Photographing the Engagement Party

People planning a party tend to focus on the guest list, d?cor, food, and activities. Party photography is often, at best, an afterthought. Some well-intended hosts or guests might bring a camera and then forget about it or feel they don’t want to “break the mood” by snapping pictures.

But an engagement party is a special celebration for the engaged couple. Photos are a must.

The host (or the couple) can consider several options for engagement party photos.

Professional Photographer

Professional photographers, while the most expensive option, come with several bonuses. For example, a professional photographer’s performance at the engagement party can be considered an audition for the wedding photos. If the couple likes the resulting photos—as well as the way the photographer managed to capture the scene without stealing it himself—that helps identify a person they will later trust to photograph their Big Day.

A professional photographer also may provide the best photos in a traditional engagement party setting. Many engagement parties are held in the evening, indoors—and indoor lighting is not flattering for some guests—but a good photographer can work around dim or funky lighting that might give an amateur photographer a series of bright spots and washed-out, red-eyed party guests.

Of course, the biggest pitfall with a professional photographer is the monetary expense. The person hiring the photographer can shop around for quality and value pre-party, but many people will find the task tiring and unnecessary, unless they intend the one-night photo session as an audition for the potential wedding day photographer.

Free Friend Photographer

If the host or engaged couple has the good fortune of personally having a friendship with a fabulous photographer, the second option is to ask that person to handle the engagement party photography. On the plus side, so long as this person understands this is a gift to the engaged couple (the photographer will not be paid or will be given less than a professional photographer would charge), the monetary expense goes down. In addition, if the photographer already knows the host or engaged couple, he is likely to know some of the party guests, too, and they may feel more at ease letting him take their photos. Some people freeze or pose unnaturally around professionals but might not notice a buddy taking pictures.

There are also negatives to consider. There is no contract—if the friend misses the party, forgets to bring the camera, etc., there is no recourse. It is important to factor in a friend’s reliability when asking him to perform this important favor. (It is equally important to have a backup camera ready, just in case.) Worse, the friend’s photos might not be as nice as the couple would like them to be. A friend at a party is entitled to mingle, enjoy refreshments, etc., and won’t likely spend the entire evening focusing on photography.

Host as Photographer

The third option is the easiest—DIY (do-it-yourself). The host or engaged couple brings a camera, makes certain it is fully charged and has adequate memory space or film, and snaps photos when not otherwise enjoying the party. The camera can be passed to other guests for variety, but there’s always the possibility the camera could be accidentally damaged by well-intended friends or a few too many sticky fingers. Before digital cameras became popular, some hosts set out a basket of disposable cameras and encouraged guests to take photos, pass the camera to another guest, and return the camera to the basket before leaving the party. While this method certainly provides variety, it also comes with a small percentage of shots the couple doesn’t really want to keep—especially when two party guests get the idea to photograph each other simultaneously.

In any case, if the party will carry a special significance (the first time the groom-to-be meets the bride-to-be’s best friends, etc.), make certain somebody captures those moments. But whatever happens, don’t worry. Photos are great, but memories are even better.