As couples embark on the exhilarating journey of wedding planning, one question frequently emerges: “Should we do an engagement session?”
What is an engagement session?
An engagement session is, quite simply, a portrait session of you and your future spouse.
Some clients opt for an engagement session to fulfill a specific purpose.
Sometimes it’s for Save the Date cards, to be displayed at your wedding reception, or to be incorporated into your wedding website.
Sometimes it’s just a wonderful opportunity to have professional photographs taken of you two together during this time in your lives.
The engagement period is a very sweet time in your relationship, and it’s lovely to commemorate that with pictures of you both together.
How does an engagement session work?
The first thing that we do together is choose a location.
Then, we set a time for the shoot.
On the day of the shoot itself, we will meet at our pre-determined location and get started! Instead of just walking from landmark to landmark and working through a set of pre-chosen poses, we’ll take a walk and stop to shoot along the way. I’m looking for beautiful light, incredible backgrounds, and interesting compositional scenarios that we can use for your portraits.
While I will set you in “poses”, they’re more gentle guides to interaction. I want to see how you are together, and how you’re comfortable. If you’re less inclined towards public displays of affection, rest assured that I won’t have you do anything that doesn’t feel natural to you. If you’re exuberant and outgoing, I won’t set you into poses that are reserved and hands-off.
The “poses” that we’ll work with are really just designed to get you interacting together.
For example, I might have you take a walk down a long, tree-lined patch. I might instruct you to talk to each other the entire time and not look at me. What I’m looking for here is how you make each other laugh, your reactions to what the other says, and the natural cadence of how you interact.
Or I might have you stand close together with the simple instruction of “Hold each other!” I want to see how you naturally put your arms around each other, how you get close to each other, and how excellent your chemistry is.
The reason why many clients remark on the believability of my engagement images is that they are real moments. They’re not staged interactions.
While we do choose a location, set up a scenario, and put you in beautiful places for your portraits, your emotions and interactions are entirely your own.
How do we pick a location for our engagement session?
If you have a location in mind, I’d love to hear about it! Many clients know precisely where they’d like to shoot because they have a location that is important to them.
Maybe it’s your parents’ backyard, maybe it’s your childhood neighborhood, maybe it’s the street that you live on now, and maybe it’s the park you went to for your first date. Choosing a location that’s meaningful to you will give your engagement pictures even more impact.
I recommend staying away from “must shoot” locations that you have read about on blogs or seen on Pinterest unless they’re important to you.
If you’re not sure where you’d like to shoot, don’t worry! I’d be glad to offer up some suggestions! Even if it’s out of town, let’s talk. I travel often for engagement sessions and would love to hear about your plans.
What days and times can our session take place?
Timing for the session depends on two things: location and time of year. If you want to shoot in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or downtown Philly, we may need to adjust our start time because of the buildings.
What do I mean by that? In the city, the sun goes behind the buildings before it goes below the horizon, so you lose the light in the city before the sun has actually set. Generally, as a rule of thumb, I recommend starting engagement sessions in the warmer months around 6:00 p.m., and around 3:00 p.m. in the winter.
Engagement sessions are available Tuesdays through Thursdays, with occasional Friday availability. Due to a very heavy wedding schedule, engagement sessions are generally not available on the weekends.
What should we wear for our engagement session?
First and foremost, you need to feel like yourself! If you’re a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of human, will you feel comfortable in a cocktail dress during your engagement shoot? If you love wearing flats, will you feel like yourself in a pair of towering heels? Don’t feel like you have to dress in a certain way. The most important thing is that you’re comfortable, that you feel natural, and that you’re wearing something that’s representative of who you are. So if you want to break out the gothic cape, go for it! A pair of overalls? I’m fine with that, too. Casual black tie ballgown? Bring it all on.
Don’t feel that your outfit needs to match that of your future spouse. Coordination is okay, but I don’t encourage matching. Look for colors that complement each other, or are in the same color family.
If you’re working with a hair and makeup artist for your wedding day, now might be a great time for a trial. If you’re just in town for the shoot, I can recommend some wonderful artists for you. While professional hair and makeup are not a must, it can help boost your confidence and ease the getting-ready process on the day of the shoot.
As far as clothing goes, I recommend staying away from bright whites, heavily visible logos, or crazy mismatched patterns. While trends heavily lean towards things-that-look-like-they-would-clash-but-they-don’t pattern mixing, be careful that you don’t go overboard. You don’t want your outfits to pull attention from your face!
Consider your location as well when you’re preparing your engagement shoot outfits. If we’re shooting in a peaceful field or secluded park, consider a casual dress or jeans and a vintage top. If we’ll be in downtown Manhattan, what about a cocktail dress or sleekly tailored trench? Another thing that can be very effective is deliberately not matching your outfit to your location. A flowing evening gown in a field is against the norm, and its contrast to the scene can be very compelling.
What else should we bring with us to our session?
If we’re shooting in the city and you won’t have easy access to your car, bring a bag to carry your extra items. If you have a change of shoes, your phones, car keys, etc., try to consolidate them into one bag to make transporting it easier. If you want to change up your look without changing clothes, consider an additional layer or a few changes of jewelry or shoes. Try to get everything into that one bag! Trust me, you’ll be glad to not have to drag around more than you need to!
Can we bring our dog? Our kids? What about props?
If you have pets or kids, please feel free to include them in your session. However, I strongly suggest limiting their involvement.
If you’re going to bring pets or kids, you’re also going to need to bring someone else to handle them. The best thing is to include them at the beginning of the session, for a brief time, and then have a trusted friend or family member take them home. If you don’t, we’ll spend valuable session time wrangling them. You won’t be able to relax and be together if you’ve got kids running around that you need to keep an eye on, and it’s difficult to cuddle up when you’re trying to hold your dog’s leash in your free hand!
When it comes to props, I gently discourage them. The point of the engagement session is to create beautiful portraits of you two together, and the addition of props is just a distraction.
I know that there are many websites that will encourage you to bring vintage items, huge bunches of balloons, signs to hold, and so forth, but then the entire engagement shoot becomes all about those props and less about you two together. If you have always dreamed of running across the Brooklyn Bridge together holding a huge cluster of balloons, then let’s do it….but let’s open the session with that and then put the balloons away.
Likewise, if you have a Thank You sign or a Save The Date sign, let’s shoot those quickly and then tuck them in your bag. I want to create a shoot that fully brings to life your vision for engagement pictures, but I also want to focus on you!
We are super nervous in front of the camera and take terrible, terrible pictures. Can you help us learn to pose?
I know it’s easier said than done, but please don’t worry about being “bad” in front of the camera! I’ve been photographing weddings and engagements since 2001, and have documented hundreds of couples. I can honestly tell you that not a single one of those couples, no matter how much they swore up and down that they would be “terrible” in their pictures! Awkward, sure. Uncomfortable, yes. But getting you to feel less awkward and uncomfortable is my job, and I promise that I’m good at it. I promise to do everything in my power to make you feel at ease and comfortable during your engagement session.
You’re having your engagement pictures taken to document the love that you have for your future spouse. If you concentrate on that, relish in that, and focus on your upcoming marriage, you’re going to be just fine. I promise!
What if it looks like rain? Or the weather is going to be terrible and cloudy?
Trust me, I watch the weather apps on my phone like a hawk in the days leading up to your session. If it looks like rain, we’ll connect a few days in advance to discuss a game plan. 99% of the time that involves picking a new date and moving the session to that new date. Sometimes clients would rather wait until the morning of the session to see if it really will rain. I’m totally fine with doing that but bear in mind that if we start the session and it gets rained out, there will be a fee to reschedule.
In my years of experience, reschedule right away when it looks like rain. That way we can lock in a new date ASAP!