Why you should absolutely do engagement photos if they’re included in your wedding package

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Jill & Kevin 01
It's also an awesome excuse to practice your wizard duels. Photo by Wild About You Photography.

I didn't think we wanted engagement photos. My partner hates being the center of attention and has requested we try to find a wedding photographer who won't act like paparazzi. But a lot of the photographers I'm seeing have packages that include an engagement session.

I don't think we want to do them, even if they're free. What do people even use them for? Is there any reason to do them? -spacadet

So here's something weird about free engagement shoots: they're really not about the photos that are produced or what you do with them. They're about practicing.

Photographers who are smart often include free engagement sessions for their wedding photographer clients, because the “need to practice” issue is hugely important for both the photographer AND the couple! The couple needs to get comfortable both with being photographed and with the photographer… and the photographer needs to get comfortable with the couple's personalities, styles, and quirks.

This is especially true if your partner is camera shy. Those of us who hate being photographed can get really awkward around cameras, and are prone to doing things like always making the same terrified/frozen smile every time the shutter snaps. A good photographer will work to get both of you comfortable, and look for ways to make you relax and settle in so that they can capture more natural, honest expressions.

As for what people do with engagement photos, here are a few of the most common uses:

That said, even if you literally NEVER look at the engagement photos, the huge value of a trial run for both you and the photographer makes them completely worth your time. While I'd never suggest anyone feel like they need to pay extra for an engagement session, smart photographers include them in a wedding package — and smart couples take them up on the offer.

Oh, and if part of why you're hesitant to do them is because you think engagement shoots are all about contrived lovey-dovey poses, here are a few of our favorite engagement shoot concepts that we've collected in our Engagement Shoot Inspiration Pinterest board.

Hesitant about doing an engagement shoot?

Comments on Why you should absolutely do engagement photos if they’re included in your wedding package

  1. I think engagement session photos are way cooler than wedding photos. No matter how you your wedding garb may be, the photos will always be photos from your wedding. I feel like engagement photos show off just a little bit more of you. They feel like glimpses at your everyday selves. I’m continually wishing I had more really nice, professional shots of myself, my partner and the two of us together. ’cause remember–just because it’s an engagement session doesn’t mean every photo needs to be of you both.

  2. I want to echo the “getting to know each other” aspect of the engagement session. When we had ours, the only thing we had to go off of was the impression we got as we were hiring our photographer. After the engagement session, we knew we had made the right choice.

    I also HATE my photo being taken, to the point that I am always the one behind the lens instead of in front of it. Getting used to be “papparazzoed” is definitely good for me as it allowed me to get the training wheels off before the wedding comes (in September). It also allowed me to see what kind of work would be produced from picture of us, rather than extrapolating what they could look like based off of other people’s photos.

    We also used one of our photos for our Save the Date magnets, which was an added bonus.

  3. I’m marrying into a family with an 11 year old with Asperger’s. It was important to help him and his older brother to feel comfortable with our photographer and it’s a big reassurance knowing that we all have a good rapport with her. Well, now all the guys (and the gal) are in a better position to cope with the big day. I now feel like our photographer is on my team to help me get through the day. Yeah, we got some really great photos too.

  4. Our photographer actually uses engagement photos as a chance to experiment with techniques. He is crazy busy with clients so engagement photos are his time to play around a bit too. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a total pro and our engagement photos look awesome. But he is still able to be more flexible and risky doing engagement shoots than wedding shoots and if he tries out a new technique and it bombs, he hasn’t just ruined your wedding photos.

  5. You’re totally on the money, Ariel! I gave a similar tip in my wedding submission. My husband and I recently got married, and though he isn’t camera-shy, he spends more time behind the camera than in front of it. We were completely surprised that he was stiff and awkward during our wedding-day portraits. Perhaps an engagement shoot with our photographer would’ve brought his self-consciousness to light and he could’ve practiced ways to be more relaxed. We also realized afterward that we should’ve practiced kissing for the camera! Oh well. Live and learn.

  6. Oh yes, I wish we had. We figured we were already engaged and so moved our engagement photo set to be a trash the dress. That was a mistake.

    Instead, after the wedding, we could not get her to call us back. We ended up finally getting the shoot almost a full year later as an anniversary shoot (not in the dress). The work was hastily and poorly done, because the photographer was just no longer interested in impressing us.

    Our photographer was nervous and awkward about my very mainstream, but not Christian religion, probably not a good fit for us. We would have learned that in time if we’d done the engagement photo shoot before the wedding. Had we had a practice we could have either replaced her, or helped her get more comfortable with who we are.

  7. Ahhhh I have so many emotions about engagement photos. Part of me really really wants them because I am a huge photo/scrapbook person and so more photos = more better in my opinion, but on the other hand I know my fiance is less than excited about the idea. Plus I’m conflicted about who should shoot the engagement session – I have a friend who is photographer who has very kindly offered to do them, but she won’t be shooting our wedding (I want her to be a guest and enjoy herself, not be working). Should I book a second engagement shoot with our wedding photographer? I’m worried that is getting a little close to crazy territory, but I also really like this idea of engagement shoots as “practice” for the wedding. I’m also worried booking a second shoot will hurt my friend’s feelings since she is just starting out – I don’t want her to think her photos aren’t “real” engagement photos. #overthinking

    • Would it be possible to do one session with your friend and then another session with your wedding photographer? If you have time, there’s no such thing as too much practice, esp. if your fiance isn’t really into it. And working with your actual wedding photographer beforehand will allow you all to get comfortable with each other. Being comfortable usually means more natural photos!

    • I would really recommend that you get them because your fiance is less than thrilled. My husband hates to be the center of attention. He does not like to have his picture taken, and he did not want to have his picture taken at the wedding let alone have an engagement shoot. In the end, it worked out so well that we did the shoot before the wedding. I can’t really call it an engagement shoot because we did it a year after the engagement and only three weeks before the wedding. We learned a lot about the photographer at that shoot, and he learned about us. We did a lot of funny pictures and just had fun with it. It would be good for you to have a practice shoot with the photographer, call it whatever you want. (I was able to get the photographer to give it to me for free because I bought a package with photography and video.) You can always use your friend for the “official” engagement shoot.

  8. Here’s another endorsement for this article, and I’ll add to the list of reasons why (because I also agree with the getting-comfortable bit). I was nervous for the engagement photo session, but to be honest, I think I remember it more fondly than the wedding photo experience. The day flies by and you’re flying around everywhere and getting pulled in 17 directions, so even the time we posed for some pictures at the wedding, I felt like it was a weird break from our reception and that we should get back to all our awesome guests from out of country. Not the ‘special moment’ by any means.

    As for the engagement shoot, we decided to do it at our venue because it’s in a park and we figured we’d have to plan a route to get over this big hill and craggy rocks to do the shoot by the lake. It was a cool spring day and we were in jeans, and super comfortable. After the first few pictures, we realized that it was really ‘just us’ – and the pictures show it. Our photographer had a suggestion that I should be on his right side so that my ring would show off in the pictures, which I thought was kind of dumb (hello, I see it every day, duh). Instead, my husband grabbed my hand, pulled it around his head so that I was mauling his face with my ring visible to the camera, and we burst into laughter: that was the best picture of our whole series, engagement and wedding combined: truly us, being us. So…long story short: DO IT!

  9. Glad to see more of these educational posts going viral- much needed for both B&G and the industry in general! Awesome post & photos selected!

  10. I 100% agree with this! We weren’t really considering doing engagement portraits, but our photographer includes one ‘other’ photo session with his basic package and I for sure didn’t want a bridal or boudoir session. We LOVED getting to know our photographer a little better and I really needed the chance to get comfortable behind the camera. Plus, seeing the gorgeous pictures helped reiterate the fact that he’s amazing and we are totally thrilled with hiring him for our wedding.

    The pictures (in cheap but nice frames) made awesome no-brainer low cost holiday gifts and we made a book from the photos to use as our guest book. We also used one of the pictures as our save the date postcard. Bonus, I finally have plethora of non-camera phone selfies of the two of us!

    • Yes! After getting engaged and looking through our photos I realized that 99% of the pictures of us are iPhone selfies, mostly holding alcoholic beverages while making goofy faces. Probably not save the date worthy…

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