Things you might not expect from an engagement photo session (and the importance of bug spray)

July 29 | Guest post by Teaburg
Lisa & Chris18
Be prepared to rock your engagement photos with some been there/done that advice. (This photo is not of the author, but it is by Wild About You Photography)

I talked my fiancé into doing engagement pictures basically because I believed the posts on Offbeat Bride that suggested engagement pics are a great way to get comfortable being photographed… and they are a nice memento.

Problem the first: My guy felt completely un-photogenic and had no interest in paying someone to follow us around a forest taking pictures of us making out. I actually struggle with low self-esteem, and am currently in therapy about it. So the idea of spending money on a photo shoot made me uncomfortable, but I figured if the pictures turned out well it would help us both feel more comfortable in our skin.

Problem the second: We currently live in the middle of Alaska. We're getting married in Seattle. Yes, most photographers offer free engagement shoots when you book them for your wedding. But I couldn't wait to get engagement pictures done, and my fiancé and I agreed that if we did get them, we'd want them to be mementos of the time we spent in Alaska. So, I needed to find a photographer in this small town who would do JUST an engagement shoot, and do it well enough that the final result would convince my fiancé that he's a hottie.

I was also fairly nervous because I convinced myself that when we did eventually find a photographer for the wedding in Seattle he or she would be angry with us that we'd already done engagement pictures, or he or she would insist we redo them (because of the valuable role engagement pics can have in getting a photographer and the couple on the same page), or would think we were cretins. I don't know. I have a lot of thoughts that don't make a lot of rational sense, okay?

But here's what happened, and what I learned from the experience:

  • Our engagement photographer was FINE with us not using her as our wedding photographer. We had a clear reason why we couldn't — we are getting married in Seattle but living in Alaska. She did tell us she'd be willing to travel, but she understood that this was outside our budget. She didn't hold it against us.
  • Our photographer in Seattle didn't hate us for already having taken engagement pictures. I read a lot of stuff online about photographers insisting you do engagement pics with them so they can get to know you, but this photographer did not insist we do a second set. That allayed of my fears.
  • Taking the engagement pictures was MUCH LESS SCARY than I thought it would be. I spent weeks reading everything I could find about what to wear, how to do your makeup, etc. Honestly, it wasn't nearly as difficult and scary as I thought it would be.

  • I did my makeup for the pictures. I read the Offbeat Bride guide to doing wedding makeup and adjusted it. I used Urban Decay face primer, concealer, MAC eye primer, MAC eyeshadow, blush, a tiny bit of eyeliner, and mascara. I also got a new lipstick and gloss for the occasion. It turned out really well.
  • I just wore the outfit I felt most comfortable in. My fiancé bought a new shirt. We both felt cute in our outfits.
  • Our biggest mistake: NOT WEARING BUG SPRAY. We spent the entire shoot being eaten alive.
  • Our photographer chose the location. We hadn't visited it before the shoot. We told her we trusted her judgment and we made the right call.
  • We didn't use props. No Pinterest perfect chalkboards, or bunting showing our date, or "Thank you" or whatever.
  • Yes, it is awkward rubbing noses in front of someone but less awkward than either of us imagined.
  • Yes, our photographer did push us to do all the heteronormative gendered poses so that I looked like a "little lady" and he looked like a "big, strong man." I didn't really notice it very much at the time, but in retrospect, she did spend an awfully large amount of time telling us to pose in accordance with our gender.
  • We had to choose which 25 pictures we liked the most to keep. For our hour-ish shoot, she had about 150 for us to choose from. 25 was plenty.

The outcome? We both really like the pictures. We both think we look good in them. It definitely helped my fiancé get comfortable in front of the camera, and he's a lot more excited about wedding day photography.

What were your unexpected experiences from your engagement (or post-wedding) photo shoots? Got any tips to share?

  1. Great thoughts! I was also somewhat apprehensive about the whole someone-watching-us-do-cutesy-poses thing, and I was worried that they'd look cheesy. However, we picked our photographer because we really liked the looks of the pictures on their website, and so ours came out the way we wanted. It was nice to see what poses worked and which poses we didn't like (turns out we're not fond of the one-person-in-front-with-the-other-blurred-out-in-the-background shots or the pictures where our heads are cut off, which seems to be trendy right now), so when we get married next week we've got an idea of how we can pose to feel most comfortable.

    My biggest tip about getting engagement (or wedding) photos taken: take smile breaks. Seriously. I also read on another post about laughing and/or pausing to do a "serious face" between your photos to get a more natural smile, which would also work. We found that the pictures towards the end of our session didn't look as natural and happy as the earlier ones, because your smile starts to get a little forced and weird after an hour, so take a minute to stop smiling, talk to each other for a minute, and then go back to smiling. Your real smile will warp into your "I've-been-holding-this-for-an-hour" smile if you're not thinking about it!

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    • Also, be willing to try new things. Obviously if you know you hate something, don't waste your time with it (e.g. I won't be doing any jumping pictures), but sometimes a pose that you hadn't thought of can turn out to be your new favorite photo! And if it isn't, the world won't end; you just won't order that picture 🙂

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      • This happened to a friend, specifically with the bride in the mirror photo. We were making fun of it beforehand and it turned out to be one of best pictures. Maybe we'd only seen the bad ones before hers.

  2. Most people are really nervous when it comes to have their photos taken, that includes photographers. It's very normal and most people are critical of themselves. But if you trust your photographer and can relax, great pictures can happen. And I can attest from both sides of the camera 🙂

  3. Not wearing bug spray in the summer in Alaska? That's an amateur mistake!

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    • After I wrote this, my fiance reminded me that we did have bug spray with us. It just wore off and we didn't have a chance to reapply. We should have used something with more than 25% DEET, or asked the photog to let us bring it with us from the car to the shoot and hidden it behind a bush or something. If this post helps even one other couple over-spray themselves, then mission accomplished.

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  4. The biggest thing for me was realizing how not awkward it was to be photographed in front of strangers. I was mostly worried about other people seeing us have our pictures taken and being embarrassed by it, but it wasn't a big deal once we got started. The first half of our shoot was mostly stranger-free, but by the end of the shoot, we were walking around the city in front of lots of people. People just aren't interested in what you're doing!

  5. We took our photos at the place we're getting married (mainly because she was free, so we needed to see how her photos look… and she had never been to "our" Audubon before. Read my latest journal and see some of my photos!).
    All of the questions people were asking us were: "Did you see the owl?!" "I heard there's a hawk over here" I didn't have the heart to tell them we weren't there to photograph the birds 🙂

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  6. BIG YES to the bug spray. At the end of my engagement shoot, I had a mosquito bite the size of a golf ball on my knee, it was not pretty. 😐

    Our photographer also asked us to do a few gendered poses, which I wasn't all that thrilled about. But my fiancé thought it would be cute, so I went along with it. Turns out a few of those poses turned out rather well, and are some of our favourites! So yeah, you never know.

    Overall, the process was a lot less awkward than I thought it would be, me and the finacé giggled through the whole thing.

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