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17 Tips for a Perfect Engagement or Pre-Wedding Photoshoot

Carcassonne

An engagement (or pre-wedding) photoshoot is more than just a photo session, it’s an experience. It’s a chance for the couple to get comfortable with your photographer before the wedding day, and for the photographer to understand the couple’s personalities. In addition, you can use these photos for your save-the-date cards, display them at the reception, or use them to create a gorgeous wedding website.

As a photographer, I understand that preparing for your engagement session can be a little overwhelming. Therefore, I’ve compiled some suggestions for outfits and accessories that will make your engagement shoot preparations more manageable!

Before we begin, please note that this is a brief introductory guide. If you’re an AKG couple, you’ll receive my comprehensive Engagement Shoot Guidebook in your inbox, which will help you prepare down to the last detail.

The basics

Sintra Valley, Portugal

1. Location

Very often you will have your pre-wedding photoshoot one or two days before the wedding day itself, especially if you are having a destination wedding. In this case, you are probably already at a gorgeous location.

Just know, that with excellent lighting, any location can be transformed into an amazing photo spot. I always appreciate it when couples choose a location that holds sentimental value to them. Do you want to showcase a special place or moment in your relationship? Are you looking for a natural setting, an urban landscape, or something in between? Discuss different location options with your photographer to find the perfect spot that reflects your personality.

2. Plan ahead

Florence, Italy

To minimize unnecessary stress, it’s advisable to start discussing your engagement session with your photographer around 5-6 months prior to your wedding day. Your photographer is likely busy with weddings on weekends weddings, so it’s likely you will need to have your engagement shoot on a weekday.

Schedule your engagement shoot for a day when you both are feeling rested and relaxed. Avoid scheduling it for a day when you have other commitments or are feeling stressed. Also, consider the lighting during your preferred time of day.

3. Timing

As for photoshoot times, either early morning or late evening (about 2 hours before sunset) is best, because the light tends to be softer.

(When it comes to my couples, I typically schedule afternoon engagement shoots if the bride is having her hair and makeup professionally done. However, in rare cases where the location is very busy in the afternoon, we may choose to do a morning shoot instead. Nevertheless, I am always up for photographing couples amidst crowds. Take a look at this particular shoot I did in the bustling town of Amalfi during peak tourist season.)

Carcassonne, South of France

4. Duration

Based on my personal experience, the optimal length for an engagement shoot is usually between 2 to 3 hours. The initial 30 to 45 minutes of the session is typically considered a “warm-up” period for the couple to get comfortable being photographed. The best shots often happen in the second hour of the session when the couple has become more relaxed and natural in front of the camera.

5. Importantly… be on time

Arrive on time as the sun sets quickly, and the later you arrive, the less time we have to shoot.

Wardrobe is key

6. Prepare two looks

Most couples choose to have one casual, everyday outfit and one dressier outfit to achieve two completely different looks during the shoot. I suggest starting with the dressier outfit first.

7. Don’t try to match

Instead of trying to match each other’s outfits, aim to coordinate them instead. If everyone wore the exact same color during their engagement photo session, the resulting images would be dull and uninteresting.

8. Brides, consider having your hair and makeup done

Consider having your hair and makeup professionally done for your engagement shoot. Not only will it enhance your look, but it will also boost your confidence and help you feel camera-ready.

9. Accessorise

Don’t hesitate to be bold with your accessories and outfit choices! Scarves, bold necklaces, and fun shoes are always welcome. However, graphics and logos are not ideal for portraits. If you wear patterns, ensure that they aren’t too distracting or overwhelming.

10. Look for styling inspiration

If you’re struggling to come up with outfit ideas, be sure to browse my Pinterest boards for inspiration.

11. Empty your pockets

Empty your pockets before the shoot, so no keychains or phones are visible (especially for the guys!).

12. Comfort is important

It’s important to feel comfortable in what you’re wearing, and for ladies, avoid excessively low-cut tops as they limit shooting angles.

Don’t forget to bring a pair of flat shoes with you, just in case you need to do a lot of walking during your shoot. For example, during this photoshoot in Florence, we covered a significant amount of ground, and having flats on hand proved very helpful.

Think of it as an experience

13. Don’t stress about posing

Importantly, don’t worry about being a pro at posing. It’s your photographer’s job to guide you throughout the shoot, and it’ll be an enjoyable experience. Through my own experience, grooms are often the first to give positive feedback, as they soon realize how enjoyable a photo shoot can be! Remember, this is a fun and special moment in your lives, so enjoy it! Laugh, play, and embrace the love you share with your partner. Your happiness will shine through in your photos.

Sintra Valley, Portugal

14. Make a date out of it

Plan a dinner afterward and celebrate! It will give you something to look forward to (you are already dressed for it, after all!)

15. Add props

Props play a crucial role in capturing beautiful and unforgettable photos during a wedding or pre-wedding shoot. They can elevate the value of a photo shoot by adding a distinct and attention-grabbing element. Moreover, they can help narrate a story and create a specific ambiance that enhances the overall quality of the photographs. The simplest of props? Pop open a bottle of champagne, and revel in the joy of being with your soon-to-be partner for life. Or, bring your favorite book, a picnic basket, an oversized hat, and cool sunglasses. Have a look at this article for more prop ideas

16. You can include furry friends

They are part of the family, after all! You may want to consider arranging for a third person to look after your furry friend for when not taking part in the photoshoot.

17. Prep your groom

Many brides worry that their partners won’t be into it. To ensure your groom knows what to expect, I recommend sitting down with him and showing him an engagement photoshoot. This will give him an idea of what to expect and help him feel more comfortable. Additionally, make sure you allow plenty of time to get to the location and don’t show up late or argue on the way. You will be surprised at how much you both have fun during your session!

Pre-wedding inspiration from the portfolio

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