Now that you're engaged, what to do about an engagement portrait

This is a time of year when couples seem to get engaged, more so than other times of year. From the December holidays on through to Valentine's Day, there are lots of heightened emotions thanks to abundant champagne, warm fireplaces, family gatherings and boxes of chocolates shared. Now that you and your intended actually have formalized your intentions, it's a nice idea to have an engagement portrait made.

There are lots of fun uses for engagement portraits: "save the date" cards; announcements in the newspaper; creating a nice profile picture for your wedding website. I like to make a big print of the final image we select and then let the couple show it off at their wedding. Later this picture usually ends up hanging on the wall in some prominent place in their home.

Most of the time I shoot engagement portraits as part of the wedding coverage package, but it's also fairly common to shoot portraits of couples who may not yet have scheduled their wedding, or who may be having it somewhere far away or they've already chosen a photographer who doesn't offer this sort of work.
 Jimmy & Crystal were a great couple to work with. They brought along their dogs for the photos, and we had a nice afternoon walking around Georgetown. Bringing along pets (okay, maybe not fish) is a great idea for engagement photos. Not only does it let you include those important critters that are part of your life, but it also can provide a nice diversion from the process of being photographed. Many times, couples feel like they are "on display" when we're shooting, and having your pets along can minimize that feeling a great deal and make the whole event more comfortable and fun.

 Abby & Jamison had the cool idea of trying to shoot their engagement portraits near the airport (in this case, BWI) because they both travel so much. Standing under the final approach path for the runway provided some fun timing challenges — those planes are moving pretty fast — and it turned out not to be as noisy as I thought it might be.
Liz and Joe got engaged in Fells Point in Baltimore, and we spent an afternoon walking around that very charming part of Charm City making pictures of them. It was a very hot day, and they were real troupers for putting up with the heat. But we also got a very interesting sky toward sunset, thanks to the haze and slight cloud cover. 

 I photographed Adam and Jeannie in Patapsco State Park, which is a great place with lots of variety. Aside from abundant forested area, there's the river and several small tributary streams that offer places to shoot (and cool off.)
 Very often I find it fruitful to walk around with couples to try different settings when we're shooting. This helps to break up the day, and it's fairly easy to feel like we've been in one place for a long time even if it's only a few minutes, because there's so much concentration involved on everyone's part.
 Adam had been fairly insistent that the photos of him and his bride-to-be not be "too posed" or look cheesy. When I'm working with couples I often don't do very much at all to pose them, other than saying, "you two go out there on that rock and make out and have fun." Then every once in a while, when things are going well and they look comfortable I might say, "now look over at me for just a second," and this often yields some nice poses.
Kimi and Jonathan got engaged at Meridian Hill Park in Washington. They're also both quite fit, so we did a little running during their engagement shoot. 

 Here's an example of where I let couples just have fun and then have them look up for just a second. Any longer than that and smiles start to become forced, the gleam in their eyes wanes. But that instant when they glance toward the camera is, to my thinking, quite fresh.

One philosophy I try to apply to engagement photos is that they really can say a lot more about a couple and their relationship if we each put a little effort in to it. What activities do the couple enjoy sharing? Skydiving? Bowling? 
Getting out on the water?

I think the ideal engagement portrait is a pictures that says more than just, "we got dressed up and stood in front of something." What I'd like to produce from each shoot with a couple is a picture that they can look at fifty years from now and say, "that's just what it felt like being in love and getting ready to spend our lives together." And it should be a photo that makes your friends, when they come to visit, say, "you two are the coolest people ever!" 

Even if you're not strapping on a parachute for your engagement portraits, a willingness to experiment a little with poses, situations and angles can help to create an interesting and memorable image.
Finally, the biggest benefit to having an engagement portrait session, as I see it, is that it gives you and your photographer a chance to get to know each other better and to see what sorts of interactions might yield better pictures at your wedding. (And it's as important to figure out what sorts of things make you uncomfortable as well, so they can be minimized or avoided on the Big Day.) If you've had fun during your engagement portrait session, you will likely be more at ease around your photographer at the actual wedding. You'll each be more familiar with each other, and you'll already know that the process works, so you can expect great results from what I'll shoot during your nuptial celebration.

If you're recently engaged, you have my heartfelt congratulations! Much happiness to you both.