Wedding Planning Guide

how to capture the best diy engagement photos

Engagement photos can be an impactful addition to your wedding correspondence, allowing you to adorn your saves the dates, wedding website, thank you cards, and other wedding stationery with aesthetically pleasing imagery of you and your fiancé(e). While they can be an important aspect of your wedding décor, they can also be an extra expense you may not have budgeted for. If you are looking for a recommended professional photographer, we have a list of over 50 photographers located across the US that can help you capture a memorable shot. If you’d prefer to save money on engagement photos, Minted has put together this great article on taking DIY engagement photos.

DIY, or Do It Yourself, engagement photos have become more common in recent years as the cameras built into smartphones become better and better. This guide covers an inclusive list of how to take engagement photos, including selecting equipment, choosing a location, staging your set, and so much more.

Wedding invitation

Love Knot by fatfatin

IPHONE TIPS

In case you can’t use a DSLR camera, most smartphones should be up to the task of taking a great photo as well. Not every smartphone will have the same camera, but here are some basic tips for shooting on iPhones:

  • Orientation: Make sure to get shots in both landscape and portrait orientation so you have more options when selecting a layout for your photo to appear on the wedding stationery. Having options in each layout will allow you to work with any framing constraint that you may face in the future.
  • Exposure: You can adjust the exposure of your shot by tapping on the screen and dragging the exposure slider up or down. Use this to your advantage when taking shots involving light and dark elements in one shot.
  • Focus: You can manually trigger your phone to focus on certain elements by touching the screen where you would like the camera lens to zero in on. A yellow box should appear on the screen that amplifies the resolution of that section. You can play around with this feature to see how drawing the focus away from you may be an artistic look you enjoy.
  • Timer: You can set a timer simply by tapping the timer icon and selecting either 3 seconds or 10 seconds. It’s still recommended that you use a tripod when taking timed photos to keep your camera steady. It’s also worth considering using a remote shutter release in place of the built-in timer so you can trigger the shutter from farther away.
  • Portrait Mode: Switch to Portrait Mode to fine-tune lighting and depth effects on portrait subjects. Depending on your iPhone version, you will be presented with editing functions that allow you to apply studio-quality lighting effects to enhance facial features. This is a great option for taking more intimate, close-up engagement photos.
  • Download Photo Editing Apps: Enhance your mobile imagery through popular downloadable photo editing applications such as VSCO, A Color Story, Adobe’s Lightroom, or Snapseed. Transform imagery with unique filters, enhanced color options, additional contrast features and so much more.

GET THE GEAR

While it’s totally possible to shoot your DIY engagement photos without any additional photo equipment, adding in some basic equipment can make a big difference in the final look of your photos. And, if you purchase any photo equipment, you can always continue to use it down the line for birthday parties, holiday cards, and other family gatherings. Consider checking out the following items:

  • DSLR camera: While smartphones get more advanced year after year, they still are primarily a phone that can take pictures. A phone’s camera will not have the number of settings and features that a DSLR camera will enjoy. With a proper DSLR camera, you can play with shutter speeds, focus, aperture, white balance, and so much more to give your photo an extra edge or dimension. A great camera can make the difference between a good photoshoot and an amazing photoshoot. If you don’t own one, you may be able to borrow one from a friend or family member or consider investing in one that can continue to be used for future photo sessions. Read our follow-up post on taking great family photos.
  • A tripod: Tripods are cameras three-legged best friends. They’re extremely helpful for setting up timed shots as well as holding your camera level and stable. These are practically a must for any photo that isn’t a selfie, and they’re an especially important accessory when using a DSLR or remote shutter release. Tripods are relatively cheap tools for how important they are, so it’s wise to consider getting one for the occasion.
  • Remote shutter release: Gone are the days of pressing a countdown button and running to the other side of the camera in time for the snapshot. Remote shutter releases let you trigger your camera remotely in order to take photos of yourself. They’re typically used in conjunction with a DSLR and a tripod, but you can also get one for use with a smartphone. You can purchase Bluetooth options that will wirelessly connect with your device. These are a wise investment if you’re interested in taking your own engagement photos as they enable an entirely new set of options for setting up shots. For example, you could arrange shots that are extremely panned out and put the focus on the stunning landscape.
  • Light umbrellas or softbox: If you’re looking to do an indoor shoot, these can be incredibly useful for setting up lighting on your set. One of the most defining differences between a professional photo and an amateur photo is the lighting quality and positioning of shadows. Light umbrellas or softboxes allow you to have finer control over how much light is in a scene. Using softer lights can provide a gentler, more natural look compared to your camera’s flash. The additional directional light can also help illuminate elements that may naturally be hidden by shadows.
  • Ring light: If you are planning to primarily shoot headshots, portraits, and other close up imagery, you should consider a ring light. Originally designed for dentists to capture well-lit shots of their patient’s teeth, ring lights are designed to eliminate any shadow on a subject's face, allowing you to capture every detail. Simply rest your camera in the center of the ring light.

SETTING THE STAGE

Staging your scene is another important aspect of how to take engagement photos. Think about a memorable Broadway play. You need a great story, great actors, great lighting and sound, and also great set design. Don’t neglect key staging elements of your photoshoot. Check out these helpful pointers for ensuring your set is photo-ready:

Wedding save the date card

Angles by Cindy Reynolds

  • Hair and makeup: Make sure your hair and makeup are exactly how you want them. These details are important to nail the first time because they’re not as simple a fix afterward as cropping or adjusting lighting might be. Keep a comb and some makeup supplies on hand for any touch-ups between shots, especially if planning beach engagement photos, where the wind often dictates your look.
  • Clothing: Bring multiple outfits! Having clothing options lets you mix and match outfits and engagement poses to create a deeper pool of photos to choose from. Coordinate your outfits with your location, and if you’re taking photos outdoors you should consider coordinating them with the season and time of day as well. Don’t forget to bring any accessories, jewelry, or other details you want to include in the shoot. It is advised to thoroughly scan each other’s wardrobe and appearance before taking your photos. It can be embarrassing if a price tag is accidentally hanging off a blouse, a pant leg is tucked into a sock, or an earring has fallen off.
Wedding save the date card

Serenade by Jennifer Postorino

  • Time of day: If you’re taking photos outside or plan on using natural lighting, consider what time of day you want to have your shoot. “Golden hour”, or the period just before sunset or after sunrise when light from the sun creates a reddish-orange hue, is a great time to take photos because of the interesting lighting dynamic created by the placement of the sun in the sky. Also, if you are planning DIY engagement photos at a popular landmark or setting, you may have the place all to yourself if you wake up early for a sunrise shot.
  • Weather: Check the forecast on the day you plan to shoot. Having a photoshoot ruined by unexpected rain or dark clouds can be a serious downer. You can plan to include rain or snowfall in your shoot if you want, but that can be more difficult to coordinate than a shoot with pleasant weather. In any case, you should make sure to plan around the weather.
Wedding save the date card

Simple Overlay by Jair

  • Location: Determine whether or not you want to take a photo indoors or outdoors and what sort of setting you want as your backdrop. There are so many options to choose from like a famous landmark, a beach, a graffiti wall, or a deep forest hiking trail. Make sure your location is well lit and secluded enough that there won’t be any distractions in the way when taking your DIY engagement photos. Your location should also match up with the theme of your wedding and pair well with your outfit selection.
  • Poses: Sometimes poses are a great idea and other times a more natural vibe sends the best message. We encourage you to take an assortment of photos both posed and unposed to see which one speaks to you loudest. For extra inspiration, read through our list of our favorite 25 engagement photo ideas.
  • Props and pets: Amplify your engagement photoshoot by including celebratory props like balloons, confetti, or champagne for a more exciting feel. Don’t forget to include your pets to show off your growing family!
Wedding save the date card

Love and Harmony by Bonjour Berry

INSIDE OR OUTSIDE?

When weighing whether or not you want to take your engagement photos indoors or outdoors, you should think about the following:

  • Tidiness/cleanliness: Make sure the background of your set is tidy and free of any distractions. Set up your environment so anything cluttered or messy is behind the camera and won’t be captured in the photo.
  • Lighting/reflections: Ensure that there are no direct light sources in the frame unless you’re catching a sunrise or sunset. Scan the viewfinder for any obstructive reflections too. If you are feeling artistic, feel free to experiment with reflection, like a reflection on still a pond or lake. If you’re considering a silhouette effect, try shooting against the sun and reducing your exposure. Also keep in mind that if you want to shoot using natural light indoors, you’ll need to do so in a room with a lot of window coverage from different angles.
Save the date card

Signature Look by Liz Conley

FINAL ARTISTIC INSPIRATION SUGGESTIONS

Now that you have read through all our tips on how to take engagement photos yourself, we wanted to leave you with some final ideas on capturing the perfect shot.

  • Take a lot of photos: Take a bunch of photos, and then take even more! It’s okay to have duplicates and bad shots because you can just toss them out later. Be liberal with your shutter usage and be sure to test out a lot of poses and configurations. Plan to be at your photoshoot for an hour or two and just experiment with a wide array of ideas.
  • Try different angles: Test drive a variety of photo angles to see which ones produce the best results. Shoot down from a rooftop up up from the sand. Each angle can create a dramatic effect. Try interesting crops or wider vs. tighter shots to see what may strike a visual chord. Remember that you can use more than one image from this shoot for wedding imagery for your save the dates, wedding website, wedding decor, or thank you cards down the line.
Save the date card

Torn Edges by Laura Hamm

  • Take candid photos: Candid shots can often turn out better than anything you tried posing for, as they can capture true emotions and bonds between a couple. That’s why it’s a good idea to fill the time between poses and takes with some candid moments. If you have a friend helping with your photoshoot, ask them to keep taking photos when you least expect them to.
Top 10 most popular wedding flowers

Forevermore by Angela Thompson