If you’re the “friend with the camera,” one day you might get asked to do a pre-wedding photoshoot. It’s an increasingly popular event. It might be the wedding photographer who is asked to do it. Or it can be someone different. There is less pressure than at a wedding. But it’s still a daunting task.
What is a pre-wedding photoshoot? It might be an engagement photoshoot. But increasingly, engagement sessions capture the proposal. The pre-wedding shoot is a chance to plan photos together.
Nothing makes the average person tense up like being told to “Relax!” by a photographer. You don’t have the pressure of a wedding day. But you don’t have the excitement or adrenaline either.
Not knowing how to shoot couples might make for some awkward photoshoots. But if you make the right preparations, you can help the photoshoot go smoothly. The pre-wedding photos you take can be just as special as the wedding photos. So if you’re worried about doing a pre-wedding photo session, read on. We have some solid pre-wedding photoshoot ideas for you.
The 17 Best Tips for a Pre-Wedding Photoshoot
1. Be Relational
As the photographer, you bring expertise to the pre-wedding photoshoot ideas. The couple brings their own ideas. It’s almost impossible to bring these things together without meeting beforehand. The couple needs to trust you. You need to understand their wants and needs. So make sure you give this plenty of time.
Bring your pre-wedding photoshoot ideas. Prepare a slideshow of similar shoots and suggested locations. You can show this on a tablet or laptop. But make sure you listen to the couple’s ideas. Encourage them to bring their own ideas and location suggestions.
Remember, this is all part of their love story. And they’ve asked you to record it for them. Give plenty of time for this meeting, and make all the necessary arrangements. And make sure you’re all clear about how much time the photo shoot will last. That might be the entire day or just a few hours.
2. Make a Shot List
I used to worry that this made me look like an amateur. The very opposite is true. It shows that you are thorough and professional. Make the shot list during your meeting with the couple. That way, you all know what to expect.
Your shot list is to help you remember all the shots you want. But it doesn’t mean you can’t stray beyond it. Go with the moment if a new idea suggests itself.
3. Choose Your Location(s)
Once again, clear these details up in your meeting. There might be a particular location that reminds them of some precious moments. Perhaps it’s where they had their engagement photoshoot. Or it could be their favorite place to hang out. Let the couple guide you.
Perhaps they’re easy, in which case, have some suggestions at the ready. Try to be original, but also be sensitive to what they want. I live in Prague, and some pre-wedding photoshoot locations are very cliché. Except, maybe not for the happy couple.
For many couples, it might be romantic. This is the first time they’ve been engaged to each other. Charles Bridge or the Eiffel Tower might be the perfect place for them. It doesn’t have to be a unique place to make a unique pre-wedding shoot.
4. Choose the Correct Kit
It’s best to have a camera that gives you a degree of creative control over its settings. A portrait lens will come in handy. An even longer lens, say 200 mm full frame equivalent, can also give some amazing shots. At the same time, there’s scope for some creative wide-angle shots too.
They have chosen you because you’re skilled with a camera. Use your knowledge to full effect. As well as the right selection of lenses, remember your flash. A little bit of fill-in can help at times. For the same reason, a reflector can be a real bonus. And make sure everything is ready the night before—batteries charged, memory cards (and spares) empty, and lenses cleaned.
5. Think About the Outfits
Remember those couples having their photos taken here on the Charles Bridge? Many of them are from Asia and come in their full outfit, including the wedding dress. It’s important to discuss what to wear for a pre-wedding shoot in your preparation meeting.
Find out what the couple wants to wear. Again, it’s their choice, but you’re the expert. You have your slideshow of potential shots. Use it to show them how their wardrobe can affect the outcome. If the location offers easy changing options, then they might have the chance to swap outfits.
6. Help the Clients Choose the Poses Carefully
Some people love to pose for photos. Many don’t. Your job for the pre-wedding photoshoot is to make the couple as comfortable as possible. Keep talking to them and encouraging them. It’s also important that they trust your judgment. Some poses feel unnatural but look great.
Do your research, and find poses you want to try for this pre-wedding photoshoot. Look at what other photographers have done for inspiration. The more of these shoots you do, the more poses you will be able to show the happy couple.
7. Keep Them on Their Toes
One way of overcoming the awkwardness of posing is to get the couple moving. Walking, running, and cycling are all possible. Obviously, don’t let them get sweaty and breathless. Pick the movement to fit the couple. If they’re playful, then jumping in a puddle might be a great shot.
There are lots of possibilities. A pedal boat on the river might work. Perhaps if it’s winter and they like ice skating, you can take advantage of that. The key here is to take their minds off the fact that they’re in a photoshoot. Catch them enjoying something they’re doing together. Then all you have to do is capture that moment. Burst mode or continuous shooting mode can help here.
8. Don’t Stop Shooting When They Relax
The candid photo can be a great addition to the pre-wedding photoshoot. A candid photo is one that reveals the truth. So the caring touch or brushing hair away from the face of their loved one. These can be magical moments.
And this is where that long lens comes in handy. Something like a 200 mm lens lets you keep some distance. Often, the more they forget they’re on a pre-wedding shoot, the more relaxed the photos will be. It’s about being alert and aware of the possibilities. This is another time where burst mode can capture that perfect moment.
9. Don’t Forget Your Plus-One
This won’t be for everyone. And it might not be possible for you. When I have a photoshoot with people, it helps to have an assistant. However experienced you are, there’s a ton of stuff to think about at the technical end of things.
An assistant who can spot stray hair or litter in the background is invaluable. The more you work with an assistant, the more they will understand your needs. This becomes a virtuous circle of improvement. Small details can spoil otherwise perfect pre-wedding photos.
10. Don’t Forget the Small Things
Little details can say so much about a couple in the pre-wedding photoshoot. Perhaps they both wear the same sneakers. A photo of their feet could make an engaging picture for their save-the-date cards.
Perhaps they have tattoos that relate to their love story. These are the things that should feature in their pre-wedding pictures. A picture of their clasped hands can make the perfect shot too.
11. Props Can Make All the Difference
Props can be almost anything. But they need to be relevant. Maybe they both play basketball, so it is great to have one as a prop for some fun shots. Perhaps they get around the place on a Harley Davidson. It would be wrong not to get some shots of them sitting on or with it. If you have the opportunity, why not some shots as they ride? That would make for a unique pre-wedding photoshoot.
Simple things can help the couple relax. Not everyone can sit comfortably on the ground (me, for instance). But a rug and a picnic can create interest. And it takes the couple’s minds off of being photographed. This is an important item on your “to discuss” list when you first meet with the couple.
12. Frames Aren’t Just Made of Wood
It’s really easy to focus on the couple and not give your pictures room to breathe. Wedding photographers understand that framing the bride and groom can make for a great photo. The same goes for pre-wedding photography.
When you’re planning your pre-wedding photoshoot location, think about these possibilities. The arch of a bridge or a tree canopy are great examples of frames you can use. Take advantage of depth of field to create a frame that doesn’t distract.
And remember, putting your subjects in the center of the picture isn’t always the best solution. The rule of thirds is your friend, my friend.
13. Use the Golden Hour for Golden Moments
The days of formal, studio photoshoots for pre-wedding photos are probably over. That means using available light. And this is good news. Studio lighting has to work very hard to look natural. Available natural light is just that—natural.
Of course, in your planning meeting, light should be an important discussion. Planning to use the golden hour should be high on your list of priorities. But even if you can’t manage that, make full use of natural light. Shooting into the sun, for instance, can add a dramatic effect. Overcast skies produce gorgeous, soft, even light. Just make sure that you don’t let harsh light spoil your pre-wedding photoshoot.
14. Go Solo
Although this is a pre-wedding shoot, there might be room for some individual pics. Perhaps not one of them completely alone, but at least using depth of field to concentrate on one of them. Although this is about their coming together, it is also about them as individuals.
15. It’s OK to Be Silly
Sometimes. The list of slightly silly things that look good in photos is endless. They include things like pillow fights, splashing in the fountain, and eating the same piece of spaghetti. The key point for pre-wedding photos is that it looks fun and natural.
This can include pulling funny faces. It’s another thing that people don’t mind doing. Especially if it means not having to pose formally. So, poking their tongues out or pulling a monkey face can add humor. And try to work these in early on in the pre-wedding shoot. It will help everyone to relax.
16. Don’t Forget to Edit
If you’re adept at editing, then make use of it. If you’re not, then maybe now is the time to learn with our Effortless Editing with Lightroom course. There are so many presets available for Lightroom that you won’t even have to create your own. There’s a certain look to pre-wedding photos that you can easily achieve with careful editing.
17. Tell Their Story
This is perhaps the most important pre-wedding photoshoot idea of all. This is the couple’s life and their story. A good portrait reveals the person behind the picture. In the same way, pre-wedding pictures should be more than just Instagram-ready snaps. They should tell us something about the couple. Both as individuals and as a couple.
The pre-wedding shoot allows couples to celebrate their love and future together. You have the privilege of helping them to tell that story.
A pre-wedding photoshoot is perhaps the perfect opportunity to capture the couple at their best. An engagement photoshoot and the wedding itself can both be a little formal. This is the perfect time to capture the best of the couple as they look forward to their future together.
Pre-wedding photography is a great opportunity, and if you do it well, it can turn your couple into potential clients for the big day itself. Hopefully, these pre-wedding photoshoot ideas will inspire you to create great memories for the couple.