The Ultimate Guide to Engagement Photos

Here's the expert, inside scoop on these prewedding pics.
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
by
Hannah Nowack
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
Hannah Nowack
Senior Editor, Weddings
  • Hannah writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a focus on real wedding coverage.
  • Hannah has a passion for DE&I and plays an integral role in ensuring The Knot content highlights all voices and all love stories.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hannah was the Social Media Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings.
Updated Aug 22, 2022

You're engaged—yay! Now let's commemorate this season with some special pictures. Enter: engagement photos. While some to-be-weds may find certain aspects of the wedding-planning process slightly stressful, engagement photos are a chance to cut loose and just have fun! Spend some time with your wedding photographer snapping pics that you'll cherish for a long time to come. Below, with insights from photography experts, we're taking a look at everything you need to know when it comes to engagement photography, from frequently asked questions to the best engagement photo ideas.

In this story:

Engagement Photo FAQs

Wondering what the scoop is with engagement pictures? We're addressing frequently asked questions about these images with insights from expert engagement photographers.

What are engagement photos?

Engagement photos are professional portrait images taken of to-be-weds ahead of the big day. Wedding photography expert Clane Gessel shares that he "thinks of engagement shoots as an intimate celebration of the couple's love! Engagement photo sessions are the best dress rehearsal for your wedding day photos."

The Knot Expert Tip: Engagement ring selfies, marriage proposal photos and engagement photos are not the same thing. While all three categories are great mementos, engagement photos are professional pictures taken during a photo shoot session separate from a proposal.

Why are engagement photos important?

"Engagement photos provide you with an opportunity to get to know the photographer whose work you already love but more importantly give you insight into how they do things as well as how your wedding day portrait session will be," explains wedding photographer Alexander Johnnides of Longbrook Photography. Photography expert Jainé Kershner echoes that sentiment sharing that "one of the best ways to build your confidence in front of the camera and to truly be yourself on your wedding day is to experience an engagement session with your wedding photographer. They'll learn how you interact as a couple, and what kind of poses or directions work best for you all while building your own personal relationship so that when the big day arrives, you'll know exactly what to expect and feel at ease."

Because these images are so important, Gessel encourages couples to give engagement photos the time and priority they deserve. "I would recommend allotting the whole day off. Not necessarily for shooting but don't leave work stressed and go do engagement photos. I can't emphasize how important they are because practice is essential and wedding photos always turn out better for the couples who choose to do an engagement shoot."

How can you prepare for engagement photos?

Communication with your photographer is a must. They'll help you know what to expect, give you tips to prepare, and also advice on how to relax if you're a little camera-shy.

For couples who are feeling nervous about having engagement photos taken, Kershner adds that to-be-weds should "just have fun because honestly, you can't mess it up. This is your 'practice' before your wedding so get out all the nerves, ask questions, be open and honest with your photographer and enjoy your time together. This really is the key to having a wonderful experience taking photos on your wedding day because you know what to expect and you can trust that your photographer understands you as a couple."

When should you take engagement photos?

As the name would suggest, these should be done during your engagement before the wedding day. This is the perfect time to warm up in front of the camera so that you feel comfortable on the wedding day. A major consideration is how you intend to utilize your images. If you want to include an engagement photo on your save-the-dates then you'll need to book a session early to allow enough time to receive the images and have them printed on your stationery before mailing save-the-dates out (which most couples do six months before the wedding).

Kershner shares that "a good rule of thumb is to take your engagement photos anywhere from 6-4 months before your wedding. If you want to use these images for your save-the-dates, which are typically sent out 6 months in advance, I would recommend having your session even earlier around the 10-8 month mark to make sure your images will be edited and printed in time."

As for when during the day you snap these photos, Johnnides has a few suggestions based on the location you select. "For the time of day, mid- to late-afternoon is perfect for cities, and two hours or so from sunset (sometimes known as golden hour) for less urban areas. I actually love mid-afternoon shoots in all places because it provides the opportunity for much cleaner light that is way more favorable on how skin tones present in images. Additionally, sunset is ideal for beach shoots mainly or somewhere that's out in the open. The light is much softer and you don't have to be fighting direct sunlight and hunting for shade the entire time."

Where should you take engagement photos?

This is mostly up to you, though the location should be discussed with your photographer to make sure they're confident they can snap some good images in the chosen location. Gessel suggests that couples bear in mind the vibe and location of their wedding since it might be fun to depart slightly from that for the engagement photos—"Some couples want to do something different than their wedding day location look, so if it's a beach wedding they might choose a city location. Many of our couples use the opportunity to go to a new destination that they have had on their bucket list as a private celebration."

Also, make sure to clarify with your photographer how many unique locations are included during your engagement session. An hour-long session likely wouldn't include more than two locations. If you want to travel to multiple spots around your hometown, they may charge you for the travel time.

Kershner recommends to her clients that they "choose an engagement session location that is meaningful to them. Was it a place they went on their first date? The neighborhood where they fell in love? The coffee shop where they first met? I notice that couples are more relaxed when we meet up because we're in a safe and familiar space to them."

In addition to having one or two main spots, Johnnides likes to plan a stop "halfway in at a photogenic food or drink spot. This is a great way to add to the visual variety of your shoot. Most places allow this type of thing if you come in between lunch and dinner service but always call a week ahead of time and ask!"

What should you wear to engagement photos?

The level of formality is up to you. The main thing is just that you feel comfortable. That could mean a suit and cocktail dress or that could mean a sundress and khakis with a button-down. Think of how you want to utilize the images. If you picture them being framed around your house, will formal pictures clash with your laid-back home decor? Take some time to also think about how certain outfits will translate on camera. Tight, small-format prints typically don't photograph well so stick to solid colors of larger prints.

Johnnides notes that couples can "use this as an excuse to get some new shoes or a dress you've been eyeing." However, the pro notes that you should break in any new shoes before the shoot. "Try not to wear heavily worn sneakers and definitely don't try to break in a new pair of heels that afternoon, you will regret it because candid-looking photos usually require a good amount of walking around a location." He adds that "outfit changes are okay but keep in mind they can take up the time you have allotted so keep it to one and pack light if you can."

Kershner adds that she always recommends "wearing clothes that fit and flatter your figure for my clients so that they feel 100% comfortable and confident. If a dress is too tight, bunches up, or shows off your least favorite part of your body, you are not going to feel your best in front of any camera. I also recommend staying away from trends because your images will seem dated a lot sooner. Last, I like to remind clients to clean their jewelry, steam/iron their clothes, and shine their shoes. It's the little things that can make a big difference in your photos."

How much do engagement photos cost? What kinds of engagement photo packages exist?

The most common offering is for engagement photos to be part of a larger wedding coverage package through a photographer. While some photographers may offer a la carte engagement photos, it's typical that the engagement photos are treated like a rehearsal with the photographer you've booked for your wedding day. The total cost depends on the photographer so it's critical that you ask during the contract process whether engagement photos are included in the fee or if those will be an extra expense.

How to Display Your Engagement Photos

Once you have your engagement photos, the next step is to display them in some capacity. While sharing your images on social media is a great way to celebrate your photo shoot, we're also big fans of utilizing the images in bigger ways.

Framed Engagement Photo Prints

This is a great option to furnish your newlywed home. Have a few of your favorite engagement photos framed to use as home decor. Additionally, your parents would probably love a framed photo as a birthday, Christmas or wedding thank-you present.

Engagement Photo Album

While you might only get a few images framed, you're probably obsessed with the entire album from your photographer. Have a full photo album printed with all your faves so you can flip through the pictures anytime you want.

Engagement Photo Save the Dates

One of the most common ways to utilize engagement photos is with save-the-dates. Get guests excited for what's to come with fresh pictures of the two of you.

Wedding Website With Engagement Photos

Another great way to show off your engagement photos is to include them in your wedding website design. Whether you use just one on the home page or great a full gallery for guests to peruse, photos are a great addition to any wedding website.

10 Unique Engagement Photo Ideas

Let these engagement photography ideas inspire you. From great engagement photo poses to unique engagement photo locations, we gathered some of the best engagement photos to help you plan your own photo session.

1. Beach Engagement Photo

Do the two of you take a beach vacation every summer? Make the most of your seaside trip by booking an engagement session to commemorate your love for each other and the ocean.

2. Dog Engagement Photo

Don't limit your engagement shots to just you and your partner. If you have a fur baby, feel free to make the photo shoot an excuse for some cute family photos.

3. Romantic Engagement Photo Ideas

We're obsessed with this romantic engagement photo. It's proof that engagement photos are a great time to relax in front of the camera and let your love shine.

4. Cute Engagement Photo Idea

If this isn't enough proof that you need to take engagement photos, then we don't know what is. Treat yourself to a lovely photo session to capture images you'll cherish.

5. NYC Engagement Photo Idea

Use your engagement photos to celebrate your city and the neighborhoods you hold dear. Whether that's an urban New York City engagement shoot or a rural session in your hometown.

6. Rainy Engagement Photo

Don't fret if there's rain in the forecast for the date of your engagement session. Your photographer will be able to work with you to create a plan that ensures you still end up with images you adore.

7. Formal Engagement Photo Idea

The level of formality with your engagement pics is up to you. If you want a chance to dress to the nines and rock a fancy outfit, this is your sign to do just that.

8. Urban Engagement Photo Idea

You don't necessarily need a crazy jet-setting location for your engagement photo shoot—snaps around your local neighborhood are sure to shine. Plus, memories created in the locations that hold the most meaning to you are probably going to feel the most special.

9. Spring Engagement Photo Idea

Spring is a great time to take engagement photos, especially is you got engaged over the holidays. Work with your photographer to plan a date around when flowers will be in peak bloom in your area.

10. Park Engagement Photo

There's something so whimsical about a stroll in the park. Just invite your photographer along to act as paparazzi while you and your love take in nature.

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