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The Hottest Tips and Trends in Engagement Photography

When photography was developing in the second half of the 19th century, equipment was large and bulky, and most couples didn’t hire a photographer to document their wedding day. Instead they donned their finest outfits and posed together for a portrait in the studio. Hence, engagement photography was born.

Luckily, the days of boring in-studio photography are long gone—and creative, stylized engagement shoots are hotter than ever. Whether arty, quirky, chic or humorous (or all of the above), engagement photos are as unique as each relationship. How to get beautiful photos that show the real you? Read on for tips from local pros on how to make the most of an engagement session.

To Pose or Not to Pose?
Not all couples choose to take engagement photographs, but an increasing number of photographers offer engagement sessions as part of the wedding package. Soon-to-be newlyweds can use the photos on save-the-date cards, in newspaper announcements, as part of wedding décor or simply to adorn their homes. An engagement session is also an opportunity for a couple to get to know a photographer before signing a pricey contract for the wedding.

“It’s good practice for the wedding,” says Justin Graddy, owner of Graddy Photography. “Come the wedding day, there isn’t any stress. They know what to expect from me.”

Kayla Kudrna, who was photographed by Graddy with her fiancé in an outdoor fall session, says that the shoot also allowed her to get comfortable in front of the camera before her wedding. “It’s hard for me to do all the serious shots,” she says. “But you get to know your photographer well, and then you know how their style works.”

Explore the Trends
Today’s digital technology places few limits on engagement photos, and increasingly creative photography ideas ensure that couples end up with images that match their personalities.

It’s always in vogue for twosomes to be photographed doing an activity that they enjoy, whether that’s playing mini-golf, eating cotton candy at the State Fair, ice-skating or strolling down Nicollet Mall. During these low-key shoots, a pair simply has fun in front of the camera.

Scott and Kelly Schoeberl, owners of Olive Juice Studios, photographed one such session at a couple’s favorite espresso bar. “The photo shoot happened very organically,” Kelly says of the session with couple Kari and Brent Dahlstrom. “We got in their space and started playing around. It was a morning of [visiting] places that were special to them and trying to capture everything they had told us about.”

Other duos opt for more stylized shoots that highlight current fashions. Couples may strike a pose in a nautical setting, at their favorite bar or with suitcases in front of parked airplanes or cars, for chic fashion shoot-inspired photos. “Something that’s really in now is old-school glamour, like Mad Men, paired with a modern sense of decorating,” says Heidi Preisler, owner of Heidi Lynn Photography. “It’s vintage with modern.”

Set the Scene
While engagement photographers say the spark of a young relationship can be captured anywhere, distinct backdrops add flair and set a particular mood. Urban backgrounds are popular choices—for example, a looming skyline or a graffiti-covered brick wall. “The advantage of working in Minnesota is that you have two beautiful cities [Minneapolis and St. Paul], and I always try to incorporate them,” Graddy says. “I’ve also walked around downtown Duluth to get some shots of a couple in the harbor or by old buildings with faded-out logos.” 

For a different approach to urban life, Graddy has photographed couples after dark. In one session he shot a pair under the flashing strobes of their favorite downtown Minneapolis nightclub; in another, he captured a duo wandering beneath twinkling holiday lights in St. Paul’s Rice Park.

Minnesota also offers diverse natural settings for couples to include in shoots, from pristine lakes to pine forests to prairies dotted with wild flowers. Preisler recently capitalized on another plentiful commodity during a shoot with Kelly Paskach and Matt Bollis: snow! Minnesota’s varied seasons provide ever-changing natural backdrops.

Play with Props
During an engagement session, a simple prop can go a long way. Incorporating a prop—balloons, bicycles, a champagne bottle, a pet or something as simple as a full skirt that the bride-to-be can twirl in—will add life and color to photography. They also encourage twosomes to interact, making it easier to capture natural laughter and shared intimacy on camera.

Photographers agree that the best props carry special meaning for the couple. Preisler, for instance, snapped pictures of Kelly Paskach and Matt Bollis playing with a vintage camera—the same camera that they were both eyeing at a thrift store when they first met. “It’s good to personalize the shoot in fun ways, whether it’s through props or recreating a story line of how the couple met,” says Preisler.

Illustrate Your Own Story
Engagement sessions create a memorable day for couples, yet photographers also urge fiancées to remember that the end product is not only for the pair, but for their families, too. “The photos are not just for you, they’re for the people who want to hear your story,” says Kelly Schoeberl.

Ultimately, photographers say the most crucial component to engagement photos is genuine connection and emotion. “We want the couple to look happy,” Scott Schoeberl says. “What future generations are going to want to see is you and your partner in love.”


  • Vintage – Create a vintage shoot with fashion that mimics an era gone by, or incorporate a prop like an antique bicycle or car. You can also play with effects and finishing in postproduction to give your photographs a vintage look.
  • Destination shoots – Show off your love of travel by posing with suitcases, next to planes or in your car on the open highway. If it’s within your budget, travel to one of your favorite destinations and shoot your session while on vacation.
  • Bold colors – Add a splash of bold color to your photos, through ribbons, apparel, nail polish or balloons.  
  • Urban settings – Photos taken in a striking urban landscape add contrast to the softer, romantic pictures of the wedding day. Shoot against the skyline or in your favorite hidden corner of the city. 
  • Nautical scenes – You don’t have to live on the coast to have a nautical-themed engagement shoot. Head to one of Minnesota’s many lakes or rivers and take pictures on a boat or at the beach.
  • Theme parks or fairgrounds – Photos taken in this fun-loving atmosphere can incorporate thrill rides, bright lights, candy apples and carnival games.  
  • Night shoots – For a change of ambience, take your engagement photographs after dark. Subtle light from candles, nightlife or holiday lights will set the mood.
  • Long exposures – Ask your photographer to play with long exposures. When the photo is finished, you and your fiancé will be centered in the midst of artistically blurred lights and movement.
  • Depth of field – Tell your photographer that you’d like to explore the camera’s depth of field and you’ll get images that place you between very distinct foregrounds and backgrounds.
  • Shared activity – Whether you enjoy fishing, dining out or playing in the snow with your honey, have a good time and let the camera do all the work.
  • Incorporate nature – Take advantage of Minnesota’s diverse gardens, waterways, forests and seasons.
  • Stay at home – Forget about fancy outfits or dramatic settings and just enjoy some time at home with your sweetheart. Shoots in this relaxed setting will capture intimate moments.

(slideshow credits) Photography: Heidi Lynn Photography | Hair and makeup: Maureen Klehr, JAIDE Salon | Styling: Jenny Kleven, Maven Floral & Event Styling | Signage: Oh Dier

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