5 ways you can rock your engagement photos AND save the dates

October 14 |

Engagement photos! As a wedding photographer I pretty much love engagement sessions — for me, they're a great way for me to get to know the couple I'm working with and for the couple to get to know me. For couples, they're a fun way to capture a period in your life that DOESN'T directly involve the wedding — it's just you and yours, doing your thing. Engagement photos also often serve a second purpose: you can make really amazing save the date cards using the photos from your session. That is, assuming you like the photos in the first place!

So how can you make sure you love your engagement photos? I included FOUR photos from this session because Kate and Jason's photos basically underscore everything I'm about to say. When we first started talking about their session, one of them tossed out the idea of just shooting at their home — and it immediately felt right. As a photographer I like to shoot where my couples are comfortable, and since a lot of people really pour a lot of themselves into loving their homes it makes sense. So without further ado, here are five ways you can OWN those engagement photos — and make the perfect save the dates:

Pick a location you love

Mitchell grew up at the foot of the mountains in the distance, and regularly visited Scenic Beach State Park (where we shot) while growing up. Ta-da, perfect engagement photos spot!

As I mentioned, I love shooting in the home of the couple, but that's not always an option. If you don't want to shoot in your home for whatever reason, pick a few spots that really resonate with you. If there's a local record shop you guys frequent, see if you can shoot there! Head out to a park, cafe, or book store that you really love. Whether you live in a huge city or a tiny town, there's got to be at least one place that is special to the two of you — so go there. Be in that place, where you're always happy and comfortable, and let your photographer spin his or her magic.

Make sure you're doing YOU

Sarah and Becca decided to joust in their engagement photos, and it was pretty amazing.

Sarah and Becca (the two in the photos above) had maybe the most mellow engagement session ever. We walked around a few blocks, got to know one another (they're living in Connecticut, so the session was the first time we met… and it also took place four days before their wedding), and shot a few photos. They have a really sweet, effortless chemistry, so it was just plain eeeeeassssyyy… except toward the end they weren't sure if they had any photos that really felt like "them." The next thing I know they're jousting on the sidewalk, and boom: insta "us" photos.

In short: you do YOU. If you want to skip in fields and hold hands and sing Mamas and the Papas songs, just understand that the photo won't have sound. If you want to joust on the sidewalk, just do it. Everyone who sees the photos knows and loves you and will probably nod and say, "Yep. That's them!"

Don't worry about props — unless you want to

Hannah and Matt being adorable without props, and Hannah and Matt being adorable WITH props. It's your call!

So as a photographer and as a human being I have a love/hate relationship with props in photos. I love them because I get it: props are a most excellent way to show bits and pieces of your personalities and what makes you guys YOU. I hate them because sometimes they feel a little forced.

Basically, here's what it comes down: if you're both big-time Star Wars fans and you just have to include Star Wars in your engagement photos (see above!) it will look and feel right and like you because it WILL be right and like you. If you don't really like the idea of props and only want to have them because the internet tell you to, don't opt in. Your photos will still look awesome! Promise.

Love what you're wearing

Jamie and Cameron opted for zombie-themed wear for their engagement/family photos.

BY FAR one of the questions I most frequently get is, "What should we WEAR?!" I get why this matters — you want to look good in your photos! There's totally a delicate line between being coordinated and being matchy-matchy. I also recognize that a lot of photographers have a specifically honed aesthetic, and that you might want your photos to fit that style — especially if that style is why you hired your photographer in the first place.

As I have always been primarily driven by color, light, and emotion aesthetically and professionally, I tell my couples the same thing: wear what makes you feel like you. If you have a favorite shirt, wear that favorite shirt. If you know you always feel good in a specific pair of jeans or pants, wear them! I don't recommend buying completely new clothes the day before (or of!) the session — give it at least a few days to wear them and make sure they feel right on your body.

Also, you don't have to be fancy. If fancy is your thing, that's awesome (again: you do you!), but I also love the non-fancy. When Jamie and Cameron showed up at our second location in their zombie shirts I nearly cried from glee. ZOMBIE SHIRTS.

Relax

You guys might remember these two from their wedding that was featured on the site, but back in January 2013 when we shot their engagement photos they had never met me, and (as it usually does), it took a little while before they were used to the sound of the ever-constant shutter. We shot at two spots — the Oregon Coast Aquarium (where I geeked out because Keiko lived there back in the day!) and at a beach. The aquarium photos are totally awesome — there are quite a few that I love — but I feel like Lauren and Jordan really relaxed when they were out by the sea, black coats and boots on. They were just two people in love… who happened to have a photographer tailing them.

That's all I've got: what tips do you have for excelling at taking engagement photos that you'll love?

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  1. Is that beach shoot at Seal Rock?? The Aquarium and Seal Rock are the exact places we're planning our engagement photos! (And maybe a stop at the Rogue Brewery.) Thanks for the tips! We almost did our photos in a garden we'd never been to. I'm so much more excited about our photos now that they're planned for meaningful places.

  2. Great post! And I love the photos!

    The whole "do you" thing is so true and important — My fiance and I had our engagement photos done and our photographer was just "do your thing and pretend we're not here" and we were all "we don't HAVE a thing" but when we got our photos back…we totally do. 🙂 We also had them done at 2 places that mean a lot – a park where we had our first kiss waaaaay back in high school, and the Wayside Inn grist mill, where we got engaged. 😀

    I love my photos and I HATE HATE HATE having my picture taken.

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  3. All great tips. I love engagement sessions too. I feel like they help me to really get to know my clients and I love working with two people that are in love when they're not freaking out (like on their wedding day).

  4. The "Do you" advice is awesome. We actually had two engagements sessions (both given as a gift). For the first one we went to our favorite museum and made giant bubbles. It felt more like a date than a photo session and the resulting photos of us were relaxed, intimate and simply gorgeous.
    For the second session we didn't really "do" anything. We chose a building that we loved and just walked around for a bit. We started to feel like we were boring humans and ended up doing some pretty forced poses. The photos turned out nice from a technical perspective; but we both look a little stiff and awkward.

  5. I'm pretty nervous about doing an engagement shoot – probably more so than having the photographer at the wedding. I've got social anxiety and am very much about not drawing attention to myself in public. While it's expected at at wedding, it's not so expected to see people being followed around by a photographer just going about their day (unless you live in LA, maybe?). I can totally see us taking photos at, say, our favorite bar or park, but the idea of people stopping and staring is deeply embarrassing. Maybe we'll go with the photos at home idea. Or have the photographer meet us after we've been at the bar for an hour or two.

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    • I was seriously considering just having our photographer join us for the beginning stages of a pub crawl (you know, before we get plastered drunk lol).

  6. My husband is extremely photo-phobic, so our gal Kristi with Camelot Photography was made well aware of that in advance. We also wore T-shirts that we loved and were "themed" to us and chose locations where we knew we'd feel comfortable, including the computer server data center where he works because he's been an ISP admin since he was 13. When we got the engagement photos back, we chose the ones we liked the most and it turned out that he was really happy about how he looked in many of them. I sent the link of the curated ones to his mother and she told him later on that she was so surprised that he even allowed engagement photos to take place.

    Can't wait to get the actual wedding photos back in about eight weeks!

    • So your pics from kristi turned out ok? I fell in love with her website photos but can't find ANY reviews on any camelot photographers except Matt, which worries me.

  7. This is so true! Engagement shoots are so much better when a couple picks a spot that's really important to them and their relationship (I also love starting in people's homes, but it happens so infrequently). The traditional spots can be fun, and we mix them up, but a meaningful spot can add another layer to the images.

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