Engagement portrait sessions are a great way to get to know your photographer before the wedding.
Jeremiah Netzley proposed to bride Gwendolyn at a family dinner, with a toast to marrying the girl of his dreams.
Julian Allen Photography
When Emily Axel began her search for wedding photographers, it was a year after she had become engaged. She and fiance Nathaniel Hartman weren’t planning on having engagement portraits taken until they had a meeting with Amy Tannenbaum of Amy Ann Photography. Tannenbaum was responsible for various wedding albums Axel had seen on numerous friends’ Facebook pages and, after learning they had all used the same photographer, Axel shot Tannenbaum an email.
“We were really only looking for a wedding photographer but when we saw her engagement photo gallery we thought, ‘These are really cute, maybe we could do this,’ ” Axel says. “And once we saw her work we were kind of enthralled.”
It was important to the couple that the photos be authentic, which is why they chose to shoot in the Short North, where they live. “She captures these great moments,” Axel says, explaining the engagement photos captured natural, unposed moments. “We had a great time.”
These aren’t your parents’ engagement photos—shots taken at home during a holiday or party and printed in the local paper next to an announcement. Pre-wedding photos are personal expressions of your relationship, your home, your city. Like Axel and Hartman’s, they can express affinity for a neighborhood or a place—perhaps the spot where he popped the question. These are great photos to send with your save-the-date cards and to share on social media with friends who are anticipating the big day right along with you.
Most photographers will bundle an engagement portrait session with the overall package for the wedding photography. Not only could you economize a bit by booking your wedding photographer to take your engagement shots, but a pre-wedding session can also give you a sense of what it will be like to work with your photographer on the wedding day. For many couples, that also means a trial run in front of the sometimes-intimidating camera.
“You’re not used to being in front of the camera; it’s not something you do every day, at least for most people,” Tannenbaum says. “So not only do you get the opportunity to feel comfortable in front of the camera but you also get an opportunity to figure out your photographer’s style and how they direct.”
“In an engagement session everyone is coming in relaxed. There’s no time pressure, and if we don’t like it we can always reshoot it,” says Amitai Sela of Amitai Sela Photography. “It’s informal so we can really build around the interests of the couple, which lends itself to a more whimsical and natural atmosphere.”
Engagement shoots can often capture a more intimate look of the couple, says Ben Barnes of Ben Barnes Photography. “There’s no wedding party around and they’re not as nervous as they’re going to be on their wedding day,” he says. “They’re not worried about what’s coming next and you can capture the personality of what you’re shooting.”
Evalyn Wells found herself in a similar situation with her fiance, John Cresencia, who had never done a professional photo shoot before. “He was pretty nervous,” Wells says. The couple had booked Sela for their wedding later this year, and much like Axel, wasn’t even planning on doing an engagement shoot. After discussing package options with Sela they decided to try it out. During the shoot Sela “did a really good job communicating with us the whole time,” Wells says, and helped keep nerves at bay by cracking jokes and suggesting silly poses. And Cresencia ended up enjoying himself, too. “By the end of it he said he had a lot more fun and it went by a lot faster than he thought it would,” Wells says.
When considering where to have your engagement portraits taken, definitely think outside the studio. Though polished studio shots can be beautiful, Columbus is chock-full of great locations for pictures. Your photographer can probably give you a list of favorite places to shoot, whether you want an urban setting or something more natural.
For couples looking for a more rural setting, Barnes suggests Northmoor Park, Park of Roses or Inniswood Metro Garden. “If somebody wants something urban, then I think the Short North is by far the best spot to explore,” Barnes says.
The portrait session should feel relaxed, but you and your groom shouldn’t look too casual. Think seasonal, but not overly trendy. Avoid prints, which can be distracting in an already busy outdoor photo setting and base your ensemble on neutrals.
Photographers also have suggestions on what to do with the images once they’re complete:
- Incorporate a favorite engagement portrait into your save-the-dates.
- Share the photos on social media with friends and relatives who don’t live nearby.
- Make the photo your guest book—mount it in a frame with a wide archival-quality matte and invite guests to write their wishes at your reception.
Your engagement portrait might just become one of your favorite lasting images from your engagement and wedding.
“My favorite part of the shoot was when we took a picture in the middle High Street under the Short North arches,” Axel says. “She caught us with no traffic, my foot kicked in the air and kissing, and it was just perfect.”