How to Take Authentic-Looking Engagement Photos

Engagement photos tend to all look the same. Stand out and take photos that feel unique to you with our guide to taking authentic engagement photos.

By McCall Minnor

engaged couple takes unique engagement photos
Photo by Zola

Here’s the thing about engagement photos: We really love them. In fact, we encourage them. (For one, they’re a great way for couples to get comfortable with their wedding photographers and wedding photography.) Here’s the other thing about engagement photos: A lot of them look, well, the same.

There are probably a few reasons for this:

  • Couples are pulling from the same sources of inspiration: social media, friends and family, etc.
  • Couples aren’t used to being photographed, so they default to staged poses that they’ve seen others do before.
  • Everyone’s always wearing plaid. Just kidding—kind of. More on this later…

On the reverse of this trend, we also see couples who attempt to set themselves apart. They see their engagement photos as their chance to stand out, have fun, and maybe garner some social media attention. Totally fair. However, sometimes, in an attempt to stand out, couples actually fall back into the same somewhat cliche engagement photo patterns we see time and time again.

OK, so why does this matter? Between your paper suite, your wedding website, and, yes, your social media posts, your engagement photos play a large part in any visual elements leading up to your wedding. So, you want to come out of the engagement photo shoot with photos that feel like you, not every other couple. The staged look may be fine for some, but not for you.

INLINE Unsplash 1080x720 (1) Photo Credit // Unsplash

Unique Engagement Photo Tips

Don’t risk getting photos back that feel bland and uniform. Here’s how to take unique engagement photos that feel authentic and not overdone.

1. Meet with your photographer beforehand.

The first step to having photos that don’t look staged (or like copy-pastes of another session) happens long before you step in front of the camera. Initially, you want to find a photographer who you’re comfortable around and whose work you really like. Whether you're looking for wedding photographers from Houston or New York, do some research to find a professional that fits your budget and style. When you’re on the hunt for a wedding photographer, look for couples that look relaxed and real in their portfolios.

Once you decide on a photographer, reach out and ask to meet with them in person. You want to do this before the shoot for several reasons. For you, meeting up is an opportunity to run your ideas and preferences by them, as well as ask questions. Be open about your desired look and, if you’d like, bring example photos (just not from other engagement shoots). You may, however, bring examples of poses and photos you don’t want. Sometimes saying no to certain aesthetics is actually a more effective way to get the look you want.

Meeting in person also gives your photographer the chance to get to know you as a couple. Witnessing your personalities and the way you interact makes capturing that energy easier. A professional photographer will work hard to mesh their style with your desired vibe.

2. Use a location that really represents both of you.

Skylines, beaches, woody areas, large open fields of tall grass. What do all of these locations have in common? They're regularly the backdrop for engagement sessions. Disclaimer: That’s totally fine if any of these areas are significant to you as a couple. Met in NYC on a whim? Take your photos in front of the city. Spend fall days together walking through a certain set of woods? Immortalize the area with your fall engagement photos.

However, for most other cases, we really recommend trying a more unique location—and one that really represents both of you. This could be the bar or restaurant where you first met, your favorite date spot, where you do a shared hobby, or in your home if you live together. If you’re really attached to the in the field idea, maybe head to your college’s football field (if you went to the same school) instead of opting for a random patch of land.

It doesn’t have to be a place of paramount importance—just somewhere that really speaks to the two of you and your relationship. Having a meaningful setting makes it easier to act natural, making for truly candid and organic shots.

3. Avoid matching outfits.

Listen, we tread lightly but also firmly here: Exact matching outfits for your engagement photos is a cute idea. However, if you want photos that don’t look like everyone else’s, skip the coordinated plaid ensembles.

Instead, consider your location and the tone of your shoot when you choose outfits. Stick to a cohesive color idea (neutrals, muted colors, etc.) and you’ll look like more like a couple and less like a set of adult twins.

In the same vein, don’t wear something you wouldn’t normally wear or that’s out of place in your setting. For example, don’t wear a bohemian dress and wade into the ocean just for aesthetic’s sake. You’ll confuse your family and friends.

Opt for an outfit that’s comfortable and makes you feel confident. We’re not saying you can’t wear a flashy dress or suit—just make sure you’re wearing it because you want to and it feels like you.

INLINE Unsplash 1080x720 Photo Credit // Unsplash

4. Branch out with poses.

For many couples, their engagement shoot is the first time they’re ever having professional photos taken. In that case, it’s easy to default poses you’ve seen done before. Don’t do that.

The best engagement photos are those that feel genuine and candid. Read: Avoid the prom pose, silly perspective tricks, and anything that feels cheesy or unnatural. In fact, it’ll probably look best if you don’t pose at all. Trust us.

Most people aren’t used to being followed around by a camera—we get it. Try, however, to forget that your photographer is there. Interact with your partner how you normally would—walking hand-in-hand, leaning into one another, playing around, etc. Look at each other and be in the moment. These more often than not make for the best engagement photo poses. If your photographer wants you to look at the camera, make a minor adjustment, or try something out, they’ll let you know. Otherwise, be yourselves.

5. Focus less on the ring.

We know you adore your new engagement ring, but it shouldn’t be the sole subject of your engagement pictures. More often than not, shots that have the ring hand displayed appear stiff. That’s not to say you should avoid them at all costs.

If you rest your hand on your partner's shoulder or cheek and the ring just so happens to make an appearance, run with it. Otherwise, skip the awkward behind-the-back hug, flat-hand-on-your-partner’s-chest pose, and arms-around-an-inanimate-object photos.

15 Engagement Photo Ideas to Inspire You

Now that we‘ve covered how to capture your authentic love, let‘s talk engagement photo ideas. Whether they‘re going into a wedding album, invitation suite, save the date, or social media post, these themes and poses are sure to draw the eyes of your loved ones.

1. First Date Spot

Be it an ice cream spot, coffee shop, movie theater, or something entirely, recreating your first date is about as unique and authentic as you can get. Not only is this a fun piece of relationship trivia, but likely a spot you’re both already comfortable in.

2. Hometown Stroll

Likewise, an equally unique and comforting setting is your hometown (or the city you currently live in together). Walk hand-in-hand around your favorite area, strolling along the streets, into shops, and throughout your neighborhood as your photographer snaps away.

3. University Pride

Did you and your partner meet while in college or university? If so, showcase your school pride my donning your college gear and taking engagement photos on campus. Lounge in the grass, sit in the bleachers, walk through the quad—there are plenty of possibilities.

4. Play in the Waves

We know, beach engagement photos can be a bit played out. That said, we think there are plenty of ways you can make these authentic and your own. For one, if you and your partner desire playful (or steamy) shots, try playing around in the shallow water. Run along the sand, kick up water, roll around, and go for a swim. If one of both of you surfs, consider bringing your board.

5. Boat Ride

Speaking of the ocean, nothing’s quite classy in the way that a romantic boatride is. If you live by the water, considering rent a boat (or taking out your own, if you have one) for some truly stunning sunset photos. Sit along the deck, pop some champagne (or Martinelli’s), and go for a swim.

6. Sports Game

If you and your fiance(e) are known to be sports fans, consider having your photos taken at a local game. Don a jersey, sit in the stands, and capture your shared interests to display to family and friends.

7. Unique Nature

Don’t get us wrong, we love a beautiful photo in the mountains, in a field, or on the beach. That said, if you have other, more unique nature sites near you, we highly suggest you take advantage (while being respectful of the area, of course). Canyons, waterfalls, and the like can create a stunning backdrop for engagement shots.

8. Champagne Pop

Nothing helps people to pose like props. Consider bringing a bottle or two of bubbly to your shoot and using it as a celebratory prop piece, popping, spraying, clinking, and sipping.

9. Museum Trip

With gorgeous architecture and even more beautiful art, museums are a stunning engagement session location. Walk, holding hands, along rooms and rooms of paintings and/or sculptures, bringing culture, color, and depth into your shots.

10. Hobby Photo Shoot

Do you and your partner share a hobby? Be it painting, cooking, or camping, use it as a theme during your engagement session. Simply go about your hobby—with some posing tips and adjustments from your photographer, of course—and capture a relaxed, fun aspect of your relationship.

11. Road Trip

If your engagement photographer is up for it, pack your bags, grab your dog, and go on a small road trip. The great thing about this style of photoshoot (outside of the gorgeous scenery) is the ability to make the photos look like they’re documenting your trip, rather than you both being posed.

12. Local Bar

Do the two of you frequest a local craft cocktail bar, pub, or brewery? Reach out to them and see if you can do your shoot there. Most of these types of flaces have interesting decor, which can make for interesting engagement photography. Don’t forget to take advantage of lots of fun couple poses, like a celebratory cheers.

13. At Home

More and more modern couples are opting to have their engagement sessions at home. This setting is beautifully intimate and can really allow a photographer to capture your love at its most natural. Plus, depending on the time of day, your photographer can play with some really nice natural lighting. Have a pillow fight, take a bubble bath, lounge around—whatever’s a good time for you both.

14. Library or Book Store

Offer a glimpse into your own love story—sorry, we couldn’t resist—by having your engagement photo shoot in a library or book store. The great number of books offer a lot of wonderful props and opportunities for creative posing.

15. Cinematic Shots

Go glam by completely stylizing your engagement photo session. Whether you’re both a fan of period pieces like The Great Gatsby and Titanic, highly curated films like Marie Antoinette and The Grand Budapest Hotel, or romances such as Atonement and The Notebook, you can go all-out. Think costumes, creative backdrops, and cinematic framing.

Your engagement photos are meant to celebrate your relationship—in all its uniqueness. Capturing that might sound difficult, but it all comes down to acting natural. Choose locations, outfits, and poses that feel like you. Don’t copy a series of shoots you found on Pinterest. Stray from the norm (and overdone) by being true to who you are as a couple. And remember to keep these tips in mind when it comes to your wedding photos, too.

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