How to Take Your Own Engagement Photos

Can’t find a photographer? If you’re already a photo pro, maybe it’s time to try a selfie photo session! This couple did – and the results are astounding! (Featuring: JEN MONTGOMERY PHOTOGRAPHY)


What do a camper van, one trusty tripod, and the finest attire have in common? All three were necessary for photographer Jen Montgomery to make her own engagement session with her fiancé Alex Johnson.

Man in a green jacket embraces a woman in a brown lace dress from behind. In the background you see the green and snow-capped hills of Iceland.
Jen Montgomery Photography

The pair ventured to Iceland from their home in Anoka, Minnesota, for the express purpose of photographing themselves in one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. “Trust me when I say that it’s not as easy as you might think, taking your own engagement photos,” Jen admits. “But maybe I’m the only person who’d ever think it could be easy!”

We asked Jen to walk us through the process of how to take your own engagement photos. Here’s what we learned.

Man in a green jacket embraced a woman in a brown lace dress as they stand in the Icelandic landscape.
Jen Montgomery Photography

The Logistics of Taking Selfie Pre-Wedding Pictures

There are myriad logistical considerations for a selfie engagement session – and they extend far beyond gear.

Location Scouting

“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!”

Woman in a flowing red dress dances on a black sand beach in Iceland. The photo is cropped so her eyes are not in the picture.
Jen Montgomery Photography

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 explains. “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!”

Man in a black suit and white shirt stands on a rock face in Iceland
Jen Montgomery Photography

The Gear You Need for Selfie Engagement Session

While you can still experience a fun-filled day of save-the-date shots without lots of professional equipment, using some basic gear can make a big difference in your final engagement photos. 

DSLR

With a DSLR, you can play with focus, shutter speeds, aperture, and white balance. For her shoot, Jen used a Canon 5D Mark III. If you don’t have one, you may consider borrowing from a friend or investing in it for your wedding or future engagement photo sessions. 

Lens

Lenses can help you create bokeh or beautiful background blurs for your pictures. The least expensive yet useful lens you can use is a 50mm 1.8 lens. For Jen’s photos, she used a 50mm f/1.2 lens, 24-70mm lens, and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens.

Tripod

You might be wondering how to take your own engagement photos if there’s nobody else around to assist you. Meet the tripod, your trusty three-legged best friend for a DIY shoot. You can rely on a tripod to hold a camera level and stable. 

Remote Trigger

Gone are the days of pressing the shutter down and running to the other side of the camera, looking too winded in time for the snapshot. 

Instead, all you need to do is to trigger the shutter release remotely to take good engagement photos of you and your partner. Together with a camera and tripod, they are the ultimate trio for a great selfie engagement photo shoot session. 

“I used a remote to trigger my shutter release,” Jen explains. “It is extremely helpful to be able to run away from the camera and shoot from afar!” She also shot all of the photographs at f/2.5 – an aperture that balanced beautiful bokeh with tack-sharp photos.

Bonus: Smartphones

One of the great things about owning a smartphone is handiness, which is beneficial, especially if you can’t bring along much gear. While not every smartphone has the features of a camera, they come with basic shooting features like orientation, portrait mode, exposure, focus, and timer.

Woman in a brown lace dress is embraced from behind by a man in a green velvet jacket. Only the woman's face is shown.
Jen Montgomery Photography

Look for Light

When you’re planning a DIY pre-wedding photo session, you must find the best lighting source. Aside from natural light, professional photographers typically add ring light, Speedlight, and light umbrella. Since you might not have this gear on hand, you need to make the most out of the available light. 

The best way to save you from spending on lighting equipment is by using natural lighting. You can do this by considering what time of the day you want for your session. 

For example, the golden hour, which is the period after sunrise and before sunset, creates a reddish-orange hue. This is a great time to take photos because the sky is showing interesting lighting dynamics.

Woman in a brown lace dress stands in the Icelandic landscape
Jen Montgomery Photography

Experiment While Having Fun

The idea of capturing your own save-the-date pictures may be a bit challenging because this is something new to you. To shoot photos that will look good on your wedding album, consider these things during your planning:

  • Pegs and Poses: Start by looking through photoshoot style guides then add some candid shots. Make sure only to follow those you’re comfortable to execute. 
  • Angles: Try a variety of photo angles to see which ones will give you the best results. 
  • Expression: This is essential in creating an emotional connection and meaning in your photo session.

Have Patience, Young Grasshopper

If you tackle the challenge of making your own selfie engagement session, Jen offers this piece of advice:

“Be patient! There are so many photos which will not turn out, or you’ll find you moved just a hair during your poses and the focus is now off. Patience is definitely key.”

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 hair. 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.

Man in a black suit and woman in a billowing red gown stand on a rock face in Iceland
Jen Montgomery Photography

Culling Your Selfie Engagement Session

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. More than normal. And you anticipate a culling session that’s at least twice as long as usual!

“Of all the photos, I think I edited about half, some of which I kept just for myself and Alex,” Jen shares. Half of the edited images wound up online for friends and family to enjoy.

Man in a suit hugs a woman in a red dress on a black sand beach in iceland
Jen Montgomery Photography

Here’s Why a Photographer Didn’t Hire a Photographer

In all fairness, Jen and Alex did try to hire a professional to photograph their travels through Iceland, but they could never align their schedules. In the end, this inspired the couple to make their own engagement selfies – an experience they wouldn’t change.

“My favorite thing about this entire shoot was the journey,” reminisces Jen. “[our own] 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. [For those reasons,] this shoot is nearer to my heart than any other I have ever done.”

Man in brown pants and a jacket holds hands with a woman in a brown lace dress. They are looking in different directions.
Jen Montgomery Photography

“Selfie”: it’s not a bad word.

“Selfies” are often treated as the unwelcome intruders of the photography world. However, self-portraiture has existed as long as the medium itself. What better way to learn, after all, than to make yourself the subject?

  • What have you learned from making self-portraits?
  • If you’ve never before photographed yourself using anything other than your phone, are you ready to give selfies a try?

Comment below!

Man in a suit dances with woman in a red dress on the black sands of Iceland
Jen Montgomery Photography

Written by ANNE SIMONE | Featuring JEN MONTGOMERY PHOTOGRAPHY via TWO BRIGHT LIGHTS


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