Education Experimentation Photo Proventure Technique

Take your own engagement photos

July 22, 2015
How to take your own engagement photos | Matt Korinek - Photographer
Engagement sessions can be expensive. If you're looking to save money (and have a bit of fun), learn how to take your own engagement photos here >

One year ago, I asked my partner in crime Rachel to marry me. We were traveling in the Northern Territory of Australia to see the sights of Kakadu National Park.

Since we’re both photographers, we decided to take our own engagement photos in August of last year. We ended up using the photos for our save the date and wedding invitations.

Rach & Matt Engagement Photo | Matt Korinek - Photographer

This post is all about sharing that experience so that you can try this yourself!

Gear | What you need

At the very least, you’re going to need a camera and a tripod to take your own engagement photos.

Ideally it would be a DSLR or ILC. Whatever it is, you need to be able to trigger the camera either using a timer or remote.

Here’s the gear that I had on shoot:

Buying gear from B&H via these links helps support this site.

More Gear | Nice to haves

In order to get better results and make things easier for yourself, here’s some additional gear that is helpful:

High quality Lenses (not necessarily expensive)

Our images were taken with the 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 Nikkors.

You could get away with using a 50mm 1.8 in a pinch which just happens to be the least expensive lens in every camera manufacturer’s lineup.

Bokeh Example | Matt Korinek - Photographer

By purposely putting the background out of focus, I used the beautiful bokeh of the lens to take an abstract photo of the forest.

Lenses with large apertures can give you beautiful bokeh (the way the background blurs behind and in front of your subject).

Radio Triggering using PocketWizards to take your own engagement photos | Matt Korinek - Photographer

Here I am testing to make sure the PocketWizards are triggering the camera.

Remote shutter release

Sure you can use the timer delay on your camera and run into the frame, but that can result in a lot of misses.

Using a remote give you the power to control when the image is captured. I used my PocketWizard PlusXs to both trip the shutter and trigger the lighting.


Having some lighting gear on hand will allow you to get beautiful lighting on both of you even when conditions aren’t ideal. We used my Profoto B1 with a Photek Softlighter attached to create soft, beautiful light.

Take your own engagement photos with flash lighting | Matt Korinek - Photographer

This shot wouldn’t have been possible without lighting. The sunlight is actually come from behind us (creating a rim light) while the Profoto B1 Off-Camera Flash is providing the key light that’s hitting our faces (coming from camera left).

It will take longer to set things up if you have lighting, but it can make a huge difference to the results of your DIY engagement session.

If you don’t already own these items, adding them to your kit may cost you a bit of money – maybe even more than hiring a photographer to take the photos for you. Go for it if you can justify the cost.

Preparing | It’s all about the details

In photography, it’s a combination of details that come together to create a great image. Here’s some of the things you can do beforehand to prepare yourself.

  • Get Inspired | Get really clear on the style of photography you want to capture and get ideas by looking online (Pinterest is great for this).
  • Find the Perfect Location | Location is one of those things that can really separates great photo from average ones. Take the time to find and even scout potential locations.
  • What to wear | Wear things that both show your style, are flattering and will work in the environment/location you’ll be shooting in. To be honest, I wouldn’t say I’m particularly fashionable, but what we wore worked for us.


We found this pine plantation through information online and had to drive an hour to get there.

One of the cool things about shooting at a plantation is that the trees are planted in rows, creating ordered hallways of trees. We used this to enhance the compositions in comparison to shooting in a regular Australian forest.

Looking back, it may have been a better idea to wear a brighter coloured top as my black shirt blends in with the shadows of the forest.

Execution | Make the magic happen

Even with all of your planning, there’s a lot of little details that you’ll need to be aware of when taking your own engagement photos to get optimal results.

  • Stay Comfortable | If either of you are physically uncomfortable, the shoot will quickly go downhill.
Stay Comfortable | Take your own engagement photos | Matt Korinek - Photographer

Staying warm between shots and when you’re testing angles and concepts will help keep you and your partner comfortable. Here we are practicing… 😉

  • Look for Light | Great lighting makes for great pictures so keep your eye of for amazing lighting and make adjustments as it occurs.
Find the right light | Take your own engagement photographs | Matt Korinek - Photographer

The beginning of our shoot the light was soft because the trees were blocking the sun. Later in the afternoon the sun started streaming in through the trees which allowed me to get this shot.

  • Ideas | Be open to each others ideas and try things that you wouldn’t normally do. If you shut down each others ideas, the vibe of the shoot will be affected, and who knows, maybe that idea will result in a great photo!
Try anything when taking your own engagement photos | Matt Korinek - Photographer

We tried a bit of dancing in the forest. Although these images didn’t make the final cut, it was good to get our of our comfort zone and we had some laughs.

  • Keep it fun | Not everything is going to go your way, but if you keep things fun you’ll get much better results (in the photos and in your relationship).
Keep it fun when photographing your own engagement sessions | Matt Korinek - Photographer

Make your partner laugh and then be ready to hit the shutter button on your remote control.

  • Expression | Facial expressions and body positions are extremely important in creating the emotional connection and meaning in engagement photos.
Expression gives meaning to your DIY engagement photos | Matt Korinek - Photographer

Although we thought this expression looked cool, it didn’t express the emotions we wanted to create in our photos.

Expression gives meaning to your DIY engagement photos | Matt Korinek - Photographer

This layout and expressions give a completely different feeling than above.

Expression gives meaning to your DIY engagement photos | Matt Korinek - Photographer

This third example shows how expression can create a tender moment.

  • Shoot the details | Don’t forget to shoot the smaller more intimate details, just like a professional photographer would.

DIY Engagement Photo Details | Matt Korinek - Photographer

  • Tell a story | Adding shots of parts of the day or location that don’t include either of you will give you options to tell a bigger story with your engagement photos.
Tell a story when you take your own engagement photos | Matt Korinek - Photographer

This image tells the viewer more about where we were when we took the photos; how tall the trees were and what kind of beautiful day it was.

  • Post processing | Shooting in RAW and then giving your images a tone that fit the feeling you’re going for will add that extra polish.
Unedited Engagement Photo | Matt Korinek - Photographer

Unedited engagement photo.

Edited & Toned Engagement Photo | Matt Korinek - Photographer

Edited & Toned engagement photo.

We decided not to do any retouching on the images as we wanted to keep that authentic feeling.

This is the software I use for 95% of my editing:

(affiliate link – support this site by using this link to start your free trial)

  • Don’t get too attached | Remember you’re not trying to win any awards so don’t get upset if the images aren’t quite looking the way you want them to. You can always try again some other time.

Pros & Cons

So how do you decide whether or not to try to take your own engagement photos or hire a professional? Here’s what I learned through my experience.

DIY Engagement Photos Hire a Pro
Time It takes time to set up the gear, framing and go through variations to get the shots. If you’re in a rush, hire a pro. Hiring a pro (not just someone with an SLR) will allow you to get great results in less time.
In the moment feedback There is none. You’re going to do things that you think look good on camera only to find out they don’t. You need to look at the shots as you go and tweak accordingly. A photographer can give you direction based on what they’re seeing through their lens, making the feedback-result loop much tighter.
Angles & Serendipity You’re not likely to get the same number of angles because of how long it takes to set things up and go through options. Catching serendipitous moments depends on your camera timer or when you hit the shutter button on your remote. A pro will be able to change things up quickly, get angles that aren’t easily achievable with a tripod and move to catch serendipitous moments as they occur in front of her/him.
Challenge It’s a great opportunity to try something new, and use inspiration to create your own engagement photos. There’s something different about having created something for yourself rather than letting someone else do the work. There’s no really challenge other than being in front of the camera (which many people find difficult).
Cost .The cost of shooting your own engagement session can be negligible if you already have all the gear you need. The more gear you need to buy or rent may tip the scales in the other direction. If you do buy, you’ll have that gear to use on other shoots. The cost is much higher, and for good reason. A professional photographer who you connect with can create amazing results that aren’t possible if you do it yourself. But it will cost you!

Get inspired and give it a go!

I’d love to hear about how it went for you.




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  • Reply JK Martinez September 7, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Very well done, I enjoy photography.
    Great advice thanks

    • Reply Matt Korinek September 8, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      You’re very welcome JK. Keep taking photos!

  • Reply Adriana September 9, 2015 at 3:47 am

    I recently got engaged and although I am not a professional photographer, I have been taking photos for years and have all of the equipment necessary! I have thought about taking our own engagement photos with the thought that it’s much more intimate and fun. Your post really helped convince me that taking your own beautiful photos is possible ! Thank you!

    • Reply Matt Korinek September 9, 2015 at 7:41 am

      Wow, that’s great Adriana. Glad I could help convince you to give it a try. Good luck with the photos and I’d love to see what you come up with!

  • Reply Katie December 2, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    We have a DSLR camera on the way, and we are going to give this a shot! Neither of us have much photography experience at all, but this helped a lot and I can’t wait to try. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Reply Matt Korinek December 3, 2015 at 8:31 am

      Hi Katie, that’s so great you’re going to give it a try! I’m glad to hear you found this post helpful. If you get a chance, let me know how it goes.

  • Reply Jasmine Marsden Jones December 28, 2015 at 5:18 am

    I’m a pro and shoot engagements sessions a lot so this is not only helpful to clients it’s also helpful for people like me! We just recently took our own family photos but forgot my remote release… thank goodness my grandfather was there to pull the shutter but really, we did it all ourselves!

    • Reply Matt Korinek January 2, 2016 at 9:22 am

      Hey Jasmine, I’m so happy to hear you found it helpful. Although you can use timers or ask someone else to help take the photo, remote shutters do make things a lot easier! I was in charge of the family Christmas photo this year and this experience definitely helped.

      All the best to you and your family in the new year!

  • Reply Megan Wheeler January 27, 2016 at 11:09 am

    This was so great to read and the photos you take are awesome! After investigating the costs of engagement photos and both of us being super interested in photography, I think we are willing to make a small investment in some lighting options and trying it ourselves. Are there any less expensive options you could recommend that would work well in this type of shoot? I looked into a few options, but most articles only talk about indoors (and we are outdoor people) and we don’t have a shoe mount. Thanks!

    • Reply Matt Korinek January 30, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      Hey Megan, you can definitely make do with less expensive options. It all depends on how far the light is away from you and what type of modifier you use. I’ve used that same Softlighter modifier with speedlights. I use ones from the same manufacturer as my cameras (i.e. Nikon SB700, SB900 or Canon 600EX-RT). There are also third party brand like Lumopro, Yongnuo or Metz (I have no personal experience with these brands so can’t really suggest outside of what I read online).

  • Reply Steph April 22, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Does the trigger allow you to refocus at all? I’m worried the images wound somehow end up slightly out of focus if we moved around a bit to get more candid shots. Any good tips or tricks for that part? 🙂

    • Reply Matt Korinek April 24, 2016 at 5:54 pm

      Hey Steph, great question. The PocketWizard PlusX only work as triggers however their higher end models (like the Plus III) can do half-press autofocus and shutter release separately. Candid moving around can make things more difficult. What we did was get the focus and then make sure our movements were mostly along the plane of focus (side to side and not forward and backwards). You could also use a smaller aperture to increase your depth of field although you’ll lose that blurry background look. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions and I’d love to see how it turns out for you!

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