During the off-season, usually just before spring, a lot of our couples start thinking about their engagement shoots. The first question is usually what locations can you suggest? Many spots typically used for wedding photography can also double up for engagement shots, but the latter provides the opportunity to let loose and have a bit of fun, reflect personality, and get comfortable in front of the camera before the big day itself!
Before deciding on a location for your engagement photos, I like to ask a few questions:
- Where do you often go together, or like to do?
- Where did you first meet?
- Would you like an inside or an outdoor location? Urban or rural? What would you like to be surrounded by, nature, streetscapes, iconic Winnipeg spots, or an activity?
- Would you like a more casual look, or would you like to dress up? You can always choose both, and have half an hour of each! This can give variety to your photos. I also have tips on what to wear (which is usually the second question I get asked!).
- Would you like to include props that reflect your personality? Blankets, mugs, gifts, champagne glasses, books… I’ve even had Daleks!
- Do you have any pets you’d like to include in the session? Pets are family, and I adore when they join any shoot (especially weddings!), but it’s always a good idea to have a friend or family member tag along to an engagement session to help watch them while you’re finishing up your shoot.
Winnipeg, as you probably know, can be home to several seasons in the span of 24 hours, so it’s always a good idea to have an indoor backup plan in case of rain – or at the very least, some cute umbrellas. (One engagement shoot ended in such a torrential downpour one time that water was up to our ankles, my bride-to-be’s hair and makeup were ruined, and my mobile phone met an untimely death! But we did get some awesome umbrella shots beforehand!) Most locations fit both engagement and wedding photography sessions, depending on how casual or formal you want to get:
Indoor Locations for Photos
- The Manitoba Legislative Building. If you need an excuse to get fancy, dress up and make the most of one of the most elegant spots in the city. There’s no fee, although if you want to guarantee an empty grand staircase for half an hour, you do need to call ahead and reserve a time. The grounds are also beautiful in the summer, and often our couples will bring a dressy outfit for inside and something more casual for the other half of the session outside for variety. For information on booking, click here.
- The Millennium Library. No cost, but you do need to book. A giant wall of glass, stacks of books, and a super unique artsy postcard wall make for great shots!
- Pubs and microbreweries. If your session is scheduled during the daytime and you have a favourite haunt to grab a drink together, why not capture some photos having fun doing so? Pool tables, cheersing, darts and fun decor can all reflect a tonne of fun. The King’s Head (204.957.7710), One Great City and others have all been good to us – just give them a call ahead of time to let them know.
- The Forks. This is a hugely versatile option and is always a good time, too. From the antiques mall to The Commons to coffee at the Johnston Terminal, indoor options are plentiful. And if it’s nice outside, we’re right by the river and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights for even more variety. No cost here.
- Another fancy one: hotels and hotel lounges. The Fort Garry Hotel‘s seventh floor and Ten Spa areas make for breathtakingly grandiose photographs (so you may want to save it for the big day itself!) but if you want to get your glad rags on, it’s a truly stunning option. The lounge at the Delta Hotel is also a great, modern option, and is right next to the Elephant and Castle, which would provide variety to your session. With many events going on at hotels, however, it’s best to call and book ahead of time.
- Red River College (Princess Street Campus) provides an urban architectural backdrop for your engagement shots. They only take bookings on weekends ($52.50 to book), but in the heart of the Exchange District, it’s also surrounded by unique and historical spots.
- The Park Theatre is where I got married myself, and with recent renovations, there are options inside and out. They can even put your names or a custom message on the marquee!
- Restaurants and bars are usually quite welcoming, as long as it’s not during their busy time. Bailey’s, Hy’s, 529 Wellington, The Velvet Glove, Fox & Fiddle, and Rudy’s all make for some stunning shots.
- The Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport is a super unique spot. With artistic lighting, big walls of glass, and areas with city views, it’s a great spot for something modern and different. It’s recommended to book ahead of time, but there is no cost. Plus you’ll make countless weary travellers’ days!
- The Hamilton Building / The Millennium Centre. Two separate entities, but I’ve grouped them together because they’re literally neighbours. Both have a fee to book, but if you’re looking for stately and ornate, big ceilings, fancy columns, and spiral marble staircases, these are the ones to check out. For the Hamilton Building, contact Dave at 204.947.5934.
- The Winnipeg Art Gallery is a fantastic spot for weddings and engagements. With beautiful lighting, large, dramatic walls, and even a rooftop sculpture garden, it’s a lesser-used option that offers variety. Call ahead to book.
- Universities offer a variety of backdrops, from casual to formal and stately. Check out the University of Winnipeg’s circular theatre area and castle-esque exterior, or the grand doors or modern, colourful architecture at the University of Manitoba. Canadian Mennonite University has elegantly adorned large windows and hallways similar to the Fort Garry Hotel, but does have a fee and requires a booking.
- The Via Rail Station will transport you back in time and provide a unique backdrop. It’s free in the lobby ($50 in the train museum), and is great for those with a sense of wanderlust or travel stories!
- The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada has a flight deck and an authentic 1930s hangar. If you’re having your wedding there, you’ll also be treated to views of runway lights and prairie skies.
Sadly, the Assiniboine Park Conservatory and the Manitoba Hydro Building are no longer an option.
Outdoor Locations for Photos
As long as the weather cooperates, this part is easy! Winnipeg has some amazing locations, and if you’re feeling adventurous, travelling a short distance outside the city’s perimeters can make for some breathtaking shots (as well as adventures!).
- Parks: Assiniboine is popular for a good reason, but there are tonnes of lesser-frequented spots that make for equally beautiful photos surrounded by nature and greenery. St. Vital, King’s, Bruce, McBeth, Kilcona… there’s no shortage of options!
- Grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building
- St. Boniface Cathedral and Basilica
- Fort Gibraltar
- Hitch’n Post Ranch (outside the city)
- Bird’s Hill Park (outside the city)
- Headingley Railway Bridge
- Fort Whyte Alive
- Assiniboine Forest offers picturesque and secluded pathways bordered by birch trees, and open clearings with long grass that photographs beautifully. Although in the summer months it’s best to be armed with bug spray, spring and especially winter make for something pretty magical.
- Assiniboine Park Zoo – if you’re lucky, you can grab some shots under a glass tunnel with polar bears swimming overhead!
- The Leo Mol Sculpture Garden has plenty of picturesque spots including fountains, trees, pretty benches and flowers galore in the English Gardens. Avoid high noon hour as the sun can be quite harsh.
- The Exchange District West Side
- The Exchange District East Side
- Abandoned houses. Manitoba has some amazing locations full of breathtaking dilapidation, so if you’re feeling adventurous, let’s head on a road trip! Most spots are just over an hour away.
- Grand Beach (outside the city)
- The University of Manitoba