I love engagement shoots. It’s something I think is invaluable and one of the best ways to ensure great photos on your wedding day. Often people think of engagement shoots as unnecessary and a good place to save on your wedding budget, but I think this could not be further from the truth!
What exactly is an engagement shoot you may ask? It’s usually up to two hours with just you and your wedding photographer going to either a specific location like a restaurant (especially if it has sentimental meaning) or even at home. It can be an area of town you like or a park and wandering around, sometimes doing an activity you love.
I’ve been photographing weddings for 14 years and in my experience doing an engagement shoot is always wonderful experience for the couple. When I’m meeting with clients for the first time and we talk about photography I often hear things like, ‘we don’t want an engagement shoot. We’re not super into being photographed.’ or ‘We’re really trying to reduce the budget, so we’ll just skip doing an engagement shoot.’ It’s a common misconception the only reason for doing an engagement shoot is to have the photos. In fact, there are many reasons to do an engagement shoot.
Getting To Know You
An engagement shoot is a great way for both you and your photographer to get acquainted. Though you may feel you know your photographer on a professional level, you need to have a personal connection too. Your photographer will be the person with you throughout your wedding day, so you want to be sure that you click personally and trust them to capture the most important day of your lives.
Learning To Pose
So often I hear from couples that they think they’re awkward in pictures, or one of them hates having their photo taken. Another thing I hear all the time is people have no idea what to do in a photograph. With an engagement shoot, you get to practice what it’s like to be in front of the camera and how to take direction from your photographer. That way on your wedding day it is something familiar and even enjoyable, not a source of anxiety. It’s also a great way for the photographer to get to know what works for you as a couple and what doesn’t. Not all couples are alike, and this gives the photographer a great opportunity to figure out who you are, what little quirks you have together and how best to photograph you. Once you get your photos if you see something you really don’t like, let your photographer know! It’s the only way to be sure they don’t repeat the same thing on your wedding day.
Get Your Glam On
Think of your engagement shoot as a great compliment to your wedding hair and makeup trial. The camera sees a face differently than the naked eye. Use the shoot to see how your wedding hair and makeup translates on film. If you love it, great! If not, then go back to your glam team and show them what you like so they can adjust for the big day.
When it comes to investment, some photographers include an engagement session as part of the wedding package while others treat as an add-on. For those that it’s an extra, it’s usually between $350-$500 for a one- or two-hour shoot. It’s understandable since it is a whole other shoot with travel to wherever, on another day, requires its own edit and delivery. The photographers who do include it in their packages usually do so because it’s a value-add and can often be the deciding factor for a couple for a booking.
When discussing with couples what they’d like to do for an engagement shoot I always start with asking if they would like something more urban or natural feeling. Depending on where the wedding will be, I will suggest something different. For instance, if they are getting married in an elegant venue downtown, then maybe let’s aim for a park or a bar, or even at home, something more relaxed. The best tool is the photographers’ own website and social channels. I tell clients to look there for inspiration on style, locations and general vibe.
As for when you should do your engagement shoot, anytime is good with the exception of the last month before the wedding as that will be a crazy busy time for you!
For the shoot with Hailey and Ryan featured here, I first heard from them in December 2019. They had just gotten engaged and inquired about wedding photography. They had seen my work and were big fans and wrote me the kindest email saying, “We’ve seen many of your photos and have been really taken by your work. To us, it isn’t about those posed photos but rather capturing those candid moments with the ones who matter most to us throughout what hopefully will be the best day ever!”
They had to take a brief hiatus from wedding planning and when they got back into it by then I was already booked for their date. After that, COVID-19 hit and they had to postpone their wedding. They reached out to me again to inquire about availability for new dates, and then unfortunately they had to take another hiatus in wedding planning for family reasons. After that, it was back on the wedding planning train again but with all the uncertainty around COVID-19, they are hesitant to commit to a date and a venue.
They never really had a chance to celebrate their engagement and enjoy it. They asked about doing an engagement shoot now, even with the wedding plans being TBD. I was so excited for them to have some good news for a change that I was happy to say yes!
A word from Hailey & Ryan: “Being unable to celebrate due to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns has been extremely upsetting. Our engagement shoot gave us the chance to get glamorous and have a beautiful evening making memories and celebrating our love that we will never forget! Our shoot also gave us something to look forward to and have those special moments between us captured. We had a blast! Now that we have these incredible pictures, we’ve been able to relive our engagement and celebrate a little bit each time we share our photos with loved ones.”
Valerie Baron is the owner and main photographer at Studio Baron Photo and has 14 years experience as a wedding photographer. With a background in both journalism and magazine work, her style is a unique blend of photojournalism and editorial. She excels at capturing the special moments and making her clients feel like the best versions of themselves on their special day. Known for her bubbly attitude and a great personality, according to clients it’s a pleasure to work with her.