How to plan the perfect engagement session.

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I love engagement sessions. They’re one of my favorite things to photograph. Why? I feel like they’re a perfect way to get to know a couple, know what works well for them, and make something that captures who they are. Engagement sessions are included as part of all my wedding packages. I think they’re they’re just too valuable to skip. Engagement sessions give us the chance to work together ahead of time. That means we can build more of a connection. We can see what works well for you specifically, making for a better experience come wedding day.

Engagement sessions give you the chance to show your personality and capture this chapter in your life together. To plan the perfect one for you, keep reading for my tips below!

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How far in advance should we book?

A lot of couples like to use their engagement photos for save the dates and their wedding websites. If that’s you, it’s customary to send these out 8-12 months ahead of time for a destination wedding and 4-6 months ahead of time for a local wedding. Plan your session with enough time to have it photographed and delivered. If you plan to use engagement photos on your save the dates, leave some time to design and order them. The busiest times of year are Spring and Fall with weddings and other portrait sessions. That’s why it’s a good idea to reserve your spot early. Contact me a couple months prior to when you would like to schedule your session.

Time of year

The best time of year to take engagement photos really depends on your location. However, I recommend sometime between late May and early November for outdoor portraits. This gives you the best chance for leaves on the trees and more reliable weather. For indoor sessions, you’re really not limited to a time of year. I tend to shoot more indoors in the winter or if there is a rain plan in place. Overall, there are options that can fit just about everyone’s style.

Golden Hour

No matter the time of year, I stick to the same rule of thumb for the best light in photos. For outdoor portraits, I always like to plan around golden hour. Golden hour is the hour after the sun rises or before it sets. It gives you the best chance for glowy portraits and the most flattering light. My wedding packages all include a 2 hour engagement session. I typically plan them around sunrise and sunset. If you happen to have an overcast day though, don’t worry! Clouds soften the sun’s light creating a soft box effect.

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How to Pick Your Engagement Session Location

After booking with me, I send my couples two questionnaires. One is for all of the wedding details and the other is to get to know them better and find the best engagement session location. After I can see more of a couple’s taste and what kind of vibe they’re going for, I send them a shortlist of suggestions.

Good questions to ask yourself

  • What would do you want to see hung on your walls and on your save the dates? Is that hanging out at your favorite pub, walking along some pretty trails, or going to a greenhouse? Really, the ideas are endless. Think about places that would fit you and your style and we’ll come up with a great fit.
  • Does the location charge a fee? Many popular public spaces require a photography pass or permit to take photos. This even includes parks. To know for sure, check your location’s website for photography rules. It’s best to know ahead of time and schedule the session with the location in advance.
  • What will this location look like? Think about the time of year. Will there be leaves on the trees, flowers in bloom, etc.? Or will it look fairly dead and sparse?
  • How far do you want to drive for your session?
  • If it’s indoors, is there a lot of natural light? Natural light and a regular tungsten bulb look very different. Natural light tends to look the most flattering. That’s why I choose indoor locations based on how much windowlight will be available.
  • Do we have to be concerned with local events going on or how crowded this place may be?
  • What kind of variety can we find from this place? Are we confined to one spot?
  • Are there multiple locations within a short distance we’re interested in? I like to choose a couple locations close together to get variety in your session. Choosing places within walking distance or a short drive typically work the best.
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How to Choose Engagement Session Outfits

I leave plenty of time for outfit changes. What tends to work best is dividing the session into two parts. Some couples opt for a more casual outfit for half of the session and a dressier outfit for the other. I’ve had couples choose outfits based on their wedding color palette. Some couples have even chosen something that on par with their wedding dress code.

Choose comfort

Choose outfits that you’re most comfortable and confident in. You’ll carry yourself differently if your outfit feels flattering and fits well. Remember to pick clothing that doesn’t need a lot of fuss or readjusting. We’ll be moving around through your session.

Some other things to keep in mind to look your best in your photos:

  • Choose colors that compliment your skin tones. Go for more neutral, calm tones over neon and bold colors. If you wear something bright or busy, that’s where your eye will gravitate in the photos.
  • Coordinate instead of match. Find outfits on the same level of dressiness that coordinate. And, use a color palette that works well for both.
  • If you’re considering prints, stay away from anything too busy. It’s best to mix solids and prints. If one person is in a print, have the other in a solid.
  • Dress for the weather and location. As much fun as engagement sessions are, it’s not fun sweating through clothing or feeling like you’re about to get frostbite. With outdoor sessions, we usually move around quite a bit. I’m looking for variety in the surroundings and the best light. Consider bringing what clothing/accessories will make you the most comfortable. This could include flats to walk in if you’ll be wearing heels.
  • Choose timeless over too trendy. You’ll see these photos for years to come. Find something what will fit your style long-term.
  • Accessories can be a great way to add variety and interest. A jacket, necklace, or different shoes can be easy to swap and add a little extra to the photos.
  • If you’re putting the photos on save the dates – Consider making one of your outfits match the dress code of your wedding. This definitely isn’t necessary. But, it can be nice to give your guests an example.

Want more outfit ideas and inspiration? Check out my engagement session outfits board for tips and examples.

I hope this was helpful in getting ideas rolling for your engagement session! What questions do you have for planning your session? Leave a comment or send me a message and I’ll be happy to help.

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