How to Get the Best Engagement Photos: 7 Photographer’s Tips
Photo by Stroudsmoor Photography Studio
While the idea of commemorating your engagement with great photos is exciting, it’s often immediately followed by, OK, where exactly do I start? We asked one of our favorite wedding photographers, Thea Dodds, of Authentic Eye Photography and co-author of The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Gay and Lesbian Wedding Photography, for her must-read tips on ensuring the best engagement snaps.
1. There’s no such thing as too early to book
For Dodds, the ideal time to book is about a year out. Although, part of that is the dramatic New England seasons where she shoots. She admits most couples aim for about six months prior.
“The reason it’s best to do them earlier is you can take advantage of them as much as possible,” she explained. Some couples make use of the snaps on their wedding website, on Save the Date cards or even in the wedding decor. When you give yourself a lot of lead time, Dodds said, “you have plenty of time to figure out how to use them.”
2. Start with aesthetics
Once you’ve got a workable timeline, start by looking for photographers whose work reflects your personal taste.
“You want to hire a photographer that has a similar baseline aesthetic,” Dodds told GayWeddings.com.
From there, there’s no such thing as too much information to share with your future photographer.
“In my opinion, a couple should absolutely go to their photographer and say, ‘This is what I like,’” Dodds explained. If you’re worried about being too pushy, or stepping on the creativity of your photographer, don’t. “In the end, my couples need to love their photographs more than I need to love them. I’m trying to provide them with photos they want.”
Dodds even encourages her couples to start a Pinterest board with engagement photos they love, and share it with her.
“Even if you don’t exactly recreate that photo, it just give you an idea—kind of like a palette to work from.”
3. Think long-term
There’s a reason some photographers offer special discounts or incentives to couples booking them for both their engagement photo shoot and the wedding—this continued relationship results in better pictures, said Dodds.
“The best thing to do is to hire the same person to do your engagement photos as your wedding,” Dodds said. “There’s benefit to both the photographer and the couple, the better you know each other.”
For Dodds, she sees the engagement photo session as an almost practice run for the big day.
“I always ask for their feedback on what they see in the engagement photos,” she said. “We all see things in photos that other people don’t see. It’s really hard to guess what people are liking and what they’re not liking.”
Dodds takes this feedback and information into the wedding day, and is better prepared to capture you and your partner in ways that you’ll appreciate.
4. Location, location, location
While the “where” of your engagement photos can sometimes be an afterthought, Dodds said it’s one of the most important aspects of your photo shoot.
“I think place is more important than what people wear,” she told us. “I live in New Hampshire, so the landscape is often another character in our photos.”
Even if you don’t live somewhere with impressive outdoor spaces (or, the season’s weather keeps you from enjoying those spaces), think about a place that means something to you and your partner, or somewhere that’s been important to you all as a couple.
Photo by Something Blue Wedding Photography
5. Coordinate, but don’t match
Not surprisingly, the most frequent question couples ask Dodds is “What should I wear?” Her answer is always, something comfortable.
“If you feel uncomfortable in your clothes, you’re going to look uncomfortable in the photos,” she said. “No amount of Photoshop can correct that.”
While a lot of couples instinctively want to match for their engagement photos, Dodds said it’s more important to compliment each other with a similar color palette. Picking a color that ties the couple together, can really make the photos “sing,” she told us.
“Aesthetically, it can take it to the next level,” Dodds said.
6. On picture day, know you can say “no”
Engagement photos can be a lot trickier than wedding photos, Dodds said, because there isn’t any real action—the camera is pointed at couples and they’re often posing in public places. That’s why she empowers her couples to tell her when they’re feeling uncomfortable.
“I always want my couples to know they can say no,” she told GayWeddings.com. “I want my couples to be collaborators—I don’t want to be the dictator photographer.”
The best thing you can do is relax and try to have fun. For Dodds, the engagement shoot is a low-pressure way to get to know the couples and prepare for the wedding day, so she wants everyone involved to have a good time.
“It’s the relationship-building that’s so much more important,” she said. “The actual photographs are almost a byproduct of that.”
7. Don’t be shy if you didn’t achieve your vision
It happens in the best of situations. Despite careful research and planning, you didn’t get the engagement photos of your dreams. Though it might be awkward, Dodds said the best thing to do is have a conversation with your photographer about what you liked and what you didn’t like.
“Sometimes couples do switch their wedding photographer based on their experience with their engagement photos,” she told us. “It’s not to say the photographer’s bad—there really is a chemistry that needs to happen between the photographer and the couple.”
Are you planning on taking engagement photos? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter, using #GayWeddings!
Although I've spent the last decade riffing on everything from suburban politics to race in media, documenting love stories as content manager of GayWeddings.com definitely takes the cake. A proud alumna of Howard University's journalism program, I've written for Parents.com, The Huffington Post, xoJane and Essence magazine. When I'm not writing, I'm debating the merits of Drake, obsessing over frozen yogurt or plotting my next international adventure. I want to feature you on GayWeddings.com! Always feel free to drop me a line at community [at] gayweddings.com to share your engagement, wedding and love stories.