Tips for your Engagement Session
It’s so exciting that your engagement shoot is coming up! You might know exactly where you are doing it or what you want to wear, but if you’re looking for some extra guidance to ensure that it is PERFECT, here are all the tips and tricks you’ll need!
I love engagement sessions for SO many reasons. It gives us a chance to get to know each other face to face. It gives you the opportunity to get comfortable with my directing and posing style, and just comfortable in front of a camera in general, before your wedding day (which seriously is SOO important!!). It also gives me a chance to get to know more about you, to learn more about your relationship, your wedding day dreams and to just see how you interact together. Every single couple I photograph is different, and at the end of the day, I want the photos to reflect the two of you as a couple, so taking the time to get to know each other during a session is a perfect chance to do that before the wedding day!
And of course the best part about engagement sessions is that we can do them anywhere, at any time, and reschedule if there is bad weather. Unlike your wedding day, where you have to be at a certain place at a certain time, your engagement session options are endless. My engagement session offerings start with hour-long sessions, and go all the way up to full day sessions. This is the time we can 100% shoot the whole hour of golden hour and right on into blue hour, taking our time to wait for the sunset to be absolutely perfect. We get to reschedule if there is rain, allowing us to make sure we can get to all the spots on your list. So basically, with your engagement session, you can be sure to have great weather, posing practice, get to know me as your photographer and allow me to get to know the two of you. As a bonus, we get to hit some of your favorite or romantic or just cool locations that maybe don’t match the vibe of your wedding, or just are too far away from your wedding venue.
1) Date, Location & Timing
Date: A few important notes to think about when planning your engagement session!!
- Seasons don’t really change in SoCal. But daylight savings time does!! A little idea: while we don’t totally have seasons here in California, we do have a few things that set each season apart. Winter is perfect for empty beaches, slower parks and fewer tourists. Spring is great for beautiful wild flowers, green grassy fields (depending on the year) and cool weather. Summer is great for late night sessions with a late sunset time and warm days to jump into the ocean. Fall is a mix of summer and winter, not as busy, the sun doesn’t set too late and the tourists are starting to fizzle out.
- I book engagement sessions 3-4 months in advance and only book one session a day. I schedule sessions Monday – Friday. I do because I love having a weekend or two off during wedding season BUT even more so because many of the popular locations in SoCal are just too busy for sessions on the weekends. Trust me, if you want a beach in Malibu, Griffith Observatory, a beautiful grassy hill, we need to do a weekday in order to have the space to take beautiful, interesting images without the clutter of crowds. 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‘re holding out for a fall shoot, get in touch ASAP to plan.
Timing: What time is best to shoot?
I plan all my engagement sessions around the sun! My favorite time to shoot is during golden hour, usually about 1-2 hours before sunset! If we are doing a session in the mountains we might start a bit earlier as the sun starts to hide behind the mountains before sunset, while at the beach we’ll be shooting until the sun sets and after. The timing always matters on location and dependent on what the sun/cloud situation is like each day!
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 SoCal; head to THIS blog post to see a few of my favorites. If you are totally stuck on where to do a session, I suggest you head to my instagram (link) or Pinterest and just search for a little inspiration . What are you drawn to? A beach at golden hour? A direct flash bar moment? Running through the field in a long dress? Or maybe we want to match the theme of your wedding? Getting married in an old Hollywood style ballroom? Let’s do a vintage car at sunset. If you give me an idea of what you love to do as a couple, a few inspiration images in a mood board, your wedding theme, or shoots you have seen me do in the past that you love, I can put together a whole shoot idea from there!
Additionally, if you are doing a longer session or want a full day lifestyle session, I always suggest you include activities or locations that are meaningful to you. This could be in your neighborhood walking your dog, making cocktails in your kitchen, grabbing dinner at your favorite restaurant, taking your surfboards or packing a picnic to the beach.
My other favorite kind of session is basically the opposite of “a day in the life session”, for this one let’s make things super editorial. Think of the mix of a museum and a fashion magazine location. Maybe that means a literal museum or gallery, paying a permit to shoot at a cool hotel, renting a studio, getting a vintage car (I just love the vintage car vibe), heading out to Joshua tree and playing with the landscape, or running around DTLA in a suit and sexy gown. I am getting ahead of myself now because outfits choices are going to be a whole other point, because that has about as much to do with your session as the location does!
Please note: Some locations in SoCal may 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. (there are also 100% exceptions to this rule!) 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.
In order to really achieve beautiful, elevated photos, we really need the outfit to work well together. I have done beautiful sessions where the couple is wearing t-shirts and jeans, but it has to all work together and be intentional. Does it match the location? Does it look like something you would see walking down the street and think “that is a cute outfit!” It doesn’t have to be glamorous or fancy, but you want to make sure it is a complete outfit, and that it looks good, and feels good and comfortable. Basic outfits that are “just fine” are going to look “just fine”, and not drop dead amazing, which is what we’re going for here. It’s hard to make stand out images when the outfit isn’t matching the overall feeling of the photos or location.
On the opposite end, I love a high-end, more luxury look. Wear the fancy suit or dress, (renting is a great option). Or just go on a little shopping spree. You paid for the session, so make sure your follow up with outfits that capture the look you’re going for. The right outfit will make your photos stand out over and over again.
And one other crazy, out there thing to mention. If you are doing a longer 2-4+ hour session, you have time to really mix it up and get creative. Do something fun for one outfit. Maybe this means throwing on your swim suits and jumping into the water at the end of the shoot. Maybe you have always wanted to wear a full tinsel skirt and jacket and do some direct flash moments or sparkle in the sun . HERE is a link to that outfit because I am dying to shoot it.
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.
- Make sure your outfit is clean and stain free. I have had clients show up to sessions and not realize there is a big stain on their shirts from makeup or something that happened during a previous wear. You want to make sure things are fully clean. Try them on and check them out before the shoot.
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. 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. 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:
- 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 SoCal can be so diirrtty!)
4) Preparing me:
Preparing me!! If you have something you are self-conscious about and want me to be aware of, PLEASE let me know!! I can make sure we focus on your favorite side of your face or edit out that bruise you got on your leg last week. If you have a scar you don’t like, or are worried about your arms or double chin, we can talk through it during the shoot to make sure you love the photos. I DO want to be candid with you though, I don’t edit bodies to be skinnier or skin to be wrinkle- free, but I can be aware and help pose you if I know what your sensitivities are.. Feel free to shoot me an email or we can talk about it before we start the shoot!
Is there something you absolutely love and want to be sure is included in your session? Please let me know!! A certain pose that is your signature way to connect? Maybe you love blurry photos, or always sit at a certain spot in the bar. Let me know so I can bring your vision to life. This is another time where a mood board can come in so handy. Please note that I do not work off of shot lists or directly copy posing. I use a mood board to think about locations, lighting, settings and posing to create art that is unique to the two of you.
4) Nerves + What to Expect During Your Session
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, leaving you two to focus on just being yourselves!! At the end of the day, I am guessing you are hiring me because you resonate with my photos that focus on real people and moments; so just be yourself and get lovey with your partner!!
I know it can be weird with PDA and being in very busy Southern California, but trust me, as long as you have me (and my big, professional looking camera) everyone will know exactly what you are doing and will more than likely work hard to stay out of the way, so you can have extra epic shots. I know PDA isn’t for everyone, and if it isn’t something you are comfortable with (this is true for many couples, for many reasons, so if this is you, you’re not alone) , let’s talk it through. We can work together to select locations that are less populated so you can feel free to be yourselves and in love, but maybe not in front of others. However, remember that your wedding day will be at your venue and usually in front of others, so this might be an opportunity to practice for the big event.
What to Expect During Your Session:
First off, I will be there the whole time not only taking photos, but to guide you through different poses. I do a lot of directing, and it is more than just “stand there” and “don’t move” poses. Imagine that the two of you are in a movie and the whole movie is just about the two of you in love. I want things to feel real and fluid and natural between the two of you, while being cute and/or romantic, but not just staring at each other. So I will give you actions and things to do, but the biggest advice I can give you is simply to keep moving. Again, go back to imagining yourselves in a rom com movie scene; the actors are constantly moving which creates the feeling of them being real people in love and creates a scene. That’s what we want to do in your engagement photos too. Rocking back and forth, pulling in and out from each other, talking to each other, grabbing each other’s face, joking and laughing and yes, even hugging and kissing are all a part of the experience. Don’t just drop the pose but embrace it, really hug each other, be in the moment, talk about how excited you are to be married. Run through the field and laugh about it. I know it might be difficult, but try to be present, in your body, with your love. Take a few deep breaths, and “ACTION!”
Beyond that, if you want the more editorial, serious look, you need to bring it!! I will tell you to smile or to be serious or just neutral, and will talk you through anything that looks weird or out of place, or move your hair or raise your chin when needed. But also at the end of the day you just have to be comfortable and present for the moments. Every face or movement you make does not need to be pretty or perfect, I’ll edit it down to the best ones. Just try to let go and play! The same thing goes if you want fun, lighthearted images. Goof around, laugh, and just play during your session. Whispering silly things in each other’s ears and just enjoying yourself is not only allowed but honestly encouraged.
5) Bringing Props
Ok remember how before I was talking about this being like a movie scene? Ok well the analogy isn’t over, because now we are talking props. Now when thinking about props, I want you to bring things that will add to the shoot. If you are going for a lifestyle or even editorial look, this may mean bringing sunglasses and a purse to really capture a day-in- the-life. If we are going to be on the beach, maybe this means bringing a towel, a blanket and a picnic basket. Bring your surfboards or maybe we just throw you on the back of your car for a make out session at the end of the shoot (ok but come on, how many movies have this moment!??!). Bikes, guitars, cute hats or matching jackets, the prop options are endless.
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 towards the water!! 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 perfect!!
Getting excited and want to see some recent engagement sessions? Check out these blogs!