Woot! you’re engaged and all like “Let’s have an engagement photography session!”
And then you’re like, “Wait, what do we need to do to plan our engagement photography session?”
This post is going to give you all the details on how to plan your session, when to schedule your engagement photos, how to do engagement photos on the day, and choosing a kick-ass photographer.
This Ultimate Guide to Engagement Photography answers the following:
Why Take Engagement Photos?
I love engagement sessions! I recommend that every couple have engagement photos done for a few reasons.
- You can get to know your photographer, their way of working, and their artistic style better.
- You’ll build a rapport with your photographer and feel more comfortable being photographed by them on your wedding day.
- Your photographer gets to study you and learn your best angles and the poses that flatter you the most, so they’re extra prepared for your wedding portraits that are often done on a more limited timeline.
- So few couples get professional photos done of themselves besides their wedding photos, so it’s great to have some really nice photos that aren’t in your wedding clothes.
- The photos can be used for save-the-dates, wedding invitations, guest books, thank you cards, and more!
How to Choose Your Engagement Photographer
There are so many things to think about when choosing your photographer. Many people get so excited about being engaged and having their photos done that they book a session with someone before they start shopping for their would-be wedding photographer.
As a photographer, I don’t advise this for a few reasons. The first is that so many photographers include an engagement session with their wedding packages, mainly because we WANT to do them with our clients. For the reasons mentioned above, the engagement session is a huge part of how we can provide clients with the best experience from booking to wedding and beyond! So the first part of choosing an engagement photographer is to also be shopping for your wedding photographer.
Another big factor to consider is their personality and style of working. It’s SUPER important that you get on well with your photographer, no matter what the occasion for photos is. Being photographed is actually a really vulnerable experience, so feeling comfortable enough to be yourself in front of your photographer is a must. This ties into their style of working because some photographers want to really direct your poses and don’t leave a lot of room for candid moments. Other photographers will ONLY take candid moments and provide no direction or posing.
And then still others like myself are somewhere in between where we do some posed and some candid. I personally like this style of working because it relieves a lot of the pressure from my clients to be always be “on” in order to create candid moments and they most often feel better that someone is providing directions so they don’t feel awkward or ridiculous. Well, sometimes I make my clients feel ridiculous but it’s all part of the experience. 😜
When to Schedule Your Engagement Photography Session
The question of when to schedule your engagement photos is two fold. There’s the date you book your photographer and there’s the date of your session. Whenever possible, I recommend booking your photographer as soon as you can, even if your ideal engagement photography session date is a few months away. This is because we photographers get booked up fast and don’t always have the availability to take on last minute bookings. So if there’s a photographer you love, get on their calendar ASAP!
As far as when to have the session, this is a little bit related to your wedding timeline and a little bit related to your personal aesthetic. Some people want photos in a particular season (autumn is very popular), so you work with your photographer to schedule a good day and time for that season. If you plan to use images for save the dates, you need to schedule your engagement photography session with enough time to take the photos, have your photographer edit them, and be able to order and mail your save the dates on time, usually 4-6 months in advance of the wedding. So even if fall is your favorite season for photos, it might not be practical to schedule photos for the fall depending on your wedding date.
That said, I have scheduled engagement sessions with as little as a month before the wedding, due to the time between the booking and weddings and because the couple cared more about the experience of the session than the pre-wedding uses for the photos.
Another aspect of scheduling your session is time and day. If you’re going to be in a studio setting, this won’t matter as much as if you’re hoping to use a well-known park setting. As someone who primarily works in state or municipal parks for engagement sessions, I do everything I can to schedule the session on a Monday-Thursday to avoid crowds. I like to have my run of the place and be able to offer my clients some privacy. It’s also pretty common to have your session in the hour or two before sunset (or after sunrise!) for the most beautiful golden light in nature.
Where to Take Engagement Photos
Choosing the right place for your engagement photography session is so important. Some couples want a location that is symbolic to their relationship while others only care that the place matches a certain aesthetic. My advice to all my couples is that no matter what kind of location you aim for, that it has a lot of variety and space for you and your photographer to explore so that not all the photos look the same. Personally, I like to deliver variety in the images I take of my client couples, so it’s important that the locations we go to for engagement sessions aren’t limiting in their scenic ability.
The location you choose also might be dependent on the season you schedule for your session. If you’re wanting a location with lots of fall foliage, the best options are going to be forests or someplace high with some overlooks above the trees. As a photographer I definitely have preferences for the time of year for different locations. Whether its a garden, forest, mountain or waterfall, each spot I go to has different optimal times of year based on what’s happening with the scenery as well as crowds.
Another thing you may have to consider when choosing your location is if there’s a permit process to have your session there. Many of the very popular local parks in your area, as well as most National Parks, probably have a defined photography policy where you need to apply and possibly even pay a fee. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have your sessions at these locations, just that it needs to be something you and your photographer research when selecting your location and scheduling your session. Permitting can take a long time!
What to Wear for Engagement Photos
A question I get from a lot of my clients is “What should we wear?” I don’t like to dictate to my clients the outfits they should wear because I want them to look and feel like themselves in their photos, but a good rule of thumb is to dress in clothes that are a little nicer than your everyday casual wear but that you still feel comfortable moving around in. I say this because my client couples and I tend to be a lot more active and athletic during sessions with me than with some other photographers who might be more “glam.”
With all that said, here are a few good suggestions for what to wear for your engagement photography session:
- Defined color scheme. The best coordination comes when you keep the color palette limited. My favorite color schemes are blues + greys, muted warm tones, neutrals, or going with a cream/white look.
- Don’t match! Your photos will instantly have a dated look to them if you wear outfits that are pretty much identical.
- Dress for the season. Spring and summer are great for flowy dresses or blouses and polos and button ups for the guys. For fall and winter looks I love light layers, cozy sweaters, or even pea-coats with hats and scarves for the really cold days!
- Color for the season. Spring and summer are great for wearing pastels of brighter colors. Fall and winter is where you definitely want to head more neutral or muted. A cream/white color scheme looks great year round!
- Good Shoes. Wear attractive shoes that are comfortable to move around in. Strappy heels may look great with a dress, but you’ll be doing a lot of walking, so you want to make sure your feet are comfy! Consider dressy flats or cute boots for ladies and boat shoes or “dressy casual” shoes for guys.
- Clean the Ring! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve told couples we’ll be doing a close up of the ring and they go “Whoops, it’s not clean!”
- Make the session yours. Whether you want to do a picnic, bring your dog, bring your kids, use some props, or whatever, talk with your photographer about how you can personalize the session.