Want to improve your engagement photography? You’ve come to the right place.
I’ve been doing engagement sessions for years, and in this article, I share a handful of practical tips to level up your shots, including:
- A few easy methods to help your clients feel more relaxed
- A quick way to make your images more meaningful
- My favorite trick to keep poses fluid and dynamic
- Much more!
Sound good? Then let’s dive right in, starting with:
1. Have a consultation before the session
The best engagement photos aren’t just beautiful, they’re significant – they encapsulate who the couple is and what makes the couple special.
As a portrait photographer, you’ll struggle to create deep, meaningful images if you don’t know anything about the people you’re photographing. So don’t go in blind; instead, have a simple meeting, either in person or by video, where you and the couple talk about what your session will entail.
I’d recommend discussing location preferences. Different portrait locations can help tell the couple’s story! Ask questions like, “What feeling do you want in your engagement photos? Do you want something earthy and outdoorsy? Or would you be interested in a more urban effect?” It’ll help you get a sense of the surroundings they want in their photos, and it’ll also help you understand where they’d feel most comfortable shooting.
Pro tip: If you can find a location that is special to them, the results are often amazing. So ask about that, too!
I’d also encourage you to discuss clothing changes – and if you can and they’re willing, spend plenty of time covering special information about their relationship. Start the latter portion of the conversion by asking how their wedding is coming along and how they met. Then let the conversation go from there!
It’ll give you lots of insight into who they are as a couple – and it’ll also convey that you’re not only interested in the session, but that you’re also interested in them as people.
2. Add something special just for them
I love making my engagement photos feel more personal, and a great way to do that is by adding something special – a familiar location, a meaningful prop, etc.
For instance, you might:
- Shoot at the location where the couple first met
- Shoot at the location where the couple went on their first date
- Ask the couple to bring a meaningful object, such as an item of jewelry or a heartfelt letter
- Create a scene around an activity that the couple loves to do together
Make sure you mention these possibilities at the consultation so you (and they) can plan in advance. (That’s why it’s so important to prepare questions!)
Also, don’t feel like you need to include all of the personal touches you discuss; if you can add one or two, then consider it a win. (After all, not every location will be accessible, and not all couples have meaningful objects that look good in photos!)
And don’t get hung up on making everything deeply personal. The idea here is to include a thoughtful element, not to derail the entire session trying to keep everything perfect.
3. Prep before the session
At this point, you should have completed your consultation, and you should have a few ideas in mind for locations and images…
…which means that it’s time to enter the planning phase.
First, prepare your gear. Think about the kinds of photos you’d like to take and make sure you pack the relevant lenses. (A checklist can be helpful, here!) You might also want to consider the time of day you’ll be shooting and whether you’ll need flashes and lighting modifiers.
I’d also recommend finding some inspirational photos. These might feature the feeling that you’re after, or they might offer useful couple posing or portrait lighting ideas. Regardless, save at least 10; that way, if you need a refresh during the session or you want to try something new, you can just whip out your phone, swipe through the images, and keep on shooting.
(In my experience, carrying a set of images with posing and lighting suggestions can make you far more confident on the day of the session, and it can be a lifesaver if you get stuck or need to change things up!)
It’s a good idea to confirm with the couple a few days before the session. Ask them if they have any questions for you, and quickly run over the plan. The more accessible and helpful you are, the more reassured the couple will feel, and the more comfortable they’ll look when standing in front of your camera!
Finally, get to the chosen location early (even if it’s a place where you’ve shot in the past). Walk around, observe the light, and consider specific shooting scenarios. If you have a plan – even just an outline – the session will run more smoothly and you won’t lose momentum.
4. Be a friend, not just a photographer
If you’ve done a consultation and you’ve followed up to confirm the plan, then you’ve laid the right “friendliness” groundwork. Now it’s time to take that to the next level.
When the couple shows up, don’t start shooting right away. Spark up a conversation with them. Ask them how their day has been. Discuss wedding preparations. That way, your clients will be far more relaxed – and you’ll have a chance to relax, too, if you’re nervous. (Nerves, by the way, are completely normal! Plenty of seasoned photographers still get nervous before a big shoot.)
Then during the session, keep your conversation going. Obviously, you’ll need to direct the couple, but the rest of the time, you should talk. Talk as you walk from location to location, talk as you prepare new lighting setups or change lenses, and talk after the photoshoot is done.
You see, the more you talk, the less awkward the whole thing will feel. Silence leads to awkwardness, but a constant back and forth will prevent feelings of discomfort, and it’ll ensure that your clients have a great experience.
Don’t feel like you need to have a deep conversation, though. You can talk about anything: the weather, the news, or even sports. When your clients have a good time, it will shine through in the photos!
5. Keep the session moving
Each session and couple is different…
…but in my experience, it’s pretty much always essential to keep the session moving smoothly. If you include too many long breaks while setting up lighting, looking for locations, and so on, the couple will tire quickly or become bored.
So make sure you’re constantly offering the couple new poses, and make sure you don’t linger too long on any particular idea or location.
This is why getting to the area ahead of time and making a plan is so handy. You can come up with various lighting, posing, and location ideas. While you won’t need each and every idea, you’ll always have a few options in the back of your mind to use as required!
Also, if a pose isn’t working, it’s a good idea to move on – but whatever you do, don’t mention that you dislike the pose; that might make the couple feel like they’re doing something wrong, which will cause them to clam up. On the other hand, if a pose looks amazing, be sure to tell them! It’ll build their confidence and help them stay engaged during the session.
One more pro tip: If the shoot is starting to feel stale, a clothing change can easily break through the monotony and make things interesting again.
6. Take charge, but let your clients participate
In my view, the best engagement photoshoots involve a balance. Yes, you should let the clients offer ideas, but you should also remain firmly in charge.
Head into the session knowing that you will be the leader. Then direct the couple carefully. If you have a pose in mind, demonstrate it first. Set the rhythm of the photoshoot, and maintain your pace.
It might seem scary, especially if you’re just starting out. But remember: You’re the photographer! You’re the one who knows what to do, and if you take charge, the couple will believe that you are confident in your work. (For those of you who are on the shy side, don’t worry; it’ll become more natural with time!)
While it’s important for you to lead, I’d also encourage you to let your clients become a part of the process. Ask them for ideas and poses as you go along. Tell them that you welcome their input (and even if their ideas are bad, don’t shoot them down!). Always allow them to be a part of the creative process. It’ll make them more confident, and it’ll offer up lots of natural shooting opportunities.
7. Have fun
This last one might sound simple, but it’s incredibly important:
Whatever you do, make sure you’re having fun during engagement sessions! I’m guessing that you got into photography because you enjoyed it, so why not enjoy paid sessions, too?
In fact, if you follow all the tips I shared above, both you and the couple will have a great time. You should have a nice conversation, have fun trying out different poses and ideas, and ultimately leave with smiles on your faces.
Engagement photography: final words
Now that you’ve finished this article, you’re ready to rock your engagement sessions!
These tips will help clients act themselves and ensure you capture real expressions and real moments. (Plus, if all goes well, you’ll have fun along the way!)
So remember my advice. And have a great time!
Which of these engagement photography tips is your favorite? Which do you plan to use in your next photoshoot? Share your thoughts in the comments below!