Tips for an Epic Engagement Session
Welcome to my tips for a Chicago engagement session!! Now that you’re engaged it’s time to have some fun! Engagement sessions are one of my favorite things about being a wedding photographer! It’s such a good way to get to know each other and learn how to be comfortable in front of the camera before the wedding, and it is just such a blast to document these amazing moments of being engaged. Plus with an engagement session, we can make sure we have beautiful weather (since we can usually reschedule if there is rain/snow!), practice posing, and have the time to hit fav locations that might be too far from your wedding venue.
1) Date, Location & Timing
Date: A few important notes to think about when planning your engagement session!!
- What season do you want to do the session in? If you are having a winter wedding, it might be fun to do a summer engagement session, just to mix it up!
- I book engagement sessions 3-4 months in advance and only book one session a day! I take on sessions Tuesday through Saturdays (Sunday & Monday being my weekend!), with most spring-fall Saturdays being scheduled with weddings. Plan to schedule your engagement session early to make sure you get a date in the season you want! Late summer and fall are most popular for sessions. If you are holding out for a fall shoot, get in touch ASAP to plan.
- If possible, I always recommend a weekday engagement session to avoid the crowds!
- If you want to use your engagement session for save-the-dates and/or your wedding website, I recommend planning to do your engagement shoot at least 8-12 months before your wedding, so you have at least 6-8+ months when sending out your save-the-dates.
Timing: What time is best to shoot?
I plan all of my engagement shoots around the sun!! The best time to shoot is during golden hour—about 1-2 hours before sunset (depending on how long your session is!). We often don’t get a chance to photograph during golden hour/sunset on wedding days, so this is the perfect time to take advantage of the most romantic light of the day. If you really want to do shots with an empty city or on a popular beach, we can always plan a shoot at sunrise. But when I say sunrise, I mean we get there before the sun has started to rise, so it is earrlly!
One of the most common questions I get when planning an engagement session is “where should we do them?!” There are SO many unbelievably gorgeous spots to shoot in Chicago; head to THIS blog post to see a few of my favorites. Beyond the amazing spots to shoot in Chicago, I always recommend adding at least one location that means something special to the two of you!!
Here are some great ideas:
- Your favorite bar or restaurant
- First date spot
- At your home & in your neighborhood
- Rooftops (ask your friends, they are always down to let you use the epic views!)
- Picnics, yes to bringing food & drinks
- Coffee Shops
- Unique Chicago skyline views; I can help you with these
Please note: Some locations in Chicago, and especially in the Chicago suburbs, require permits to photograph in their spaces. I can help you figure out all the permit fees. Note that many places that require a permit suggest applying at least 2-4 weeks before the shoot date.
2) Planning your Outfits
The most important thing when choosing an outfit is wearing something that you feel great and comfortable in, and something that feels like YOU. Try on your outfit before the shoot and make sure it makes you feel amazing! Look at both of your outfits not only separately but together to make sure they coordinate well together. Coordinate without matching. Remember when you took family photos and everyone wore the same color shirt? Well, forget about all of that!! Actually, just forget anything your parents taught you about taking photos. We don’t just smile at the camera during these sessions (lol sorry moms!)! When planning what colors to wear, just plan on wearing things that complement each other. Blue & green, white & black, the list goes on forever, just make sure the colors look good together and complement each other. Most importantly, choose colors that make you look and feel your best! While solid colors are great, plaid and floral can be beautiful too!!
More than One Outfit: If your engagement session includes an outfit change, it can be so much fun to do one more casual, everyday outfit & then something more dressed up! I always suggest wearing a long dress, pants or shorts for one outfit, so we can do some sitting shots (short skirts don’t always work well in seated photographs).
A Few Other Outfit Suggestions:
- If you plan on wearing heels, be sure to bring an extra pair of comfortable slip-on shoes to walk between locations, we will be doing more walking than you think.
- Steam/iron your outfit before the session to make sure it is wrinkle-free! If you have a long drive to your session location, change when you arrive!
- Clothing with movement only adds to photos!! Long skirts in the wind & hats that can be thrown in the air are always perfect.
- Remember, when photographing engagement photos, more than any other kind of professional photos, many of the photos will be taken from side angles, of the two of you facing each other. Make sure your outfit not only looks good from the front, but also compliments you from side angles.
Finally, feel free to click here to check out my Pinterest board full of
Engagement Session Outfit Inspo!!
3) Preparing For the Session Day
- Be on Time: Be on time the day of the shoot! Plan to get there early to look for parking and walking to the location. Plan to arrive at the first shoot location at least 5-10 minutes early, so that we don’t waste a minute of your perfect light! Because we are shooting around sunset, once the sun is down, there is no more light for a session!
- Nails: Get your nails done!! We are going to be taking photos of your hands on each other’s faces and hugging each other!! Get those nails did!! And I am talking about BOTH of you; make sure all your hands are looking good!
- Clean the Ring: Speaking of hands, make sure to clean your ring the day before or the day of the session to make sure it is full of sparkle!!
- Hair and Makeup: Feel free to treat yourself to professional hair and makeup. It isn’t for everyone, but if you are into it and are thinking about it, DO IT!! You will not regret it. This may be a good time for a wedding makeup trial, or just to get to know your wedding makeup artist better! Speaking of makeup, when it comes to wearing lipstick, make sure you are wearing smudge-proof/stain-proof lipstick since you will definitely be cuddling up and kissing!! You don’t want to stain your partner’s lips/face.
Other things to bring:
- Water; trust me, you will need it.
- Hair & Makeup touch up stuff.
- A bag to hold everything in! Make sure it is a bag you are fine setting on the ground (the ground in Chicago is diirrtty!)
4) Being Nervous Is Normal!
Seriously, how often are you in front of a professional photographer/camera? Probably not very often. I get that and I’ve got your back!! This really isn’t about looking picture perfect, these photos are about capturing your relationship and getting comfortable in front of the camera. I will be there the whole time to help you with posing and moving, you two just have to focus on being yourselves!! At the end of the day, I am guessing you are hiring me because the photos you have seen of mine focus on real people & moments; so just be yourself and get lovey with your partner!!
I know it can be weird with PDA and being in Chicago, but trust me, as long as you have me (and more than me, my professional looking DSLR camera) everyone will know exactly what you are doing and more than likely will work hard to stay out of the way so you can have extra epic shots.
5) Yes to dogs, champagne, and other props!
Animals: YES YES YES to all the animals! I’m a total animal lover. So if you want to bring your pup on the shoot, or have me meet you at your house at the beginning of the session to snap some photos with your cat, I am so in!! I love taking photos with your animals (and meeting them all so I can love on them). One piece of advice though; I’ve learned from experience that having your pet at a session can be distracting, so plan on including them for only part of the session, or bring along a friend to manage your pet once they are done with their close up. We want you to be fully present and relaxed to ensure we get the all varied and beautiful shots you want!
Props: If there is anything you might want to bring to add to the shoot, please do! You know yourselves best! Are you a musician? Bring along your guitar. Avid biker? Let’s shoot you on your bikes! Or bring a blanket and picnic! Of course, there is no need for props, but they are always welcome!
Champagne: Now you probably don’t know this but I love champagne! Not only do I love drinking it, more than drinking it, I love popping it… Or more accurately, photographing other people popping it!! I will literally always suggest a champagne spray to end the shoot (maybe even two bottles, so both of you can have the epic experience)! Again, I’ll talk you through the whole thing!
6) Make a Date Night Out of it!
Finally, probably the easiest and best part of this whole list…. Make a whole date out of your engagement session!! Before you head out to the shoot, sit down and have a coffee or a cocktail, and talk about how stoked you are to finally be engaged and getting freaking married! After the session, plan to head to your favorite restaurant and make a reservation somewhere, or take a walk down the Chicago riverwalk!! You are still engaged, take alllll the time to enjoy it. Wedding planning is crazy stressful, plus date nights are always needed.
Wow, I know that was a lot… But there is just SO MUCH info to give you to make your session EPIC!!
Getting excited and want to see some recent engagement sessions? Check out these blogs!