What to Look For When Hiring an Engagement Photographer

Find the perfect pro to capture those amazing pre-wedding pics.
Jessica Estrada - The Knot Contributor.
Jessica Estrada
Jessica Estrada - The Knot Contributor.
Jessica Estrada
The Knot Contributor
  • Jessica contributes wedding planning, wedding etiquette and relationship content to The Knot.
  • She also covers lifestyle and wellness topics for print and digital publications such Refinery29, Bustle, Well + Good, Cosmopolitan, Byrdie, The Zoe Report, The Cut and more.
  • Jessica has a journalism degree from Cal State University, Northridge and is certified as a life and success coach.
Updated Mar 31, 2023

Following the proposal, hiring an engagement photographer, or a photographer who will take your pre-wedding engagement photos, is one of the next steps in the wedding planning process. As with hiring any vendor for your wedding, it can be tricky to navigate. What should you look for in an engagement photographer? How do you know you've found The One? And once you hire an engagement photographer, what's next? There are so many questions. To help with this, we chatted with Los Angeles-based wedding photographer Kate Jackson to give us the scoop on engagement photos. Read on for all her tips below, then head to The Knot Marketplace to find your dream engagement photographer.

In this article:

What Is an Engagement Photographer?

"An engagement photographer is a photographer that photographs a couple for their engagement session," Jackson explains, adding that this photographer is typically also the couple's wedding photographer.

For the engagement photos, Jackson says couples wear non-wedding attire and often pick a beautiful or meaningful location as their backdrop. "This shoot is also a great opportunity to show off their personality and things that are a part of their love story," she says.

While the primary purpose of engagement photos is to have some beautiful images the couple can then use for their save-the-dates, wedding website, invitations or to display at the wedding, Jackson says the engagement shoot is also an opportunity to get comfortable with their wedding photographer. "Most couples don't get photographed professionally on a regular basis, so the engagement session offers an opportunity to get comfortable in front of the camera," she says.

When to Hire an Engagement Photographer

So your partner just popped the big question, how long should you wait before hiring an engagement photographer? Jackson advises doing so as soon as possible. Here's why: "Most save-the-dates are sent out six months in advance, so if you'd like to use the engagement photos, the engagement session needs to be completed well before that," she says. Also, if you plan to use the same engagement photographer for your wedding, that's another reason to book them as soon as possible, as wedding photographers often book out far in advance.

How Much Does an Engagement Photographer Cost?

As with most wedding vendors, the cost varies widely depending on the photographer's demand and experience. Typically, Jackson says an engagement photographer may charge anywhere from $300 to $3,000 or more for an engagement shoot.

Who Traditionally Pays for Engagement Photos?

Traditionally, Jackson says whoever pays for the wedding photographer, often the bride's parents, also pays for the engagement photographer. However, she notes that most couples pay for the engagement session themselves these days.

Do You Tip Your Engagement Photographer?

It's up to you! Jackson notes that tipping an engagement photographer is uncommon. However, after the wedding, most couples will tip their photographer. "Tips are never expected but always welcome," she says. And the "tip" doesn't have to be monetary. A small gift is also greatly appreciated. For example, "I have had quite a few couples bring me cute little gifts at their engagement session, like a box of macarons, a box of cookies and once a beautiful bracelet." Jackson recalls.

How to Find an Engagement Photographer

As a starting point, Jackson says social media is a great place to find fantastic engagement photographers. To do so, she recommends looking up relevant hashtags (like #losangelesengagementphotographer, for instance). She also advises asking friends and family members or your wedding planner for referrals. And when in doubt, The Knot Marketplace is always an excellent resource for finding engagement photographers.

How to Choose an Engagement Photographer

Once you've researched and narrowed it down to a few engagement photographers, it's time to dive a little deeper to help you and your fiance decide. First, Jackson recommends Googling their business name and looking through their website portfolio and Instagram account to ensure you like their style and know what you can expect your photos to look like. Also, she suggests looking for reviews from past clients on sites like The Knot to ensure they had a great experience working with them.

Next, reach out to the photographer via email or get on a phone call to get to know them and see if you like their energy. Jackson's biggest piece of advice is to choose an engagement photographer that makes you and your partner feel comfortable. If you feel like you're just hanging out with a long-time friend, even better.

"You should feel comfortable being open with your photographer, so you feel confident communicating with them," she says. "Open communication is so important during the shoot."

How to Coordinate With Your Engagement Photographer After Booking

Once you've found your dream engagement photographer and booked them for a session, the next step is to coordinate the details of the shoot. "Typically, the photographer will reach out to set a day and time," Jackson says. "I would try to start the conversation with the photographer as early as possible since sometimes there is an optimal time of year to shoot certain locations."

As you're coordinating the logistics of the shoot (date, time, place, etc.), Jackson also advises planning two outfits for your engagement session, so you get some variety in your engagement photographs. Wear whatever makes you feel beautiful, of course. But, as a rule of thumb, she recommends wearing fitted clothing that's not too baggy or too tight as that looks the most flattering in photos, and if the outfit is more on the flowy side (like a long dress) just be sure that it cinches at the waist.

Lastly, Jackson emphasizes the importance of communicating with your engagement photographer before the session. Share with them your favorite attributes and ones you aren't in love with, she says. For instance, if you have a "good side" that you prefer to be photographed or don't like to show your arms in photos, let them know those details beforehand so they can keep them in mind during the engagement shoot.

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