10 Tips to NAIL your Engagement Shoot!
Updated: Feb 5, 2020
Posing is an ART. But lets be real, not every couple knows how to work it in front of a camera and the idea of having to pose yourself can incite a bit of fear in most couples. On top of that, there are SADLY way to many photographers out there that just don't know how to pose/direct their couples.
After photographing countless engagement sessions, I can hopefully provide some tips and tricks to make the most of our time together and keep the session fun and pain-free!
#1. Pick an activity or location that’s comfortable to you!
The point of the engagement session is to spend some time getting to know each other, and capturing great photographs of you and your fiance having fun together. It’s basically a date with your photographer, and the images we create along the way should truly resonate with who you are together at this point in your lives. The activities you choose can be anything that you enjoy together, maybe this means starting the session off at your favorite hiking spot; or if a nice glass of wine is more your thing, let’s skip the hike and head to the best wine bar in town! It can be as active as going surfing or as quiet as making Sunday morning brunch together in your apartment and snuggling in with a book and your cats. If you’re at all unsure about an activity or you're having trouble coming up with ideas, feel free to ask your photographer for a quick engagement session brainstorm! Trust me, we love coming up with crazy fun ideas to enhance your shoot!
#2. Get Creative!
If you’re having trouble picturing your favorite activities together as ‘photo-shoot-worthy’, start making a list either together or with your photographer of ways you can jazz it up but still feel like you! Perhaps nothing makes you happier than a Friday night movie or Netflix marathon; turn it into a drive-in movie date instead, complete with a sunset Frisbee game before the movie starts, a trip to the concession stand to load up on popcorn and Twizzlers, and pajamas and duvets in the back of your car with the hatch open, laying down on the cute spiritual looking blanket you impulse bought from an Instagram ad at 3 am. Or maybe you two make an easy brunch on your biggest cutting board as you have a food fight in the middle of cooking. Maybe Sunday brunch is your usual ritual together but, you’re not in love with the dark apartment you’re currently renting. Let’s start the day with a trip to your favorite outdoor destination, lay out another impulse bought blanket and have a picnic with some tasty wine and then light off some smoke bombs to spice it up! The goal is to tell the story of who you are, and everybody has a photo/video-worthy story! So lets tell it!
#3. Dress to feel like yourself!
‘What do I wear’ is one of the most common questions I'm asked before an engagement shoot. There are so many options it’s hard to come up with an easy overall answer! The best advice I can offer is to dress comfortably for yourself, while also keeping in mind your chosen engagement session activities. If you’ve decided to go hiking in the fall, wear your favorite hiking outfit complete with big woolly sweaters and your well worn hiking boots with the red laces. If cocktail hour at the classy bar downtown is your thing, maybe it’s a good chance to pull out that silky dress you bought for a Christmas party and haven’t worn yet. If you’re at all unsure about a chosen outfit, pattern, or color, you can always ask your photographer. The final piece of outfit advice I can offer is to dress to the same level. Try to style yourselves together as a couple, rather than picking your outfits separately and hoping they work together. I don’t mean matching white turtlenecks 90’s style, but if you’re planning on dressing for a nice night out together, avoid the couple combo of high heels and hockey jerseys. Unless that’s really your thing then, you do you boo boo.
#4. What do I do with my Hands and Arms!?
Another common question that I get asked all of the time and at least 70% of all of the couples I have worked with always ask me this question. A good general rule is to always have them at your waistline or above. Trust me, photographers definitely hate it when their couples have their arms just hanging there. With that being said though, a good photographer will have no problem letting you know where to put your hands. However if he/she is inexperienced don't be afraid to throw your arm around your mans shoulder, grab his butt, lick his face, have fun with it! Let your hands be free and don't be afraid to move them around as long as they are not just dangling there like wet noodles which brings me to my next tip!
#4. PDA! PDA! PDA!
Get intimate ya'll! I have to remind clients and people that I tutor all the time that as a photographer, we are here to capture your love for each other, not some cheesy, fake, unrealistic version of your love! Give me something real to work with! Tell your man to whisper a dirty joke to you while your photographer is moving you in and out of poses. Tell each-other how sexy you both look in your outfits, Most importantly, have fun and laugh with each-other. There really should be very few moments that make you feel like your actually partaking in a photo shoot. If the photographer has done his/hers job, the entire experience will have ended up feeling like an awesome date with your significant other rather than a photo-shoot, which brings me to my next tip!
#5. Pretend like we aren't there!
I know that's a lot easier said than done, especially when you have a camera in your face but, to be honest some of my best work has come from couples who really know how to act like I'm not there. Take for example these images of Mike and Allison. After moving them through a few poses I said, "I'm gonna be moving all around you guys like a mad man but, I want you to ignore me for a bit, this is your special moment!" The two started becoming even more intimate and lovey than before. They didn't even realize it at the time but, they had began moving in and out of there own natural poses as they kissed, cuddled, and held each other. The end product was a couple's session that felt extremely natural, real, and full of the love that these two shared for each other.
#6. Make it into a date!
Treat your engagement session like a date and put yourself into the mindset to relax, have fun, and feel more romantic than your average night out. Take the afternoon off together to do something fun before your engagement session, spend some time getting dressed up without the rush and stress of having to be somewhere quickly after work. Maybe finish the evening off by making reservations for a later dinner post photo-shoot at that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try for ages. Turning your shoot into an EXPERIENCE will make it something to look forward to and something to remember!
#7. Let your photographer get to know you!
Very few people come into their engagement sessions with hours of childhood modeling experience for the Sears catalog in their back pocket, and having your photo taken together can be daunting. No need to fear, your friendly neighborhood photographer is hear! That last sentence may actually be the cheesiest thing ill ever say. Ever... Right off the bat your photographer knows that the quickest way to get the best shots, is to break the ice and become your friend as quickly as possible. So be open and let them do that! Trust me when I say, that there's nothing worse than showing up to a shoot where your couple is afraid to be themselves! Your going to hate the photos just as much as we will hate having to edit them! One cringey photo after the next... So It’s easiest to be doing something that you both enjoy! This is why tip #1, #2, #3 and #6 are so important! They help put you guys at ease and in your element and the more in your zone you two feel, the better the pictures will turn out. Talk, laugh, be weird and when you’re feeling weird, high five if you’re high fivers! Throughout your session help your photographer get to know who you are as a couple. If you’re set up to cuddle on the couch but, really you’re much more loving when making sarcastic jokes while sipping your coffee in separate chairs, then tell your photographer that! Remember this is a practice session for the wedding day, so if you never exchange forehead kisses, don’t let us take tons of forehead kissing photographs on your engagement session and wedding day, these will never be your favorite shots.
#9. Create a List!
A good photographer has the ability to almost instantly break the ice with his/hers couple and get your mind off of posing, while simultaneously telling you how to place yourself. This allows for the couple to let go of any fears or stigmas they may have prior to their session, creating a much more enjoyable experience for both parties. However, if your photographer doesn't have that skill just yet, I recommend prior to your shoot, compiling a list of poses that you would like to have your photographer run through to help them out. An experienced photographer probably already created a shot list for your engagement shoot based on the style, location, season, and clothing chosen for your shoot but, you never know. I find Pintrest to be a pretty dang good platform for this seeing as how you can create an entire mood board dedicated to your shoot!
10. Don’t take it too seriously!
Seriously. We’ve already established that having your photo taken can feel awkward, so if you’re feeling weird then let it show! Don’t be afraid to be silly, and trust that your photographer will capture the best photographs that represent you together. If you think you’re trying to gaze lovingly at each other while the sun is setting, but are just barely stifling a laugh, let it out! Snort like a pig, howl like a monkey, bark like a dog if you have to! Chances are you’ll appreciate the photo of you two howling with laughter together at your inside jokes more than any cinematic romantic sunset shot down the road anyways.
Well kids there you have it! If you liked what you read feel free to send this off to anybody you know that is looking to book an engagement with their local friendly neighborhood photographer!
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