A Guide to Engagement Shoots

Will you have an engagement shoot?


Now you’ve accepted your fiancé’s proposal, you have a wedding to plan — but, before you do, it’s a wise idea to take some time out together and celebrate your engagement.

A great way to mark the occasion is to find a fantastic photographer and book an engagement shoot.

To answer your questions, and explain why an engagement shoot is an idea more and more South African couples are embracing, we asked two top wedding photographers, Johann Van Rensburg and Megan Van Zyl, to guide us through the benefits of an engagement shoot.

A Guide to Engagement Shoots

Image credit: Megan Van Zyl Photography

Why do you think it’s a good idea for a couple to book an engagement shoot?

Johann says: “It’s very important for an engaged couple and their photographer to get to know each other before the wedding. During an engagement shoot the photographer is acquainted with the couple’s likes and dislikes, forming the basis for the wedding shoot. The engagement shoot also enables the photographer to portray the future bride and groom’s personalities — their attitude and mannerisms — as well as helping them be comfortable in front of the camera.”

Megan says: “An engagement shoot is a great way to capture an important time in your life before the stress of planning a wedding begins. It’s also an opportunity to get photos of your real relationship: your wedding photos will be more serious and romantic, while engagement photos give you the chance to be goofy and fun and true to who you are as a couple. By the end of the shoot you will have a great sense of the photographer’s shooting style, you will be more comfortable in front of the camera (and with the photographer) and this will have a positive impact on how your wedding photographs turn out.”

What usually happens at an engagement shoot?

Johann says: “It depends what theme the couple chooses, as well as the venue. I normally have a short consultation with the couple before the shoot to ensure that all expectations are met and to set the couple at ease: the best shots are taken with a more relaxed and fun atmosphere.

“We normally start with a few relaxing images to determine camera and light settings. Then we proceed to the actual photo shoot. I prefer to make this as enjoyable as possible and appreciate it when the couple get relaxed enough to participate in suggested poses and ideas to best suit their style and personality.”

Megan says: “The engagement shoot is a collaboration between myself and the couple. We look at what they love to do together and their personalities, then come up with a concept and choose the location. When the couple arrives I will not begin shooting straight away: first we have a chat — I ask how the wedding planning is going, etc. — before I start pointing a camera in their faces. I talk them through how the shoot will go so they know exactly what to expect.”

A Guide to Engagement Shoots

Image credit: Johann Van Rensburg Photography

Have you done engagement shoots that have been particularly inspiring?

Johann says: “I have learned from every engagement shoot I’ve done.  Beautiful and inspiring does not lie in the most unusual setting of the shoot, but in the tangible gestures of love between the couple. I always try and capture those special moments, whether it’s during a walk in the woods or a visit to their most special place. True love and honesty is sometimes found in the simplest of settings and surroundings.”

Megan says: “The best engagement shoots are the ones that are special and personal to the couple. One bride, for example, was studying to become a pilot and we had the shoot at an old airfield and even got photographs of the couple inside the engine of a plane.”

Do you have any advice for couples feeling nervous about an engagement shoot?

Johann says: “The shoot is for a couple’s enjoyment — it’s about them and their special day. They don’t need to be professional models, but only be themselves. After a few shots, I pause and show the couple a few images and get their opinion. Once they realize that the images are good and that they look their best, they relax and enjoy the experience.”

Megan says: “I know that couples going into an engagement shoot will be nervous: it’s usually the first time they have had professional photographs taken. That’s why I help them feel comfortable. I start by shooting from further back, not in their faces, to set them at ease. Then I show them a few photographs directly from my camera, so they can see how great they are looking. I also encourage them to pick a location they are comfortable in, wear clothes that make them feel great and if the bride-to-be has her make-up and hair done professionally, this will give her more confidence.”

A Guide to Engagement Shoots

Image credit: Megan Van Zyl Photography

What could the couple do with the photos after the shoot?

Johann says: “We offer a range of services and can advise the couple on the benefits. These services include save the day notices, using the photos as personalised thank you cards for the wedding day and having an album or canvas made.

Megan says: “The photos can be used for save-the-dates, wedding programs, guest books and coffee table books to name just a few ideas.”

Do couples tend to book wedding and engagement photography at the same time?

Johann says: “Once a couple has booked us for a wedding, we usually encourage an engagement shoot. It is in the couple’s best interests to have the same photographer for both events, unless there are specific circumstances that require a change. I also offer incentives to couples that book both shoots with me.”

Megan says: “I find that most couples will book their wedding with you first and then the engagement shoot. I include an engagement shoot in all my rates as I feel it is important.”

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