When a pro photographer took her own engagement photos, she made SO much more than selfies. See how she created this colorful, incredible series.
Here’s how to take your own engagement photos
When professional photographer Jen Montgomery traveled to Iceland with her fiancé Alex Johnson, she know she wanted their engagement photos taken there. What followed was a camper van adventure worthy of a Wes Anderson film, and a series of stunning engagement “selfies” that took our breath away.
We asked Jen to describe how she wound up photographing her own engagement session, and what the process was like. This is what she shared…
Why not just hire a photographer like most folks?
In all fairness, Jen and Alex did try to hire a professional to photograph their Iceland visit, but they could never align their schedules. In the end, this inspired the couple to make their own engagement photos—an experience Jen says they wouldn’t change.
“My favorite thing about this entire shoot was the journey,” reminisces Jen. “Taking our own engagement photos was not an easy thing to do, but we made so many memories while doing it. I will never forget what it was like to find the glacier location, to wake up in such a beautiful place, and feel so inspired.
“This shoot is nearer to my heart than any other I have ever done.”
The challenges of being your own photographer
“I wish I’d had more time in Iceland to scout for locations,” says Jen. “There are so many lovely and unique areas in Iceland, I could have explored forever!”
Remember that every location has its own golden hour—that time of day when the light is perfect for photos. When pre-scouting a destination location online, be sure to consider where the sun will be at your shoot time.
Getting the right look
“I would have loved having someone to professionally do my hair and makeup, as well as steam my clothes so they were not wrinkly,” Jen says. “Living out of a van during all of our shoots made for an interesting time putting on clothes, and getting my hair curled and make-up done. Let’s just say, there was plenty of dry shampoo involved!”
- Canon 5D Mark III
- 50mm f/1.2 lens
- 24-70mm lens
- Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens
- sturdy tripod
- remote shutter release
“I used a remote to trigger my shutter,” Jen explains. “It is extremely helpful to be able to shoot from afar.”
She also shot all of the photographs at f/2.5, an aperture that balanced beautiful bokeh with tack-sharp images. And by choosing lenses on the wider end of the spectrum, Jen enjoyed some forgiveness in her depth of field—more than a telephoto would have offered.
Tips for making your own beautiful photos
Ready to take on your first selfie session? Here’s what to remember…
Practice for the big day
No, not that big day. We’re talking about practicing selfies. Any solid photographer can help capture your favorite angles; but when you’re both the photographer and the model, you won’t know what is (and isn’t) working.
Practice your engagement self-portraits in advance so you know which poses feel and look good. This practice can also help you iron out any technical kinks.
Anticipate tourists and variable weather
Jen and Alex also arrived at several shoot locations only to find them crowded with tourists. “At the black sand beach, there were a TON of tourists, so we had to wait for different moments when it cleared out a bit. Many of the tourists asked for photos with us; they just thought what we were doing was great!”
Weather was also an unknown, with rain falling sporadically and often. “Bring something warm and something to keep you dry,” Jen advises.
Great photos take time
To photographers considering taking their own engagement photos, Jen offers one final piece of advice:
“Be patient!” she says. “There are so many photos that will not turn out. Or you’ll find you moved during your poses, and the focus is now off. Patience is definitely key.”
Culling and editing your own engagement pictures
When you’re your own photographer, you can’t take a sneak peek at the back of your camera after every shot. So what do you do to make sure the photos are turning out well?
You shoot a lot—much more than normal; and you anticipate a culling session that’s at least twice as long as usual!
Jen shares, “Of all the photos, I think I edited about half, some of which I kept just for myself and Alex.” Then half of the edited images wound up online for friends and family to enjoy.
Care for your photos like you’d care for a client’s
When the shoot is over and your editing is complete, show your engagement pictures the same love you’d show a client’s images.
Backup your photos
- Store a copy in a cloud backup like Google Drive or iCloud
- Set your ShootProof gallery to automatically Archive when (if) it expires, so you can reactivate it at any time
- Print hard copies of the pictures
Enjoy your photos
Don’t let your engagement pictures live solely on social media. Make prints to hang on your walls, and create an heirloom album you can open over and over.
Now you have engagement photos unlike anyone else’s—and an incredible story to go with them!
Written by ANNE SIMONE | Featuring JEN MONTGOMERY PHOTOGRAPHY via Two Bright Lights