Engagement photos have evolved. Gone are the days where you just need a pretty picture with a pretty backdrop for your Save the Dates. Those kind of images end up being forgotten and dare I say it? — a waste of your time and money.
Instead, I want to create more authentic engagement photos by infusing meaning and storytelling into your session. I want you to scroll through your engagement gallery and say “these are so us”. Your engagement photos should look the way your love feels. If you are craving those cinematic, in-the-moment photos from your engagement session, then keep reading to be inspired.
Reflect on Your Story as a Couple
The first thing to do for truly authentic engagement photos is get into the right head space. While you’re wedding planning, it can be super easy to get caught up in the details — the aesthetic, the color palette, the vibe — and forget what truly matters. What really matters is that you are promising your future to the love of your life. Remember what a freaking big deal that is!
My first suggestion is always to take a trip down memory lane with your fiancé. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- How did you feel the first moment you laid eyes on each other?
- Where was your first date?
- What have you spent hours doing together as a couple?
- What’s your favorite thing to do together?
- If your friends were to tell me about your relationship, what would they choose to tell me?
- When did you know that your fiancé was “the one”?
- Do you have a favorite restaurant or bar?
- When do you feel like your fiancé is the most beautiful?
- What are three of your best memories together?
- What does your day-to-day routine look like together?
Use these questions to remind each other of where you’ve been, where you’re at and where you want to go as a couple. That’s step one.
Choose a Unique Location for Your Authentic Engagement Photos
Using your notes from your little memory lane exercise, you can begin crafting the vision for truly authentic engagement photos. One of the most crucial parts of creating a vision for your engagement session is choosing the session location.
It can feel a little overwhelming, but the location (or locations) will help lay the foundation for authentic engagement photos. The reflection exercise should spark a few ideas in regards to location. Maybe you revisit your first date spot, take a walk around your neighborhood or maybe you love cooking together so you start looking for a beautiful kitchen space to rent for an hour or two on peerspace. It can even be as generic as we met in Los Angeles so we want our photos to take place in the DTLA Arts District.
My only advice on what to steer away from are standard landmark-type locations. Not only does it feel a little less creative and a little less “you”, popular landmarks tend to be the most crowded spots in any city and getting clean images with no one in them can be really difficult or even impossible.
Wardrobe, Beauty and Props
Some might simplify how important choosing your looks for your photos really is. They may tell you, there’s certain colors that photograph well and so on and although that’s true, I don’t think color or pattern are the most important part of this choice.
As you consider what to wear for your session, I recommend evaluating 3 things: appropriateness, fit & compatibility.
Appropriateness — aka make it make sense! For example, if your session is on a sandy beach, opt for a look without shoes. I see so many grooms refuse to take their shoes off on the sand because they don’t want sand in their socks after the session, but my guy — we can prepare for this ahead of time and pack a pair of sandals or slides to bring along. And high heels on the sand is not only odd-looking, it can be dangerous!
Next up, Fit — your clothes should fit you well and comfortably. This means try everything on well ahead of time to be sure it’s hitting you right and looks flattering so you can feel confident in it. If you really want to wear something but it’s a little off, take it to the tailor and make it fit perfectly. You won’t regret it. The last thing you want to do is order a dress that arrives a day before your session only to find it doesn’t look the way you were hoping.
Thirdly, compatibility — try outfits on together to see if they look nicely side by side. Don’t worry about matching colors — this isn’t prom after all. Ask yourself, do we look like we’re on our way to the same place? Oftentimes, I see a bride wearing a casual, weekend-style dress and they show up with their partner dressed in what I’d describe as business casual. There’s a disconnect there. The photos will look more natural and authentic if your wardrobe feels less like two nice outfits and more like a natural expression of your personal style as a couple.
This applies to any beauty (aka hair & makeup) you plan as well. You want the beauty look to feel appropriate in relation to what you’re wearing and the environment you’ll be in and you don’t want one partner out-glamming the other, so keep the level of formality similar when it comes to grooming.
Still stumped on your wardrobe? Check out even more tips on what to wear for your engagement photos.
Finally a note on props: do not add props to your session unless it enhances the story we are telling. A great example of this is a couple I photographed a few years back. In their brainstorming session, they told me that they like to ride their bikes together every weekend, so we brought their bikes along to their session and captured some really playful memories of them on their bikes, which was an authentic reflection of their routines as a couple.
TL;DR — For wardrobe, beauty & props, make it make sense 🙂
Create a Mood Board
I am really into visual aids, so creating a mood board is a crucial step in this process in my opinion! Now that you have your location chosen, your wardrobe, beauty and even maybe props to bring along you’ll want to gather these ideas in one place to summarize your goals for the session.
The mood board should visually articulate a few things:
- Photos of the exact location(s)
- Photos of the exact wardrobe choices
- Photos of the makeup inspiration (if applicable)
- Photos of the hairstyle inspiration (if applicable)
- Photos that capture the essence or feeling you want the session to evoke (romantic, chic, playful, etc.)
At Cheers Babe, we actually create this mood board for you after an engagement session brainstorming call we do together. That way you and I are one the same page and I’m ready to execute your vision in the photos.
Let Go & Live a Little
This is easy in theory, but pretty difficult in practice. Most of you haven’t had your photo professionally taken before and are likely walking in to the session with a few insecurities. Believe it or not, I feel the same way when I have my photo taken.
What I know for sure though is that the more you let yourself have fun and enjoy the process, the more flattering and memorable the photos come out. This is the moment you want to hush that negative little voice in your head and say,
“No. You’re not welcome here! I’m marrying the love of my life and this moment in time is beautiful and therefore deserves to be documented beautifully”.
Instead of worrying about flyaway hairs or how big your arms might look, focus your mental attention on your fiancé. Remind yourself how deeply you love them. Recall a fun memory you have with them. Whisper sweet nothings in their ear in passing. Be present with your partner and with yourself. Exude confidence. Know that your love is so incredibly beautiful. The more you believe this while you are being photographed, the more strongly it comes across in the final outcome.
While you are having your photo taken, I will compliment you, but only you can choose to stay present. Only you can choose to be a little bit vulnerable and give me a peek into your love story. I am so deeply honored to capture it.
If you’d like to speak with me about a session like this — a truly authentic engagement session — I’d be thrilled to set up a chat. Hit the button below, tap inquire on the top right of this page or simply start following along on Instagram. I already can’t wait to hear your love story.