How to prepare for your upcoming Engagement Session
Congratulations on your engagement!! Now that you have picked a date, a photographer and probably a venue as well, you can celebrate! Those are some of the toughest decisions in wedding planning and you can cross them off your list! Hooray!! Now on to the fun stuff…like your engagement session!
Why Engagement Sessions are Important
I include engagement sessions in The Wedding Experience because I truly believe that they are a VITAL part of the entire process. During your engagement session, you’ll have the chance to get to know me, experience how I shoot and how I handle posing and lighting. This session will make a HUGE impact on how the wedding day flows. I’ll arrive on your wedding day already knowing how you two interact, what your best poses are and how to photograph you in a genuine way! What I will learn about you during your engagement session is invaluable! You will feel like such a pro on your big day because of the great practice you had during your engagement session!
Now let’s say you haven’t scheduled me as your wedding photographer yet. Either you are eloping and having a resort photographer but still want some gorgeous engagement portraits. Or your not quite ready to make such a big decision about your wedding day plans but are excited to start celebrating your engagement! No problem! Engagement sessions are a great not out that will get you and your fiancé comfortable in front of the camera before the big day arrives! PLUS… DATE NIGHT! WOOT!
When Should You Book Your Engagement Session?
This is probably one of my most asked questions when talking with brides to be. When is the best time to schedule your engagement session? My answer is always based around what “Season” you would like your photos captured in. If you wedding is in the fall, perhaps you would like some gorgeous summer portraits full of lush green colours. Or maybe you and your fiancé LOVE the winter and the look of fresh fallen snow. Whatever you decide I usually say that as long as we are schedule a minimum of 6 weeks before your wedding day, it can be anytime you prefer! I normally suggest booking it at least 3-6 months in advance to avoid last minute any stress. Because my weekends are typically filled with weddings during the summer, I like to shoot engagement sessions on weekday evenings, normally from 5-7pm depending on the light and the time of the year. In the winter months, 3-5pm is the normal time frame for an engagement shoot!
Where Will the Engagement Session be Located?
As you start to plan for your engagement session, we will need to start brainstorming about location ideas. I LOVE heading to epic locations such as the Rocky Mountains or visiting the hoodoos at Dry Buffalo Jump. We are very lucky to have so many beautiful God made locations right near us in Central Alberta, why not take full advantage of all that beauty! I also enjoy a location that is special or sentimental to my couples in some way! As long as the light is great, I can make ANY location look awesome! It’s important to remember that location is all about LIGHT. Be sure to keep reading to find out more about outfit ideas and inspiration!
Engagement Session Prep
It’s always a little intimidating to have your picture taken…even if it’s just a photo on an iPhone that is taken by a friend. We still want to look nice, make sure nothing is in our teeth and that our hair is behaving! I realize that preparing for your engagement session can be a little overwhelming. Over the next few points, I’ll be providing tips for outfits, handling nerves and recommendations that will make your shoot the best it can possibly be!
The Basics + What to Bring
POCKETS | Empty your pockets! You don’t want to have key chains or phones showing through your pockets. This is easy to overlook but very hard to edit out.
TIMING | The sun sets quickly especially if your shoot is not in the summer months. The later you arrive, the less time we have to shoot! Once the sun is set, the shoot will be over.
RING CLEANING | If possible, it is ideal to clean your ring before your shoot. I love to grab a few macro shots of your diamond while you change outfits! The cleaner the better.
PARKING FEES | This may not apply to your shoot, but it’s always good to plan in advance. If we are planning a mountain engagement session, we may be heading into a national park location so it’s best to be prepared and avoid any unnecessary stress.
CLOTHING | I’ll explain this more in-depth in a bit but generally, my couples like to bring one casual outfit and one dressier outfit. If you’re unsure about a few pieces, feel free to bring all options, and I can help you decide or we can email about it beforehand!
CHANGING CLOTHES | As much as I would like to say that we always have restrooms for outfit changes, more often than not, my clients do quick outfit changes in their car if there are no other options.
LIP COLOR & HAIRSPRAY | You may need to apply more lip color after one outfit change and a few kisses. (If you have a bold lip color, try to have a matte finish so it won’t transfer to your groom as intensely!). Hairspray and a brush will be helpful if your hair struggles in wind or any kind of weather!
FLIP FLOPS | If you’re wearing shoes that are difficult to walk in but look awesome, bring some comfy shoes to change into while we walk to each shooting location!
DEEP BREATHS | I’m going to help you along the way and it’s going to be a blast! I will instruct you on everything you need to know. Enjoy this time together, and make a date out of it! Plan dinner afterwards and celebrate!!
Outfits & Styling Your Engagement Session
Believe it or not, you have so much control over the outcome of your shoot and what it looks and feels like! What you choose to wear is a big decision that often causes some stress for the bride beforehand. However, my hope is that with a little education, you will be able to determine the style and feel you desire for your shoot which will make your outfit selection so much easier and less complicated! Pinterest is such a great resource if your not quite sure what style you like for your portraits quite yet. I have created a board titled “Engagement Session Outfits” full of different outfit inpirations. Feel fre to browse through and repin anything that stands out to you. Then go through your pins and see what style you lean towards msot.
First things first, let’s start by debunking some very common outfit myths that a lot of people believe about what they should wear to their session!
1. MYTH ONE: Avoid neutrals, they wash you out!
Whoever started this myth couldn’t have been further from the truth. There are some colors that don’t work for some people, but for the majority of people, they look amazing in neutrals and those colors shouldn’t be avoided. The truth is, neutrals are the most photogenic color for portraits.
2. MYTH TWO: Always wear black or you won’t look thin!
Sure, black is slimming, but it also photographs very heavy in portraits. There is nothing wrong with black, but if you’re only wearing it to look thinner and deep down you’re hoping for light and airy portraits, it may not be the best choice.
3. MYTH THREE: You two need to match!
Please don’t try to match your significant other. Instead, try to coordinate! Coordinating is a completely different concept than “matching.” Coordination means you are usually choosing different colors that look good together but are not close to being the same. I have some more tips about this concept in the following pages.
4. MYTH FOUR: Your location determines your style more than your outfit!
False! Your outfit has way more impact than your location. Your location is just a setting in the background but you two will still be the main focus of the images. If you want light, airy and an overall romantic look to your photos, you will need to wear lighter, more neutral colors in your photos to achieve this look!
5. MYTH FIVE : You have to buy something new!
False! If you know you look awesome in an outfit that you already have and it fits the style you want for your engagement session, that would be a great choice!
Deciding on Your Style for Your Engagement Session
What style do you prefer?
BOLD or NEUTRAL
DRESSY or CASUAL
CLASSIC or TRENDY
These choices represent the three main decisions you will have to make in regards to your outfit choices. There are no right or wrong answers! Maybe you want one outfit to be dressy and the other to be casual. Maybe you want one outfit to be very light and neutral but you want to wear more color in the next outfit. These categories will hopefully help you determine what you’re hoping for in your engagement session. If you’re feeling stuck and can’t seem to determine what you prefer, that’s very normal!
Here are some general “rules of thumb” when it comes to styling your engagement session. Once you read through these, you may have a better understanding of what you prefer, and you can start planning your outfits. These “rules of thumb” are based on my experience and aren’t concrete rules that can’t be broken. However, if you have questions about one of them in regards to what you want to wear, just email me and we can talk about what would be best!
Things to Avoid:
1. Colors to avoid: bright reds, neons, bright oranges (they reflect color onto skin and can be difficult to edit!).
2. Avoid patterns smaller than a quarter: Tiny patterns cause something called “Chromatic Aberration” in digital images. Men’s checkered shirts are fine if the “checks” are on the larger side.
3. Alternate Heaviness: If one of you is wearing very dark jeans, the other may want to wear lighter pants. If one of you is wearing a navy top, the other shouldn’t wear a dark/heavy-colored top. To a certain degree, alternating the “heaviness” of your outfits can make your images look more balanced.
4. Avoid one of you being casual while the other is more dressy: This can look a bit awkward in your photos.
5. Other things to avoid: Tennis shoes, Graphic tees, Bold logos on shirts, Sunglasses & Baseball Hats.
The Romantic Style Recipe:
If you’re hoping for a more romantic style of shoot that includes “light” and “airy” colors, you can actually make outfit choices that will allow your images to turn out brighter, softer, and extra photogenic! Here are some ingredients that go into creating a romantic-styled shoot. It’s important to note that you do not need to choose all of these ingredients in order to have a light and airy style to your images but the more ingredients you include, the more romantic and bright your images will be:
– Neutral Colors: Blushes, tans, light pinks, faint blues and light minty teals, creams, grays and whites will always result in more of a light and airy look in your images. These colors photograph softer and more romantically!
– Long, Flowy Skirts/Dresses: Dresses and skirts with feminine ruffles, multiple layers of fabric and the ability to blow and move in the wind will always photograph beautifully! You would be amazed at how impactful moving fabric softens an image.
– Khakis vs. Jeans: If you really want your images to be as bright as possible, consider having your groom wear lighter pants instead of dark dress pants or dark jeans.
The Bright & Bold Recipe:
Just like the “Romantic” recipe, you don’t have to apply all of these “ingredients” to get a perfectly BRIGHT & BOLD look to your engagement session. These ingredients include:
– Only One Wears a Pattern: If one of you has a bold pattern, it’s very important that the other doesn’t. The bolder the pattern, the more important this rule becomes!
– Bold Backgrounds: A lot of time, if my couples are going for a bold and bright look, I will look for solid colored backgrounds to use for part of their engagement session! It’s a double win if the background coordinates with their outfits!
– Only One Bold Color: If you really want a bold and bright look but you want to do it well and tastefully, I would suggest that only one of you have a bright and bold colored outfit and the other stay in a solid neutral to avoid overdoing it!
– Large Patterns are Preferred: If you really want to wear a pattern, my only request is that your pattern is on the larger side. Patterns that are smaller than a quarter can be difficult to photograph. This isn’t true of all patterns but it’s a good general rule to go by!
– Consider Muting your Favorite Color: If you love a certain bold color and you want to include it in your outfit selection, I would recommend selecting a muted tone of this favorite color. For example, if you love purple, instead of selecting a deep, dark and bold purple shirt, you can get the purple vibes through a lavender or even a periwinkle color!
Engagement Session Approximate Start Times:
All of my outdoor session begin approximately 2 hours before the sunsets. That being said, start times will vary depending on the season:
Winter | Nov-Mar 3:00-5:00pm
During November through to Mid- March you can plan on your engagement session taking place around 3-5pm. However, the time changes in Mid-March so that will make the start time one hour later.
Summer | Jun-Aug 6:30-8:30pm
Summer engagements, just like all engagements, take place two hours before sunset. This will hopefully mean that the shoot will be during the cooler part of the day.
Spring | Apr/May – Varies
The sunset time drastically changes throughout the course of these two months and so our shooting times change as well. You can plan on approximately 5:30-7:30pm in April and 6:00-8:00pm in May.
Fall | Sept/Nov – Varies
The sunset time changes drastically during these three months. In Sept, you can plan on 5:30-7:30pm until the third week, and then you can plan on 5:00-7:00pm until Mid-Oct. After the first week of Nov, plan on 3:00-5:00pm.
- I like to photograph engagement sessions on weekday evenings during the summer months because my weekends are typically dedicated to photographing weddings!
- I love shooting at gorgeous locations. I recommend two locations max for engagements. A general rule of thumb is the more locations and outfits, the less images, but the more variety you’ll have!
- I love to travel for engagement shoots! There are so many beautiful locations in Central Alberta, why not take advantage of them! If you would like to have your engagement session in the mountains or the hoodoos definitely let me know so we can make a plan for that. Keep in mind that additional travel costs may be applied to your current package.
- If we do decide to do a mountain shoot it is good to be prepared to enter a national park which could mean paying parking for the day.
Preparing Your Groom for the Engagement Session:
If you’re a bride that is a little anxious about how your groom is going to react to this whole “picture” thing, you’re not alone. I receive so many emails from brides who are worried that their groom won’t be into it, but I have great news for you…you both are more photogenic than you think. I am constantly surprising couples by discovering their hidden modeling skills and this is my most common response from my ‘CCP’ Grooms: “That wasn’t as bad as I thought! It was actually fun!” Boom! Mission accomplished!
When the groom says taking pictures was FUN, I have done my job well! Your engagement session is supposed to be fun and relaxed, not forced or awkward. As you prepare for your shoot, there are a few things that you can do to help your groom know what to expect:
- I highly recommend sitting down together and showing him 2-3 of your favorite engagement sessions that I have photographed. Spend some time together scrolling through a few blog posts or creeping my Engagement Portfolio on my website. This will allow him to gauge what his expectations should be. You can find a few of my favourite sessions here, here and here.
- I also recommend that you allow for plenty of time to get to your shoot! There is nothing worse than a couple showing up late, and they have been arguing in the car before they arrive!
- Last but not least, remember to have patience with him and don’t assume that he’s not going to have a good time…I think you’ll be surprised how much you will both enjoy your session!
I hope that you found this guide helpful and are now feeling ready to take on your engagement session with confidence! As always if you have more questions or need any extra encouragement or advise. please don’t hesitate to reach out! I love getting emails with outfit options and helping you create your dream portraits.
Let’s do this (photography) thing!