You're getting married, hooray!

You probably fall into one of two categories: you've had a Pinterest board devoted to engagement rings and photos you want with your someday-fiance for years or you're absolutely dreading all the fuss and details that are to come with this new season. No matter where you fall, you're probably wondering if you need engagement photos and what you would even do with them if you had them.

Do you need engagement photos?

Short answer: YES! And I'm not just saying that because I photograph weddings. Engagement photos are an awesome way to get comfortable with your wedding photographer. This is the person who will be spending 9-10 hours with you on your wedding day and tbh, it'd feel weird if a stranger was watching and taking pictures of some of your most intimate moments. An engagement session really breaks that ice and allows you and your photographer to become friends and more comfortable with each other.

I always tell my couples that they "need time to get used to the sound of my voice" and it's true! I've noticed that when couples aren't familiar with my voice, they act more stiff and uncomfortable during our session. Once they've warmed up to me and the things I say, there's a huge difference in their facial expressions and body language! You'll feel your most comfortable and relaxed self in front of the camera on your wedding day if you've done an engagement session with your photographer. To me, that matters a whole lot because I always strive to capture my couples in their most genuine and authentic selves - which is challenging if you don't feel at ease.

So how do I use these engagement photos anyway?

Now that I've convinced you it's a good idea to get them, what do you even do with the photos? Of course it's nice to have them and look back on the memories, but you don't want them to just be saved to a folder on your computer or to your camera roll, pulled out for the occasional Instagram post. I think there are 5 good ways to use them that don't have to do with social media!

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1. Use them on your save-the-dates

If you're sending out save the dates, one great way to personalize them is to put one (or a few) of your favorite photos from your engagement session on them! It makes the save-the-date a fun keepsake, reminds your distant family members and old family friends which Sarah is getting married, and will bring some joy to your grandma. Shutterfly has some great customizable options or you can snag some from your photographer's print store.

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2. Put a slideshow up of them at your wedding reception

Many venues have some kind of TV or projector available for use. Just throw your photos on a USB and have them play it during cocktail hour or during the dancing part of your reception. It's a fun way to use them and it gives people who are danced out something to look at while they catch their breath!

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3. Use them in your guestbook

There are a bunch of ways to do this! You can get a book printed out at Mixbook or Shutterfly (they have discounts for first time users), you can get crafty (or recruit a bridesmaid to) and make a scrapbook with spaces for people to sign, or you can find a photo album and put in all your engagement photos so that people can sign and write messages on the photo sleeves. It's a sweet keepsake and it's more interesting than a plain old book.

4. Make Christmas cards with them

The average engagement length is 1-1.5 years, meaning you'll probably go through a holiday season as an engaged couple before you spend one as newlyweds. If you typically send out holiday cards, that means you'll have nice professional photos to send two years in a row!

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5. Personalize your thank you cards!

Thank you cards are a big part of weddings. You'll be writing them for shower gifts, to your wedding party, for wedding gifts, to your vendors - the list goes on. Since wedding photos take 6-8 weeks to be ready, you can grab one of your engagement photos to jazz up your many wedding thank you notes. Pro tip: don't wait to write them, they pile up so quickly and you don't want to forget anyone.

These are just a few of the ways you can use your engagement photos, other than posting them on your wedding website or social media. If you're in the market for an engagement session and you're in the Atlanta area, I'd love to shoot your love story! Get some additional information here.