Before we get to the where, let's start with the when..
You will always hear photographers talking about light. We're a little bit obsessed with it. Light determines the mood and feel of an image. It can be the difference between a good and a great photo. For engagement shoots, I love the late evening and just before sunset gives you golden hour. Perfect for warm and golden tones and sunset images. A top tip would be that its worth hanging around a little after for the soft light blue hour brings. Arranging your shoot for this time does give you the best opportunity for excellent light but, then again its not the only kind of amazing light. We also know that in Wales, the weather doesn't always play ball so 'golden hour' might not even happen. In this case, capturing beautiful photos of this special time in your relationship is still doable if you're at the right location. Besides, it's also worth bearing in mind the words of World famous Wedding Photographer, Gabe Mclintock, 'the worse the weather, the better the photographs'.
What to look for in a location?
As a photographer, I like locations that have a good variety. I have also chosen places that are within a reasonable walk from a car park (all are dog friendly). Finally, we are blessed in Wales with epic landscapes so it makes sense to make the most of it on these shoots and a bit of 'wow' factor is never a bad thing. It also makes sense to go somewhere you'd actually want to be so it's just like going for a stroll instead of a formal photoshoot.
Let's get to it..My Top 10 Engagement Shoot Locations in South Wales
#10 Dunraven Bay (Southerndown Beach) | Vale of Glamorgan
This stretch of coastline is just beautiful. Spanning 14 miles from Aberthaw to Porthcawl, the Glamorgan Heritage Coast boasts golden cliffs, hidden coves, and awe-inspiring vistas. I often photograph couples on their wedding day on this coast but it also makes a perfect engagement shoot location too. Dunraven Bay or Southerndown is my favourite of all these beaches. On a more general note and as with all my recommended locations, its just a lovely place to go for a walk.
Nearby locations: Dunraven Castle, Monknash, Ogmore by Sea
#9 Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal | Brecon Beacons
After recently photographing an engagement shoot here, I couldn't leave it off the list. There is about 35 miles of canal to choose from but these particular images are from Llangattock, just west of Abergavenny. The canal boats, arching trees, stone bridges and evening dappled light through the overhanging trees make for lots of great shots. Although on this particular stretch there was something else that was a little bit special. The Giant Sequoia (Redwood) is the 5th largest tree in Wales and makes you feel like you could be in Northern California. It was a great spot to stop, chat and get some natural images of the engaged couple. For more shots from this engagement shoot, click here.
8# Laugharne Castle | Carmarthenshire
Famously associated with Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, he here from 1949 until his death in 1953 and his Boat house is an attraction for authors, poets and literary enthusiasts worldwide. He once famously described the town as “a timeless, mild, beguiling island of a town”. I would describe it as "a cracking place for an engagement shoot with great sunsets and lot's of areas for great pics"!
#7 Pembrey & Burry Port | Carmarthenshire
Being from the Llanelli area, I couldn't not choose a location local to me. Cefn Sidan beach in Pembrey is a contender for the greatest beach ever (I may be slightly biased) and you're close enough to hop in the car and head to Burry Port lighthouse for some variety if you have the time. Dunes, shipwrecks and miles and miles of pristine sand. What's not to love?
Nearby Locations: Ferryside, Llanelli Beach, Pembrey Country Park
#5 Llyn Llech Owain | Carmarthenshire
This one might not be too well known unless you're from Carmarthenshire but I love it. Accessible and a stone's throw from Cross Hands, its a beautiful walk any time of the year but for different reasons. On a cloudy day the place becomes atmospheric and vibey and when the sun shines its classically beautiful and serene.
#4 Craig Cerrig Gleisiad | Brecon Beacons
This little spot will be the least well known on the list however it is an absolute hidden gem. So much so that I contemplated not sharing it - but here it is, the secret is out!
So, why is it so fantastic? Well, to start with, it's extremely easy to get to from the road. Even though its so close to the road, after a 5-10 minute walk you can feel like you're in remote mountain terrain. It's just a short drive down the road from Pen y Fan, there's parking in a lay-bye. If you're feeling adventurous you can follow the contour of the mountain to get to higher ground. But really, its so beautiful from low down, there's no need to.
Nearby Locations: Llwyn Onn Reservoir, Talybont Reservoir, Llyn Llangors
#3 Mumbles | Gower
The Gateway to the Gower. You can't beat this place in the Summer. These beaches can get busy on a nice day so I would suggest going for a midweek session but from the pier to Bracelet Bay (Photographed) there is an abundance of lovely spots. It's also a great excuse to visit Joe's Ice cream before/after the shoot.
Nearby Locations: Clyne Gardens
#2 Three Cliffs Bay | Gower
The OG of Welsh engagement shoot locations. There's a good reason this one is popular. The amazing sand, variety of photographs and of course there's the unmistakeable backdrop of the Three Cliffs.
The walk to the beach can be done in several ways. For a cliff top route you can park in the National Trust carp park and walk over from from Southgate. Click here for the full directions.
If you're looking for a more direct route to the beach (and less of a walk), approaching from the other direction is a great option. Park up at SA3 2HH and follow the path.
Nearby Locations: Rhossili, Mumbles,
#1 Llansteffan Beach | Carmarthenshire
Just 15 minutes from Carmarthen, this spot is my number one engagement shoot location for 2023 knocking the legendary Three Cliffs Bay off the top spot.
The reason? Well its just full of beautiful and interesting features that make it ideal for a shoot. The backdrop of the historic Llansteffan castle, the long sandy beach with beautiful shells, the backdrop of the Rive Towi and Ferryside across the water, the dunes and long grass. These are all the things I look for in a location and the best thing its so accessible from the car park. If you did want to extend it even further, there is the option of a walk/drive up to the castle for stunning views over the estuary.
Nearby Locations: Llansteffan Castle
WANT TO BOOK AN ENGAGEMENT SHOOT OR SEE IF TOM IS AVAILABLE TO PHOTOGRAPH YOUR DAY?
The Best of the Rest
Ceredigion, West Wales
Llyn y Fan Fach
Western Brecon Beacons