FAQ : How to Capture FUN Engagement Photos

When I started my photo business, I was desperate to learn everything I could about the technical aspects of my camera. I read everything I could find online, dog-earred my manual, and participated in photo forums with a plethora of questions. As the months passed, I found myself practicing every day and becoming more comfortable learning to shoot manually and understanding exposure (that wasn't to say I was great at it...I was simply getting better). However, when the moment came for me to work with people in a real photo session (and not practicing with a chair, orange tree, or my dog in the backyard), I fell flat. I felt like every technical thing I learned didn't matter because I couldn't get two people to look comfortable in front of my lens. Learning exposure was just the first step in a gajillion. That's, like, a lot of steps.

As I continued practicing the technical aspects of photography, I started practicing ways I could get my clients to represent my brand and photographic aesthetic. Early on, I knew I wanted my clients to have fun in front of my camera, but I didn't know, exactly, how to make them have fun. I mean, that's incredibly can't exactly look at a couple and say: Go ahead, be FUN now! As the business grew, I added Fresh and Editorial to a list of words I wanted clients to use as they described my work. Once I outlined what I wanted, I then needed to find ways to achieve it.

So, let's focus on the word fun and I'll try to outline how I approach this during a photo shoot (following the same pattern and approach with Fresh and Editorial). If the goal is for my clients to look like they're having fun, then I need to give them fun things to do. Sure, this sounds slightly lame, but I discovered over time it really helps making clients loosen up in front of my camera.

I started by making a list of Fun Things To Do and memorized these prompts before heading into an engagement session. Now, my version of fun isn't everyone's version of fun, but it doesn't matter...the main idea is merely to capture a single moment displaying the couple's truest personalities.

Over the years, my approach has changed--and still changes with every shoot--but my early FTTD list consisted of some of the following:
*Girl drags boy (along with his weighted resistance) - side angle, front angle
*Boy wraps arms around girl and she tries to get away
*Girl runs and jumps on boy's back - shooting continuously
*Girl and boy stand parallel to each other and have a dance off
*Girl leans into boy from a distance, the falling of her weight will knock him off balance
*Boy lifts and spins girl

Sure, this list may seem trite and silly, but this list was the very thing that helped me find my voice, develop my style...far before I knew it was even possible. Of course, I wasn't as planned and strategic in following the list precisely, but it served as a nice starting point, as well as mixing in planned ideas for Fresh and Editorial poses. Having a mix of ideas really helped diversify my portfolio and get my ideas going when I was in a pinch.

To see how I engage with my clients and have FUN at an engagement shoot, feel free to check out this photography tutorial.

I hope this helps explain a bit of my early approach and the ways I tried to move past my insecurities to approach a shoot with confidence. If you have tips or advice you'd like to share, please feel free to do so...I'm always looking for new ideas, too!

Stay Fabulous,
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Heather - Thank you!!! Lovely and very useful post. I have my first couples shoot, and this is what I needed. I love the feel of your pics, this fun fresh element is what I'm looking to capture. Well done. x  11.03.15 - 6:24am
Jennifer Rice - I have referred back to this a dozen times already.... it's a great spring board :) Thank you soooo much for sharing Jasmine. It really does make a world of difference to know that someone out there (that's be there before) cares about the little people that want this so badly. Hugs!  10.20.12 - 4:01pm
Brenda King - Thanks for the wonderful ideas !  10.18.12 - 10:24am
Jennifer Harvey - This is fabulous post! I have an engagement session this coming sunday... let see if i can capture FUN engagement photos LOL   09.17.12 - 12:32pm
Sharene - Jasmine Star, you are a gift from heaven <3 thanks so much for these tips, just in time for my e-session shoot on monday =)  09.04.12 - 10:58pm
Kristin Cooley - I'm totally in love with the dance off photos in this post!! What a fun way to get clients to loosen up. Thanks for the never-ending supply of ideas and tips, keep them coming!! :)  09.04.12 - 11:27am
surrey wedding photographer - Thank you Jasmine for a great insight to your approach. Your images always have great connection with your clients. I will certainly put some of your ideas into practice next time I shoot a couple....  09.03.12 - 7:40pm
Christina Hastings - Thank you soooooo much! I have been wanting to know practical, down-to-earth tips on how to make couples genuinely have fun and laugh on a shoot so thank you for sharing your list of a few ideas!  09.03.12 - 6:54pm
Michelle - These tips are great, especially for something that I struggle with! Breaking out the notebook as I type!  09.03.12 - 6:30am
Leigh Kinne - Jasmine, Thank you for this article. I read it just before an engagement shoot and used all of your advice. The pictures are great, and my clients keep saying how much fun they had. Pure genuis. Thank you for sharing your secrets. You rock!  09.01.12 - 5:46am
Sydney Photographer - I'm a big fan of your work. Love your use of sunlight in some of these outdoor shots.  09.01.12 - 12:26am
Feather Midgley - I have been wondering FOREVER what direction it was you gave your clients to get that signature pose you have of the girl "trying to get away" (not that I want to copy exactly) but thank you for sharing, mystery now solved and I can breath easier ;)...but truly thanks for sharing, Great Advice!  08.31.12 - 12:09pm
tanya webster - sometimes I just ask them to pretend I said something funny and that gets everyone laughing all on its own ;)  08.31.12 - 11:49am
Wedding Photographer Essex - Jasmine this is ne of my favourite posts, very helpful and some wonderful photo's  08.31.12 - 11:47am
Annie - Awesome! Thank you so much for being so open and available!!! I, too, am struggling with the same old poses and I am just trying to keep it fresh, this is just what I needed to see today, thanks, girl! You rock :)  08.31.12 - 7:37am
KZ - great post, always love to hear your insight and admire how down to earth and honest you are - such a rare and great quality to have :)   08.31.12 - 4:44am
Paula Franco FOTOGRAPHY - Thanks for all your advise Jasmine!! I use a lot to get the couple separately and let them get closer Each time its different, some people get fun, others romantic... Also walk and run together and tons of kisses and embraces!!   08.31.12 - 2:18am
Jeannie - Thank you Jasmine for this post! Will help me a lot directing my clients.  08.31.12 - 1:31am
Trinky - Thanks for reminding us all that the key to great engagement photos is capturing the joy, which will be remembered far more than the technical details of the shot!  08.30.12 - 11:38pm
Eryn Kesler - Thanks for the tips!  08.30.12 - 11:25pm
Haley Johnston - So helpful! I always feel super awkward at the beginning of engagement sessions. I also get sweaty palms haha I think I get more nervous than the couple sometimes! Lucky by the end all three of us are super comfortable. I am definitely going to make a list and memorize it! Thanks, Jas!   08.30.12 - 10:28pm
Haley Johnston - So helpful! I always feel super awkward at the beginning of engagement sessions. I also get sweaty palms haha I think I get more nervous than the couple sometimes! Lucky by the end all three of us are super comfortable. I am definitely going to make a list and memorize it! Thanks, Jas!   08.30.12 - 10:28pm
Mark William - This. is. perfect! Jasmine.. you genius, you.  08.30.12 - 10:11pm
Marcy - Thank you Jasmine, very helpful. I love this approach.   08.30.12 - 9:27pm
Jennifer - As I enter my 2nd year, I struggle with this, too. It's comforting to know that your awesomeness evolved. Can we be best friends already?  08.30.12 - 9:22pm
Leaves of Grass Photography - My clients use the word "fun" to describe the feel they want for their session, oh... 99% of the time. Sometimes I feel like they hired the wrong Photographer! Soooo appreciate the tips on how to create genuine, "fun" photos!  08.30.12 - 9:13pm
Limelife Photography - This is GREAT! We always like this one, too: boy & girl face each other with a good distance between them. Both close their eyes. Then, they have to find each other without using their hands...and kiss. We tell them to open their eyes once they get there :-D  08.30.12 - 9:13pm
Robert Hillis - Really great post! I'm always looking for ideas to help get clients more comfortable. Thank u so much!  08.30.12 - 7:25pm
Hailey Huggins - Jasmine, thank you so so much! I have really found myself getting into a rut with my shoots, feeling like my clients could be having so much more fun. Thank you for sharing this!   08.30.12 - 6:38pm
Ashley Martens - This is so great! Thanks Jasmine! :D   08.30.12 - 2:27pm
Alexis - All great advice! As I look to grow as a photographer, I will most definitely take it to heart! And dedicated practice! :)  08.30.12 - 2:19pm
Ashley Christine - This is incredibly helpful! Thank you SO much, Jasmine! Looks like I've got a fun project to work on. =)  08.30.12 - 12:47pm
Melissa Avey - I love how fun all of these are!  08.30.12 - 12:22pm
Shannon - Great post. I love your idea of memorizing a list of prompts!! I always write them down but never have I thought of just tucking them away in my brain so I'm always ready!! Thanks for the video, too. I'm off to watch. :)  08.30.12 - 11:57am
Gladys - Still read your blog everyday, and then I was like whoaaa my face today. hahahha. <3  08.30.12 - 11:24am
Fernando Reyes - You may hand them a soccer or football or baseball ball for this purpose too, for me that would be fun and you can have some good shoots from it.   08.30.12 - 10:49am
Annie - I like how you share what it was like for you in the beginning starting out as a photographer cuz i'm starting out too. I admire your work and the knowledge you share. Thanks a million!  08.30.12 - 10:26am
Tiffany - J* - Such a huge help! Your couples always look effortlessly happy and comfortable in front of your camera. I can copy a pose any day -but getting to the essence of "them" is harder. THANK YOU for this list. If only my dog and tree could take directions from me while I practice. :)  08.30.12 - 10:25am
cstarchenko - I always tell couples on the count of three, I want you to start fake laughing. 1.2.3 GO. ( Annnddd, occasionally there's that awkward nerdy discussion about ON three of after 3.... and I usually shoot that as well, becuase there is laughter.) And while it starts out totally awkward, theres a moment where it turns into genuine laughter, and its a photo WIN.   08.30.12 - 10:07am
Pam Heggie - It's not every day you get the chance to be the first to comment on a J Star post! Lol. That list is pure genius Jasmine!! And so are you!  08.30.12 - 9:56am
Michelle - Just thank you :)  08.30.12 - 9:47am
Mandy - You are amazing. Thank you for sharing! You inspire me daily, AND your dog is the cutest! :)  08.30.12 - 9:45am
KaileyRogers - This is my biggest issue...thanks so much for inspiring. YOU ROCK J* I wanna be like you when I grow up ;) k   08.30.12 - 9:39am
Lauri Stephens - Love this post. I have a session on Sunday and will use some of this there. Thanks you! Hey is that Brandon Kidd? He's awesome too!   08.30.12 - 9:35am
Susieq3c - I always have the boy whisper something in the girl's ear that he would never want his grandma to hear him say-you know, something flirty and maybe even a little naughty!! This always gets a great reaction from both parties! Then of course, to have the girl whisper in the boy's ear is just as much fun. And I never ask WHAT was said!! If grandma wouldn't want to hear it, I'm sure I don't either! Hehe.   08.30.12 - 9:33am
Amanda Swafford - I always wondered how you got that cute "girl drags boy" shot that is such a signature look for you. I love it!  08.30.12 - 9:27am
Nanette Gordon-Cramton - Excellent ideas, Jasmine! I often have to remind myself to dare to suggest corny ideas to my clients...I may feel somewhat silly but in the end, we all have more fun and get great images! Thanks for the reminder!   08.30.12 - 9:27am
roberto farren | boston ma - Interesting read and ideas. Thanks for sharing, Bob   08.30.12 - 9:18am
Kool Ed - Jasmine - YOU ARE THE BEST! You are so open with sharing. I hope people continue to support you by purchasing your inexpensive tutorials. Thx much for the inspiration and tips!  08.30.12 - 9:18am
Kyle - Jasmine, I love this. These concepts not only work for an engagement shoot, but any shoot with couples. I have a 1-year anniversary shoot coming up and am looking forward to trying some of these out. And just a note that you have really inspired me to juts bring more of myself out in my photography. It has inspired me to completely make over my website, my brand, and find my voice in a very crowded profession. Thanks!!!  08.30.12 - 9:18am
Chrisinda Treadwell - Oh, I so want to learn to have more fun on engagement shoots. This blog certainly was the most helpful of all I read recently! Going to start making my FTTD list immediately! Thank you Jasmine, your the best!  08.30.12 - 9:15am
Insana Collins - Awesome tips Jasmine. All of these images are so natural too. You are my hero!  08.30.12 - 9:08am
chandra ~ oh lovely day - your couples ALWAYS seem to be having fun, so you're doing something right! I'd love to share these tips on my blog for my readers, since coming from a professional photog (specifically YOU) they will listen! Would that be ok?  08.30.12 - 9:07am
jaine {brklynview} - this is great tutorial. thanks jasmine. sometimes it's hard to get your clients to open up but others, just go with the flow. it's a work in progress and i think making a list beforehand of things they can do to loosen them up is a wonderful suggestion. thanks!  08.30.12 - 9:06am
sarah danaher - awesome, awesome tips!!! thanks for sharing so often, and for being so helpful to other photogs!  08.30.12 - 9:02am
Emily - This is a HUGE help!! I feel confident in my ability to take good photos but I have a hard time getting people to loosen up and be natural on camera. Thank you so much for your advice! I am going to use this for every shoot from now on!  08.30.12 - 8:57am
Tara - I love this! I often feel like I always talk about myself, and that I do stupid things. and I have really been wanting to make it feel all about the clients! Not me, being stupid to get them to open up,laugh and have fun!   08.30.12 - 8:38am
karen allen - Oh wow, this was SO what I needed this morning!! Thank you Jasmine! It's totally what I've been stressing over/struggling with, and this couldn't have come at a better time! You rock!  08.30.12 - 8:30am
sharon elizabeth - What a great post J!  08.30.12 - 7:25am