You’ve picked a date, chosen a venue and booked your photographer. Congratulations! Now on to the fun stuff…. like preparing for your engagement session!
While I don’t require my couples to do an engagement session, I highly recommend it! An engagement session is the perfect opportunity for us to get to know one another, and for you to get comfy in front of my lens before the big day.
I’ve created this guide to aid in preparing for your engagement session in an effort to help you get the most out of your photos. My hope is that by the time you’ve read through this, you’ll have all your questions answered and feel more than ready and prepared for your session. Then I’ll take care of the rest! Your only job is to be yourself, laugh a lot and let me create photos you’ll love forever. I can’t wait to get you in front of my camera!
SET THE DATE AND TIME
Your engagement session can be scheduled anytime before your wedding day. Many couples prefer to have their portraits done in the season opposite of the season of their wedding. So if you’re having a spring wedding, it may be nice to have a fall engagement session. I suggest booking it at least 3-6 months in advance to ensure availability. I always shoot my engagement sessions around sunset to ensure we get that beautiful, glowy light! Engagement sessions typically start between 5-7pm depending on the light and the time of the year. In the winter months, I typically start around 3 or 4pm.
CHOOSE A LOCATION
As you start to plan for your engagement shoot, you will also want to start brainstorming location ideas. Don’t be afraid to get creative and have fun with this! I LOVE it when couples pick a location that is unique, special or sentimental to them in some way! Consider where you first met, your favourite place, and your shared interests. Coffee lovers? Find a coffee shop that has tall windows for you to cuddle near. Outdoorsy? Arrange for a row boat in a pond or a campfire in the woods. Homebodies? Consider an in-home session showing you cooking a meal together. A shared love of animals? Why not reach out to local farms, ranches etc. to set up a visit or animal experience. My husband and I once visited an alpaca farm for our own shoot and had a blast! I’ve even had a couple rent the log cabin suite at the Retro Suites Hotel in Chatham, Ontario for a portion of their session. They rocked cozy flannel pajama’s and drank hot cocoa by the fire before diving into a pillow fight on the bed etc. The options are endless. If you can’t think of anywhere specific that you would like to shoot, I can help you decide on a location. As long as the light is great, I can make ANY location look awesome!
STYLING FOR GALS
SAY YES TO THE DRESS
Have you thought about rocking a romantic gown, tulle skirt or flower crown but just never had an occasion for it? This is your chance to do it up! You can always do one casual look and then change into a more glam outfit.
Long, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Especially when juxtaposed with nature. Cute, shorter-length dresses photograph beautifully as well. I recommend avoiding pants and shorts for your session, and saying yes to a dress or two.
MAKE A STATEMENT
Pairing an accessory or two with your outfit can really help bring some extra dimension to your images. Belts, bracelets and earrings bring great visual interest, so choose one or two that don’t compete for attention. Fresh florals in a crown or bouquet can be a really romantic touch as well!
CHOOSING COLORS + PATTERNS
When choosing colors for your outfits, I recommend selecting lighter tones and more muted shades. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces and let the eye focus on the way you feel about each other. The camera loves shades of soft pink and muted blues, mixed with sophisticated light neutrals like heather gray, creams, leather brown and white. That softer color palette fits beautifully into almost all natural outdoor environments.
My personal style is full of floral prints, but I have to admit, when it comes to photos, solid colours photograph best. If you’re like me and you love a good pattern or print, don’t let me stop you from rocking your style! To best incorporate, I’d recommend choosing just one patterned item amongst the two of you and pairing it with solid complimentary colours so that there aren’t any competing patterns within your looks.
COORDINATING THE LOOKS
As you’re coordinating your outfit with your partner’s, keep in mind that your outfits will look the most cohesive on camera when the color palettes coordinate, but don’t necessarily “match.” You should each aim to wear a different dominant color, but stay within a similar color palette family.
HAIR & MAKEUP
While not required, professional hair and makeup does tend to be on the top of most checklists because it looks amazing and removes the stress of getting ready on your own. Whether it’s lash extensions, blown-out hair, or a no-makeup makeup look, professional hair and makeup may provide an extra boost of confidence in front of the camera. If you haven’t done your consultation with your wedding day stylist yet, this could be a great time to schedule it.
STYLING FOR GUYS
A GOOD SUIT
Men look most striking in a well-tailored suit. If you doesn’t have one, now’s the perfect time to invest in something you’ll wear for the rest of your life! The best part? It’s a lot less expensive than you might think! While custom suits can cost thousands of dollars, some of the most well-known brands have off-the-rack suits in their stores for a fraction of the price. Pro tip: Solid shades of gray or navy are a strong complement to most outfits, whereas pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye.
Next time you walk by a store like J. Crew, you’ll notice the male mannequins and models are always wearing several layers at once. Adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and coats up the level of any look. If the temperature permits, you could even consider adding a v-neck sweater with a pop of color from a long-sleeved collared shirt and tie underneath. However, if you’re going for a beachy-vibe, skip the sweater and go with a pair of well-tailored pants and button-up (top buttons unbuttoned for a relaxed feel) and add some interest with a nice belt, watch, and shoes.
IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS
Long pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from your legs and feet and place it where you want it: on that gorgeous face your partner fell in love with! So, for your session, it’s best to leave the shorts, sandals and jeans at home. Suit pants, dress pants or colored pants work best. Brown leather dress shoes complement almost every look, whether you are wearing a full suit or a blazer and colored pants. Ties, bowties, pocket squares, colored socks, belts, tie clips, suspenders, vests and watches are sharp complements to any suit.
SHOW OFF THE RING
I will always try to get a shot of the ring on its own and on your hand during your engagement session. Your ring will be center stage, so give yourself permission to get it cleaned and get a manicure, too! To make your ring really sparkle in photos, you can simply give it a quick scrub at home (my favorite way to do this is to soak it in some hot water and Dawn dish soap), or have it professionally cleaned by your jeweler.
PREPARING YOUR APREHENSIVE PARTNER
The world is full of humans who aren’t overly excited to take photos for one to two hours. In my experience, this is partly because they don’t have an expectation of what’s to come and why it’s so important to you. Take fifteen minutes to educate and empower your partner. Tell them why you chose me and my style of photography. Show them a few of your favorite images that I’ve taken, explain why you love these photos and express to your partner how much it means to you. Trust me, once they know it’s important, they’ll light up the camera for you! The most common thing I hear from people before photo sessions is this: because of a bad experience in the past, they don’t like taking photos or don’t think they’ll be good at it. By the time I’m done, though, they can’t believe how fast it went and just how much fun they had!
PACK A BAG
I’m going to contradict myself a little bit here because I strongly recommend having your hands free throughout the session. Therefore, I’d prefer not to have you carry extra clothing, a purse, drinks, or anything else. However, it’s not a bad idea to prepare a bag of items and have it handy in your vehicle during your session. We can come back half-way through the session to change and freshen up if needed. Here are some things to include in your engagement session bag:
- Additional outfits (if you plan on wearing more than one)
- Flats or flip-flops for walking between photo spots
- Makeup for touch-ups
- A bottle of water (for warmer sessions)
- Coat or cover-up (for colder sessions)
- Money for parking fees (if applicable)
- Something personal: Whether it’s flowers, a bottle of champagne, or a blanket, incorporating just one extra styled item can make your session more unique and personal, but I recommend keeping it simple! I specialize in creating timeless portraits and I find keeping things simple allows for real moments, expressions and interactions.
ARRIVE ON TIME
Or better yet, a few minutes early! I prefer to photograph engagement sessions using only natural light, shortly before sunset. To get the most out of your session, please plan a buffer when getting ready so you can arrive a few minutes early to your session and be ready to start on time. I’ll want to take advantage of every minute we have together before the sun goes down.
AFTER YOUR SESSION
Don’t forget to plan a dinner date. You’re already going to be all dressed up! Why not take advantage of it? We know the wedding planning process can feel all-consuming, so take some time after the session just for the two of you to relax and have some fun together.
ONE FINAL NOTE
I know I just gave you a lot of think about. At the end of the day, please remember that the location you choose and the outfits you select won’t matter nearly as much as the memories you make together. Ultimately, I want your engagement session to be a time for you to just be yourselves and enjoy it. Ignore the camera. Interact with one another. Have fun together. Laugh a lot. Be silly. Be flirty. Be sappy. Be romantic. Be you… and I’ll take care of the rest!