The Importance of Engagement Shoots - by Cat Hepple

I've never met anyone who says they love bring photographed. For most people having photographs taken is an overwhelming thought and makes them pretty nervous. It's not surprising really, it's hardly a normal situation to find yourself in.

It's very often the grooms who are reticent about the idea, worried they'll be made to look silly, not very keen on seeing images of themselves and usually only agreeing to an engagement shoot to keep their fiancee happy.

But this is exactly why an engagement shoot is SO incredibly important.

With the right photographer the whole process can actually be really good fun and enjoyable - and most importantly can give a couple confidence that they look great on camera and that having photographs taken is actually not remotely stressful or difficult.

When we've first met, every single one of my wedding couples has said they are nervous of the camera, worried about how they'll look and are a little shy about photographs of themselves. And every single one of my couples has loved their engagement shoots, and the photographs I have created with them. It's not magic, its down to building a relationship, getting to know who I'm photographing and winning their trust. I need to understand a couple's comfort zone, I need to understand how they tick, what makes their relationship unique, everyone expresses their love differently. Understanding that means taking time to chat and relax together at a gorgeous location and take some beautiful photographs.

A great photographer will always do this with you in an engagement shoot. I never treat these sessions as simply a practice run for the big day, it's something far more wonderful than that. It's a chance to create some memories together, a chance to spend an hour or two in each others company just relaxing and having fun, a way to celebrate your engagement and a fantastic opportunity to realise being photographed doesn't have to be a scary process at all.

There are no rules to an engagement shoot. Some couples love to dress up and go to fabulous places - one of my most recent shoots was in Paris! Others prefer a more casual look and a location very special to them. Anything goes really, the key is always for the shoot to be about the couple, their relationships and their personalities. I like to mix up styles on the shoot, with some romantic shots and some with a more editorial, fashion feel. This is part of my look and why couples book me, so experimenting on the engagement shoot allows me to work out with them what they like, what they suit and what they enjoy.

I always advise my couples against trying to learn any posing techniques for the shoot, they'll never remember them anyway, and I also suggest they don't dwell on the body bits they don't like - we all have them. Fabulous photographers know how to pose you to get the best from you, I know how to use the light to make your skin look beautiful and your figure gorgeous. Trust the person you've employed - if you've chosen well they'll make you feel at ease within minutes and they'll get the best out of you. I tell my couples all they have to do is turn up and enjoy. It's really that simple!

Having an engagement shoot doesn't just give you lovely images, it makes your wedding day photography a breeze. By the time we get to a wedding, I know my couples really well, I know their comfort zone in front of the camera and understand how they interact. Many of my brides tell me that having me around on the big day is just like having another friend there. That's how relaxed they feel. And it's all because we've had the engagement shoot and have built a great relationship in the months before the wedding. I simply could not capture the wedding day images I do without the engagement shoot - it's that important.

Here's what Cat's brides had to say about their e-shoot experience:

Lizzie & Guy:

"We thought the idea of an engagement shoot was brilliant and one of the reasons why we picked Cat! Ours took place in Leeds city centre as we were really keen on the urban vibe which was a complete contrast to out wedding day! It was a brilliant day and a lot of fun and despite a lot of wet and windy weather Cat showed us what she was capable of and produced some fab images which we absolutely loved!!

The shoot allowed us to practice been photographed, use different poses and techniques and for us to get used to Cat and vice versa in preparation for our big day! It also allowed Cat to see how far she could push us with her talented ideas... She made us feel so at ease and so there weren't really any limits!!  

A brilliant day and a real giggle with some wonderful images at the end! Afterwards we were left filled with excitement about what the wedding images would be like!! Thanks Cat!!"

Jessica & Martin:

"What a fantastic treat! A beautiful Sunday afternoon by the sea in the north east with the sun setting and bouncing off the water, walking hand in hand along the sand smelling the fresh sea air, this really was an afternoon we didn’t want to forget. Luckily and thanks to Cat we can look back on our time spent in Saltburn-by-the-Sea with the stunning pictures taken on our engagement shoot. We say lucky but the only luck we had was with the weather. We didn’t really know where to go for our engagement shoot and Cat was fantastic in helping us find the perfect location. Cat put in a lot of time and effort to find a place that matched our given criteria and we couldn’t be move grateful.

The engagement shoot gave Cat the opportunity to get to know us better and for us to understand how to interact with each other to get the most from being photographed. Cat gave us lots of tips of how to relax and work with each other which was fantastic for us to take on to our wedding day and helped Cat take some stunning pictures. Whilst on the engagement shoot Cat spoke to us about our big day and explained how the process would work saving us precious time on our wedding day allowing us to get more photos captured.

The resulting images from our engagement shoot are stunning. We really didn’t think it was possible to get photos of us looking so fantastic. We had such a fun day and the tips given to us by Cat enabled us to get the most from the day by the sea as well as getting the most out of Cat on our big day. We would recommend a Cat Hepple engagement shoot to all brides and grooms. It really was a fantastic day and the pictures captured are truly stunning and will be treasured for a lifetime."

Jenny & Paul

"Booking a wedding photographer who not only provides an engagement shoot as part of the package but insists on it, is the best decision we could have made. Our engagement shoot with Cat has undoubtedly led to wedding photos that far exceeded our expectations, as well as providing us with some very special images and great memories of a wonderful afternoon.

As a girl who is incredibly self conscious and uncomfortable in front of the camera, having the opportunity to have a 'practice run' ahead of our big day proved invaluable. I was more nervous in front of the camera than I had anticipated I would be, yet Cat was so incredibly patient, enthusiastic, and genuinely encouraging during the shoot that even I managed to relax.

Cat is a photographer who goes above and beyond the call of duty in all aspects of her work. She travelled out of her way to a location of our choice, where we felt more comfortable, and took images of us in a place that is very close to our hearts.Our engagement shoot has provided us with some wonderful and breathtaking images that we never imagined possible. The day was genuinely enjoyable and very special for us, so we also have some wonderful memories that Cat helped us to create.

Following the shoot Cat visited us at home and gave us a full viewing of images from the day. Wow! We were blown away! Three and a half hours later we finally managed to pick a shot to have printed and framed (again, all part of the service), from a selection of over 70 amazing images.

By the time our wedding day arrived we felt so comfortable with Cat that she was more of a friend than someone we had hired. The engagement shoot gave us so much more confidence and helped build a trust in Cat that led to some very brave and different wedding shots that only weeks earlier we would never have believed we would take! Her enthusiasm is infectious and photography is clearly her passion rather than just a job.

Following the engagement shoot alone, Paul and I agreed that Cat had proved to be worth more than her weight in gold. We loved everything about our engagement shoot and as for the actual wedding day photos, well that's a whole other story!

Thankyou Cat for all your hard work"

Jenny & Paul on their wedding day

Cat Hepple is an established and highly respected wedding and lifestyle photographer, based in Leeds. For more information visit

  • 1 comments "The Importance of Engagement Shoots - by Cat Hepple"

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  • Sarah Nendick says

    20th November 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Great advice Cat. It's so important to get to know your photographer before the big day - it helps everyone to relax and get those really natural and beautiful shots.

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