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.
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.
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.
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.