ENGAGEMENT SESSION GUIDE
planning your choosing the perfect time, location, outfit & more!
a note about this guide
I am so excited to be working with you and I can’t wait for our time together during your engagement session! It’s completely normal to feel a little nervous about your session. I always tell people that even though I do this for a living, I still get nervous before having my own photos taken!
I’m a big fan of engagement sessions for a few reasons. First, they allow you to get comfortable in front of the camera. It can take some time for most couples to warm up to being photographed and to understand how I pose them. Timelines can be pretty tight on wedding days, and sometimes 20 minutes may be all we have for portraits. That’s why I’ve found that wedding day portraits turn out so much better when couples do engagement sessions ahead of time.
Second, engagement sessions give you the chance to showcase your personalities in a more casual setting that is significant to the two of you. You can even include your pets! While engagement sessions are great for save-the-dates, I’ve taken engagement photos anywhere from 18 months in advance to just a few days before the wedding.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to planning a session, and since I get asked the same things over and over again, I thought it would be most beneficial to put together a guide that walks you through everything you need to know. I’ll cover what to wear, whether to bring pets and how to manage them, location ideas, and more!
I get it. Having your picture taken for 1-2 hours might not be in your top-10 favorite things to do during your downtime. And at first you might feel sort of awkward being in front of the camera. But I think you’ll find that by the end of the session, it’s a lot easier than you thought, and you even had a little fun. I look forward to it because it’s a great opportunity for us all to hang out a bit before the wedding day.
Is There A “Good” Time To Take Photos?
Engagement sessions can take place anywhere from immediately following a proposal to just a few days before the wedding. I’ve found that there isn’t a “good” or “bad” time to take your photos. I normally plan sessions based on a particular “look” a couple has in mind, spring flowers for example, or based on schedules.
Sessions typically last about an hour and a half and when when we can—I love to begin sessions about two hours before sunset. I prefer to shoot when the sun is lower in the sky to avoid harsh shadows and bright sun patches. The first two hours after sunrise is also an ideal time to shoot.
I schedule sessions during what I believe will be the best light of the day – which means that it’s super important to be on time. If you’re late to an evening session, we could run out of light before we’ve finished shooting and if your session takes place in the morning, the sun gets more harsh as it rises.
TIME & LIGHT
While I shoot most of my engagement sessions between March and late November, sessions can take place all year. Most of my couples choose a season based on the location where they want to shoot.
A few things to keep in mind during each season:
If you’re planning to take your engagement photos during the winter, keep in mind that if your session takes place in the evening, we could begin shooting as early as 2:30pm to catch the sunset. I recommend dressing in layers so that in between photos you can warm up. Make sure you bring a little extra makeup and tissues in case your nose begins running.
Save The Dates
If your wedding is local, save the dates should be sent between 6 and 8 months before the wedding. For a destination wedding, you’ll want to send them out 8 to 10 months before the wedding.
If you’re hoping to use your engagement photos for your save the dates, I recommend scheduling your session at least two months before you plan to send out your save-the-dates. Between inclement weather, editing, designing your save-the-dates and printing, two months is generally a safe amount of time to make sure your images and cards are ready.
I love when couples choose a location for their session that complements their wedding. For example if you’re planning a chic, elegant wedding, it may be fitting to take your engagement portraits among the classic architecture in Vancouver, while a local park or flower-filled fields may be more fitting for a couple planning a more rustic affair. The best session locations are often meaningful places to the couple; however, I’m also happy to make recommendations. From ski slopes to lavender fields to blueberry picking and college campuses, the options for engagement session locations are endless!
l love when couples choose to incorporate pets into their session. Keep in mind that bringing a pet along often means that we’ll need to choose a pet friendly location.
I recommend planning for your pet to be at the first part of your session and having a friend take them home. We won’t use the pet in every single photo so it’s also nice to have a friend available to hold him or her in between shots.
If you’re going to bring a pet, recommend exercising your pet before the session and bringing your pets favorite toy or treats! Depending on your pet’s fur type, it might also be a good idea to groom them before the shoot.
tips for looking your best
When picking outfits I recommend keeping in mind the word “complement” rather than “match.” For example, if the groom-to-be is wearing a blue and pink pastel plaid shirt, the bride-to-be may want to choose a long, soft blue dress. It can also be a great idea to choose “color-families,” such as pastels or jewel tones.
Generally couples pick two outfits for an engagement session: a more formal outfit and a casual outfit. I recommend saving your favorite outfit for later in the session, when couples usually feel more comfortable in front of the camera. And don’t forget to bring a few accessories! Statement necklaces, cute shoes and classic watches are great ways to add detail to outfits.
FOR THE LADIES
Heels lengthen legs but if your heels aren’t comfortable for walking, bring an extra pair of shoes to slip into in between shots.
I love the way larger patterns photograph – just be careful not to choose a pattern that is too small – it may accidentally make your photo look a little too busy.
Softer, pastel colors tend to photograph better than bright colors – especially since bright colors could reflect on your skin. I love bright, neon dresses, but I don’t love the neon reflection they add to your complexion.
What To Do If It Rains?
It’s typical for us to schedule two engagement session dates. A primary date and a rain date. Having two dates helps us make sure that your photos happen in a timely manner. Coordinating schedules can be tough and I’ve found that the best way to make sure my couples get the look they have in mind for their photos is to schedule two dates at the same time.
I’ll check in the week of your engagement session to confirm the time & location we’re meeting and the weather. I know it takes a lot of time to get ready for engagement session and it’s the worst to get dressed up and drive out to your session only to have it rain. Let me know what works best for the two of you – but if the weather looks like it won’t be great, I typically try to make the call at least 8-12 hours in advance.
And hey, if you’re up for an adventure in the rain, let me know! My gear can handle a bit of rain and I always bring along a few clear umbrellas just in case… sometimes the most romantic photos happen in the rain!
When we can, we always try to take a photo of your ring during your engagement session – so it’s a good idea to have it cleaned or clean it yourself before your shoot! To clean at home, soak your ring in warm water with dishwashing soap for 20 to 40 minutes. Then gently brush the stone with a soft toothbrush, rinse and repeat if needed.
“What Do I Do With My Hands?”
When it comes to posing for your engagement session, you don’t need to worry about a thing! I’ll guide you through the entire process beginning with “poses” that are super easy and natural. If I tell you to do something that feels a little funny, it’s probably because I know it’s going to make the two of you laugh – and that’s the photo I’m actually looking for.
Throughout your session, I’ll keep an eye on your hair, makeup and outfits to make sure things stay in place. I want you to feel as relaxed as possible and enjoy your time together!
If you’re anything like me , you probably don’t get dressed up all that often. Which means that the day of your engagement session is the perfect occasion for a date night (or brunch if your session is in the morning!)
The engagement session is another part of celebrating your love and heading off to dinner is a great way to end the session!
When to Expect Your Images
As soon as your session is finished, I’ll start backing up your images and begin the editing process. Depending on the time of year or if I have a holiday closure, you can expect to receive your engagement photos between 2 and 3 weeks after your session.
I know that this guide is long and hopefully it covers everything you need to know to prep for your engagement session! However if there is something we missed, or you need a recommendation feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org