Here’s Your Comprehensive Guide to Engagement Photos

Here's the expert, inside scoop on these prewedding pics.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
by
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Jul 17, 2023

You're engaged, which means it's time to commemorate this celebratory moment. 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 enjoy spending time with your partner. An engagement shoot even allows you to feel more comfortable in front of the camera, which is great preparation for the big day. No one wants to flip through their wedding album and see dozens of awkward poses and smiles looking back at them.

Below, I asked photography experts to advise on everything you need to know about engagement photography—yes, that means they answered every question you thought about typing into your search engine. And as a sweet bonus gift, I've even included 12 of the best engagement photo ideas you can steal for your future session.

In this article:

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, who has photographed over 500 weddings, thinks "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. While all three categories are great mementos, engagement photos are professional pictures taken during a photo shoot, separate from a proposal.

How To Take Engagement Photos

For beautiful engagement photos, you'll need to hire a professional engagement photographer. Some couples book their engagement photographer for their wedding, as well, because they want the same photo style for their big day and want to have someone they're already comfortable with. I suggest finding this important pro using The Knot Vendor Marketplace, social media, asking married loved ones or your wedding planner for references.

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, owner of Longbrook Photography with 15 years of photography experience. Jainé Kershner, a photography expert based in New York, echoes that sentiment, sharing that "one of the best ways to build your confidence in front of the camera on your wedding day is to experience an engagement session with your photographer. They'll learn how you interact as a couple and what poses or directions work best for you while building your relationship so that when the big day arrives, you'll know 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 do engagement photos. I can't emphasize enough how important engagement photos 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?

For couples feeling nervous about having engagement photos taken, Kershner advises to-be-weds to "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 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 photos should be taken during the engagement before the wedding day. What impacts when you take your engagement photos is how you intend to utilize your images. "A good rule of thumb is to take your engagement photos anywhere from six to four months before your wedding. If you want to use an engagement photo for your save-the-dates, which are typically sent six months in advance, I would recommend having your engagement shoot even earlier, around the ten to eight-month mark, to make sure your images will be edited and printed in time," Kershner says.

If you're wondering when to take engagement photos on the day, Johnnides has a few suggestions based on the location. "The 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 love mid-afternoon shoots in all places because it provides much cleaner light that's more favorable on skin tones. Additionally, sunset is ideal for beach shoots, or somewhere that's out in the open. The light is much softer, and you don't have to fight direct sunlight and hunt for shade the entire time."

Where Should You Take Engagement Photos?

This is up to you, though the location should be discussed with your photographer to ensure they're confident they can snap good images in the chosen location. Gessel suggests that couples think about 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 on their bucket list as a private celebration."

The Knot Expert Tip: Clarify with your photographer how many unique locations will be included during your engagement session. An hour-long session likely wouldn't be at 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 ask a week ahead of time."

What Should You Wear For Engagement Photos?

The level of formality for your engagement photo outfit is up to you. The main thing is just that you feel comfortable. That could mean a suit and cocktail dress or a sundress and khakis with a button-down. This is why you should think about how you want to utilize the images. If you picture your photos framed around your house, will formal pictures clash with your laid-back home decor? Take 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 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 they can take up the time you have allotted, so keep it to one and pack light if you can."

Kershner 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 aren't 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. The little things make a big difference in your photos."

How To Pose For Engagement Photos

Having a good time is the key to getting the best engagement photos. Your joy will come across vividly in your images if it's genuine, so don't think about posing too much. "One misconception I hear couples make is that their session will be awkward. If you choose a photographer whose portfolio shows candid and fun images, your session will likely feel that way as well," says Savannah Brown, professional wedding and family photographer and owner of Savannah Brown Photography. If you and your partner feel like you need to take a couple of funny engagement photos to help you loosen up, do it. The fun memories you create will be what you remember, not how perfect your "America's Next Top Model" poses were.

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 like a rehearsal with the photographer you've booked for your wedding day. The total cost depends on the photographer, so you must 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. While sharing your pictures on social media is a great way to celebrate your photo shoot, I'm a big fan of using the images in big ways.

Have framed engagement photo prints.

Putting your engagement photos in a frame is a great option to furnish your newlywed home. Have a few of your favorite engagement photos framed as home decor. Additionally, your parents would probably love a framed picture as a birthday, holiday or wedding thank-you present.

Buy an 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 photo album printed for your coffee table with all your favorites so you can flip through the pictures anytime you want.

Send engagement photo save-the-dates.

One of the most common ways people use their engagement photos is for their save-the-dates. This is a great way to get guests excited for what's to come with fresh pictures of the two of you.

Put your engagement photos on your wedding website.

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

12 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 photo ideas to help you plan your photoshoot.

1. Beach Engagement Photos

Do you and your future spouse always like to sit by the ocean for vacation every summer? Then make the most of your seaside trip by booking a beach engagement session to commemorate your love for each other and the warm sand.

2. Dog Engagement Photos

    No one said you had to limit your engagement shots to just you and your partner. If you have a fur baby, make the photo shoot an excuse for cute family photos everyone will love.

    3. Romantic Engagement Photos

      You have to love a sweet and romantic engagement photo. It's proof that when you have the right photographer, you can relax in front of the camera and let your love shine.

      4. Cute Engagement Photos

      If you're unsure what to do in your engagement photos, do something you and your partner love doing together for cute candid moments. Ride bikes, cook together or grab ice cream at your favorite shop; just make sure you treat yourself to a lovely photo session to capture images you'll cherish.

      5. City Engagement Photos

        You don't need a cool jet-setting location for your engagement photo shoot. Instead, discover places around your local neighborhood that shine. Memories created in the areas that hold the most meaning to you are going to feel the most special.

        6. Rainy Engagement Photos

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

          7. Formal Engagement Photos

            How casual or formal you are for 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. Park Engagement Photos

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

              9. Spring Engagement Photos

                Spring is a great time to take engagement photos, especially if 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. Summer Engagement Photos

                  Depending on where you live, summer can be really hot, but it can also be a great time to schedule your engagement photoshoot. Go to the beach, visit the desert or see a firework show for the best summer engagement photos.

                  11. Fall Engagement Photos

                    Who doesn't love sweater weather? Grab your future spouse (and your photographer) and find a park with an abundance of red and golden foliage for fall engagement photos that'll make anyone feel warm inside.

                    12. Winter Engagement Photos

                      Get cozy or enjoy the elements with a winter engagement session. A few of my favorite winter photo ideas I've seen are couples wearing matching holiday sweaters, chilling at home drinking hot chocolate, making snow angels together and skiing down their favorite slopes.

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