Wedding Wednesday Advice: What’s the Point of Engagement Shoots?

A couple of weeks ago after posting an Engagement shoot on the Blog, someone decided to leave me a comment, basically having a go at the whole concept of engagement and pre wed shoots, calling the whole thing silly! This person went on to ask why people wanted to 1) look at these pictures and  2) couldn’t see the point in having them done in the first place, after all it’s not a wedding?

So today I wanted to broach the subject and give my answer back to the person who left the comment, as well as anyone else out there who is wondering why they should (or shouldn’t bother with an engagement shoot)

Now I have my own views, personally I think they are a great way to get used to the camera, none of us are born models, and on your wedding day you will have you picture taken more than any other day in your life, so you want to get it right! A lot of people hate having their picture taken, so an engagement shoot is a great warm up for the big day. You and your photographer can figure out the best poses, for you and also the best way for you to get the most out of your wedding photography. It’s also a great way for you to meet and get used to each other before the day itself, after all you are going to be spending a lot of time with your Photographer on the day of your wedding.

But those are my views, I thought it would be best to ask an expert so have drafted in Jaye Cole from Tux and Tales Photography, to help me out on this rather extensive subject!

So I’ll pass the Blog over to Jaye

When Kelly asked me to write this article about engagement photography, I have to say that I jumped at the chance.  I am a huge supporter of engagement sessions (E-shoots, Love shoots, Couple Shoots, Pre-wed shoots…. call them what you will) and even include them free of charge in all of our standard wedding photography packages.

To me, they just make sense. In most cases, wedding photography is the most money a couple has -and maybe ever will – spend on personal photography. If you believe the statistics, the average spend is in the neighbourhood of £1,500 – £2,000. For many of us, that is more than we spent on our first car! Well, when we bought that first car, before plunking down all those crisp notes, we sure as heck gave our new set of wheels a spin around the neighbourhood. We kicked the tyres. We checked under the bonnet (even if we didn’t know what we were looking at). Heck, we took the necessary driving lessons and exams before we even began to think about making such a big purchase.

Engagement photography is much the same. It is a chance to ‘try before you buy’. To take your photographer for a metaphorical (perhaps even literal?) spin around the neighbourhood before parting ways with those lovely notes. Like your driving lessons, an engagement session often serves as a mini wedding-photography lesson, making you as prepared as possible so you can feel confident about your photos rather than terrified of the possible results.

For the un-initiated and those who just fell down the rabbit hole (aka – got engaged), I thought I would bend your ear a little bit about the merits of engagement photography.

What is engagement photography?

Well, it pretty much does what it says on the tin. It is a time for you to celebrate your new engagement with a photography session with your newly betrothed. More traditional photographers may choose to have an engagement session done in the privacy of their studio whilst more contemporary photographers often opt to do these sessions as 1-3 hour on-location excursions, preferring locations and settings which are reflective of the bride and groom’s personal style. During this session, your photographer will take some time to get to know you and discover your comfort zone. You will be given pointers which will help you increase the likelihood of beautiful photography and in the end you will get some fabulous pictures to buy or keep.

How does engagement photography help give you better pictures on your wedding day?

There are so many fantastic reasons to have an engagement shoot, but I will attempt to give a brief run-down of the most important points.

  • Even from the very beginning of the engagement session planning, I am learning about my clients. For example, clients reveal so much of their personalities from the location they choose. The couple who opts for an urban location says something very  different about themselves than the client who opts for an afternoon on a farm. If a couple request something really outrageous and fun like a day antique shopping or a shoot in a comic book shop, I know that my clients are already very confident people. Knowing these kinds of details about my clients really helps me figure out who they are as people. the more I know you – the better pictures I can take of you.
  • The most important thing I get to know about my clients during engagement sessions is their limits. We all have them – and they are all in different places. One couple may think nothing of running around a park in the rain, swinging from lampposts and clicking their heels. Other clients would want to die at the mere suggestion of doing those same things.
  • Nearly equally important as what I learn from you is what you can learn from me on the day. I am able to teach you how to be photographed  as well as gain confidence in your appearance. From a slight angling of your body to trim your figure, to learning not to race down the aisle, there are so many little things you can do to increase the odds of getting gorgeous photos that look natural whilst remaining flattering (what every girl really wants!).
  • The engagement shoot sets the right expectations. You may have loved your photographer’s portfolio, but how will you look in her photos? It is important for brides and grooms to have a realistic expectation of the kind of photos they are willing to allow to be taken before the wedding day. As we specialise in working with creative couples, we have a portfolio full of fun, creative days with brides and grooms doing and wearing some pretty outrageous stuff. However, it has happened more than once that a bride and groom who thought they were ‘up for anything’ found their inner wallflower when the camera was pointed on them. If you turn into a shrinking violet in front of the camera – don’t worry – you can still have gorgeous photos – you just may not be ready to have them taken whilst you are running through a rainbow coloured chocolate waterfall!
  • Putting all that you have learned into practice on the wedding day can really help when time is tight. We all know the saying, ‘The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry’. In an ideal world, I would get at least 1 full hour alone with the bride and groom on their wedding day. A little chill out time and then some time for photos. The reality, however, is a horse of an entirely different colour. By the time the wedding ceremony runs late (2 out of 5 times they will) and your mum has asked for another 10 impromptu group shots with your distant cousins (the ones you told her before the day that you didn’t want) – I am usually left with about 20 minutes. I don’t want to spend those precious few minutes getting you comfortable with the camera. If you have had an engagement session, you are already a seasoned pro!

I asked around a few of my fellow photographers and here is what they said about engagement sessions:

‘We love the pre shoot; it allows the couple to get to know their tog & get used to relaxing around him/us! Also, it can provide an opportunity for some opposite season shots; EG: our last wedding couple in Feb have some gorgeous high summer shots from their e-shoot in contrast to their winter wedding shots’ – Sally Pickard (Peacock Pix)

‘Communication is so important, and I need to know that the clients are my friends LONG before the wedding day, so that they’re completely at ease with me’ – Jay Mountford (Jay Mountford Photography)

‘I truly believe in them as an essential part of building my relationship with the couple – which then helps on the day – without question. Even from a practical point of view, they know how I work and it speeds things up! To date, I’ve always done an e-shoot for every wedding. Even with couples that live in New York – we have squeezed one in whilst they are over here in the UK for wedding plans! ‘ Zoe Bairre (Photos by Zoe)

How to get the most out of your engagement session.

  • Go for it! Buy that new dress and wear a new pair of shoes. The more dolled up you feel on the day, the more you will be ready to let the paparazzi snap away.
  • Pick a location that is meaningful to you. Unless you got engaged at a park, try to think outside of the box. Some of our favourite upcoming shoots this year will feature a jaunt to the local car boot (for a couple who loves a good rummage sale), a jazz cafe on open mic night and an evening at a chess competition. Each of these couples could have chosen a park, but the locations they selected were more personal and will likely result in pictures that are the very essence of ‘them’.
  • Be ready to have fun! There is nothing more attractive than a happy face. If you go in expecting to be miserable and embarrassed, you absolutely will be. If you expect to have fun – you will be right on that account too. As with most things in life, you get out of it what you put in.

Here are a few more tips from the pros…

‘Speak to your photographer about including things that are personal to you like a musical instrument or a bike. Also pets can look super cute too!’ Karen McGowran (Karen McGowran Photography)

‘Be yourselves. Don’t just copy trendy poses, don’t hold props that have nothing to do with you. Talk to your photographer to make sure that you both know what you’re after – if you’re not demonstrative people then discuss doing something fun instead, if you’re hopeless romantics then do something that shows that. And above all, try to go somewhere that matters to you, it’ll show. It really matters that the engagement photos show who you are as a couple, it helps you to get great photos, you end up relaxing and trusting your photographer, and your photographer knows what you like and don’t like, which is invaluable on the wedding day.’ Tarah Connan (Tarah Coonan Photography)

‘Play your favourite “Get Happy” song on the way over. It’s helpful to be in a great mood when you get there!’ – Faith Stone (Faith Stone Photography)

‘If there’s been a fashion era that you’ve loved, this could be your chance to really dress up , so for eg. if Great Gatsby Style is you, why not go for that?’ Catherine Kerr (Eyecapture Wedding Photography)

Your photos – your legacy

Think about your engagement photography in much the same way you do your wedding photography. This is your legacy. Your grandchildren (and great grandchildren!) will hopefully someday be pouring over these pictures. What a wonderful gift to give to your future generations. What I wouldn’t give to have a photo of my nan and grandad before they became the sage, wizened faces I remember. Perhaps one of my nan doing her famous foxtrot? Perhaps one of my grandad playing his saxophone?

If only they had engagement sessions 80 years ago…..

So what do you think? have you gad an engagement shoot? did you find it helpful and enjoyable? are you considering an engagement shoot at the moment? Did you book your wedding photography without an engagement shoot and wish you had one? I’d love to hear about your experience, so feel free to join in the conversation below.


To find out more about Tux and Tales go to
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All Photo Credits: www.tuxandtalesphoto.co.uk  and http://photosbyzoe.co.uk/

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    Sheffield wedding photographer - PH Weddings

    Great post Kelly – I am a great believer in pre-wedding shoots – I’m actually finding more and more that our couples think they are just as essential as we do.

    I have yet to meet a couple who are happy having their photo taken until after the pre-wedding shoot when they realise it actually can be fun and they both look amazing!

    Alison Edwards

    A brilliant response to the comment someone left on your blog. I always do engagement shoots and feel these are a great way for the photographer and couples to get to know each other prior to the big day. It’s more relaxed and it also gives couples the confidence and assurance (before the day) that they will look good in their wedding photos.

    Wedding photography is a very personal day and the engagement shoot makes the couples feel much more at ease on the day which I have been told so many times. Not only does it give the couple assurance, it also gives the parents confidence in the photographer and their abilities as they will also have seen the engagement photos – I always get the parents coming up to me saying how wonderful the engagement photos were.


    Charlene - Love Gets Sweeter

    Our wedding photographer charged extra for this service so we never bothered. We have since had a post wedding ‘reshoot’ with another photographer (due to the bad experience with our actual photographer) and I really enjoyed it. However my Husband said he felt uncomfortable and didn’t get why anyone would want to do it. That surprised me as he’s a bit of a poser to be honest! Maybe it was because it was after the day? Maybe it would have been ok for him before the day..? Guess I’ll never know but I do know that some couples take a lot from engagement shoots so I think they’re worth doing, especially if it comes in the package! I’m even considering engagement films as they’re big in the U.S but I imagine that would be more awkward than being photographed! haha

    Christian Ward

    If you value photography and a relationship is worth celebrating, you don’t have to wait for a wedding (or even an engagement shoot) to have photographs of it. In general I think that people who ‘don’t see the point’ are basically people who just aren’t fans of photography. Yes, not everybody wants to see photographs of other couples, but websites usually publish them as a way of promoting what can be done and to show good suppliers. If you’re looking at that website, the chances are that you’re interested. If you’re not, simply click off- I don’t get people who leave comments like the one you mentioned; nobody forced them to look at the photos!
    As a photographer myself I obviously place massive value on photography- I value the artistic aspect of good photographs and for me it is important to have photographs from a documentary point of view, so it’s two-fold. My wife and I went on holiday to Canada last October and we booked a shoot for the two of us while we were there. I value photos that show the two of us together and capture our relationship, and it also served to provide us with great, personal artwork that shows a place we love to spend time.

    Mia @ Wedding Flowers Co

    Since I was a little girl I have been dreaming of my engagement photo shoot, for me is really special, those pictures will remain for the future as proof of the happiness that the couple received once the decided to commit!

    Kristin Struve Photography

    As a photographer, I love engagement shoots. It’s just a chance to let your hair down! Occasionally, people want to “skip” that bit, and I usually explain that its not about having formal, smartly dressed photographs unless they want it to be. So far, all my couples have enjoyed their engagement shoots, even the most reluctant and camera shy have come away having loved it. Aside from the getting to know one another aspect of engagement shoots, it’s a brilliant chance to indulge a little bit, at a time when most couples are probably being quite cautious about spending in the lead up to their wedding. It also means you’ve got some gorgeous photos of you both together, which you can use for save the dates, wedding websites, Facebook profile pictures… you name it! It’s such a versatile opportunity, and unlike wedding days, you can alter your plans if the heavens open. Great blog post, and some fantastic photographs to accompany it! ;-) x

    Helen Lisk

    Brilliant article – thanks Jaye and Kelly! I will be pointing couples in this direction to read it, it says everything that I normally try to explain to them… but in a much better way!!! I really love doing engagement shoots; I think it’s a really brilliant way to get to know each couple better and it’s also a lot of fun for me. I wish I’d had the opportunity to do an engagement shoot before my own wedding, I’d really love some gorgeous photos like these… :)

    Zoe | photos by zoe

    Kelly, oooh!!!! Thank you so much for including some of my photos <3

    I'll have been married 10 years this April ( eeek, how old does that make me sound?!). Looking back, things have changed so much since our Wedding. I would so dearly love to have photos to look back on from that time in our lives – and since having children they too are fascinated about this mythical, nonsensical time from before they existed – with a curious sceptical look in their eyes as if I am telling them untruths!

    Things are done so differently now, I'm not sure pre-wedding shoots existed? But to have the chance to build a relationship with my photographer would have been so amazing.


    Hannah Webster

    So many valid points. Really well written, Jaye and I’m so glad you asked her to, Kelly! I think e-shoots are really important and that’s why I too include them in my packages – complimentary photo practice as one of my brides called it recently (she’s actually going to trial some lipsticks for the big day on her e-shoot to help her decide on her final look which I think is pretty awesome). There are huge benefits both for me (saving time, getting to know personalities, quirks and how individual couples interact, finding out what angles they like of themselves or any hangups that I can overcome) and for my couples (learning to relax and have fun in front of the camera, making sure I’m not going to get on their tits come wedding day which is, quite frankly, very important) and the end result is better wedding photography, without a doubt.

    Plus…as an added bonus, some fab photies. Pretty pictures. That’s what it’s all about!

    Claire Penn Photography

    Love this Kelly – and I agree. For me the engagement shoot is so important – it gives me a chance to get to know the couple and vice versa; I often don’t meet my couples when they book me as I do weddings all over the UK so if we didn’t have an engagement shoot I would be meeting them for the first time on their wedding day – essentially a stranger! Beautifuol photos by Jaye and Zoe also <3


    A great post! I’m looking at this from both sides of the coin at the moment. On the one hand, I am a newly-engaged woman planning her wedding and I am very keen to find a wedding photographer who incorporates an engagement shoot into their packages. I like the idea of getting to know my photographer with the camera between us prior to the big day so that I know what to expect.

    On the other hand, I am a newly professional photographer with several weddings lined up with people that I know but don’t class as friends. As part of my package I am offering an engagement shoot as a means to get to know the couple. In fact, I had my first engagement shoot yesterday and I very quickly found out that the bride-to-be is incredibly shy and hates having her photograph taken so it was a good experience in that I was able to talk to her and worked very hard at getting her to relax in front of the camera. I think I succeeded and I hope she’ll be happy with the photographs that I’ve produced. I also hope that by doing the engagement shoot she’ll realise that it’s not quite as bad an experience as she may have thought it was going to be and this will only be a positive when it comes to her big day in May.

    So yes, while a lot of photographers I’ve been reading lately have been pooh-poohing the whole premise of the engagement shoot, I personally think it’s a worthwhile experience and I plan to continue offering it to all my future clients!

    Catharine Noble Photography

    An excellent topic Kelly, and fantastically covered by Jaye. There are so so many reasons why engagements shoots are great from both sides – the photographer and the couple. I could write forever about this!

    Jeff Turnbull

    Great blog post, very well covered and a lovely collection of photographs.

    I know many people already knew the benefits of a pre-wedding shoot and I’m sure that even more people do now. Thanks


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