So you’ve found the perfect photographer and booked an engagement session. You’ve even come across a few potential outfits to wear on your most recent shopping trip. But when it comes to picking the right location to have your engagement photos taken, you’re stumped.
Don’t worry. Options for engagement shoots really are endless. From urban to rural, indoor to outdoor, traditional to unique, there’s a perfect spot out there for every couple. But with so many places to choose from, how do you decide?
We asked four local photographers to provide a little inspiration by sharing a few of their favorite spots for engagement sessions along with some helpful tips and suggestions to consider during your search.
Misty Dawn Pfeil of Misty Dawn Photography has given her fair share of advice to clients looking for the perfect setting for their engagement photos. “First and foremost, I always encourage couples to think of an idea, theme or location that is special or unique to them,” she says. “For instance, I once did an engagement session in a local library because of the couple’s love for books; the groom had actually proposed with the ring nestled in the cutout pages of a novel. I love giving couples images that are uniquely theirs and as a photojournalist, I’m always looking forward to the challenge of working in a new space.”
“Reinventing the look of an old favorite provides its own set of challenges too,” she continues, “and I’m always happy to refer my clients to some of my favorite spots when they’re stumped for ideas. One local spot that tops my list is Historic Old New Castle. Within a radius of just a few blocks, the area provides a plethora of photographic opportunities with historic house backdrops and cobblestone streets for anyone who loves a vintage setting, while Battery Park provides a more natural setting for nature lovers. I think my favorite part about Old New Castle is how it allows me to create a diverse set of images in a relatively short amount of time. Having a location with such variety in close proximity makes it easy to work fast while still achieving an assortment of great photos that don’t look the same.”
“For Lauren and Cecil, the beautiful colonial riverfront town was a simple and perfect choice for their photos, since they take frequent walks there with their dog, Lucy. For their engagement story, we started with the beautiful backdrop of autumn colored leaves that nature provided and a short walk later we got to change it up with some black and white photos using amazing historic textures. Another quick jaunt ended our session with some fun shots on the pier.”
217 Photography‘s Pete Malone is also drawn to a spot that’s known for its history and its variety of settings. “Old City Philadelphia is probably my favorite location for engagement photos,” he says, “because there are endless locations to shoot. Simply walking around the historic homes and wandering down 200 year old alleys can yield some very unique locations for photos that are so very “Philadelphia”. It’s a perfect setting for a couple who is getting married in Philadelphia and wants to incorporate some of the city’s colonial history into their engagement pictures. What better way to get friends and family excited for your Philadelphia wedding than with pictures in front of Betsy Ross’s House or on the famed Elfreth’s Alley? Just a few other backdrops within a 5-6 block radius include, The First and Second Banks, the Merchant Exchange Building, Franklin Court and plenty of Cobblestone lined streets with historic colonial homes. If a couple is looking to showcase the City of Brotherly Love in their engagement pictures, then Old City is where it’s at!”
But famous city streets and historic landmarks aren’t the only sites Pete loves. “Some of my favorite locations for engagement shoots over the past few years have been places that the couple chose specifically because the spot was special to THEM and not because it was a “traditional” location for an engagement shoot,” he adds. “A couple that I worked with last year chose to have their photos taken at an orchard in New Hope where they went apple picking on their first date several years prior. This was an exciting and special location to this particular couple and I was excited because shooting at an orchard while the couple picked apples gave them something to do that was very natural.”
Pete feels that having some sort of activity planned or even just choosing a location where you feel comfortable interacting with each other can result in more authentic and relaxed portraits. “The “activity” of apple picking worked out well for this shoot because it gave the couple a way to interact naturally without having to rely on me as the photographer to give them too much direction. Sometimes engagement photos that are too posed or staged can make the couple look fake, uneasy or awkward with each other. I think these photos turned out well because they show the couple simply enjoying an afternoon together as they would even if I wasn’t there.”
Jenn Childress of Jennifer Childress Photography knows that beautiful backgrounds and meaningful props can enhance a couple’s photos. “For Jasmine and Aidan’s engagement session, we headed to Prophecy Creek Park because it has a lot of different backdrops to work with: stone walls, a big red barn, and sprawling green fields. They also brought along a rugby ball because as rugby players, the game was something that brought them together.” But even though location is important, it shouldn’t overshadow what really matters- the people. “I found that my favorite photo was the one that really captured the essence of the couple the best,” Jenn says, “which was a lot less about location and props and more about the couple themselves taking center stage.”
“Having done this full-time for ten years now,” she continues, “I have found that what is really the most important is being able to capture the personality of the couple. There are definitely ways that location can aid this: if you met at a Phillies game, you can have your photos taken at Citizens Bank Park, and if you are nature lovers a photo shoot at a park or a country club might suit you best. Props, like rugby balls or balloons, can also add something if they are significant to the couple. But, in the end a couple wants to be able to look at the pictures and really feel that they represent them and the love that they have for each other, and that can really be done almost anywhere.”
Hoffer Photography‘s Tony Hoffer agrees that great engagement photos really can be taken just about anywhere. Couples shouldn’t be afraid to get creative and think outside the box because unconventional spots can lead to amazing pictures. “We’ve shot engagement sessions all over the place,” Tony says. “All around Philly, different parts of the U.S. and even a few other countries. One thing never changes. Our favorite place to shoot is a brand NEW place. While a lot of couples get caught up in getting photos at the typical spots and city landmarks where all their friends got their engagement photos, our main goal, is that a couple has something uniquely them. We tell couples all the time that the best place to shoot is the place that has the most meaning to them. It’s our job to make it look good, it’s your job to make it meaningful.”
“The shot you see here was taken in a couple’s empty house,” he explains. “From the time we met them, they wanted to shoot in their home. The only problem was, they didn’t have one yet. Once they bought their house, we went over and explored. They had these wonderful old doors with old-school keys and a sunroom that was getting some incredible light coming through. We wanted to try to get both things in this shot. So our advice to any couple is the same: Be different! You’re unique, find something that fits you. Trust your photographer to do great work and have some fun with it. There are ideas everywhere!”
So, try to choose a location that has meaning to you, whether it’s in the city you fell in love in, the site of your first date, or the place where you’ll share your lives together. Consider planning an activity or bringing props that will help capture you best as a couple. And in the end, just relax and enjoy yourselves. No matter how simple or exciting the backdrop is, your love as a couple is what will truly make your engagement photos shine.