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10 Tips for Perfect Engagement Photos

Photography by Vivian Sachs

When it comes to wedding photography, Vivian Sachs likes to get in on the ground floor, as in the engagement photo session. But these days, engagement photos—the pictures couples commission to announce the big event—have the rep for being outdated and somewhat tacky. Sachs, who specializes in pre-wedding photography that’s more sweet than saccharine, believes it’s time to take a new look at the old tradition.

These kinds of photos were originally used as something to run along with the engagement announcement in your hometown newspaper. Now that that tradition has gone the way of hope chests and dowries, Sachs says there’s still a reason to do them. “A lot of people use them with save-the-date cards,” she says. “But one of the most important reasons to have an engagement photo session is that it gives you a chance to get comfortable with the photographer before the wedding, which will likely give you better photos on that day.”

Which brings us to her tips for picture-perfect engagement photos:

1. Comfort counts
Make sure the photographer you and your fiancé hire not only has the style you are looking for, but a personality and vibe you feel comfortable with—this will always produce better photos. Always schedule a consultation to see if you all hit it off before signing a contract. A good photographer will take an interest in and listen to you.

2. Location, location, location
Although meaningful settings are always good—don't be afraid to think outside the box. I love shooting in places that have interesting elements, color and textures: places like a used bookstore, the beach, an industrial area, a carnival, a train station, a park or an open field. Make sure it's a location that suits your style and personalities and check the site out through Google maps.

3. Clothes make a couple
If you are unsure about what to wear or you don’t have a stylish wardrobe, consider consulting with a stylist. I actually offer wardrobe styling for my clients through an exclusive collaboration with Seedstore. Don’t forget to bring accessories like shoes, socks, belts and jewelry too. Don't feel you have to wear certain colors just to make a photo work. Go bold and wear lots of colors, stripes or polka dots! These are the sessions that really stand out and catch attention. I think the only rule you should follow is to keep the outfit appropriate for the setting.

4. Hair & Makeup
Get both done by a pro and you'll not only look amazing, but the extra confidence will shine through. If you are hiring a makeup artist for the wedding, they will likely want to do a practice run, and the day of your engagement photos would be a great try out. If you are doing your own makeup, consider wearing matte since it photographs best.

5. Watch the weather—and the clock
My favorite times to shoot are either early morning or right before sunset. Sunlight is best during sunset and I usually refer to it as "photographer's happy hour.” Shooting midday is fine if there is not much sunlight. A lot of clients mistakenly assume that lots of sun is good, but in fact it's not. Often the light is too harsh during sunny afternoons and can cast unflattering shadows on your face. Sometimes wind, light rain and fog can also work in favor of a session.

6. Play it up
Get creative! Come up with themes that spark your interest or are in some way special to your relationship. It could be anything from your favorite movies, history or sports.

7. Sweat the deets
Little details can add that extra sense of awe to a photo. They can be anything from masks, signs, picnic baskets, birdcages or vintage suitcases.

8. Let your love shine
Be candid. Have fun with each other. Engagement sessions should really be seen as a fun day out with your loved one, except with a photographer there to capture the moment. It’s the candid moments that turn out the best—so don't be afraid to show affection, laugh and jump for joy!

9. Gear for the occasion
I recommend bringing a comfortable pair of shoes or flip flops to wear when walking or hiking to the shoot location.

10. Relax
It's important not to stress. Try to have everything ready to go a day before the session and get to the shoot on time. Getting plenty of rest also helps.