A Photographer’s Eye: How To Plan & Prepare For An Engagement Or Pre-Wedding Shoot

Leading up to your wedding, one of the best ways to capture your love is with a photo shoot before the big day itself. Not only is it a wonderful way to get to know your wedding photographer, it also gives you a gorgeous set of images that are more informal than your wedding day shots.

I recommend that couples consider either an engagement or a pre-wedding shoot, since you’ll love having additional photos – many couples realize they actually don’t have many photos of themselves together! Both these pre-wedding options allow you to create authentic, meaningful images in a less formal style than the actual day.

But how do you plan a pre-wedding photoshoot? Just like any other photoshoot, a bit of advance organization will make a big difference in the final results. Here’s how to prepare for an engagement session or pre-wedding photo shoot.

How is an engagement shoot different from a pre-wedding photo shoot?

An engagement session is a fun photoshoot where you can document you and your partner’s connection during this exciting time in your relationship. The thrill and excitement of your engagement is invigorating, so engagement photos are usually upbeat, genuine and sweet – you’ll love looking back on this special time in your life decades from now.

How long before the wedding should you take engagement pictures? At least six months ahead of time is a good idea, so your photographer has time to edit your photos and get them back to you before the wedding. Or, if you’re having a long engagement, you could use your engagement photos as part of your save the dates.

In contrast, a pre-wedding session is a no-pressure shoot in your wedding attire or in a second wedding dress. You can do your shoot before your wedding and display the images on your actual wedding day, or just use this as an opportunity to take more photos than you’d have time for on your wedding day. 

What is included in the pre-wedding shoot? This depends on your photography package, but usually it will be a set number of images taken either in or near your wedding venue or at another location memorable to you. Both are amazing opportunities to work with your photographer and create keepsakes to add to your love story. 

How should I prepare for an engagement shoot or a pre-wedding shoot?

To make the most out of your session, here’s how to plan and prepare for an engagement or pre-wedding shoot. Remember that your photographer is always there to answer any of your questions or provide suggestions on locations, timings and themes.

1. Choose your location

How do couples prepare for photoshoots? It’s best to start by choosing your location. Think about places that are meaningful to your relationship – where did you have your first date? Do you have a favorite place you love to visit together? Some couples hold their engagement photo shoot in the spot where they get engaged. Or you can simply go for an epic location in the countryside – the choice is yours!

Is there a best time of year for engagement photos? I find we can create spectacular photos at any time of the year, but the changing colors and flowers in both autumn and spring can make for gorgeous backdrops. It all comes down to your location and personal preferences. 

As for the time of day, we’ll get the best lighting in the morning or right before sunset, but you can also capture amazing evening engagement photos, especially if you and your fiancé love the fast-paced lifestyle of the city. 

2. Plan your attire

Wondering what to wear for engagement pictures? I generally advise couples to go with neutral colors like white, beige, black or grey, since this will go well with most backgrounds. Busy patterns or colors can overwhelm your photos, so simpler is often better. 

How many outfits do I need for engagement photos? Depending on the length of your shoot, one or two looks is usually enough. For engagement shoots, you can go casual or dressy – both work well. Pre-wedding shoots tend to be more formal, with similar attire to what the bride and groom would wear on their wedding day. 

Don’t want your future husband or wife to see your wedding dress before the wedding? No problem! Feel free to wear another white dress, go for a second wedding dress, or don another formal gown – let your inner fashionista shine through!

3. Discuss your desired aesthetic with your photographer 

Once you find an engagement photographer you like, talk to them about your desired results. You will have been drawn to their specific style, so while it’s best to trust them with creative control, clearly communicating what you’re hoping to achieve early if you have a specific vision in mind will ensure you’re both on the same page in terms of goals and approach.

4. Relax and have fun

Take a few deep breaths, relax, and have fun! The day of your pre-wedding or engagement shoot is meant to be fun, and will be much less stressful than the actual wedding day. If you’re able to make a full day of it so you don’t have to rush, you’ll feel more comfortable and can take your time to get all the shots you want.

How long are engagement photo sessions? It depends on the package that you chose. My engagement photography sessions in New York cover everything from one to two hours or longer. I include an engagement session in a lot of my larger wedding packages but if you opt for one of my smaller packages then we can add on a pre-wedding or engagement session separately. I highly recommend doing this, as it gives you the opportunity to get comfortable in front of the camera before the big day.

I know couples are often nervous before a shoot, so I do my best to make you feel at ease and capture those sweet, candid moments. When you start to forget that the camera is there, that’s usually when we get the best photos. I’ll be inspired by your connection, love and passion, and I believe each couple has their own unique story to tell – I can’t wait to hear yours!