A number of wedding bloggers and websites have noted the increase of couples having professional engagement shots, although I have noticed the tone of these observations is twinge’d slightly with a tone of scepticism or incredulity, as though this were a needless expense that only rich kids from the Hamptons would bother doing. For me those writers are being blinded by the pretty and miss what is really going on behind the pictures, so please let me make the case for the engagement shoot.
To my eyes engagement shots serve three important functions;
1. You and your beau get the experience of being professionally photographed.
For those of us who are not models, being professionally photographed is probably a rare if not one-time experience. Add on top of this that most people don’t like getting their picture taken, and that Irish people can feel a little awkward showing affection toward their beloved in public (sober; drunk I find can be a very different matter) and you have a recipe for some stilted, uncomfortable-looking shots. Probably not the look you were going for in your wedding album. An engagement photo shot gives time to allow the couple to get used to the idea that someone is focused solely on them, they are armed with a camera and it is not going to kill them. There is no time for this adjustment on your wedding day when the camera basically starts flashing from the moment the photographer arrives on the scene.
Plus, if your photographer is worth their salt they will probably give you a few posing tips, or do some slightly different things in the pictures that you may not want for your wedding album.
2. You and your beau get the experience of working with this particular photographer
Photography is an expensive business, and the prices that wedding photographers charge is no joke. Before you drop that non-refundable lump-sum deposit it can be nice to have an opportunity to experience what it will be like to work with this photographer. It is too late on your wedding day to discover that not only is the photographer bossy, rude and obnoxious, they are taking WAY too long to do every shot, and have held you and your bridal party hostage for 4 hours at this point. You need to discover this before the big day. So unless you have been to a wedding and closely (not from behind a champagne glass a football field away from the bridal party being put through their paces) observed the photographer at work, the engagement shot can be an excellent re-con mission. If you are already 70/80% sure you are going to pick your chosen photographer for your big day, then there is a good chance that you really like their work, so even if you have a terrible experience on the engagement shot, you will walk away with an incredible set of prints and will now be armed with more experience with which to select a new photographer – bullet dodged.
3. You and your beau get a beautiful set of images that can be used everywhere, during the wedding and after.
We were lucky enough to have worked with our photographer before the wedding, so didn’t need the engagement shot as a trial run, but when our good friend Vicky Owens offered to gift us an engagement shot we LEAPED at the chance! We spent a beautiful day down in Castletown house, getting used to the idea that the camera would at no point omit death lasers, and were rewarded for all our hard work (there was sitting and standing and laughing – tough day at the office) with about 50 beautiful pictures ….
…that showed up everywhere in our wedding.
We used them for the guest book, we used them for the website, we used them for the table decorations and if people wanted, we had signed copies to give away as they exited the venue (like the celebrities that we are). It was one of the best gifts we ever received.
Then after the wedding we used them to decorate our home. We have two pictures in our front room, one large picture in our guest room (lest our guest wake up and forget who their hosts are), one picture in our room and we hung the Guest Book over the stairs. So in our house, you are quite literally surrounded by our love for one another. The reason I chose the engagement shots to decorate the house is partially because they are better shots (sorry Michael Ryan, calling it like I see it) but also because they are less formal and less obtrusive than a three-piece suit and a big white dress.