All About Our Engagement Session Photography
What is an engagement session?
An engagement session is, at its core, an opportunity to have portraits taken of you and your significant other - usually months before your wedding day together where you will tie the knot.
For many couples, this is the first time they will be professionally photographed together.
Oftentimes, engagement session photos are used for a specific purpose, such as for Save-the-Date cards, wedding invitations, or for display at the wedding.
Of course, most people also find these photos to be some they can cherish, to help them remember the blissful period of time leading up to the wedding day. While this timeframe can be stressful at times (we know this first hand!), engagement sessions - when done right - end up being a lot of fun and a great way to really get into the wedding spirit.
how does an engagement shoot work?
Most couples that book an engagement session with us do so as a part of a wedding photography package. In most of our standard packages, we include engagement sessions as a complimentary add on. One of the major reasons we love to do this is because it allows us to have an opportunity to work with our couples before the wedding day. It lets us get a good sense of personality, helps us better determine the most flattering angles and poses to work with, and probably most importantly - it helps put the couple at ease with us, and being in front of a camera. By the end of the shoot, couples often express feeling relieved and it's often the guys who say, "well, that was fun and better than expected!!" We get all the anxiety that comes with having your pictures taken, and have a lot of tricks to help make you feel as comfortable as possible - and get the best images possible.
So, while we detail more about our engagement session process in our Wedding Guide (included with all wedding day photography packages), we can cover the basics here...
The first things we do together is select a location and date for your engagement session. These are probably the most important pieces of the puzzle. Once the location and date is squared away, we will choose a time for your session. In general, we aim for earlier in the morning around sunrise or later in the evening for golden hour. We do this because these are usually the ideal lighting scenarios that can add some serious depth and drama to your engagement photos. From there, it's just little preparations - we're always happy to hear any unique ideas you may have in mind, and we can make suggestions on what to wear if you need some advice there, too!
how do we choose a location for our shoot?
We welcome any suggestions of places that may be meaningful to you, and can always provide a list of locations that we keep close as places we love to shoot at in general. Many of our sessions take place on hiking trails or local parks like Jacobsburg State Park, while others involve more unique locations like Washington DC's Tidal Basin, Cannon Beach in Oregon, Ott's Greenhouse, Franklin Hills Vineyard, and more.
While choosing a location might be difficult for some, it is most important to remember that, at the end of the day, engagement photos are about you and not the location. Of course, the location can compliment your personalities, and can add a lot to the images - but ultimately we always focus on our couples, and not so much the place we are shooting. The environments are just a piece of the storytelling puzzle for us, but we always aim to tell the story of you above all.
what should we wear?
Like we mentioned earlier, we can always give suggestions on clothing choices if you need it, but there are some general tips we virtually always suggest to our couples. The first is, well, to be yourself. If you're into jeans and a t-shirt, this is totally fine. Keep in mind too that some couples also opt to bring two pairs of clothes: one for a more formal and dressed up look, and another pair of more casual attire. This can be a great way to get the best of both worlds for many people.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that you should not aim to wear matching clothes. Coordinating together and wearing clothing that compliments each other is often preferred. When we say "compliment," we are thinking in terms of complimentary colors - so colors that are in the same family and work well together. Of course, this also comes to mean wearing similarly styled clothing - ie: the guy probably shouldn't wear a tux if the gal is going to wear jeans and a tanktop (we haven't encountered this situation though, yet!) :)
Another thing to keep in mind, especially for the ladies, is that you may want to use an engagement session as an opportunity to do a trial with your hair/makeup artist that you have booked for your wedding day. This is by no means mandatory, but it is something to keep in mind!
Lastly, what you choose to wear will probably be dictated by the location we will be shooting in to some extent. As a simple example, if we are going somewhere that will require a lot of hiking through mud and dirt, your choice of shoes will probably be limited to hiking boots and the like. Of course, you can always bring along other shoes and we can carry them along for particular shots. And while this is the "rule," sometimes it is meant to be broken as intentionally not matching the environment can make the photos especially compelling.
should we bring anything else to our session?
There is nothing "mandatory" that you need to bring to your engagement session. On occasion, we have couples that may like to use some props for a few photos, and by all means this is welcomed! If you're bringing a change of clothes or will be wearing something without pockets, consider bringing a small bag to store everything in. We carry a bag ourselves with all of our photo equipment, and can also hold on to some items too if needed.
If there is anything particularly sentimental to you (like a piece of jewelry) that you would like photographed, we also welcome you bringing this along. We love getting detail shots. We always aim to at least get engagement ring photos, too!
Can we bring our pet(s)? What about children?
Your session should be about you. As we know well, pets and family can be a natural extension of ourselves, so with this in mind - it is totally fine to include your animal family and kids along if you have some.
With this said, we do HIGHLY suggest limiting their involvement in your engagement photos. The best way to involve them is to include them at the start or end of the session. Often, if you bring a friend along to assist with managing them while you are having other photos taken, this can be great as well. The reason for this is simple - it can be hard to relax and be close to one another if you feel the need to constantly be keeping an eye on something else in the environment, or in the case of pets, holding onto the leash with your free hand.
we are nervous about being in front of a camera, can you help us?
The short answer is: yes!
Since we began shooting weddings and couples a few years ago, we have continued to refine our process to make our couples as comfortable as possible. This usually begins by just having some casual conversations and getting used to each other - it's a lot easier to have photos taken by people who are friends, instead of stiff professionals just looking to get things over with. We like to take our time and let things naturally occur, even finding occasional candid moments where you and your beloved will do things together in a totally unposed fashion.
When it comes to "posing," for the majority of the photos we stay away from uncomfortable and forced positions. We do typically begin with some standard, looking at the camera shots - but mostly because these are expected from parents and grandparents (we all want to make them happy too, right?!?). From there, we may get you into some light pose, but let you naturally evolve it in ways that feel comfortable to you. Much of our posing from there is mostly dependent on verbal prompts like "whisper into her ear your favorite fruit in a British accent." This helps you both interact naturally, and focus less on "posing" or having your picture taken, and instead places the focus on really trying to nail the best British accent fruit discussion you can.
What about the weather?
In the days leading up to your engagement session, we are watching the weather forecast like a hawk. By about 48 hours out, we rely pretty heavily on WeatherBug as we have found it to be incredibly accurate (most of the time anyways) for predicting hourly weather forecasts. If it looks like it is going to be a wash out with heavy rain, we can simply reschedule or move it to an indoor venue. If it's only calling for a small percentage of rain, or light rain, we are well equipped to handle this with picture-friendly umbrellas at the ready. If you're concerned at all about cloudy skies, don't be! Overcast skies actually tend to be perfect for photography.
At the end of the day, much like with the wedding day itself, you can't control the weather - so don't worry about it. We will make it work for you, or if needed reschedule so you can have the photos you want.
Ultimately, whether rain or shine, whether at a park, on some intense hiking trail, or in the middle of a city - your engagement session will be about you, and celebrating the love you share with your partner that you will be marrying not too far from now. If you concentrate on that, relish in that, and focus on your upcoming marriage - you will be fine, and have a great time no matter what!