Engaging Moments

Local photography pros call the shots on what’s hot in engagement photo sessions

Story by Amy Newman

He popped the question, and she said yes. But before the whirlwind of wedding planning begins, many couples are celebrating the moment with engagement photos.

“Engagement photos are a way to capture your lifestyle in real life,” says Heather Dunn, owner of Ambience Photography. “It’s really a chance to do something you can’t do on your wedding day.”

We asked local photographers for advice on how couples can create memorable engagement photos that showcase the love that brought them together.

Make it personal

Gone are the days of canned studio shots with couples posing in front of plain or fake landscape backdrops, says Dunn. Instead, today’s engagement photography highlight the couple’s personality – from incorporating their favorite activities to choosing unique backgrounds and fun themes that reflect their personal style.

“Figure out what (the two of you) like to do together normally, and try to capture that fun in your photo,” advises Dunn. For example, Dunn photographed two mushing enthusiasts out with their dogs and sled, and another couple, who enjoy snuggling on the couch reading at Anchorage’s Loussac Library. One couple who were movie buffs recreated famous movie posters as part of their session.

Couples who choose not to incorporate their favorite activities can still infuse their photos with their personality by going with a fun, playful style. Thematic shoots, where the couple dresses in the style of a specific theme and uses props to reflect that theme “are super fun because they’re a little more unique than just the typical photo,” says Dunn.

For the couples that love the “old school” look, engagement shoots filled with charming vintage-inspired details – from suspenders and pearls to old automobiles – are popular, says Britany Denoncour, owner of Alaska Photography & Design.

For those couples who already have a specific wedding theme in mind, consider tying that in with the engagement session.

Get outside!

Alaska’s beauty is a natural backdrop for many engagement photos.

“The majority of people just want beautiful photos of themselves outside,” says Denoncour. “Most of the time (my clients) say, ‘I want mountains; I want something that says Alaska.’”

So grab those snowshoes, hiking boots or picnic blanket and head outside – it’s a great way to showcase your interests while capturing Alaska’s lovely landscapes.

“There are lots of fun things you can do around Alaska,” says Joe Connolly of Chugach Peaks Photography. “There are many people who have airplanes, snow machines or ATVs, and people who are willing to hike to get to a cool spot.”

Connolly photographed a couple who were avid skiers out on the slopes; one photo had them holding a sign with their wedding date, which they then used as save-the-date cards.

Each of the photographers we spoke with cited Flattop Mountain and Girdwood as two popular outdoor locations. Photographs with water as a backdrop are also popular.

Connolly recalls one couple who wanted their engagement photos out on the water. They purchased a used rowboat specifically for their shoot, and Connolly photographed them from shore.

Final Touches

While a beautiful backdrop or a touch of personal style can help your engagement photos stand out, all of the photographers we spoke with agreed that small details still play a big part in creating a memorable photo.

• Clothing. Clothes don’t need to be fancy, but try to wear something nice. Aim for complementary colors, and avoid busy prints and baggy clothes. Dunn says a good rule of thumb is to wear what makes you feel attractive. And unless it’s part of your theme, it’s usually a good idea to ditch the t-shirts – especially if only one half of the couple is wearing one.

• Get comfortable. People aren’t always at ease in front of a camera, and staring at your partner for long periods of time can feel strange. To prevent this discomfort from coming across in your photos, Connolly suggests that couples practice staring at each other so they’ll be more comfortable during the session.

• Choosing the right photographer. The majority of couples use the same photographer for their engagement and wedding photographs, so engagement shoots are a great way to make sure the photographer is a good fit. Denoncour recommends looking through the photographer’s portfolio to make sure their photos reflect the style and quality you envision.

Whatever direction you decide to go with your photos, remember that the point is to capture the connection between the two of you.

“Engagement shoots are so fun,” Denoncour says. “You can really see people in love and it shows.”