Congratulations your engagement! No doubt, you are excited to have those photos with your new fiance and have all the questions. When should I have engagement photos taken? Where should we have them done? How do I pose for engagement photos? What should we wear? Can we have our dog(s) in the photos? How do we look not awkward? I’m so camera shy!
Allow me to be your guide! I hope this guide to planning your engagement session in Arizona is helpful!
- When To Take Engagement Photos
- Places to Take Engagement Photos in Arizona
- Northern Arizona Engagement Photos
- Greer, AZ Engagement Photos
- Engagement Photos in Your Home
- Underwater Engagement Photos
- What to Wear for Engagement Sessions
- Dogs in Engagement Sessions
- How to Pose for Engagement Sessions
- Activities for Engagement Sessions
- Printing your Engagement Photos
When To Take Engagement Photos
Most people take engagement photos 3-9 months before the wedding. If you’re planning on sending out save the dates with your engagement photos on them, you’ll want to shoot for sending those out 6-8 months from wedding (according to Brides.com). If you’re having a destination wedding with a large majority of people flying in from elsewhere, you may want to consider sending them out 8-12 months out to give people extra notice. If you aren’t using your engagement photos on your save the dates, you have substantially more leeway on when to schedule your engagement session. You can even have your engagement session a week before your wedding as a time to relax and reconnect with your partner before the big day arrives.
As an Arizona wedding photographer who has been photographing weddings & elopements for about 10 years, I recommend first finding your wedding photographer. I know! It’s a daunting task. But here’s why I say that. It’s really best to have your wedding photographer photograph your engagement photos. Most wedding photographers include engagement sessions at a big discount in most of their packages as a way to get you comfortable with how your wedding photographer poses and directs you, comfortable with their personality, and make sure you like the photos before the big day arrives.
What season do your want your engagement photos to take place? Maybe your wedding is happening in spring, so fall engagement photos would be a great contrast in season. Or maybe you want your engagement photos to take place in the same season as your wedding because you love that season! Give that some thought as you plan when to take your engagement photos! Arizona is known for its HOT summers. What if you need to have summer engagement photos? Here are some summer engagement photo ideas!
Places to Take Engagement Photos in Arizona
Arizona is home to some of the most beautiful locations for weddings and elopements, so there is no shortage of locations for engagement photos.
Here are some fantastic places to take photos in the greater Phoenix area, including Mesa, Gilbert, Tempe! This is not an exhaustive list, but a place to get you started. Talk to your photographer about their favorite spots, secret places, or if you have some specific ideas!
Papago Park, near Desert Botanical Gardens, the Phoenix Zoo and Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, is a beautiful park featuring smooth sandstone red rocks, reminiscent of Sedona, amongst the desert landscape. There aren’t many saguaros, but you can find a few here and there in the park! The local famous Hole in the Rock is a small natural formation where people can sit and watch the sun set over Phoenix.
Desert Botanical Gardens
Next to Papago Park and the Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Gardens is a beautiful place full of native desert plants, but in a manicured setting if you’re not quite up for a trek through the desert. There is also the herb garden and a few other opportunities for more lush greenery for variety, as well as some buildings and mountains in the distance. Lots of saguaros and other cacti and native desert plants, along with information on them can be found at the botantical gardens. There are also frequent art installations in the garden.
Fee: $15-$30/person, free with membership
The Salt River is a favorite location of mine. Having grown up in Mesa and visiting the area in summer, I’ve become intimately familiar with the area and photograph 50%+ of my sessions at the Salt River. The Salt River is a large area in NE Mesa along Bush Hwy with multiple locations each offering a variety of landscapes. You can have river landscapes with a pebble-strewn beach and towering cliffs above you, or a beautiful desert landscape with Red Mountain in the background, or a mesquite tree forest with a river off in the distance, all in the same general area. You can see more photos and info on this page. Wild horses frequent the area which is a fantastic plus to this location. It’s too busy in summer, but makes a fantastic location every other time of the year. Hiking not necessary, but there are a few spots where it’s possible if you’re looking for a view!
Fee: $8/vehicle for parking
Usury Mountain Park
Near the Salt River, Usury Mountain Park is a regional park with stunning desert landscape and mountains in the background. It’s a beautiful spot for an easy hike (Wind Caves) if you’re looking for a few, but hiking is not necessary.
Phoenix Mountains Preserve
This large area in central Phoenix includes Piestawa Peak, Dreamy Draw Recreation Area, North Mountain, Shaw Butte, Shadow & Lookout Mountain with views of Phoenix and the beautiful surrounding desert. Hikes of all levels can be accessed here. It can be quite crowded during weekends because of it’s close proximity to downtown Phoenix & Scottsdale.
The Superstition Mountains, an icon of the Phoenix area, is located in Apache Junction, east of Mesa. Lost Dutchman State Park encloses the landmark mountains, which are named by the legend of the Lost Dutchman. The Superstition Mountains face west, picking up beautiful sunset color. The whole area is a stunning desert & mountains location and is also near the Superstition Mountain Museum, home of the Elvis Chapel. The whole area is a beautiful tribute to the Old West.
Fee: $7 to park, $50/hour REQUIRED PHOTO PASS
Hire me for nearby secret areas that are free!
Boyce Thompson Arboretum
The Boyce Thompson Arboretum, about 45-60 minutes from Mesa or Phoenix, is a beautiful sprawling arboretum with towering eucalyptus trees, a trail into the mountains for some views, a greenhouse, trees that turn color in fall, and a huge variety of plants. It’s definitely worth the drive to Superior, AZ!
Winter hours: 8AM-5PM, not recommended for summer
Roosevelt Row & Heritage Park
Roosevelt Row is an area in downtown Phoenix known for their murals and street art. It has a high concentration of murals in a relatively small area and is an “artsy” district of Phoenix, making it a fantastic area for an engagement session if you are into art or urban living.
Heritage Square is near the Arizona Science Center and has some fantastic little nooks and crannies that are historic to downtown Phoenix, such as Rosson House. If you want a mix of historic and modern, Heritage Square is a wonderful place!
Fee: street parking only, varies
South Mountain in Phoenix is a beautiful recreation area to go hiking with views of Phoenix. It has plenty of desert landscapes and some easy hikes to the top of the mountain ridges, as well as harder trails to the summit. It tends to be popular, especially on weekends.
Tempe Town Lake
Tempe Town Lake and Mill Ave is a college town with lots of cute bars and restaurants, the Mill Ave bridge and lightrail bridge. Both bridges light up at night and would be a perfect spot to catch the sunset setting over Tempe Town Lake then shoot into twilight for some beautiful nighttime portraits. Also nearby is Tempe Center of the Arts which has beautiful concrete, modern architecture, and another beautiful bridge!
Fee: Parking only
Your favorite brewery
Into local craft beer or cider? Have a favorite date night spot? Ask for permission to shoot your engagement session at your favorite brewery! If it’s downtown, we can take a stroll downtown after you share a brew with your fiance and get some gorgeous urban shots.
Northern Arizona Engagement Photos
Northern Arizona, which includes anything north of the Phoenix area, has a very diverse landscape. Many regions are mountainous, and sometimes grassy, sometimes forested, it doesn’t look like your typical Arizona desert landscape! Northern Arizona is a hiker’s dream, and if you love fall, that’s where a lot of people go for trees that change color. In winter, some regions get snow even if you have a snowy engagement session in mind! It’s also the perfect place to escape the summer heat, as temperatures range from 10-20 degrees cooler than the Phoenix area.
Payson Engagement Photos
Payson is home to a few really unique areas of Arizona- the Mogollon Rim “the Rim” as native Arizonans call it, pine forests and a few lakes, notably Woods Canyon Lake. Though popular, it’s a fantastic place to go during the summer if you’re looking for a summer engagement session but want cooler temperatures. The Mogollon Rim is a cliff overlook that dramatically rises in elevation east of Payson. Mountains off in the distance make for a beautiful spot for engagement photos or elopements, and the nearby Woods Canyon Lake provides lots of different photo opportunities! This area also has patches of aspen trees that change color in fall.
Sedona Engagement Photos
Sedona is a very popular location for engagement photos and elopements for good reason- it’s stunning! Because of that, it’s also very touristy. Plan for crowds, particularly on the weekends. Popular trailheads are always packed. But if you’re really set on engagement photos in Sedona, it’s always worth it! This is where my husband & I had our engagement photos done (with our dogs!) and I definitely don’t regret it.
Flagstaff Engagement Photos
Flagstaff, the city home to Northern Arizona University, is at 7000ft and has beautiful pine forests, towering mountains, a large ski resort, an aspen forest, and isn’t far from Sunset Crater and the Grand Canyon, as well as some nearby lakes such as Mormon Lake. It’s a beautiful place to have your engagement session photos done if you love the outdoors!
Greer, AZ Engagement Photos
Greer is the summer getaway for Arizonans tired of the summer heat, or looking to get away for a fall or winter retreat. It’s a quiet small town in the heart of the White Mountains in eastern AZ where people fish, hike, camp and enjoy a slower pace of life. It’s not far from a ski resort and has lots of cabins for rental but is still nearby several larger towns if you need more amenities. Pine trees surround the area and several lakes and rivers flow through.
Engagement Photos in Your Home
In home engagement photos are perfect for introverts and homebodies! You do not need to have a perfect home that looks like it’s out of HGTV. Maybe Netflix & chilling is REALLY your thing to do together. Maybe you have a hyper dog (or a cat or other pet!) that you want to incorporate into your photos but you can’t take him anywhere. Maybe you guys are really into board games, video games, home DIY and renovations, or cooking together. The benefit of doing photos in your home is you are instantly comfortable there, there’s a lot you can do, and it really shows your personality through your decor. In home sessions are some of my favorites!
Underwater Engagement Photos
Yes, underwater engagement photos! It’s as cool as it sounds, and it’s a fantastic way to beat the Arizona summer heat and still get engagement photos done! You’ll need a pool and both be comfortable opening your eyes underwater, but you do not need to be champion free divers to do an underwater engagement session. I have been photographing people underwater for over 7 years so I am very experienced. It’s a very unique type of engagement session and will surely turn heads!
What to Wear for Engagement Sessions
- Flattering, well fitting clothes
- Clothes that reflect your personality
- Avoid “matching”
- Don’t be afraid to mix colors and patterns
- Pick a unifying color palette
- Consider the colors in your chosen location
- Flowy dresses are always a great idea!
When I was preparing for my own engagement session, what to wear was what I struggled with the most. I AGONIZED over it, unnecessarily. Yes, it’s a good idea to give it some thought, but at the end of the day, the photos are about your connection with your fiance. As long as you feel confident in the outfits, it’ll be great! When in doubt, you can always get the feedback of your photographer. A word about colors- consider the colors in your engagement session location. If you’re having a desert location, wearing a tan dress may make you blend into the surroundings a bit too much. If you’re opting for an overwhelmingly green location, a green skirt might not be the best idea either. You don’t have to choose opposite colors, but if your location is dominant in one particular color, you might want to stay away from that color. Accessories are a fun way to spice up your outfits and give you something to do with your hands, but if you don’t usually wear hats or crazy necklaces, think hard on whether you want to wear those in your engagement session. Conversely, if your fiance is REALLY into shoes or sunglasses, letting him wear a few of his favorite pairs might get him more on board with the whole photo idea and bring in aspects of his personality and document that bit of visual history for the future when you are both 80! Flowy dresses are always a good idea as it gives movement to your photos when you move around. It also gives you something to do with your hands!
Dogs in Engagement Sessions
I am ALL ABOUT having your fur baby(babies) in your engagement session. I had our 2 dogs in both our engagement photos and wedding, if that tells you how enthusiastic I am about this. But how do you get that jumpy, excited, maybe less than cooperative ball of energy to cooperate?
1. Hire an experienced photographer that knows how to photograph dogs- not just the well mannered ones.
2. Get your dog used to going out to exciting places, so it’s not quite so novel.
3. If you think your dog will have limited time where he or she is cooperative during the session, have a “dog wrangler” along to take the dog once we got the shots we need with him or her.
4. Consider tiring Fido out a bit BEFORE the session if he’s particularly energetic.
5. Is he really REALLY not well behaved in public? Try an in home session!
6. Know that dogs will be dogs! Embrace the chaos! Oftentimes there will be some hilarious “derp” shots, and your fur baby might not be perfect, but that’s ok! Capturing real life and being able to laugh at that later is what makes photography so wonderful, in my opinion.
Dogs can be a great way for you to not be as nervous being in front of the camera. They give us something to focus on outside our nervousness, and force us to laugh pretty frequently at their antics!
I’m really, REALLY glad that we had our dogs at our engagement session and wedding. Although there’s never enough photos, one of our dogs passed away a year ago and I’m so glad we have some great photos of her. Our furry babies don’t live with us long enough, but at least we can have photos of them to remember them always by.
How to Pose for Engagement Sessions
A lot of people are nervous about being in front of the camera. 99% of my clients tell me they are camera-shy and super awkward. As you can see from the photos, that is not the case! Posing for engagement photos is less about finding “your angles”- though that helps!- and more about connecting in a real way with your fiance and being open and vulnerable and honest. That’s really hard to do in front of a stranger, which is why I really encourage doing engagement sessions with your wedding photographer so you can have that connection and trust.
The way I do “posing” is really just talking to people, getting to know them a bit, and allowing people the space to be themselves. I will do gentle “action directing”- for example to get warmed up, I might have you guys tickle each other, or dance together, or tell bad jokes. I want the engagement session to be more like a date than a photo session. I want my couples to connect to each other in meaningful ways and have an experience, rather than think of it just as a portrait session.
A good photographer will know how to “pose” you and get you to connect together, which will result in emotional, meaningful photos, as well as get you to feel comfortable with that vulnerability. There is great strength in being open, honest and vulnerable. A good photographer will also move into the right angles for your particular face and body shapes, and if needed, subtly guide you.
But if you’re really nervous, you can practice “posing” by sitting in front of a mirror and seeing what angles your face looks best. I recommend doing this with your partner, and you can get some laughs! You can also do this with your phone, although your phone camera will look significantly different from a professional DSLR.
Activities for Engagement Sessions
So because the most important thing for beautiful engagement photos is authentic connection between you & your partner, you might want to bring in some fun activities that are part of your relationship to document. Are you guys avid hikers? Plan a beautiful hike for your engagement session! Are you into local craft ciders or beers? Get permission to do your engagement session in your favorite brewery and have a few drinks together! Here are some ideas for unique activities for engagement sessions:
- strolling downtown
- playing board games at home
- baking or cooking together at home
- picnic on your favorite trail
- dance party
- play music together
- paint together (or paint fight?)
Printing your Engagement Photos
So you’ve gotten your engagement photos done! You love them! You put them all over Facebook and Instagram! And… they are sitting on your computer, collecting dust. What else can you do with engagement photos besides post them online? Here are some of my favorite ways to use engagement photos in real life in tangible, printed goods.
- Save the dates (obviously)
- A custom guestbook
These are some of my favorite! You can purchase custom guestbooks with your engagement photos in them. At our wedding, we had writing prompts like advice for us as an interactive guest book with our engagement photos in the book. I think these are a lot more fun than the standard guest books where guests just sign their names in a impersonal book.
- Wall art- canvases, framed prints, metal prints!
- Wedding centerpieces
Looking for an Arizona engagement photographer?
Contact me! I’d love to photograph you & your fiance!
View more engagement sessions on my blog!