The background and surroundings serve to complement the subject rather than distracting from it while still maintaining an aura of ethereal beauty.
Daniel Pullen Professional Photography
Daniel Pullen is based in Hatteras Islands on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. His work is deeply inspired by his home and its rough, deep and often wild seas. Pullen’s work was featured in the TIME’s Top 100 Photos of 2020. For wedding and engagement photography, Daniel and his partner Kate value simplicity, authenticity and natural beauty. Their mantra of ‘love fiercely’ shines through beautifully in their photography.
Dave Pelvin Photography
Dave Pelvin is a Toronto based photographer who specializes in multiple genres including engagement, wedding, newborn, commercial and aerial photography. Dave’s couple photos are remarkable in capturing the subtle details and expressions of his subjects. His work also makes excellent use of natural light and the outdoors.
Kristin Robinson Photography
Kristin Robinson is a photographer from Rockland, Massachusetts. A skilled photographer with 6 years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree in fine arts, Kristin loves to incorporate the sea and beach landscapes into her photography. She specializes in family photography, newborn portraits and couple photography including engagement and maternity shoots. She also offers exclusive client galleries through her website.
Shot By Karyn
Karyn is a mother of five and a photographer from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Karyn loves telling stories through her photography. Her work is always very personal and feels like a stolen moment captured on film. She also uses client galleries to privately share her photos with her clients through her website.
Create Your Engagement Photography Portfolio Website
Feeling inspired by these beautiful portfolios? For creative professionals of all kinds, a portfolio is better than a resume when it comes to expanding your business and building a good clientele. And there is no better way of building a portfolio website than by using a service that keeps photographers, artists and creative professionals first. Here is a complete guide on how to build an online portfolio website.
Pixpa is an all-in-one website building platform for photographers and all kinds of creators. Create a beautiful, professional website complete with client galleries, social media integrations, built-in online stores to sell merchandise and digital prints and more. Pixpa’s versatile platform has everything you need to showcase your work, share ideas, build your client base and sell your stuff online, without any coding knowledge. It also offers built-in marketing tools like an SEO manager, marketing pop-ups, an announcement bar etc to help expand your business. All of the portfolios you saw here today have been built with Pixpa!
Pixpa offers all-inclusive pricing plans that are simple and affordable with no hidden costs. The plans range from $7 to $16 per month.
As a photographer it is important for you to have experience in several different genres of photography. Engagement photography is a great way of building your portfolio to showcase your skills in showing emotions and telling stories through your photographs. As with any photoshoot, engagement photoshoots involve a lot of different variables that you need to take care of.
The most important thing here is to talk to your clients and understand them. It is their day afterall! Get to know them, their relationship and their stories. This way you can better communicate their journey as a couple through your photos. At the end of the day, that’s what photography is all about: telling a story!