Engagement photos are more than fun snapshots; they’re one of the first mile markers in your wedding planning journey. This fun, low-stress photo session is like a wedding-day dry run. You’ll learn to perfect all sorts of flattering poses while capturing save-the-date and wedding-website content in the process. Plus, engagement sessions kick off one of your most important vendor relationships.
“First and foremost, it’s a fun time of your life to capture photos—you just got engaged, after all,” says photographer Molly King. “It also helps you establish a relationship with your photographer so you’re comfortable with them, and vice versa. They can learn more about you before the big day.”
Meet the Expert
Molly King is a Cincinnati-based wedding and lifestyle photographer.
How Much Do Engagement Photos Cost?
King estimates it would cost between $300 to $600 for a 90-minute session if you hire a photographer solely for engagement photos. However, engagement photos are typically built into a wedding photographer’s package. The photographers want that time to get to know you and your significant other; it helps them create more meaningful and personal images.
How to Choose a Photographer
Choosing a wedding or engagement photographer comes down to two things: editing style and personality. Whether you’re scouring Instagram for a local professional, binge-reading about Brides’ top photographers, or gathering friends’ recommendations, King says it’s important to take a step back and brainstorm the photo style you’re naturally drawn to. “While all photographers do a mix of portraits, candids, and formal poses, their unique editing style remains consistent—it’s their brand,” she explains.
Some photographers focus on dark, contrast-filled images. Others go for light, airy, and ethereal styles. If you’re having trouble choosing your favorite photo style, think about the types of images you’re drawn to on Instagram. Or, consider which styles would look best on the walls of your home.
The next important step in choosing your wedding or engagement photographer is studying their personality. Sure, you’re not hiring the photographer to be your friend, but you’re spending the majority of your big day with this person. You want to enjoy their company! "It’s important that your personalities mesh," advises King. "I recommend checking out the photographer’s about page and Instagram first. But you should also meet them. I like scheduling quick and informal meetups, or at least FaceTime calls, to get to know the couple outside of email."
When to Take Your Engagement Photos
Once you’ve hired your photographer, it’s time to schedule your engagement shoot. If you’re planning to use these photos for save-the-dates (which go out six to eight months before your wedding), you need to book a session around 10 months or more in advance. That way, your photographer has time to edit the images, and you still have time to get those invitations designed. If you have a longer engagement or are not planning to use photos for save-the-dates, you have more flexibility.
In terms of season, King recommends avoiding the dead of summer given those all-too-common humidity hiccups: “I think spring and fall are the best times because you avoid extreme temperatures and still have pretty, colorful foliage—while avoiding dormant and bare trees in the winter.”
For the time of day, most photographers will recommend the evening or early morning for soft, warm sunrise and sunset hues. King starts her sessions about an hour or two before sunset to capitalize on this flattering natural light.
Where to Take Your Engagement Photos
When choosing the perfect engagement photo spot, you can either pick a meaningful location or rely on your photographer’s expertise. If you have a special spot in mind—a first-date location, your favorite café, or a local park on your go-to walking route—run it by your photographer first. Then, they can scope it out, get some ideas, and figure out any necessary permissions for photographing.
While it’s fun to have engagement shots from a nostalgic location, photographers equally love when couples lean on them for inspiration. “I’m always driving around and scouting out new or lesser-known photography spots, so I’m excited when a couple asks for my opinion,” says King. “I often have new spots in mind, and I’m just waiting for an adventurous couple to try them with.”
If you and your significant other love to travel, you can also opt to get your engagement photos on vacation. Yes, this means you likely won’t be working with your wedding photographer, but it’s hard to beat engagement photos from, say, the waterfalls in Iceland or the colorful canals of Venice—especially if travel is your "thing" as a couple. Websites such as Shoot My Travel can match you with local one-off photographers around the world, and prices typically start around $250.
What to Wear for Engagement Photos
Less is more when it comes to selecting the perfect engagement photo outfit. King recommends soft, subtle, and neutral colors for a classic, timeless look: “Muted tones like beiges, taupes, blacks, and whites are the most flattering. Avoid deeply saturated or bright colors like a vibrant red or orange; those colors will reflect back on your face, especially in the sun.”
That said, reds and oranges aren’t totally off-limits for engagement shoots—you just have to get creative. “If couples have a favorite color, say red, I’ll suggest they incorporate it in a different way that’s not so close to the face, such as a skirt or shoes,” adds King.
While it may be tempting to wear a brand new outfit, comfort should be your first priority—but that doesn’t mean yoga pants and baggy sweatshirts. “You can still buy a fun new outfit, but don’t have your engagement-shoot day be the first day you wear it,” recommends King. “Wear it to dinner, get a few iPhone photos in it, and see if you truly like how it looks. Nothing’s worse than realizing during the shoot that your shirt wrinkles terribly, your pants stretch out after 30 minutes, or you just don’t like how it looks.”
Engagement photo sessions are a great time to experiment with wedding-day makeup, too. If you have a vendor in mind for day-of beauty, use your engagement shoot as a trial run. “It’s great to see how makeup reads in professional photographs,” says King. “What feels like a lot of makeup often doesn’t show up as dramatically on camera as it does in the mirror. It’s helpful to be able to make any makeup tweaks after the engagement session. That way, your big day will be flawless!”