Engagement sessions should be FUN. They should feel like the ultimate date night (just with someone following you around with a camera, haha) and it should express who you are as a couple. It can be overwhelming to choose a location, outfits, and even deciding on if you need an engagement session in the first place. Whether you book me as your photographer or you decide to go with someone else, I hope this post is helpful for your planning and answers some questions you may have.
1. Do we need an engagement session?
Why not? I’ve been photographing weddings for the last 8 years, and I always recommend an engagement session. This is for two reasons.
The first one being that you’ll have professional photos of you and the love of your life, without being in wedding attire.
The second one being that it’s the best way to get to know your photographer prior to the big day. You get to see how they work from behind the camera, and on your wedding day you’ll INSTANTLY feel more comfortable because the poses will feel familiar. The awkwardness you feel won’t follow you to your wedding day because the trust in your photographer will be built.
This is why I choose to include complimentary engagement sessions in each wedding package. I love adding the value of letting you feel just a bit more comfortable in front of the camera. It’s a win-win for everyone that way. :)
2. How do I choose a location for my engagement session?
This is when you hire an expert. It doesn’t have to be up to you!
Part of my job as a photographer is finding locations for multiple styles. I have a list of all my favorite locations, and I go scouting whenever possible. I have locations for those who love a good hike with a great view, deep-in-the-woods spots, beaches with great sunsets, and urban locations with cute coffee shops.
I also am used to shooting at locations sight unseen (I don’t typically see venues prior to wedding days, so I know how to roll with the punches.) It’s important to me to always stretch my creativity and push myself to try one new thing during every session. I practice finding the perfect little nook and getting variety in that one nook. I focus on the light and weather as it is in this particular moment and make magic happen. Doing this helped me gain confidence to make beautiful photographs in any location.
When I am location scouting for a location I’ve never been to before, I’ll literally jump on google maps street view, research via blogs and websites to get an idea of the location, or, if possible, I’ll drive there and walk around if I don’t have much to go off of online. This is time consuming, but worth it to me to feel prepared and not make you walk aimlessly around. 😂
Some of my favorite places to shoot at for engagement sessions are the ones that are special to the couple. Where they met, had their first date, their go-to date night spot… whatever speaks to them! It helps tell the story of their love, and I’m always down for that.
If you love nature photos but aren’t a nature-y couple and you never go hiking, maybe we don’t go hiking. You know? Let’s find a spot that reflects who you are and what you like to do together.
Side note: Certain locations are best at a very specific time of day or during a specific time of year. Some don’t allow dogs, or require permits to shoot there. Ask your photographer if you have something specific in mind and work together to find a spot that checks all your boxes!
3. What do I do for hair and makeup?
I love when my couples show up to their session and they look like the themselves. It’s okay to go a little glam because this is a special occasion, but don’t feel like you have to go all-out. At the end of the day, you still want to look and feel like yourselves!
If you don’t want to do hair/makeup yourself, I recommend reaching out to the HMUA for your wedding day to see if you can schedule your trial the day of your session.
I know you want to show off that ring (and we want to help you show it off!) and that, obviously, is on your hand, so don’t forget your nails! Whether you book an appointment with your favorite nail salon or if you want to paint them at home, I just recommend that you make sure they’re ready to be photographed!
4. How do I choose outfits for my engagement session?
This is when I turn couples to my handy dandy wardrobe inspiration on Pinterest. (Click here to view!)
I love when my couples collaborate with me on this, for we can better communicate about the ending vision and style of the session. The outfit you wear can determine the vibe of the session.
My engagement sessions are about an hour long, so it allows time for an outfit change if you’d want one. I recommend this if you are wanting a casual look as well as a more formal look. It will give you more variety during your session, and will help shift the vibe.
Casual outfit vibes typically require more moving poses, some running or jumping, tickles and giggles. Formal outfits are a little more glam, moody, and naturally encourage hugs and snuggles. Most of my engagement sessions happen during golden hour. The casual outfit will be when it’s brighter, and we make the switch to the more formal look when it’s sunset, for that added drama.
Casual outfit for girls: Ah, we have so many options. This is when I HIGHLY recommend the Pinterest inspiration board, because it will show you how you can’t really go wrong. I do like choices in layers, colors, and for clothes that match our current season. Don’t be afraid to bring your style into light. When you’re wearing an outfit that you LOVE and are comfortable in, it will show through in the photos – trust me.
Casual outfits for guys: A simple t-shirt with no logo and dark wash or black jeans is usually a good way to go. A short sleeve button up is also a great choice. Don’t be afraid of a print!
Formal outfits for girls: I’m a sucker for a maxi dress with movement. However, if dresses aren’t your thing – then DON’T WEAR A DRESS! Easy as that. Just think of what you would wear to a cute date night with your love.
Formal outfits for guys: You don’t technically have to opt for a suit unless that’s the style you’re going for. I do prefer my guys to look sharp, and I recommend a button down shirt and black or dark wash jeans. If we want to go a little more casual I’ll just have you roll up your sleeves. Easy peasy.
Things to avoid: Pinstripes or similar tiny prints. Outfits that match your backdrop (Example: Wearing a deep green when you’re in the forest. You should stand out from the background, so look at the other jewel tones or complimentary colors like red or yellow.) If preferred, try on your outfit together and look in the mirror prior to the session.
Need more help? I always tell my couples to shoot me a text of the outfits they’re deciding on and I can help them choose.
BONUS TIP: Bring extra shoes if we’ll be doing any hiking or walking during the session. I want you to feel comfortable and we always have time for a shoe-change at each photo spot.
5. Should I bring props?
With me? NOPE.
However, if you want to bring your dog, a blanket to sit on, a sign with your wedding date, or something extra-special, go for it. However, my posing doesn’t need or require props to help document how you interact together.
If we’re doing an in-home session, we can make some coffee, make some pizza or bake some cookies. Or just snuggle around different areas of your home with good light (you can leave that to me). No need to go all out. :)
6. Should I just leave it all in my car?
I always have a bag with me that will hold phones, wallets, and keys (to remove bulk from pockets and will remove the need of bringing a purse). If you are bringing more than those things with you, I recommend putting everything into a backpack.
Sometimes, we can come back to the car (we’ll decide that on a case-by-case basis) for you to change, but depending on the location it’s not always possible. If you’re bringing extra shoes, or water + a snack for a hike, your outfit change, etc. throw it into an easy-to-carry bag.
With the amount of walking photos I like to take, I’ll probably be carrying this bag on me, so a backpack is preferred.
BONUS! How to mentally prepare for my engagement session:
- Don’t know any good poses? GOOD. That’s my job! The photographer you hire will direct you into a pose that will compliment you both and should help you feel comfortable. You can trust your photographer’s direction throughout your shoot. I give a lot of guidance instead of specific, stiff poses that feel uncomfortable and unnatural.
- Everyone in your portfolio looks like models: Surprise – not one person in my portfolio or blog is a model. Even for styled shoots, I actually seek out real couples who don’t have any modeling experience. This allows for a more organic moments together.
- Everyone feels awkward in the first 20 minutes: I’ve got you, fam. You don’t spend every day in front of the camera, and I recognize that. I actually pose with it in mind, and about 20 minutes into the session, your nerves will start to fade away and you’ll have more fun. I like to encourage movement and being silly together, and this helps get you out of your head and relax into the moment.
- Trust your photographer: If your photographer is a professional in the industry and knows what they’re doing – trust them! Their direction, suggestions, and allow them to follow through on their promises. Sometimes silly poses help you loosen up to get you out of your head. The view after that mild hike will be SO WORTH IT by the time you reach the top. Of course, if anything makes you feel uncomfortable? Speak up! I don’t want you to do something you absolutely don’t want to do and will change the direction in an instant so you can feel more comfortable. I’m flexible, fam. If you’re happy, I’m happy.