16 Photographer-Approved Tips for Taking the Most Beautiful Outdoor Engagement Photos

couple walking on beach outdoor engagement photos
Photo: Ashley Sawtelle

Here's what the pros want you to know about your open-air engagement session.

01 of 17
engagement photo ideas anni graham
Anni Graham

Before you pose for photos on your wedding day, you'll likely spend some time in front of the lens for another very important photo session: your engagement shoot. Some couples aren't sure if it's necessary to take engagement photos, and while it's entirely optional, there are so many good reasons why you should plan an e-session. In addition to getting a keepsake from your time as an engaged pair and photos to use on everything from your wedding website to your social media feed, they'll also give you an opportunity to get comfortable with your photographer and learn how to pose for portraits before the wedding day arrives.

If you're already sold on the idea of setting up an engagement session, the next step is to ensure it runs seamlessly. This can be especially complicated if you're choosing an outdoor setting for your shoot. To make things easy, we tapped the experts—namely, some of the wedding industry's top photographers—to get their best tips for making your outdoor engagement session an experience worth documenting. From choosing a significant location to articulating your vision to your photographer, our pros have provided a variety of incredible tips that will ensure an effortless day of shooting.

Some of the most noteworthy pieces of advice include timing your engagement session so that you can take advantage of golden hour, otherwise known as the two hours before the sun is expected to set. Other photographers suggest tips to help your personality shine through in your images. Maybe you'll choose to pose for photos with your four-legged friend, or else wear an outfit that speaks to your backdrop and style. Above all, our photographers made it clear that having fun and embracing your relationship as naturally as possible on camera is the best thing you can do to make sure your session translates into photos you and your partner can cherish for a lifetime.

02 of 17

Integrate Seasonal Elements

couple walking on beach outdoor engagement photos
Ashley Sawtelle

"Coordinate your engagement shoot attire with your location and season. Connect appropriate fabrics, textures and colors to the spot you are having your photos taken. This couple opted for light and airy, in which the flow of her dress was a perfect match with the ocean breeze." —Ashley Sawtelle, Owner, Ashley Sawtelle Photography

03 of 17

Communicate with Your Photographer

couple on snow mountains outdoor engagement photo
Tec Petaja Photography

"For me, the beauty of shooting styled engagements shoots is the freedom ​of choice. For example, I can work with each couple on their preferred location, time of day for best lighting, and other factors that ensure the photos turn out how they envisioned. So many of my clients tell me they love working with me before the wedding because they get to know me and understand how I work before the big day!" —Tec Petaja, Owner, Tec Petaja Photography

04 of 17

Visit a Meaningful Location

couple kissing by pool outdoor engagement photos
Rachel May Photography

"Picking a location that speaks to who you are as a couple is key. A place that can not only provide a beautiful backdrop, but also one that allows you two to come alive and enjoy the moments as they unfold before the camera." —Rachel May Clarke, Owner, Rachel May Photography

05 of 17

Keep Track of the Sun

couple holding hands on beach outdoor engagement photos
Kelli Durnham Photography

"One way to take beautiful outdoor engagement photos is by posing in the most flattering light. Any time of day, or year, there is beautiful light—it is just a matter of finding it! For outdoor photos, finding open shade during when the sun is harsh and bright is always best. Shooting at 'magic hour' is also preferable. This time of day takes place either one or two hours before sunset or one or two hours after sunrise." —Kelli Durham, Owner, Kelli Durham Photography

06 of 17

Pay Homage to Your Ceremony Site

couple getting engaged on boat trent bailey
Trent Bailey Photography

"As a charming nod to the couple's destination wedding in Cape Cod, we made sure to shoot their engagement photos in a setting that took advantage of their wedding's unique location. The charm of the boat on the water created an added touch of fanciful whimsy." —Trent Bailey, Owner, Trent Bailey

07 of 17

Assemble Detailed Close-Ups

couple closeup outdoor engagement photo
Sarah Kate Photography

"Capturing meaningful shots of elements, like your engagement ring, a keepsake that's sacred to your love story, or any other characteristic that speaks to you as a couple, is important when creating diversity throughout your engagement portraits. Focused detailed images are also great options for save-the-dates or a playful alternative for your engagement announcement."—Sarah Kate, Owner, Sarah Kate Photography

08 of 17

Bring a Furry Friend

couple with dog outdoor engagement photos
IRIS Photography

"Not only does a dog add an interesting element to the photos, but a pet easily brings out natural reactions in your couples." —Jane and Mike Shauck, Founders, IRIS Photography

09 of 17

Dress for the Occasion

couple walking in desert outdoor engagement photos
BrittRene Photography

"One of the best ways couples can add personality to their engagement session is by expressing their personal style through their outfit choices. Whether they opt to dress up or dress down, I have my couples pick outfits based on what suits them best, encouraging options that vary between casual and formal." —Brittany Waddell, Owner, BrittRene Photography

10 of 17

Create Depth with Your Environment

couple on cliff outdoor engagement photos
Brian Leahy Photography

"Capturing a couple's engagement photos in a location as breathtaking as the mountains makes for a session that was equally captivating and dramatic. For this session, utilizing a cliffside spot on this rock exposure made for striking images that added to the day's overall experience." —Brian Leahy, Owner, Brian Leahy Photography

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Take Cover

couple walking in shade outdoor engagement photo
Liz Banfield

"Although outdoor natural light is always a great idea, the lighting is more beautiful if you can be both outdoors and tucked under something, whether it's under a leafy tree branch or an open-air porch." —Liz Banfield, Owner, Liz Banfield

12 of 17

Bring Fun Props

outdoor engagement photo in desert
Barnett Photography

"If you're going to bring props into your engagement photo shoot, have some fun with it! This couple opted for a giant pink flamingo which helped translate the carefree vibe they desired for their shoot." —Paul Barnett, Owner, Barnett Photography

13 of 17

Utilize Your Proposal

outdoor engagement photo with helicopter
Samuel Lippke Studios

"One of my absolute favorite events to photograph is the proposal because there is a certain surprise element mixed in with one of the happiest moments in a couple's life. It basically ends up being an upgraded engagement shoot, and if planned right, can move into an engagement party with friends and family waiting at a nearby restaurant or home." —Samuel Lippke, Owner, Samuel Lippke Studios

14 of 17

Let Your Guard Down

candid couple outdoor engagement photo
Sara Wight Photography

"Don't forget to have fun and be yourself. The best photos always happen when you relax and focus on your partner." —Sara Wight, Founder, Sara Wight Photography

15 of 17

Endorse Twilight

couple kissing by city skyline outdoor engagement photos
Kent Drake Photography

"Most of my couples live in the city, so bringing that environment into their engagement session is always the main goal. Urban engagement sessions allow for more formal attire which when paired with the twinkling city lights creates such a classy and romantic vibe. Timing is everything, so it's important to have a plan and be in the right place as the sun sets on the cityscape!" —Kent Drake, Owner, Kent Drake Photography

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Take Time to Prepare and Connect

couple hugging on beach outdoor engagement photos

"Most of our couples meet up with us after work. Everyone needs time to transition from their work-life to their personal life. If possible, take at least 15 minutes to sit down together with your favorite beverage and enjoy a snack. Taking the time to transition out of work is especially important before a photo shoot so you can feel relaxed and connected with each other." —Heather KingenSmith, Owner, KingenSmith

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Encourage Candid Moments

couple on ledge with leaves outdoor engagement photo
Fred Marcus Studio

"Seconds of spontaneity often spark natural impulses that translate into some of the most memorable photos. Encouraging couples to interact with each other in ways that make them feel most comfortable will help ease nerves often associated with being photographed." —Felix Feygin, Photographer, Fred Marcus Studio

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