Are these pictures imperative for the success of the wedding? Are they a waste of time?

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Totally necessary! I think it breaks the ice for photographer and bride and groom so it is not weird on the day, I offer it with all my packages because it helps me as a photographer as well.
I think engagement photos are positive for all the reason stated above. But I don't at all think they're imperative. The success of your wedding does not depend on having these pictures. You can have lovely save-the-dates, invitations, guestbooks, etc. without "e-pics."

Now, this is just my personal opinion, but...I sometimes get a little sick to my stomach when bombarded with a bunch of e-pics, especially those that include PDA. If you want to send me a Save-the-Date magnet with an engagement pic on it, fine. But I don't need the mass email of the couple making out, especially if i'm more of an acquaintance than a close friend. I'm gonna be happy for you and all...but I feel that sometimes e-pics need to be seen as being more for the couple than for everyone else.
bethany...I couldnt agree more!
As a wedding photographer, I love engagement sessions, really gives a chance to show their love in a relaxed environment!! I love spending time with the couple, laughing and getting to know them, then the wedding day, all is smooth! LOVE engagement sessions!

Marirosa
Imperative for the success of the wedding? Of course not. But they're also not a waste of time. For couples who have room in their budget, engagement shots are a great way to get acquainted with their photographer pre-wedding, and they're also priceless documentation of that time in their lives.

They seem to be a regional thing, but I'm also a big fan of bridal portraits. The bride and photographer really have time to work together on beautiful portraiture (as opposed to often being rushed on the wedding day), and it's also a good opportunity for the bride and her personal vendors (florist, hairdresser, makeup artist, etc.) to do a dry run on her total look prior to the wedding day.
You should always take the time for engagement pictures. They capture the essence of the process. They are the intro to your big day. Why would you give this moment to just anyone. It's like trying to cut your own hair. Have a professional do it. Remember, these are shots that your kids will look at someday. To view examples go to ccimages.com.

Thanks

Chris
CC Wedding Photography
ccimages.com 500-9075
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As a bride and a photographer, I find engagement photos extremely important. You're only engaged once in your life, and capturing this time with a formal photo session is the best way to commemorate it. Also, these pictures are more timeless, more relaxed, and probably more reflective of you as a couple, so their purpose lasts far beyond the wedding.

Engagement photos also serve to introduce you as a couple with more distant family members when included in the invitiation (I'm sure you're Great Aunt Sally has never met your fiance). And when bound together in an album, can add an extra personal touch to your guest book sign in (rather than a formal book with names in it that you'll never look at again.

So in my opinion, these are essential! But hey, just my thoughts.

Claire Leong
www.clairerenee.com
I find engagement photos to be very important from 2 viewpoints, and always try and persuade a couple to let me take theirs well before their big day:
1. it helps the couple get used to being photographed (come on guys - you know you hate your photo being taken!), especially together, and also helps them to work better with the photographer in preparation for their big day
2. it helps me, the photographer, to understand more what my clients are after in their photos. Some couples, for example, hate kissing in public, whilst others happily show their love and affection openly - and I try and reflect this in my pictures.
I offer the engagement photo session as a freebie - both as a thank you to the couple for booking their wedding photography with me, and also because it helps me to get to know my clients better and keep more in touch with them.
Michael Porter
www.ephotography.org.uk
Yep, I agree with Michael. Its all about making a couple's wedding day completely perfect.

To get the perfect photos, it helps for them to be relaxed on the day by doing an engagement shoot before the big day, and it helps me as a photographer to get to know how they are in front of the camera, their likes and dislikes, best angles etc. Then on their wedding day, we only get lots of fabulous shots.
I agree with the rest ~ engagement photos are essential and like Michelina said they can be functional for guest sign in books, canvas prints for the wedding, and many other ideas. I'm a photobook designer www.memorieswetreasure.com and photographer as well and love the practice run with the bride and groom to get a sense of their style and preferences and for them to get familiar with my photo journalist style as well.
I love engagement shoots for all the reasons mentioned below. As a wedding cinematographer, I'd love for wedding photographers to consider adding the wedding cinematographer/videographer to the session. If you're working with someone wonderful - they will happily stay out of the way - yet film the spontaneous moments and dialogue between shots. They can also spend five or so minutes before or after (or during - with your permission) the shoot to ask the couple to talk about their meeting, falling in love, etc. That little film clip - when edited and produced - is a wonderful piece to show at the rehearsal dinner or before the couple is introduced at the reception. It can also be part of the wedding film- either as intro or woven throughout.
I'm committed this year to supporting wedding photographers in thinking about working collaboratively with wedding cinematographers. It's a win-win all around!
I think they are not a waste of time. If using the same photographer for your wedding it allows you to connect and work with your photographer before the wedding day. This also allow the photographer to be comfortable with the couple before the date.

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