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.) 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 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.

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.

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 photos. 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.

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

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. 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.

Focus less on the ring.

We know you adore your new ring, but it shouldn’t be the sole subject of your photos. 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.

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.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola