He just popped the question. And she said yes.
And if you’re like most couples, the wedding clock has started and you’re already starting to plan ahead…
Where should we have it? Who should we invite?
And inevitably: What should we do about engagement photos?
Now, if you can swing it with your schedule, autumn engagement photos can be amazing. Beautiful and dynamic colors as the leaves start to change. Cute, cozy outfits when it’s chilly outside, but not bitter cold. The perfect setting for capturing authentically romantic moments with your partner that will last for years to come.
That being said, for most couples, this will be the first time you’re being photographed on such an intimate level, and that can be intimidating.
So in this guide, I’ve put together the essentials you should know going into your fall engagement photos, including coordinating engagement outfits, picking the best locations and time of day, and how to make sure your photos turn out beautiful, unique, and NOT staged.
Then I’ll walk you through how to plan your fall engagement shoot so that your perfect engagement pictures come to life, and answer some commonly asked questions like:
“Is it weird to plan ahead even though we’re not officially engaged yet?”
And, “How do we make these not feel cheesy?”
Let’s jump in.
The Fall Engagement Outfits: Turning Frumpy Frustration into Coordinated Comfort
Regardless of where you end up choosing to have your fall engagement photos done, there’s one thing couples tend to get hung up on more than anything else: Outfits!
Lead with outfit planning
Because planning what you’re going to wear is often the most stressful part of the process, as soon as you have a general idea of when your session is going to be scheduled, I recommend trying things on sooner rather than later.
There’s nothing worse than that last-minute panic the night before your engagement session where you feel like you have NOTHING that fit’s right, and end up running out to the mall to make a last-minute decision the day of.
If you’re in this boat, don’t worry - this doesn’t mean your photos won’t turn out. But it does help to plan ahead, so start now if you can.
Expressing your own style vs. fitting the mold
Now every designer and fashion guru will tell you, there are certain colors and styles that pair well together. And for the most part? They’re right!
Classic pairings include:
- Blue and gray
- Pink and beige or navy
- Green and black
- Solids and plaid
And I do advise staying roughly within those traditional guidelines. That being said, as long as you don’t clash, and you feel comfortable, there’s a much higher chance your photos come out the way you’d like.
Fall Engagement Photo Outfits Recommendations
So here’s how I recommend approaching it:
- Make sure you’re wearing something comfortable. If you’re not comfortable it’ll show.
- Loosely adhere to traditional color pairings.
- Match your partner’s level of “formal.” For example: formal dress with suit and tie, turtleneck with a sweater over a button up, etc.
- Try not to “wash out” your complexion. For example: if you’re fair-skinned, wearing light colors can reduce the contrast in your photos.
And finally, there’s something to be said for treating yourself to a new set of clothes. Give it a wear ahead of time to break it in, but a new outfit can help with confidence and freshen up your look.
Location, Location, Location: Pick A Place That You Enjoy
Where you get your photos done is another key decision to make ahead of time. Sometimes your photographer will make suggestions if they know the area, but if not it’ll be left up to you to pick the perfect spot. And that can be a bit nerve-wracking.
Where you choose will obviously depend a lot on where you live ( I mean, the beach is beautiful in the fall, but if you live in the middle of the country… you get my drift), but apart from that I like to use one guiding principle: pick a place that you enjoy.
Much like outfits, if you don’t feel comfortable in the location you pick for your fall engagement photos, it’s going to show through in the photos themselves. One key question to ask is:
Do you love the outdoors, or are you more of a city-dweller?
Locations for the “outdoorsy” types
If you’re more inclined to spend a relaxing Saturday afternoon at the park or on a hike up a local trail, an outdoor venue is probably right for you. Some popular choices include:
- Local parks with paths and a healthy dose of trees with turning leaves (which are beautiful this time of year)
- Popular picnic spots with plenty of grass and tree cover
- Public farms (or private farms you can reserve), which can give you that rustic autumn look.
Locations for “city” types
Or if instead you love a thriving downtown, the hustle and bustle of the evening restaurant scene, or rank “people-watching” as one of your top 3 hobbies on Facebook, you may feel more comfortable booking your session at one of your favorite city hangouts. You might consider:
- City parks, public buildings, and monuments, which can create some amazing shots, especially if you get the lighting right
- An evening on the town, walking down main street, or through public square type areas
- Enjoying a cute coffee shop, or your favorite local shops or outdoor market.
Fall Engagement Photo Location Recommendations
So when you’re picking the location for your shoot consider:
- Asking your photographer for recommendations if they’re familiar with the area.
- Thinking about the type of locations you frequent on a relaxing Saturday afternoon.
- Choosing either an outdoor venue or a city venue depending on your personal tendencies.
And finally, just to touch on those “cliche” fall engagement ideas (e.g. pumpkin patches, tractor rides, apple orchards, etc.):
If you’re into themes and more lighthearted, fun photos those ideas might be worth considering. But if you’re not into “cheesy” you might want to keep your distance.
Lighting: The Photographer’s Secret Weapon
Believe it or not, most lighting situations can be regarded equally when it comes to photography - it all depends on the “look” you want.
That being said, most couples prefer one particular look over most others: the Golden Hour.
How to plan for the Golden Hour
If what you’re looking for is that “magic glow” look to your engagement photos, there are two particular times you’ll want to see if you can schedule your session for:
- One hour after sunrise, or
- One hour before sunset
Because during those times you’ll catch that low-angle sun that can beautifully frame the perfect romantic moment between you and your partner.
For most people, unless you’re an early bird, the evening “golden hour” is the way to go, so keep that in mind and see what your photographer has open.
Other lighting options can still look amazing
If the golden hour doesn’t fit your schedule, or if you’re into a different type of look to your photos, you can still end up with beautiful shots.
- Direct sunlight can make your photos dynamic and bring out colors.
- Backlit subjects in the early morning or late afternoon sun can look unique and creative.
- Overcast, more dimly-lit days can make for more dramatic, emotional photos that really bring out your features.
If your photographer is good, they can work with you to set up the perfect lighting conditions (weather permitting), so have a chat and see what you can come up with.
Find some example photos online that you like, and talk to your photographer about the best time of day to replicate those lighting conditions.
Then make sure to schedule a time that fits that look.
Posing: Natural and Candid Works For Fall Couple Photos Too
Now if you don’t know me yet, I’m a photojournalist. So when it comes to posing, I’ll be the first to admit I’m biased.
Because I focus on capturing the moment rather than creating the moment, I recommend NOT focusing on specific poses, but rather some general guidelines. So I tell my clients not to over-pose, act natural, and have fun, and this can work wonders for fall engagement sessions.
But… the last thing you want is a free-for-all. And to get the most out of your 1-2 hour engagement session you want to go in with some guidelines like:
- Start behind the camera, and practice “being together” before the session starts
- Know a little bit about posture and work on it ahead of time so it doesn’t look force
- Don’t be afraid to walk naturally under the direction of your photographer
- Go with the flow, and if you’re feeling silly or fun don’t feel like you have to “stick to the script”
Kissing: Keep It Subtle and Realistic
More specifically, the one area within posing where couples tend to feel least comfortable is: kissing. Particularly, kissing in public… and especially when you’re not used to PDA.
Are you really going to ask us to practice kissing?
Yes. Just like posing, kissing isn’t something that you want to feel is staged when you have your session. So give it a shot: next time you’re out on date night, ahead of your session, practice some PDA as if you were being photographed.
It will feel awkward at first, but that’s a good sign. Because by the time your photos roll around you will hardly notice, and you’ll end up with some beautiful, yet realistic moments of romance.
The subtle kiss
The other thing I’d recommend is to keep it subtle. Small, natural kisses will provide the camera with more than enough to capture your love for eachother, without it seeming “over-the-top.”
My Recommendations For “Candid” Kissing
Think about it before the session: where do you and your partner tend to kiss throughout a normal day?
Throw in some practice, but also let your photographer know. Whether that’s sitting down to dinner, or taking a walk together, you can work with your photographer to build those “situations” into your session to get a more natural feel that works with how you and your partner usually interact.
Accessories: Proceed With Caution
One final caution before sending you on your way. First...
Signs and props
Creative signs are all the rage on Pinterest. Whether it’s your wedding date, your initials, or a “she said yes” type message, you may be tempted to go wild with these, thinking about your save the date cards or wedding website.
If you’re dead set on using them to capture a specific shot, by all means proceed. But I shy away from these and here’s why:
Engagement photos should be about the couple and not the “event.” It’s not just another checklist item to get done so you can put something on a card. These should be pictures that you and your significant other cherish as a memory forever. And sometimes signs and props can interfere with the authenticity of that moment.
At the least, if you do use them, try to take a few shots to get them out of the way. And then focus the rest of the session on just you and your partner.
For all you dog lovers out there (cat lovers too, although I don’t think they like me very much), if you feel you MUST bring them, ABSOLUTELY plan on having someone else there to take the reigns. Otherwise disaster will most definitely ensue.
And just like with the props, they should only make up a small portion of your photos. So you can still have them as part of your special moment, without interfering with the quality of the session overall.
Planning for the Perfect Engagement Pictures
Okay now that you’ve got a better idea of how you envision your fall engagement photos, now let’s do a bit of planning.
When should I start planning?
As soon as you have your wedding date set! The sooner the better for making sure your outfits, location, and preparation is ready to go.
What’s the best time of year?
It depends on your preferences and available time before the wedding. Some couples like to choose the season opposite of the season of their wedding, so that will dictate some of the planning process.
But if you’re dead set on fall, October or November in most places are great! You get the turn of the leaves and the cozy look without the bitter cold of the winter.
How much time will it take?
An average engagement shoot lasts 1.5 to 2 hours. For some people (fellas I’m looking at you), this can seem like a long time. But when done right, you’ll feel natural and in the moment, and the time will fly by.
How to deal with the cold weather?
Yes, doing a shoot in the fall is flirting with colder weather, so bringing along some cold weather supplies like foot and hand warmers can be smart. Dress in layers, even if you take them on and off while moving in-between shots.
Flesh this out with your photographer beforehand. I’m sure they’ll have recommendations for you, but they’ll appreciate you telling them what you’d like to plan for ahead of time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do we even need to get engagement photos?
Absolutely yes! These sessions are the icebreaker for you and your photographer, but are also a once-in-a-lifetime moment between you and your partner. Time for you to be together, be playful, and just be yourselves. Hold hands, kiss, and remember what it was like to fall in love with each other!
Is it weird to plan ahead even if we’re not officially engaged yet?
There’s no hard and fast rule here. Some people say it’s a bad luck, others think it's not a bad idea to get a leg up if you're in a stable relationship where marriage has been discussed seriously. For example, military families who relocate a lot don't have a lot of time to plan as they might only have a few months notice.
That all being said, you know you’re relationship best. So if you’re a “planner” and your partner is onboard, have at it!
How do we keep our photos from looking “cheesy?”
Remember to try to turn off all your thoughts or worries during the session. If it suddenly seems that you are improvising or that a surprising pose (maybe you never imagined putting your foreheads together and keeping your eyes closed) feels the best, let yourself go with it.
And work with your photographer on the items we talked about above. The more comfortable you feel in your clothes, environment, and with your partner, the less there’s a need for instruction and posing.
Who should we send these to when they’re done?
Engagement photos can be used in making wedding invitations, book of wishes, slideshow on wedding day, souvenirs for guests (calendars, cards, etc.). All of these can deliver a special atmosphere to your celebration.
Should I use the same photographer for our wedding?
Preferably yes. The engagement photo session will give newlyweds the opportunity to meet with the working style of the photographer, and to get used to being in front of the camera with a particular person. So if you can, using the same person on your wedding day will help you to relax and feel more comfortable and confident.
Now You’re Ready To Get Out There!
And that should do it!
Whether you have a very specific image of how you want your engagement photos done ahead of time, or you’re going in unsure and looking for answers, use this guide to plan out the perfect session for you and your partner.
And if you have any additional questions or opinions on what your idea fall engagement photos should look like, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.