Congratulations! You just got engaged and you are dying to share the news with everyone. Sadly, the selfie you took on your phone did not do you, your fiancé, or your stunning new ring justice. What to do?! Then it hits you, “We need a professional engagement photo session!”
But where should you start? How do you pick the right photographer? What should you wear? How can you make your engagement ring look fabulous in photos? How should you pose so you look your best? Where should you take the photos? At what time of the day? Wait…this is too complicated. If this is planning for an engagement session what will wedding planning be like?! Maybe we should just elope! Before you decide to run off to the nearest city hall to get hitched, take a breather. I’m here for you with answers to all these questions and more to help you get the engagement photos of your dreams.
Finding the Right Photographer:
Finding a photographer that is a good match to your style and personality is the most critical factor in getting engagement and wedding photos that you love. Just because your bestie loved her wedding photographer doesn’t necessarily mean he will be a perfect match for you. The first thing to do is establish what photography style you and your fiancé like best. There are oodles of ways to do this: looking at friends’ engagement and wedding photos, doing a quick search on Pinterest and Instagram, or checking out wedding photographers’ online portfolios, to name just a few. If both of you are big into photography you can do this activity together. But usually one of you will be more of a photography person. If that is the case wait until you have a few distinct styles that you like and then get your fiancé’s input on which they like best. Once you have a sense of the types of photos you like—light and airy, bold punches of color, black and white, Instagram minimalist chic, classic posed formal portraits, editorial inspired modern poses, informal candids, photojournalistic—then you can start narrowing down the field of possible photographers.
Now that you have decided on the photography look that you love, check out the preferred vendors your venue suggests (assuming you already set a date and have a venue picked out) as well as any other personal referrals you have received. A google search for nearby wedding photographers is also a good way to broaden this list. Many wedding photographers include engagement sessions in their packages, so that’s why it is important to consider photographers who would be available to shoot at your wedding location and on your wedding date when selecting an engagement session photographer. Now check out their websites and online portfolios. See which ones fit your preferred photography style. Once you have a list of photographers you like, go and check out their reviews on weddingwire.com, theknot.com, yelp.com, and their google business page if they have one. This will help you pare down your list to the best of the best, who have great records for customer service and good business practices. Then contact those remaining with the best reviews for more information. I highly recommend meeting with your photographer in person before booking them if you can, so that you can get a good feel for how their personality meshes with yours. Once you have booked your perfect photographer feel free to give them some ideas as to what you are looking for but don’t expect them to copy poses directly from a Pinterest mood board you created. Remember that you picked them for a reason. Trust their artistic abilities to create looks tailored specifically to you that you will love.
What to Wear:
During your engagement shoot you want to look like yourself at your best, but not like a completely different person. To accomplish this, it’s a good idea to wear something just a little more dressy than your normal day-to-day clothes and that you also feel really good in. A nice outfit can be a great confidence builder. Go for a classic look rather than choosing something trendy so that 10 years from now you won’t be laughing at yourself the way we look at pictures of people from the 80s.
Your outfits should complement one another without being too matchy-matchy. Different tones of pastels work well together, as do jewel tones with other jewel tones, and neutrals with neutrals. You want to avoid neon colors as they draw the attention away from you and put all the attention on your clothes. Also avoid loud patterns or large logos on shirts unless you are doing a sports team theme.
In photos it is always a good idea to wear something that is fitted well to you. Clothes that are shapeless or bulky (kaftans, loose or chunky sweaters) add visual volume to you and as a result will make you look much heavier than you actually are. If you are looking for some more specific guidance, here are suggested guidelines for different shaped figures I’ve found to be very helpful from Adrianna Papell.
If you never wear heels, your engagement session isn’t the time to start. If you aren’t used to wearing heels you likely will be unsteady and uncomfortable in them, and that will show on your face in the photos. If you wear stilettos on the regular, go ahead and rock them. If your fiancé is less than 2 inches taller than you, you also might want stay away from heels. Also keep in mind the environment you are going to be shooting in. Solemates heel protectors can keep your high heels from getting stuck in the grass if you are going to be in a field or park.
Statement pieces like a chunky necklace, earrings, or bracelet can be great, but not all three at once. Less is more. Handbags should be avoided, they just end up being set down every time a shot is taken and are easily forgotten. All you need to bring with you that day on the shoot should be lipstick for touchups and a brush. Nothing should be in your pockets. This goes for your fiancé as well. Cell phones and sunglasses in pockets make very funny bulges in photos. Your photographer can keep your items in their own bag during the shoot so you can keep your hands free and pockets empty.
Hair and Makeup:
Showing up to your engagement shoot with no makeup on and your hair pulled back in the same ponytail holder you wear to the gym isn’t going to give you the best results. Even if you NEVER wear makeup, you should still have a little bit on for your shoot that day. Why? Because photographs are a two dimensional medium. It flattens us out. So anything at all we can do to create some definition and contours makes a huge difference in how the photos will look. Even if you may look fabulous in person with no makeup on, in a photo just a little bit of makeup goes a long way. My suggestion is at a minimum have mascara on your top lashes and some lipstick (lip gloss or chapstick isn’t enough). It doesn’t need to be Taylor Swift RED, just something a little darker than the natural shade of your lips. Practice putting it on before the actual day of your shoot so you get used to getting it on your lips and not on your skin or teeth. If you typically are very shiny or oily, some translucent powder helps a bunch. Just apply it right at your shoot and keep it with you for touch ups. For your hair, a little bit of hair spray or styling paste will help keep fly-aways down. If it is a windy day, I suggest a headband to keep the hair out of your face.
Last but not least are your nails. If you can get a manicure before the shoot that would be great. Close up shots of your hands are a typical thing in engagement shoots. Soft pinks and neutrals are best as they look nice but don’t attract too much attention. If you can’t make it to the nail salon before your shoot, at a minimum cut and file your nails so they are about the same length and shape. Make sure both of you wash your hands well right before the shoot so there isn’t any visible dirt on them.
How to Make Your Engagement Ring Look Fabulous in Photos:
Once you got engaged everyone wanted to see a photo of your ring. Cell phone pictures just do not capture the beauty of a well cut stone, but a professional photographer sure can. Ask them to get detailed shots of the ring both on your finger and off.
To really show off the 4Cs of your stone (the cut, color, clarity, and carat) you need to add one more C to the mix…CLEANING! Unless your shoot is the day you got engaged you will want to clean your ring before the shoot. We forget just how much residue collects on our rings by wearing them daily. You will be blown away by how great your ring looks all sparkly and clean again. You can do some gentle soft cleaning at home either with a jewelry cleaning solution or by soaking the ring in a bowl of very warm water with some dish soap for about 30 minutes and then scrubbing with a soft bristle toothbrush in a circular motion over a clean towel.
Here is a picture of how my own engagement ring looked before I cleaned it and what it looked like after. The only thing that changed in these two sets of photos is the cleaning of the ring.
Once the ring is clean the photographer can feature it in photographs in so many different ways. The ring can be photographed just by itself. You can bring props to include for close up shots with the ring–a hand written letter or card from your fiancé, something meaningful to both of you, your favorite flower, scrabble pieces “I” “D” and use the ring as the “O” or any other combination of letters like your names or initials, or the word “FOREVER”–the possibilities are endless.
To feature your ring, you can pose so you are standing to the left of your fiancé (camera view right) so you can use your ringed hand to place on their chest, arm, or cheek.
The more places you are physically touching each other in a photo, the more emotionally connected you look. This is why tipping your head towards each other looks so nice as well.
If your fiancé is a bit camera shy, you can pose with your fiancé’s back to the camera and you peeking over their shoulder and with your arms coming around them into the frame.
Or get into what I call the “smart piggyback position.” Instead of actually doing a real piggyback, just find a bench or rock that you can stand on safely and have your fiancé in front of you. Now lean over and put your arms around their neck, making sure your ringed hand is on top. Bring your face forward enough so that you are over their shoulder and your faces are in the same plane. The photographer can now get a cute shot of the two of you posed like this without risking your fiancé’s back.
For all of these shots be sure to check your ring’s position. You want it nicely centered on your finger. The stone should not be creeping between your fingers, it should be facing straight out towards the camera.
How to Strike the Best Pose in Your Photos:
Here are a few simple posing tips that will make a a big impact. Avoid having your arms dropped down just at your sides, this makes you look much wider than you are. Have a little space between your arms and your body by bending your elbow a little either by putting your hands in your pockets or having them laid loosely on your hips or backside. Turn your body at an angle from the camera, this slims your profile down. Relax your shoulders down and back, this will make a HUGE difference as it naturally makes your neck more slender. Have good posture but don’t draw your chin backwards in the process as it will give you the appearance of a double chin. Instead keep your chin forward and down and it will tighten up the neck muscles under your chin and give you a flattering jawline. It’s a good idea to practice this at home first to get the hang of it. Last but not least, put the bulk of your weight on your back leg instead of your front leg.
Where and When Should You Have Your Photos Taken:
Most people think the best place to have pictures taken would be in a picturesque famous park on a bright sunny day when in fact this would actually be the last way a photographer would want to shoot an engagement session. Bright sunny days result in photos of people squinting. Famous parks usually are filled with people, so getting shots that are of just the couple without tons of other tourists in the way is very difficult unless you go very early in the morning.
Also while the park may make for a wonderful subject for landscape shooters, unless you want all your photos of you two to be grand sweeping landscapes where you are both the size of a pinhead in the shot, they aren’t critical to beautiful engagement photos.
Photographers will look for places with even, open shade, so that you don’t have to squint in the sun and you don’t have white “hot spots” from dappled sunlight through trees. The time of day when this type of light is most readily available is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. This is what photographers refer to as the “golden hour.” The light also has a lovely golden warm hue during those times, which is really flattering in photos.
For the location I suggest picking something that has meaning to you and that isn’t too busy. Do you both love coffee? Find a cute coffee shop and do some of the shoot there. Love going to the movies? Find a movie theater with an old fashioned marquee and do some shots with that. Is there any street art or landmarks that are special to the neighborhood where you live? That can make for a memorable background in case you end up moving from the area eventually. Met in college? Studied together at the library during med school? Go to those spots and wander down memory lane.
If there is nothing in particular that really leaps out at you, then ask your photographer where they like to shoot. They will likely have bunches of locations that they love and that will give you the quality photos you hoped for.
Last but certainly not least, try to enjoy yourself. The best pictures come when you just let go and interact with your fiancé. Then the pictures will look natural, instead of stiff and posed. Believe it or not, your engagement session can actually be fun. Now get out there and get the engagement photos of your dreams!