A pre-wedding photoshoot takes place days, weeks, or months before the couple’s wedding day. It’s also known as an engagement photoshoot.
A pre-wedding shoot is a great way for couples to get to know their wedding photographer and become comfortable in front of the camera before their big day.
Pre-wedding photos can be used on save-the-date cards, wedding invitations, or even on the reception welcome board.
Sometimes the couple will wear their wedding dress and tuxedo – this is typical with Asian engagement photoshoots.
However, with western pre-wedding shoots, the couple usually wears something casual that reflects their personalities.
In this guide, we’ll look at some pre-wedding shoot ideas and poses for both the couple and the photographer.
We’ll also answer some of the most frequently asked questions about engagement sessions in general.
15 Tips for a Succesful Pre-Wedding Shoot
1. Meet before the pre-wedding photo session
It’s important for the wedding photographer and the couple to meet or at least video chat before the engagement photo shoot.
This is beneficial for both because most couples haven’t experienced a professional photo shoot before this moment. So, this gives them the chance to ask all the questions they have about what they can expect.
For the wedding photographer, it’s also essential to get an idea of what they have in mind, learn about their personality and their love story. This way, it’s easier to plan a unique pre-wedding shoot that really represents the couple.
Many wedding photographers ask their potential clients to compile a questionnaire beforehand to make the most out of the first meeting.
In the questionnair, you can ask if they want to have an indoor or outdoor session, if they’re going to include friends or other family members, etc.
2. Choose the right location
Even the best locations aren’t perfect for all pre-wedding sessions. You must choose the right location for the couple you’re photographing.
For example, if they are nature lovers, you can hold the engagement session in the park. Instead, if they love partying and city nightlife, you can take photos in a busy street with colourful neon lights or inside a nightclub.
Another traditional way to pick the location is to find a place with an emotional connection – for example, where they met or where they first kissed.
3. Make a shot list
A shot list is a checklist that includes all the essential shots you need to make in a pre-wedding photo shoot, such as a close-up of the engagement ring.
Making a shot list will help you plan the session and prevent you from forgetting any of the hero shots. This is especially important if you’re just starting wedding photography.
You can make a list as basic or as elaborate as you want. You can have some example images to illustrate the shots you want to get – this is also helpful to show your clients how they should pose.
There are many shot lists that you can download for wedding photographers online as a starting point. Then, you can customize it according to your style and experience.
Also, keep in mind that some couples can make specific requests from the inspiration they found online or a photo they saw on your website – so make sure you include this into the shot list.
4. Posing is key
Posing people is one of the most complex parts of every portrait, and pre-wedding photography is no exception. Having a list of pre-wedding photo poses is helpful for photographers and couples.
Here are some pre-wedding photoshoot posing ideas you can use for inspiration.
The couple looking at the horizon is a must of a pre-wedding photoshoot.
You can do many variations where they are sitting down or standing, next to each other or one of them hugging the other from behind, etc.
The idea is that they are both looking away from the camera and into the future that expects them together – this shot shows love and hope.
Another pre-wedding photography must is when one of them stands behind and puts the arms around the other. This pose not only communicates love or affection, like any hug – it’s more like an embrace where it shows support and protection.
It’s also very versatile as they can take turns being in front or the back. They can be looking at the camera or each other; they can also kiss, etc. Remember to focus on the hands, which can often convey emotions just as well as the face.
You can also make a series that can be presented together in the pages of a photo album – if you’re doing one with the pre-wedding photos.
Another pose idea comes from dancing. They don’t necessarily have to dance for real if they are shy or don’t know how to do it.
However, a simple dip like the one shown in this picture makes the perfect pre-wedding photo.
There are few things more romantic than looking into each other eyes. Of course, you can do this with many poses. However, one of the easiest ones is to ask them to stand one in front of the other.
If they are uncomfortable with their profile – which happens to many people, you can turn a little bit to capture a different angle.
It wouldn’t be a pre-wedding photo shoot if there isn’t at least one kiss captured for posterity. I don’t think this is a pose that needs much explanation.
However, if things look a little stiff on camera, try to capture a candid photo of the couple kissing spontaneously.
Touching foreheads is another way to demonstrate closeness and intimacy.
The couple can be standing or sitting, and they can be in front of each other or side by side – like the couple in the above example.
Lean the head into the partner’s chest – this is one of the best pre wedding photoshoot pose ideas if there’s a height difference between them.
Don’t forget to pose the hands. It’s always something challenging to do for photographers and models. An excellent way to deal with it is by placing the hand in the partner’s chest. Placing the hand on the cheek is also a good solution.
One of the most basic pre-wedding shoot ideas is to have the couple standing side by side.
Don’t think this is easy to pull off, though – it’s easy for them to look stiff. So, pay attention to the hands, the legs, and the facial expression.
Sitting on the partner’s lap can make a hero shot on a pre-wedding shoot. Of course, they have to be comfortable with the pose.
5. Suggest activities instead of poses
Most people feel self-conscious when they’re having their photos taken. Yes, we may take a lot of selfies or pictures of everyday life, but it’s not the same to have a stranger point a camera at you.
So, a fun idea to loosen the bride-and-groom-to-be is to suggest activities instead of poses. This way, they can forget about the camera and be themselves – let the perfect moment just happen.
6. Capture candid moments
Pre-wedding photography usually is more relaxed than the photo shoots from weddings. It’s not all about the perfect pose and the best look – so be ready to shoot when the couple is distracted or just having fun at a moment of rest.
Often, in these casual moments, you’ll get the most romantic pictures.
7. Use burst mode
It’s not always easy to capture the perfect moment in between poses or when the couple is moving – burst mode can be beneficial.
You don’t want to use it the entire photo shoot because then you’ll have tons of pictures to cull, and it would be a never-ending job.
However, there are times within the engagement photo shoot when you know burst mode will be helpful. For example, if you ask the couple to walk holding hands, run towards each other, or pop a bottle of champagne.
8. Give each of them some ‘solo’ shots
Pre-wedding photos don’t necessarily have to feature the couple every time. It’s important to give each one of them their special moment.
In these pictures, they’ll be able to appreciate the small details of the dress or how they smile at the sight of their partner.
9. Capture the details
An engagement photo shoot can’t miss a close-up of the engagement ring. This is, of course, the most obvious way to highlight how important it is to capture details.
So, don’t forget to take a picture of small details as well as wide shots of the couple. A variety of angles and perspectives will enrich the final result and tell a more exciting story.
10. Frame within a frame
Composition is as essential in pre-wedding photography as it is for any type of shot.
A handy composition guideline is to frame inside the frame – this will pull the attention directly to the couple. Here are some framing ideas for your inspiration:
Include an element in the foreground – just make sure it’s out of focus, so it doesn’t distract the attention from the main subject.
Place the couple under an architectural element – it can be a bridge, a doorway, etc.
Use elements from the background creatively.
Nature offers some fabulous frames too.
11. Include props
Using props in a pre-wedding shoot will help you to loosen up the couple because it will give them something to do instead of feeling awkward just posing.
It’s also an excellent way to add to the mood of the photo. For example, if you’re going for a romantic feel, you can use wine glasses. You can add a sign with the wedding date on it so that the couple can send it to their friends as a save-the-date card, etc.
Explore many ideas with your clients to come up with the perfect shot to make their pre-wedding photoshoot as personal as possible.
12. Pick the right outfit
What do you wear to a pre-wedding photoshoot? Pre-wedding pictures are usually in regular clothes – although some couples like to do them with their wedding dresses.
Still, outfits are part of the elements that build the mood of the pre-wedding shoot. Is it casual or formal wear? Bright colours or neutral? Most photographers like to discuss the outfit with the couple and provide them with guidance.
Another possibility is to offer an engagement session long enough to include a change of clothes. This, of course, would be more expensive – but wedding photographers can provide different types of packages to fit the needs of every couple.
13. Learn to use ambient light to your advantage
Most pre-wedding photographs use ambient light. This means that you use the light available on location without adding flash or strobes.
To make the most out of it, here are some tips and ideas:
The golden hour is the perfect time of day to make a pre-wedding photoshoot. The light is soft and even, which is very flattering for portraits. Also, the warm tones add to the romantic mood.
Soft light is the most flattering for portraits because it doesn’t create any hard shadows. Overcast days are perfect because the clouds work as a giant softbox to diffuse sunlight.
Otherwise, you can schedule the shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon. If none of this is possible, you can always look for shades.
If you’re dealing with hard light, get creative with the shadows.
Create a silhouette by shooting into the sun and adjusting the exposure to the background light.
Backlighting creates a very evocative ambiance that’s perfect for a pre-wedding shoot.
Artificial light is also part of the ambient light – mainly if you photograph indoors or in the evening.
If you’re photographing indoors during the day, you’ll probably have a mix of natural light coming in from the windows and artificial light. It can be challenging to handle the white balance in this situation.
14. Choose the right depth of field
Depth of field refers to how much of the picture is in focus. Portrait photography typically has the subject in focus and bokeh background.
You can get more creative on a pre-wedding shoot by using a more selective focus. You can highlight only a small part of the image with it – for example, the engagement ring.
You can also keep only one of the partners in focus while the other is out of focus, such as in the photo above.
To determine the depth of field, you need to experiment with aperture, focal length, and the physical distance between you and the subject. Here’s a guide to depth of field.
15. Be creative
Your clients choose you because they like the photographs in your portfolio or the pictures you took of their friends on their wedding day – if they arrived by recommendation.
In other words, they didn’t choose you because of your technical skills – which all other photographers in the business (hopefully) have, but because of your creative look.
So, don’t get stuck on the traditional pre-wedding shoot ideas of the romantic kiss or the couple holding hands. Yes, they are important – but once you have all the photographs from your shot list, don’t be afraid to have fun and experiment.
Pre Wedding Photo Session FAQs
When should you have your pre-wedding shoot?
There isn’t a hard rule about it. Some people like to have the pre-wedding photoshoot to send out save-the-date notes as soon as they get engaged. Others want to use their wedding dresses, so they do it closer to the wedding day. If you don’t have any specific needs, you can do it four to six weeks before the event.
Are pre-wedding photos necessary?
A pre-wedding shoot allows you to get comfortable in front of the camera and lets you build a rapport with your wedding photographer. It also gives you more memories as a couple during this exciting period in your relationship. So, it’s not necessary, but it’s highly recommended.
How long is a pre-wedding shoot?
Pre-wedding shoots aren’t very long. However, it depends on how many locations and outfits you want to include. Usually, a shoot lasts one or two hours.
I hope these pre-wedding photo tips were helpful – whether you’re the wedding photographer or the happy couple. If you have any questions or you have more suggestions, please leave us a comment.