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Get Great Indoor Engagement Photos When the Weather Sucks

8 min read

When outdoor engagement photos aren’t an option, these tips will help you plan and shoot an indoor session your clients will LOVE! (Photographed by: LAJOY PHOTOGRAPHY)

Do a quick search for “engagement photos.” No, really: go do it. Right now.

Okay, I know you didn’t do it, but if you had, you’d have seen a results page full of sunlit outdoor images, in fields and by rivers, overlooking mountains and cityscapes. You’d think it was a rule that engagement sessions be made in nature. But what if you can’t shoot outside? What if it’s freezing cold? Or pouring down rain? What if a plague of chupacabras has overtaken your city?

It’s time for a backup strategy that’s fun, feasible, and that allows you to create indoor engagement photos your clients will LOVE.

Great Engagement Images: Couple sitting together on IKEA bed.

The Perfect Plan B

Atlanta photographer LaJoy Cox was scheduling to shoot an engagement session with a couple from out-of-town, and she knew she needed to choose an indoor location that wouldn’t be weather dependent. She could pair it with a few outdoor photos, weather-permitting, but wouldn’t be reliant on the outdoor images as her primary source of creativity.

Personalize Your Clients’ Indoor Engagement Session

“My clients told me I had complete control of the locations, so I asked where they liked to hang out in their free time, and what kind of places would mean something to them. When they told me IKEA was one of their favorite places to shop, I was so excited!” – LAJOY COX

That’s right! LaJoy made this couple’s engagement photos at Atlanta’s own IKEA store, an indoor location that represented fun memories for these newlyweds-to-be – and plenty of adventures to come.

Great Engagement Photos: Diptych of couple kissing in an IKEA living room and embracing by an IKEA window.

Location Is Everything

An indoor location like IKEA is especially unique, with its wide variety of rooms and setups. LaJoy had no end of backdrop choices and posing prompts for Johnnie and Joely’s engagement session!

“The thing I was most excited about was getting to use the store as if it were Johnnie and Joely’s own home.” – LAJOY COX

Prioritize Versatile Indoor Locations

When you’re location scouting, seek out indoor locations that offer the following:

  • workable ambient lighting (nothing too dark, or that can’t be color-corrected)
  • various scenes and backdrops
  • space to move around while you shoot – even if there are other customers present
  • nearby outdoor options – in case you want to snag a few outside engagement photos, too!
  • places that hold meaning for your clients: restaurants, shopping centers, museums, places of worship, etc.

Great Engagement Images: Couple steals a kiss in the IKEA warehouse.

Ask Permission

More than ever, commercial stores seem to be relaxing the rules surrounding private indoor sessions (such as engagement sessions). Perhaps all the buzz surrounding the Target engagement session and the #MichaelsChallenge has convinced businesses of these images’ free marketing value! This doesn’t, however, mean you should forego getting permission.

“We did get permission from the manager to make Johnnie and Joely’s engagement photos in the store. Because we were shooting on a busy Saturday, it was even more important to follow the rules. I didn’t want to ruin the opportunity for the next photographer who decided to shoot there.” – LAJOY COX

Great Engagement Sessions: Diptych of couple standing in an IKEA kitchen and snuggling on an IKEA sofa.

Stay Low-Key

Improve your chances of hearing a “yes” from the store manager by clearly describing exactly what you plan to do, and how the photographs will be used. (E.g., it’s a private engagement photo shoot of a non-celebrity couple, not commercial images being made for an ad!)

“When asking for permission, I let the manager know I wouldn’t bring any lighting, and wouldn’t have a ton of equipment that could get in the way of their customers. My only gear that day was a Nikon D810, and 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.8 and 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses.” – LAJOY COX

#ShootProofPRO Tip: Lighting

If you MUST add a flash to a scene, bring a tall assistant to act as your human light stand. You’ll save setup time and won’t disturb shoppers!

Great Engagement Sessions: Couple embraces in an IKEA kitchen.

Get In & Get Out

Be intentional and efficient when you’re photographing in a commercial space. Other customers are there shopping, eating, and spending money, and someone else’s engagement session shouldn’t disrupt their experience.

“Be respectful of the rules, be quick, and don’t bother the customers. Be nice, and – I cannot stress this enough – get in and get out so they forget you were even there!” – LAJOY COX

The less chaos photographers cause in these indoor commercial environments, the more likely store managers will be to say yes to future requests!

“We were in the store for about one hour. We walked around, talked, and got to know each other; and whenever we saw an area we liked for their engagement photos, we stopped for a few shots.” – LAJOY COX

Great Engagement Photos: Couple holds hands in the IKEA sink department.

Prepare for Post-Production Challenges

Taking an indoor photo without a flash may not be a problem exposure-wise, but it can pose some difficult color balance challenges!

“Post production was harder than usual because I used only ambient light. In editing, I worked to give these engagement photos a nice mood that complimented both my client’s personalities and the lighting conditions we were given.” – LAJOY COX

If you’re really struggling to nail your color balance in post-production, consider outsourcing your editing to a third-party service provider, such as:

Great Engagement Sessions: Couple strolls hand-in-hand through the IKEA warehouse.

Bring Your Own Flavor to the Engagement Photos

LaJoy has her own unique vision and style – and so do you! From the gear you use to the way you take photos, from the way you frame your images to your posing techniques, no two photographers could ever craft the exact same images from an indoor engagement shoot at IKEA – or any other indoor location. Don’t hesitate to try something new and different, with a you twist.

“I have a lot of eye-opening moments as a creative, and this session was another turning point in my career because it reminded me: I’m a photographer. I often work in the same settings over and over again, and I was starting to get bored. These engagement photos woke me up and made me see that I can shoot anywhere and truly make the experience my own.” – LAJOY COX

Great Engagement Sessions: Couple sits in an IKEA dining room.

Focus On What Matters Most

Connect with your clients, know their wants and needs, stay true to your style, and be a good community member by leaving every space better than you found it. You’ll soon develop a reputation as the kind of professional businesses want to have around!

Share some of YOUR favorite indoor locations in the comments below!


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