When couples book an engagement session with me, I always get asked about outfit choices (yes, I sometimes get the girls texting me photos of their outfits to get my opinion!), locations, and what to bring. In this post, I’ll tell you how to nail your engagement session and get perfect photos that you’ll be dying to post right away.
An engagement shoot (AKA pre-wedding shoot) is a session that you book with your photographer a couple of months before the wedding. Many of our couples book a shoot with us to get comfortable in front of the camera, and they will often use their images to add an extra personal touch to their wedding.
If you’ve read my other article about why you need to book an engagement session, you’ll know that they are a really useful (and fun) way to kick off your wedding celebrations.
1. Your outfit choices can make or break your photos.
It seems like an obvious point, but a lot of people get this wrong by choosing ill-fitting, uncomfortable, or inappropriate (for the setting) clothing. The best way to plan what to wear is to think about the mood you’re going for in your photos, and your personalities. Are you going for fun, silly, relaxed, formal, dramatic, urban, rustic/vintage, elegant, traditional, or a mix of these?
If you’re going for something relaxed, consider a beach shoot in a nice sun dress, with your partner in some rolled up slacks and a nice buttoned-up shirt. If you’re thinking more formal and elegant, consider a long flowing gown and a sharp suit. Rustic/vintage, maybe go with a peaked cap and britches for him, and an A-line dress for you.
Whatever you choose for your engagement shoot outfits, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable in what you’re wearing, and that your style matches your partner’s (without being TOO matchy-matchy).
2. Pick a location (or ask me for help).
This is the fun part – thinking about where you’d like to go for your engagement session. My biggest piece of advice to my couples is to pick somewhere that’s going to look different to your wedding day. For example: if you’re getting married in a garden setting (or having your bridal party photos in one), do something different (beach/urban/rocks etc.) for your engagement session. This will ensure you get lots of variety in your photos.
If you want something different to the usual city/Sydney Harbour Bridge/Opera House backdrop, let your mind wander! I’ve photographed engagement sessions in industrial areas, waterfalls, sand dunes, vineyards and barren rocky outcrops. This is your chance to get photos that you may not be able to get on your wedding day.
I like to think I know Sydney quite well and I’ve got a long list of engagement session locations I’d love to explore with you, so just ask me if you need ideas.
3. Choose the right time of day.
Sunset photos are ideal for any coastal locations (beach, rocks, cliffs etc.). Because you’re looking out to the horizon with no obstructions, you can get some truly spectacular photos when the sun is just about to disappear and the sky starts to explode into vibrant colours.
For most other locations (forest, inner-city etc.) any time of day is fine as the sun is obstructed and there are more shaded areas to utilise. In fact, I really love doing engagement sessions in the city in the middle of the day because there’s an endless supply of shadows, lines created by the sun, and building reflections to create dynamic and unpredictable images.
4. Get a hair and make-up trial.
While you can save a bit of money by doing your own hair and make-up, it will make a huge difference to your engagement photos if you get it done by a professional. Your finished images will look a more polished and eye-catching. If possible, book the studio that will be doing your wedding make-up and hair, so that you can get an idea of how you will look in your wedding photos.
Typically, girls will do a trial in the morning, and meet me in the afternoon for their engagement session.
5. Overcast or sunny?
The popular belief is that overcast weather results in “better” photos – whatever that means. As a wedding photographer, I have to be able to create beautiful images in any conditions at all times of day.
What I’ve learned from over 10 years of photographing weddings is that overcast and sunny days aren’t necessarily “better” or “worse” for photos – just different. Overcast/cloudy days are good because you can get moody, dramatic skies, and an evenly lit scene. However, because everything is lit evenly it is harder to direct the viewer to the subject (i.e. the couple). I typically bring additional lighting to add some pop and interest to the image.
Sunny days, on the other hand, can produce very dynamic, interesting engagement shoot photos because of the sun bouncing off surfaces, creating shadows, and creating unusual patterns of light. A lot of photographers will run for the nearest shady area on a sunny day, but I’ve learned to embrace the sun over the years.
Bonus tip: Have your engagement photos at night
I absolutely love shooting at night, especially in the city. The streets shimmer with neon and tungsten, casting interesting colours in every direction. Consider having your engagement session at night for intimate, colourful and eye-catching photos.
If you take some time to choose what to wear, your shoot location, and time of day, I assure you that you’ll get beautiful, post-worthy engagement photos that you’ll be proud to show to the world.