Engagement shoots are awesome. There are so many reasons to have an engagement shoot with your wedding photographer. In this post I am going to talk about why you should consider having one,how to plan for an engagement session, what to wear and what you should do with the photos afterwards.

Fay and Jordan enjoying time together, embracing in the roots of a huge tree during their engagement photo session in Tauranga


What is an engagement photo shoot anyway?

First things first let’s look at what an engagement shoot actually is. Essentially it’s just a portrait (photo) session with the person you are engaged to – and that is about it. But the thing about engagement sessions is that it can be almost anything you want it to be! I encourage my couples to use it as a chance to just enjoy being together doing something they enjoy, which means that the doors are wide open for a range of different things depending on what their interests are, hobbies they share or places that are important to them as a couple.  There are so many options to make it into a special occasion that you’ll remember for a long time too.

It is a great experience to have with your spouse-to-be and just *enjoy* each other. It’s a time that you can just be that’s out of the normal hustle of everyday life. How often do you get a chance just to enjoy each other? Often my couples say to me at the end of their shoot that it has been the most time they’ve spent purely  focused on each other for a really long time (between work and other life commitments) and that they enjoyed the chance for that focused time together.

Zoe and Ryan enjoying their engagement photoshoot on a private farm in Piopio, South Waikato


Why you should really have an engagement shoot with your wedding photographer

Having an engagement photoshoot with the same photographer you have booked with (or intend to book with) for your wedding is my number one recommendation. It’s a great opportunity to practice being in front of the camera together (even if your selfie game is strong) and get specific photos that celebrate the two of you, newly engaged. Not only this but it means that both you and your photographer can get to know each other, find out how you work together and ensure that everything feels good, comfortable and fun! It also means that your photographer can work with you to find out how comfortable you are in front of the lens and how much guidance you need to get the type of photos that you will love. Using the same photographer for engagement and wedding photos means that you’ll start building a closer relationship, know what to expect from each other and feel so much more relaxed on your wedding day knowing how they work together with you. It really is one of the best ways to ensure you get the best out of your wedding photos too.

How to plan for your engagement shoot:

The options are endless but don’t get overwhelmed by the concept. Start with location – is there anywhere meaningful to you both that you’d love to have documented? I really love to encourage my couples to use a location that is important or meaningful to them because it adds depth to their photos and the experience of their photoshoot.

Gaylene and Matt planned their engagement session at the Little Theatre in Te Awamutu

For example, when I met with Matt and Gaylene at their first wedding consult, we got chatting about their love of performance and theatre. It’s something that they do as a hobby not professionally, and I loved hearing all about how they prepare for a production and what they enjoy about it. We decided that it would be awesome to plan their photoshoot around a beautiful historic theatre here in Te Awamutu and the photos that resulted from thier shoot are so them. You can see more from their engagement session here

If there is nowhere “meaningful” that lights you up for your engagement photos, have a think about somewhere you’ve always wanted to go (or somewhere you think would make for awesome photos). Make it an entire event and experience somewhere new together.

A great example is Kori and Josh – they’d never been to Raglan together before and when I suggested the location they were super excited to explore it together with me –  we got some killer photos and  they booked a place to stay and enjoyed it for an extra day after their shoot.

Kori and Josh on the dunes at Raglan Beach enjoy spending some time together and a new experience during their engagement session

And lastly if you’re really stuck for ideas – ask your photographer! I can guarantee your photographer will have a whole raft of locations up their sleeve that they’ve been dying to use for a photoshoot!

What to do:

Sometimes it can be fun to plan a little activity as part of your engagement session. It’s a great chance to get creative and try something different too. Perhaps you share a passion for micro-breweries or rock climbing and want to include this. By all means, do! But plan to include this at the end of your session so that you can enjoy it fully and so that it doesn’t become the main focus of the photos – this is about the two of you celebrating your relationship together, after all.

Jordan and Alanah chose to have their engagement photos on a family farm in Matamata


What to wear at your engagement shoot:

This all depends on where you plan to have your engagement shoot. It might not make sense to wear a dress and heels if you’re having a photoshoot on your family farm (and then again, it might be awesome!), but it can be a great chance to dress up and have fun if you want to do something together afterwards (dinner and drinks perhaps?) or make the most of your bridal hair and makeup trial to see what it looks like in print when you get your photos. In general my “what to wear” advice is this:

  • Wear something that makes you feel good, when you feel good, you are more likely to feel confident and then your natural awesomeness will shine through.
  • You don’t have to wear the old denim and white shirt combo and in fact i suggest you don’t unless you’re a super confident fashionista type who can style it in a way (for both of you) that doesn’t look too corny.
  • Think about the location for your shoot and what will make sense in that location.
  • Avoid clothes and hats with noticeable logos and text on them – this dates things REAL fast.  
  • Think about colour and texture. Just like with the denim and white, don’t go all out on the matchy-matchy theme, but rather pick items that share the same tonal range across different prints and textures. Or have the same family of colours repeated throughout the clothes and accessories that you wear (without of course, going head to toe in a particular colour block – unless that’s your signature thing!).
  • Don’t just rock up in your activewear and stubbies unless it makes sense for who you are and what is happening during your shoot.
  • Bring a another outfit with you, just in case!
Josh and Dominique at their engagement photoshoot at Taitua Arboretum, near Hamilton


What to do with your engagement photos after your session:

One of my favourite things is seeing what my couples do with their photos after they have downloaded them from their online gallery.

Printing your favourites to put in an album or on display in your home should be a top priority because they are created for exactly that. There is nothing better than having a quality print on display to look at everyday – and it sparks so much thought, conversation and can be a daily reminder of how awesome your relationship together is.

Your engagement photos  are perfect to use for your “save the date” cards whether that is online (via email. Facebook event or a personalised wedding website) or as a physical card that you send out to your guests – and some people even find a way to incorporate some of the detail photos into their wedding invitations.

The set of photos can make for a great slideshow to have running during your engagement party or wedding reception, or you can print and highlight your favourites for a wedding guest book. Check out this amazing display of engagement photos gifted to Jordan and Alanah from one of their bridal party:

Woodblock prints - engagement photos transferred onto rounds of wood as a gift for the bride and groom

The options for using your photos are endless -and in fact probably deserve a whole blog post of their own!

I hope this outline on engagement sessions has helped break things down for you. They really are a lot of fun and you can treat them as a bit of time to honor the relationship you have together and celebrate this time in your lives! Now you know how to plan a really cool engagement session that is meaningful to you both, what to wear and how to use the photos afterwards. Got questions? Ask them in the comments!

If you liked this post and you’re planning your wedding you will love my guide on how to make the most of your wedding day photography, where I explain everything from how to choose your wedding photographer right to how to allocate the timeline of your wedding day. You can get the guide here: