Being engaged is such an exciting time, and there are so many things to enjoy during the process of planning a wedding—from the proposal to the honeymoon.
Every time you share the news of your engagement with family and friends, you get to have a mini celebration that makes being engaged feel all the more special!
Taking photos is often a big part of sharing the news of your engagement. Many newly engaged couples have professional engagement photos taken by an experienced photographer.
“When you’re getting ready to take the plunge and tie the knot, it’s important to recognize how short-lived and special this time in your lives is,” says Lisa Romona of Southern Palms Studio. “Engagement sessions are the perfect way to commemorate this momentous occasion with fun, relaxed photos that stand apart from those taken on your wedding day.”
But how can you make the most out of your engagement photos? When should you book the photo shoot? And how can you ensure that you have fantastic engagement photos? We’re sharing the top tips for amazing engagement photos from some of the best photographers in the Northeast Florida area!
Why Should You Take Engagement Photos?
Let’s start with the big question: do you have to have an engagement photo shoot?
Technically, no. At the end of the process, you will be just as married without engagement photos as with them. However, sharing a magical moment with your soon-to-be spouse in a gorgeous setting isn’t a bad way to pass the time! In fact, many couples say their engagement photos are the best pictures they’ve ever taken!
“An engagement session is an opportunity to dress up and get your picture taken, right? Yes, that’s true, but that’s not all an engagement session has to offer,” shares Jerico and Kristina Warner of Walls of Jerico Photography. “The engagement session is a time for couples to take a step back from the wedding planning process, to be together, be playful, and just be themselves.”
On a more practical level, there are several other reasons an engagement photography session is a good idea:
1. Engagement Photos Allow You to Get More Comfortable in Front of the Camera
“Let’s be honest, it’s not really normal to have cameras pointed at you, and it’s most definitely going to be awkward at first. I promise, the awkwardness goes away in like 15 mins,” assures Jerico and Kristina Warner of Walls of Jerico Photography. “Odds are, neither you nor your partner are professional models for a living. (But if you are, you’ll be just fine.) That’s why it’s important to get a “test run” before your wedding day, when the photos will likely feel more significant.”
The Warners continue, “Not everyone feels natural posing in front of a professional photographer—especially when it comes to taking candid or romantic shots with your partner—and an engagement session should feel, in part, like practice. Not every pose works perfectly with every couple. The engagement session allows your photographer to figure out the most flattering way to position the couple. By having an engagement session, you’ll learn how to relax, feel at ease and even look less tense in your real wedding photos. That’s pretty important.”
2. Get to Know Your Potential Wedding Photographer, and Vice Versa
Photographer Angelita Esparar shared that “doing a practice run before the official day is a great opportunity to get a true feeling if you mesh with your photographer and get the results you are expecting out of your wedding photos.”
Heather Mendez of Bow Tie Photo & Video agrees. “This relationship can be so much more than just a business transaction—it can be an opportunity to make sure every aspect of your big day is documented in a beautiful and memorable way. When you meet with your photographer before your engagement shoot, take some time to get to know them and find out how they approach their work. With their help, you can create stunning photographs that capture all the joy, love, and emotion of one of the most special days of your lives!”
3. Test Out Your Wedding Day Hair and Makeup
Jerico and Kristina Warner of Walls of Jerico Photography recommend taking advantage of this experience as a way to test out your wedding day look. “Have your hair and makeup trial done on the same day as your engagement session. This way, you get to see how it looks in photos and can let your stylists know if there’s anything you’d like to change. Once you see your engagement images and get excited about them, you’ll have more confidence in yourselves and in your photographer.”
4. Receive Photos You Can Use During the Wedding Planning Process and on Your Big Day
Sarah Eddy of Sarahdipity Photos shares this advice: “Throughout your wedding planning season, you will absolutely love having professional photos ready to use. From save the dates, wedding websites, social media, or prints to display at your engagement parties or on wedding day…you will be so glad you chose to get engagement photos.”
How and When to Book an Engagement Photographer
Many couples try to plan their engagement photos with the same photographer they are considering for their wedding day photos. Some photographers even offer complimentary engagement sessions as a part of their wedding photography packages. With this in mind, choosing an engagement photographer is often the same process as choosing a wedding photographer.
Photographer Ashley Steeby says that “once you choose and establish your date, venue, planner, and budget, I’d recommend doing research on your dream photographer! Usually, your venue and planner have fabulous recommendations that you can take advantage of. With this, you can decide whose style speaks to you and reach out about availability and pricing options.”
In-demand photographers can book up well in advance, especially for popular wedding dates. Our experts shared that many couples book 9-18 months in advance of the wedding day, but this can vary.
If you are unable to book an engagement photography session with your wedding photographer—which is often the case for couples planning a destination wedding—the Walls of Jerico team recommends “booking with a photographer with a similar style as your wedding photographer.” No matter which photographer you choose, they suggest “reaching out as soon as possible, especially if you are wanting to have your engagement session in spring, fall, or on a weekend.”
Where and When to Take Engagement Photos
Once you have chosen your photographer, it’s time to plan the logistics of where and when to take your engagement photos.
When it comes to how far out from your wedding day to take your engagement pictures, Heather Mendez of Bow Tie Photo & Video shares this advice: “If you’re hoping to use the photos for save-the-date cards, then it’s best to plan your session earlier rather than later. Generally, save-the-dates are sent out around six months prior to the wedding.”
Mendez also provides advice on picking a day of the week. “Keep in mind that popular locations and beach areas tend to be less crowded during the weekdays, and photographers are less likely to be busy on weekdays, so try to plan your session for one of those days, if possible.”
Having the best lighting possible helps make your engagement photos shine! With this in mind, Angelita Esparar says that you should ideally take pictures within 2 hours of sunset for best lighting.
Esparar also shared this advice on picking a location for your engagement photos: “It’s a great opportunity to take photos at a location you wished you could go to on the wedding day, but is logistically not possible due to a tight timeline. If you are unsure of a location, ask your photographer for sample galleries to help narrow down your decision.”
You can also pick a location where the two of you feel comfortable or a place that’s meaningful for your relationship, like the place where you had your first date or where you got engaged.
Since these photos will be used to set the tone for your big day, you can take the opportunity to give guests some insight into the overall style of your wedding. For example, if you’ve chosen a wedding venue with a swanky Art Deco vibe, you can pick a spot with similar architecture for your engagement photos.
Where to Take Engagement Photos in St. Augustine
“We love scheduling engagement sessions in downtown St. Augustine,” says Walls of Jerico Photography. “It’s so picturesque…as if it’s meant to be an engagement session location! St. Augustine truly offers something for everyone—all within a short walking distance: beautiful buildings, palm trees, tons of history, cobblestone alleys, a beautiful bay, and lots of architecture to add a little extra charm to your photos.”
The Bow Tie Photo & Video team also loves taking photos in historic St. Augustine. They shared a few of their favorite locations in and around St. Augustine for taking engagement photos:
Cobblestone Streets of St. Augustine
The unique and historic cobblestone streets of St. Augustine make for a beautiful backdrop for engagement photos.
Castillo de San Marcos
This 17th-century fort offers incredible views of the city and has plenty of great photo opportunities.
The beautiful campus of Flagler College is a top choice for engagement photos in St. Augustine, FL. The former Ponce de Leon hotel was built in 1887 and is listed as a National Historic landmark. This architectural masterpiece is a beautiful location for photos year-round!
St. Augustine Lighthouse
The picturesque and iconic lighthouse makes a perfect backdrop for engagement photos, especially with its spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Matanzas Bay.
Another gorgeous historic landmark in St. Augustine that is very popular for engagement photos is the Lightner Museum. Built as a hotel by railroad magnate Henry Flagler, this building is now a museum of antiquities and houses St. Augustine City Hall. The grounds have several stunning photo locations. Note that a photography permit is required through the City of St. Augustine to take photos in the courtyard and loggias of the Lightner Museum.
Anastasia State Park & St. Augustine Beach
The beautiful beaches at Anastasia State Park offer an idyllic setting with plenty of stunning photo opportunities. Consider having your session at either sunrise or sunset for the most magical photos.
Tips For Amazing Engagement Photos
Once you’ve picked a photographer, date and time, and location, you’re well on your way to checking engagement photos off of your wedding planning to-do list. Our expert photographers shared a few more tips to help make your engagement session as successful as possible!
Engagement Photo Outfits
Feeling and looking great during your engagement session is key in having photos you will love for years to come.
Heather with Bow Tie Photo & Video recommends choosing complementary—but not matching—colors. “For a more flattering look, stick with a general color palette but vary your outfit colors. For example, if you’re wearing a patterned shirt, pull out an accent color from the pattern and have your partner wear that shade. Or if you go with a brightly colored outfit, have your partner wear something a little more toned-down—complementary and stylish, not matching! Varying your color combinations is an easy way to make sure you both look amazing.”
Walls of Jerico suggests that couples bring one change of clothes. “We love to offer the opportunity for an outfit change halfway through the session. This gives you the opportunity to get a few different looks and feels with your session while maximizing our time together. Many couples opt for one dressier option and one more casual option.”
Another big tip for your outfits is to wear them around a little bit before the photoshoot. You want to know if it wrinkles easily, feels uncomfortable, and if you like it in photos. You could wear your outfits on a date night and take pictures with your phone to see if you genuinely like them.
But most importantly, focus on comfort. Sarah Eddy says, “Wear clothes that you feel good in! An outfit can be all the rage but if you don’t feel confident in it, ditch it.” Make sure you’re free to move, hug your partner, and even walk a little if the location requires it.
Express Your Personality
Your engagement photos should feel true to who you are as a couple, and reflect the things that are important in your lives.
“For extra oomph, consider accessorizing with hats, jewelry, or a splash of flowers to show off your unique style,” suggests Lisa Romona with Southern Palms Studio. “Make sure your partner’s toes look as dapper as the rest of their outfit—after all, a picture is worth a thousand (stylin’) words! Whether you’re into classic kicks or funky footwear, pick something that won’t leave your photographer limited in poses.”
Jerico and Kristina of Walls of Jerico also emphasize the importance of personalizing your engagement photoshoot. “We want your session to scream YOU! If that means bringing your four-legged fur baby along or props that tell your story, please do! We can incorporate them into your photos in a fun way! Maybe it’s something from your proposal or a hobby you both love and share, maybe it’s a food you love or a bottle of wine that is special. Or maybe you just want to pop/spray some champagne to celebrate your engagement!!”
Krissy Weeks of Ivey Pictures agrees that you should “bring pets along for part of the session, but see if a friend or pet sitter can take your pet home after a few photos.” You want to be able to fully enjoy your time and focus on your fiancé.
Plan Your Photoshoot Day With Intention
With a little bit of pre-planning, you can make sure that your engagement photo day goes off without a hitch.
“Small details like having manicured nails to show off your ring and the right colored socks help ease stress, so consider setting out your outfits the night before and making sure you have every accessory you want to be photographed ready!” says Kristina Warner of Walls of Jerico Photography.
We’ve already mentioned that your engagement photos are a great opportunity to do a hair and makeup trial to test out your wedding day look. Make sure you leave plenty of time for your hair and makeup artist to do their magic!
Warner continues, “The timing for your session isn’t a coincidence. It is scheduled so that we have the best lighting for your photos. (Trust me: I’m the girl looking at the sunset schedule a year in advance!) Please allow enough time when you find yourself planning and include time for travel, traffic, and parking.”
Have a Backup Plan
“You can’t control the weather, but you can be prepared for anything Mother Nature throws your way on your wedding or engagement photoshoot day,” advises Lisa Romona. “Have a plan B in case of rain or excessive heat. Indoor locations like breweries, coffee shops, or your own home are always great backup options. Be prepared and have fun—no matter the weather!”
Relax and Have Fun!
“Be playful and simply enjoy the time together,” says Ashley Steeby. “Your photographer will guide you. When you trust their direction fully, let go of any insecurities, and have open communication, you’re going to have amazing photos! Make reservations for a nice dinner after the shoot so you have something to look forward to after & celebrate!”
Rob Futrell also encourages couples to trust their photographer. “You have researched all of your options and then picked the perfect person to document this moment in your life. By letting your photographer take control and lead the way, you are getting the absolute best that they have to offer!”
Being engaged is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that celebrates your love and your excitement for the future. Your engagement photos will be cherished keepsakes that mark this special time in your lives.
If you are still on the hunt for the perfect wedding venue, we would love to help you accomplish this other oh-so-important part of your wedding planning process.
The Treasury on the Plaza is a unique wedding venue featuring 1920s-style architecture plus some incredible features, like the bar inside our authentic bank vault! Schedule a tour today so we can show you around.
Thank you to all of the photographers who provided their expert tips for amazing engagement photos. All of these professionals are fantastic options for any couple looking for someone to help them take engagement photos in the Jacksonville or St. Augustine, Florida, area. You can learn more about them by clicking their website links below:
- Angelita Esparar Photography
- Walls of Jerico Photography
- Bethany Walter Photography
- Sarahdipity Photos
- Bow Tie Photo & Video
- Southern Palms Studio
- Ashley Steeby Photography
- Ivey Pictures
- Rob Futrell Photography