engagement photos on the beach MKE

A 5-Step Guide to Gorgeous Milwaukee Engagement Photos

January 28, 2020

To photograph or not to photograph, that is not the question. The answer is yes, of course you should take engagement photos. What a moment in your life to capture! A couple in love cruising the Calatrava, beaming with joy in the shadow of Miller Park. Illustrating this moment in your life, with this beautiful and varied city as set dressing, is pure gold for save-the-dates, a wedding home page, and as home décor for you and family. But how would one ensure polished and professional snaps you can be proud of years down the road? We answer that question here.

camera on ledge at sunset

Get a Pro

Firstly, don’t even think about getting your mom’s newest generation smart phone to do the job. She’s wonderful and she really does mean well, but only a hired gun is going to understand the nuances of lighting, angles, and shadows. Experienced professionals will know how to mitigate passersby in your backgrounds, unexpected weather, and save you from yourself when you have an idea they have seen go poorly in the past. Ideally your engagement shoot would be executed by your wedding photographer, to work out the kinks and trial any poses or smile styles that may or may not highlight your best features the day of your nuptials. Start here to browse local shutterbugs and find your match.

wedding moodboard

The 6 P’s: Prior Proper Pinteresting Prevents Pitiful Pics

The best way to help your photographer do his or her job is to do your homework first. Share your Pinterest board of favorite images, or create a hard copy mood board with colors, locations, vibes you are trying to emulate. Just as important as communicating your wants is to alert your photographer of your Absolutely Nots. If PDA weirds you out, if you refuse to be shot on your left side, if there’s a bald spot you’re trying to avoid, say so and be clear. Additionally, test your hair and makeup prior to the shoot to be sure it looks like you at your best. Take your outfits out for a spin on date night to remove any doubt you can move comfortably, you love the garments on your body as much as on a hanger, and you shine like an absolute superstar.

Make Up and Brushes

Craft a Killer Look

You know that fantasy version of you that lives only in your mind? The one that walks in a room in slow motion and all heads turn your way and say “who’s that girl?” We are aiming for that here. Consider the advantages of skilled hair and makeup services, who are trained in emphasizing your best features for photographs and special occasions, and deemphasizing what you’d rather not have inherited. A nice bonus with hired help is trying out their expertise in advance of your wedding and whether they’re the best fit for you.  If you’re shopping for something new to wear, make sure it is something you would both plausibly be seen in. No need to copy celebrity fashion, just an elevated form of what one would normally expect from you. Avoid logos, wild patterns, and head-to-toe monochrome looks, and if you can, lean toward universally flattering jewel tones. Overly snug clothes don’t photograph well even on the hottest bods, and for heaven’s sake, steam everything ahead of time. That new-clothes-crease is a dead giveaway and it will haunt you when the prints come back. 

couple posed facing each other with flannel blanket at sunset

Snap those Pics ASAP

The glow of the early engagement phase is as brief and fleeting as Golden Hour, so try and have photos taken within a month or two of getting that ring on your finger. Soon the stresses of wedding planning will consume your life, and you’ll want to capture you both now without that weight on your shoulders. Even better, the photos that come back are a convenient dry run for the all-day paparazzi experience of your wedding day. Not only will you know early on if this photographer shot you as you wished, but your proofs will teach you which poses flatter you both best, what your chin looks like in overhead lighting, and characteristics you didn’t know existed until a pro caught them on film. 

couple laughing in the park fall

Take a Chill Pill

Modeling can feel pretty goofy, with forced smiles and a perpetual doubt as to what to do with your hands. There are workarounds for this of course, and it would help to not rush the photo shoot. The longer a camera is on you, the more natural it will feel to be in front of one. So take your time, and do so in familiar places that mean something to you. Perhaps you met at Lambeau Field, or your favorite date spot is Landmark Lanes, or every Sunday you pick up Cranky Al’s donuts. Schedule your shoot there! A location you are connected to helps connect you two in photos, along with hugging and kissing to break the ice. (Kiss each other, not the photographer.) Inside jokes, secret handshakes, and music you both love will loosen you up. And don’t forget any relevant props, like the Harley Davidson you ride together, your competing bowling balls, or even better, the dog you share. Nothing sells a shot like a slobber-puss pooch who was born to model.

The golden rule of course is to have fun, because this is going to be the easiest, most carefree time before you walk down the aisle. Prepare well and stay relaxed the day of your shoot, and you won’t be sorry to have gotten that sweet excitement in print.

Looking for your Milwaukee engagement photographer? Click here!

Some of our favorite locations for engagement photos include:

The Great Outdoors:

Atwater Park | Boerner Botanical Garden | Lapham Peak | Nashotah Park | Milwaukee’s Lakefront / McKinley Marina & Beach | The River Walk | The Domes | Delafield Riverwalk | Lake Geneva Trail | Retzer Nature Center | Lions Den Gorge

Structured/Architectural Backdrops:

St Josephat’s | North Point Water Tower | Harley Davidson Museum | Lakefront Brewery | The Fish Hatchery/Delafield | Villa Terrace | Downtown Milwaukee | Third Ward

Fun & Quirky:

Leon’s | The Fonz Statue | Discovery World’s Wind Leaves sculpture | Various Biergartens | Anodyne Coffee | Your local coffee shop | Milwaukee Public Library