Getting the Most from Your Engagement Session

by Lara

This is the beginning of an educational  series on getting the most from your wedding photography. Each week there will be a new “lesson” in the series, and this information is for all couples, regardless of who their wedding photographer is. It is meant to help you get the very best experience from your wedding photographer and images. This was originally part of a presentation that I gave with Kevin Chin at the Wedding University, and it’s great info for anyone getting married. The first part talks about engagement sessions.

While Summer and Fall are typically our “wedding season”, Spring is usually when we are busy with engagement sessions. Engagement Sessions are great for a couple of reasons – they are a fantastic way for couples to get comfortable both in front of the lens and with your wedding photographer. Plus it is really nice to have some casual images as a couple, just being real with each other.  Weddings are all about glamorous, once-in-a-lifetime celebrations, whereas Engagement Sessions celebrate your every-day relationship.

When it comes to the engagement session, it’s a good idea to put some thought & planning into it. After all, this is an investment of your time and money, so why not make the most of it? Here are some great tips on how to get the most from your engagement session:

Location – You could select a location that has a special meaning to you, or that reflects your personalities in some way. You could plan a mini-date in order to capture the two of you enjoying life – something like mini-golf, getting ice cream, having a drink, etc. You should also consider the background setting you prefer,  such as a park, urban, beach, architecture, and so on. It is completely up to you. However, if you are having trouble deciding on a location your photographer most likely can help you brainstorm, and they probably have locations that have worked well for them in the past.

This couple chose a forest setting for their engagement photo session, as the groom is an arborist, and so trees and nature are very important to the couple.

Clothing & Makeup – Once you have the location set you will want to start thinking about clothing, hair and makeup. You want to show off your relationship and also your personality, and one of the best ways to do that is through your clothing and accessories. Don’t be afraid of a little flair! Scarves, belts, hats, shoes and jewelry all add to your look and will help create some amazing images for you. From a creative standpoint, your wedding photographer is going to be much more inspired if you bring some personal style to the session! If you have the ability to schedule your wedding hair and makeup trial on the same day as the engagement session, you ensure you’ll look your very best in the engagement photos. We also recommend coordinating your two outfits together – when choosing clothing for the two of you, think of the different pieces as one outfit, so that everything works well together and has a pulled together look. Also, think about clothing that will suit the location.

Notice how much fun the various accessories add to the image? This couple put a lot of thought into their clothing and accessories, and it really paid off!

This couple brought a couple of different accessories to add a touch of playfulness to their session.

Notice the colors the couple on the left is wearing-the fuchsia color of the woman’s blouse is picked up in her fiance’s shirt. The couple on the right chose dressy, casual clothing that looked great in the setting they choose for their session.

Look Your Best – Whatever you like to do to look your best, try to plan these activities prior to your session. Things like eyebrow waxing, highlights, haircuts, teeth whitening, manicure, etc. We aren’t saying go all out here, but if you do those things regularly, then plan to them prior to the session.

Play it Up in front of the Camera! – Another big way to really make the most of your session is to play up your relationship for the camera. At first you might feel a little nervous and shy, which is very typical. In fact, we usually don’t get many great photos during the first 20 minutes or so, as the couple gets warmed up to the camera. So don’t worry if you feel nervous at first, but do try to have fun and relax. The idea is to capture the real relationship between the two of you, and the best way to do that is to act naturally with each other, but in a way that reflects your relationship. If you are typically goofy with each other, then show that to the camera. If the two of you tend to be more intimate, then go ahead and snuggle up, hold hands, embrace, look into each other’s eyes. If you are very romantic and tend to be more on the sensual side, then don’t be afraid to show it!

This couple turned up the heat to show off their passionate side.

Head shots – Since you are going to be dressed up for professional pictures, why not ask your photographer to take a couple of head shots for each of you. You never know when you are going to need a nice head shot for work, Facebook or whatever. It only takes a minute, so take advantage of the opportunity!

This is an example of a casual head shot and a more standard head shot – both of these would work in different business situations, and will come in handy down the road.

Sunset –Ask your photographer if it is possible to schedule your engagement session about an hour before sunset. This is the very best time of day for lighting (besides dawn) and the difference this will make in the quality of your images is HUGE. We always try to schedule our engagement sessions at this time, because you are making an investment in these images, and we want the very best for our clients. In fact, the time of day is much more important than the location. It’s all about the lighting!

Be on Time – Most photographers will allocate a certain amount of time for your session, and if you are late, that eats into your time, plus you’ll probably be stressed (and so will your photographer!).

Loosen Up – You want to be relaxed and comfortable prior to your session, so if a glass of wine before your session starts will help you relax and have fun, go for it.

This couple is super easy going and fun. Their relationship really comes through on camera, because they were willing to just let go and be themselves.

Don’t Be Nervous – A lot of people are very nervous about the engagement session, as they don’t really know what to expect. It’s really fun! There’s lots of kissing and cuddling! So just think of it as a mini date, you’ll be in some romantic location, looking into each other’s eyes, walking hand in hand, giggling, and that’s about all there is to it. The goal is to capture your real relationship on camera, so just be yourselves and have a great time!

Ok, well that’s it for part 1. Look for additional posts in the coming weeks. If you are a photographer looking for photography business and marketing ideas, I recomend checking out PhotoMint.  I’d love to hear your comments and feedback!

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Susan March 10, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Great tips. We didn’t do an engagement session and 9 years later, I regret that for sure. Can I say again….Wish you were doing photography back then!

Missy P. May 7, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I’m a big fan of your work, these are really fantastic tips for getting the most out of a photo session!

lara May 14, 2010 at 2:25 pm

you are most welcome Melissa, I love to shoot engagement sessions, and I think it really is a partnership between the photographer and the subject.

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