Picking a location for an engagement shoot

When John and I go for a walk he often laughs at me and mentions the film ‘I am Legend’ – so aware I am of the sunlight direction, how close the time is to the sunset and when the sweet light ‘golden hour’ starts on any given day.

Scouting for a location for an engagement shoot or portrait session always starts with searching for light rather than spectacular vistas. It’s my tool, the foundation of my craft. Working outdoors is challenging but very rewarding because of the variety of lighting situations you encounter, from dramatic to dreamy.

A complimentary engagement session is included in every wedding package I offer, the goal being for us to get to know each other a bit better, to help couples relax and feel more natural in front of my camera and to capture my clients’ personalities and their love towards each other in a genuine but polished professional way. I am looking for images that are resonant and true.

Engagement session photo - a couple jumping

High energy

Engagement session photo - a couple kissing in the rapeseed field


Engagement session photo - a laughing couple holding umbrellas


Understandably to find light and achieve the above goals, or, indeed, to get impressive images and have fun there is no need to pick fancy distant locations. A 2-3 hour return trip for an up to an hour complimentary photo session leads us to travel fees and the like.

As for my criteria for a pre-wedding shoot location, it should be 1) safe, 2) situated (preferably) within a 30-minute walk/drive from DG1 in or just outside Dumfries, 3) allowing plenty of scope for a variety of pictures, 4) with a parking space nearby if necessary, and 5) a shelter should be available if the weather forecast promises rain.

A couple  photographed under the bridge on a rainy day

Finding shelter under the bridge on a rainy day

The photos below were all taken within a 30-minute walk from where I lived and that bridge.

Engagement session photo - a couple walking in a park

In a public park

Engagement session = a couple in the park throwing autumn leaves at each other

Autumnal fight in the wooded area near an old church

A couple sitting near a yellow wall

A yellow wall on the university grounds

A couple waling along the ivy-grow concrete wall

Ivy-grown wall on campus

A couple enjoying  a fairground in the city centre

At a fairground in the city centre

The next thing to consider while picking  a location for an engagement shoot is whether the couple prefers an urban/built environment or a softer natural outdoor setting.

I never tire of the textures, colours and lines of urban environment. I like that backgrounds are so incidental – one day there is a poster in the shop window, the next day it’s gone.

A red nose day couple in front of a sports shop window

A red nose day couple in front of a sports shop window

I like the doorways and metalwork which make a perfect frame for location portraits.

The gate metalwork is used as a compositional device in this couple's portrait

Using the gate metalwork as a compositional device

Urban pre-wedding shoots are fast moving not to obstruct access to businesses and are more suitable for couples that do not mind an occasional spectator while being photographed.

Sessions in the fields or woodland, park and seaside locations are more private.

An engaged couple in the woods


They often have this natural and open feel to them, promoting a sense of peace and well-being.

A couple at the seaside

A combination of sea, sand and uninterrupted sky brings out a sense of peace and well-being

Which environment would you prefer? Urban or organic?

Since we moved to Dumfries I have already scouted a dozen of fabulous outdoor locations nearby that would make a great setting for your  engagement session. The town centre itself has many interesting historic architectural features that can be interpreted in many different ways. The Crichton is also my favourite because of its abundant natural beauty, stunning vistas, tree alleys and lawns. Kingholm Quay marina has a lots of distinctive character, as  do the vast grasslands and the River Nith walk. Casledyke Park offers beautiful settings for couples photography as well.

Each shoot is unique because it is inspired by the energy and creativity of my clients. Clothes, props and camera angles further personalise an engagement session to create custom photographs that can be proudly shared with friends and family.

Saying that, there will be always those private, special locations.

A couple playing hide-and-seek in the field

This shed in the form of a castle was built on their farmland by the groom himself

Maybe you know of a carpet of woodland bluebells in season? Or a small sheltered waterfall? Or you like horse-riding on a farm? Or you have access to an orchard in bloom?

I do not mind traveling a short distance to photograph my couples in these personal locations but it’s better to head there together. I remember this session in the field full of straw bales where we spent more than an hour just trying to find each other (and the field!)…

Engagement session photo - a couple pushing a straw bale

After we finally found each other!

You can see more engagement session photographs in the dedicated gallery. Please get in touch for details if you are interested in hiring me as your wedding or portrait photographer.