So many of my wedding clients have told me “I’m really awkward, I don’t love photos of myself, I’m so nervous.” Being nervous is absolutely okay. But I made this guide so that your awkwardness doesn’t hold you back. You deserve to have photos taken that make you smile and think about those moments in time, not about how uncomfortable you look or felt.
treat yourself to a great outfit/look
Having professional photos taken is the perfect excuse to treat yourself. Here’s a reminder if you need it: these are photos you’ll look back on for YEARS TO COME. You’ll probably show your grandkids your engagement photos. If you’re using them on your Save the Dates, you’ll be showing your loved ones how great you looked on this day. This is a great opportunity to do your hair & makeup trial, buy that dress you’ve had your eye on, or finally get that fitted suit.
What do you do with your hands? Keep ‘em moving. Have a flip through Pinterest or a magazine and check out what the models are doing with their hands. It’s likely that they’ll be touching their face, hair, or clothing. Think delicate movements, like a woman might gently run her finger along her jawline or tuck her hair behind her ear; a man might adjust the cuffs of his shirt or run his fingers through his hair. A couple might interact with each other–touching each other’s faces, waist, arm, etc. If your hands feel awkward, give them something to do!
Another great way to keep your hands occupied is by taking props with you. Your engagement session is not only there to get great general photos of you, but to give your loved ones a peek into your lives together. Maybe you met at a bookstore–take along a stack of your favorite books and flip through them during your session. Grab your bright red umbrella on a rainy day or for some shade in the sun. Even a bouquet of roses would have a variety of looks. Whatever it is (and it really can be so many things), play with it. You’re allowed to fidget and be silly.
do something fun or go somewhere beautiful
If you’re nervous about all the attention being on you, put the attention on something larger–your surroundings. If there’s a gorgeous mountain range or a quirky cafe around you, there are both more things for you to appreciate and put you at ease & more for the picture to be about.
learn your "angles"
This one is a tough one because we all think we know our angles from selfies. It’s so different when someone else is taking the pictures. Go in front of a mirror and turn your phone around (bonus points if you have a phone tripod or something to lean it up against).
You can see yourself through the screen in the mirror, but not quite clearly. Snap a few pictures (don’t overthink it, just snap one every few seconds!) while moving around, fake laughing, smiling. Try the angles you like in selfies. Notice where your forehead is in relation to the camera; is it tilted forward, to the side a little?
Review the photos you’ve taken and note what feels good. I find that if you “smize”--squint your eyes a little while you’re smiling–it can help bring your whole face together to look more like you’re actually happy. Bonus effect: smiling even when you’re not happy can make you a little happier : )
plan a more private session
There are a lot of public locations that are fun for engagement photos, but if that’s something that worries you, there are ways around it. If you love a public place, going there as the sun rises or when it first opens during the week is a great way to have fewer people around. You can also have a fantastic session in your home, a boutique hotel room/Airbnb, or in nature.
what's the worst that could happen?
What is the absolute worst that could happen? Maybe it’s that don’t love the way you look in the photos, and you keep the photos for yourselves rather than using them for save the dates. You’ll still have a set of memories from a day you spent together, and you’ll still learn about what it’s like to be in front of the camera that will be present on your wedding day, which is arguably the most important part. That’s not so bad at all, is it? The stakes here are pretty low.
This one can be a hard one, but it bears iterating. Take deep, calming breaths. Close your eyes. Focus on your partner, breathe in their smell (this will also get some cute pictures while you’re at it). If you’re able, grab a quick drink before your session (or bring champagne along!). On top of everything, let your photographer know if you’re feeling nervous–I guarantee it will take a little of the tension away just saying it out loud, and a great photographer will have some fun ideas for feeling more at ease.