The Complete Taxonomy of Engagement Photo Poses

I used to wonder why people do engagement photo shoots. What are they… for? Do you not have enough pictures of the two of you together from your relationship, so you feel like you need to reach some sort of quota? Do you think that all the other photos of you that you’ve accumulated over the years look too natural? Too un-staged? Too comfortable? You suddenly realized you forgot to do a prom pose under a gentle cascade of cherry blossoms – and once you’re married it will simply be too late?

Then my friend Jessica, who was one of the most sane and elegant brides I know, told me that her wedding photographer made them do an engagement shoot. As in, it was included as a non-negotiable part of the bridal package — and if they didn’t do it, they’d essentially be wasting a paid-for hours of work. So Jessica and her husband Ben spent an afternoon jumping around in fields of wildflowers, and chose the funniest products of the shoot to use as images on their Save The Date. It was tongue-in-cheek, and cute. 

So I no longer judge people’s engagement photo shoots. Who knows why anyone does them? Maybe your parents insisted upon it, because Aunt Judith didn’t actually believe your “long distance boyfriend” was real and Mom was tired of hearing about it during lunch bunch. Or maybe you want to show off your hot future wife to all the kids from high school who only remember you as the fat kid from English class who farted while reciting “The Road Less Traveled.” Or maybe, one of you has a withering disease that will one day rob you of the ability to laugh, and you want to document as many giant, hearty chortles on camera as possible while you still can. 

Anyway, for whatever reason you do it, there are enough of them out there that I can confidently categorize all of the most clichéd kinds of pre-wedding portraits. Below, a complete taxonomy of engagement photo poses.

The “Careless Whisper”

Careless Whisper Engagement Photo

“I have $430,000 in gambling debts.” (From @andy’s Flickr.)

The “Two People Doing Different Things In A Field”

Engagement Photo Field.

This is like that scene in “Never Let Me Go” where they realize they are all clones. (From Yuliya Bahr’s Flickr.)

The “Kiss in an Awkward Place”

Like the back of a Volkswagon. (From Brent Payne's Flickr.)

Like the back of a Volkswagon. (From Brent Payne’s Flickr.)

The “We’re About To Kiss Even Though We Just Had Taco Bell”

Engagement Photo Kiss

“No seriously, we’re going to kiss. We’re about to. In one second. Our mouths are going to touch. While open.” (From Matt Osborne’s Flickr.)

 The “Potentially Life-Threatening Pose” 

Train Tracks Engagement Photo

Train tracks are a very popular motif in engagement portraits. Life is a long trip, these images want you to know. And marriage is a slow, outmoded method of transportation. (From Avangard’s Flickr.)

 The “CPR”

CPR Engagement Photo

Maybe he is sucking those laughs right out of her. It’s not a laugh-loss disease, after all. He just has Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome. (From Shawn Brandow’s Flickr.)

 The “Someone Is On a Swing. Not Swinging.”

Swing Engagement Photo

This is a very common practice among adults. (From Scott Koons’ Flickr.)

The “Stalker”

Engagement Photo Stalker

“Honey, what’s that little red light on your chest?” (From Rebecca Schley’s Flickr.)

The “Someone Is Holding Balloons”

Engagement Photo Balloons

Someone else is about to accidentally drop $13,000 in a creek. (From Chenyu Bell’s Flickr.)

The “Dog Farted”

The Dog Farted

Time to re-think the ring bearer. (From Nicole Hanusek’s Flickr.)

The “Are You Sure It’s Not Too Windy?”

Windy Engagement Photo

I’m sure it’s not too late to get a new photographer for the wedding. (From Katie B’s Flickr)

The “Back Injury Waiting to Happen”

Piggyback Engagement Photo

Also known as the “Horseplay by Couples Who Only Do Missionary.” (From Max Norskog’s Flickr.)

The “Marriage Is A Prison. Wait, What?”

Engagement Photo

Do bars really belong anywhere in this scenario? (From Liana Photography’s Flickr.)

The “Somebody’s Getting Carried”

Engagement Carry Photo

Somebody else is about to make a very tactically erroneous joke about a bride diet in 5… 4… 3… 2… (From Christine Szeto’s Flickr.)

The “Photobomb”

Engagement Photobomb

Props to this photographer. (From James Rubio’s Flickr.)

The “Haunted Backdrop”

Haunted Engagement

Also known as the “Trespassing at Helena Bonham Carter’s” (From Becki M. Gangi’s Flickr.)

The “Someone Is In The Background, Out Of Focus

Engagement Photo

This is where they got the idea for the “Ring” movies. (From cariberry’s Flickr.)

The “Standing At A Distance Against Exposed Brick”

Exposed Brick Engagement Photo

This would be such a great apartment. (From Avangard Photography’s Flickr.)

The “Standing Near Rusticated Wood”

Wood Engagement Photos

Very popular with men who wear newsboy caps and women wearing long sleeves to cover their giant tattoo of Win Butler’s face. (From chenyu-bell’s Flickr.)

The “We Have An Umbrella Even Though It Is Not Raining”

Umbrella Engagement Photo

Would you sit by a fire even though it wasn’t cold? Don’t answer that. (From Brian Wolfe’s Flickr.)

The “We Aren’t Laughing The Same Amount, I’m Worried This Marriage Won’t Work”

Laughing Engagement Photo

“Also, I am marrying a character from Adult Swim.” (From Janelle’s Flickr.)

The “Ruining Formal Wear”

Ocean Engagement Photo

Anybody remember how in prom catalogs everyone was always running through waves in their tuxedos? You are never getting that deposit back from Mr. Tux. (From Claudia C’s Flickr.)

The “Taking It Too Far”

Ocean Engagement Photo

“It’s a rip tide!” (From Ryan Merrill’s Flickr.)

The “Holding Hands At An Awkward Distance”

Holding Hands Engagement Photo

“Should we have worn shoes for this, maybe? I mean, you did put on your dressy cargo shorts.” (From Rhonda’s Flickr.)

The “Laughing In Front Of Graffiti”

Laughing Graffiti photo

A common derivation of this one is the “Stumbling Around The Meatpacking District In Heels” (From bright fizz’s Flickr.)

The “Cry For Help”

The “Are We Dead Now?”

Fuzzy Engagement Photo

This is like a Guillermo Del Toro version of a Snuggle commercial, where the people collapse giggling onto the giant body of the beloved teddy bear. Ony to find it has been dead for three weeks. (From Angela Butler’s Flickr.)

The “Prom Pose Or Pregnant?”

Shotgun Marriage Engagement Photo

This is a shotgun marriage. Have a coke. (From Stacy’s Flickr.)

The “Dancing In A Field Like Crazy People”

Dancing Engagement Photo

I like to imagine that here, there is a man behind the camera, holding a gun. (From Samantha Turchin’s Flickr).

The “We Are Lost In The Wilderness And We Will Likely Die Here”

Lost in the Woods Engagement Photo

Might as well laugh. (From Madumi’s Flickr.)

The “One Pigeon”

The “Multiple Pigeons”

Multiple Pigeons Engagement Photo


Infinite Pigeons.




  1. Very nice :o) As an amateur photographer who’s done a few family shoots & even pre-wedding, I try my absolute hardest not to do anything staged, corny or unnatural! Although the whole process of getting people together for a shoot is fairly staged in itself!

  2. This made me laugh so much… especially the Pigeon escalation grand Finale!! btw- engagement pictures don’t seem to be big thing in Europe… yet, we might catch up on that unfortunate trend soon enough!


    omfg I love this post, I actually really like some of these shots where they look super happy – but are some of these ACTUALLY engagement photos? You could literally take it any other time. LITERALLY just pick a day and go to a photographer and do it omfg

  4. Here’s an idea for your next post. The Family Photo poses. If I see one more picture of a family laying in a pile on the ground with leaves all around or the mom and dad holding hands in the foreground and kids in the background with one or the other out of focus I might croak. 🙂

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