Providing Pre-Shoot Tips to Your Engagement Photography Couples: Part Three

Providing Pre-Shoot Tips to Your Engagement Photography Couples: Part Three

Spring is finally just around the corner (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). This is the perfect time for me to wrap up my detailed review of the tips booklet I used to provide to my couples for their engagement sessions.

As I explained, my engagement prep booklet covers:

  1. When to schedule your shoot (think seasons)
  2. Where to shoot
  3. When to start (think time of day)
  4. What to wear
  5. What to bring
  6. What types of photos excite you?

Having covered the "Whens" in the first installment and the "Wheres" in the second, I'd like to wrap all this up by discussing the "whats".

As I've stressed before, my number one goal was always to establish clear expectations for every shoot. Second, if I could get my couples involved in the process instead of just shooting one more run-of-the-mill engagement sessions down by the lake, I'd be much more likely to get photos my couples would want to hold on to for years to come.

Certainly what you and your couples want to capture is heavily influenced by when and where you're shooting. You're not going to shoot a summer picnic in a February snow storm, nor are you going to shoot an apple picking date in the financial core. You can't shoot a dog walk without the pooch. If you plan to shoot a picnic and bike ride themed engagement, you're going to need bikes.

Couple kissing with bikes

Bike ride engagement shoots need bikes!

But, even once you've picked the where and when, it's important to pay attention to the end goals of the shoot, the what of the shoot, so to speak.

What to Wear

Couple in uniform dancing

Uniforms usually photograph very well.

Over the years, I've found that it's necessary to be very specific about how my couples should dress. Learning from eccentric clothing choices over the years, I would suggest to my couples: 
  • Wear clothes that you feel confident in. If you're wearing something you feel good in, it usually shows in the photos.
  • Bring a couple of different outfits for a variety of different looks.
  • Wear clothes that suit your location and the type of feeling you’d like to get from your photos. Romantic and whimsical? Playful? Sexy? Perhaps that’ll mean rain boots, ball caps, or a little black dress. 
  • If you decide to bring a casual and a dressier outfit, start by wearing your more casual outfit.
  • For the casual outfit(s), ensure that the clothes are comfortable – that you can sit and move around in them easily.
  • If you're going to wear high-heeled shoes or boots for the shoot, bring flats, running shoes, flip flops, or any other footwear that you feel comfortable walking around in between locations.  
  • Check to see if your engagement ring needs cleaning – they often get dirty and dusty over time. Your jeweler will usually clean a ring for you at a nominal fee.

Asking my couples to coordinate their outfits was perhaps the most important piece of clothing advice I ever provided. After trial and error, I settled on

Remember that your outfits should be coordinated, but should not be matching. In other words, as between you, you should look like you're going to the same place. Your outfits need not be the same color or style, but they should not clash with each other.

Typically, this would short circuit the ball gown and warm-up pant look or the shirt and tie versus leggings and crop top.

More than making positive suggestions, I would also suggest that my couples avoid:

  • Bright white shirts as they were too bright and distracting.
  • T-shirts with writing or logos on them because they would usually be very stuck in time (think winning sports teams or popular flash-in-the-pan designers), taking away from the timeless feel that I would strive for. 
  • Baggy pants and oversized t-shirts, which might be comfortable, but are generally not very flattering. 


In addition to clothing, this is where I'd also talk with my couples about whether they wanted to bring any props or aim for a specific theme:

Series of engagement shoot props

Engagement shoot props?

While you certainly don't have to bring anything else besides you two and comfortable shoes for walking between locations, we love it when our couples bring props or accessories for shoots. Essentially, bring anything what will make your engagement session fun and unique to you.

To get our couples thinking, I'd ask them to consider what they liked doing together, if they had any shared interests.

We've also had couples bring items that are personal to them or relate to individual or shared hobbies: baseballs, basketballs, footballs, bikes, skates, fishing rods and hip waders, books, records, iPads, cameras, love notes, old photos, pets, etc.

If your couple loves to play board games, work it in! You're certain to get genuine reactions if you have enough patience.

What Do You Think of When You Think of Engagement Photographs?

Finally, I'd ask my couples if there were must have photos. A dip? A piggy back ride? A GIF? Something serious, or something funny?

The idea is to be romantic, spontaneous, and, sometimes, a little bit silly. 

I'd suggest that before the shoot my couples check out my recent engagement shoots, to see if there were particular photos they loved or hated.

A common theme I heard was that most couples want photos of the engagement ring. Getting to know your couples will help you deliver something unique, especially if the proposal was originally done with a spur of the moment lolly-pop ring. Find out what their story is and help them tell it.

Lastly, I'd ask how comfortable my couple was with PDA (public displays of affection).

We're not suggesting anything crazy, but some couples aren't comfortable with public displays of affection and we want you to feel at ease during your shoot. Are you most interested in cuddly, affectionate photos, shots where you are holding hands, passionate, or a combination of these?

Knowing how close or physical my couples wanted to be was important to avoid uncomfortable moments where I might ask for more touching where my couple just wasn't feeling it.

Missing Anything?

I'd love to know if over the last three installments I've missed something that you think is critical to share with your couples. If I've emphasized something you think is a waste of time or if I've downplayed something you think is critical. Please take the time to comment below.

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