How to crush your engagement session and have kick ass photos!

Dude you’re engaged! That’s such a rad and incredibly exciting time, but with all of the lists and planning and things it can quickly get overwhelming. So here are five tips on how to plan, prepare, and have the most badass time during your engagement session, and come away with photos that you will love!

It’s all in the preparation!

One of my friend’s dads used to harp on us about the 7 P’s of Preparation: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. I think it was something he picked up in the Navy, and we always laughed when he reminded us about his preparation mantra, but he was right! If you take some time in the planning stage to prepare yourself with a plan for success you are definitely more likely to have a result you are happy with, and that certainly applies to having your engagement photos taken too.

So what does this mean for engagement photo planning? I’ve come up with a short list of topics that will help guide you through the planning process and help you prepare yourselves for a successful and awesome engagement session. These topics are:

  1. Choosing the right location
  2. Planning for the best time of day
  3. Making awesome clothing choices
  4. Hair, make up, and prepping
  5. Be yourself! Fun activities and ideas for making your session totally YOU!
  1. Location, location, location!

Living here in the PNW is really a blessing when it comes to an abundance of amazing location possibilities. We literally live in a corner of the world that has almost any kind of location imaginable. Want an amazing waterfall? We got that! Epic rain forest? Got it! Ocean beach? Yup! Badass cliffs? Totally! Lakes, rivers, mountains, breweries, wineries, cities… yup, yup, yup, yup!

Do you want something nearby or do you want to go on an adventure to someplace that is more of a destination? Do you want to plan something that will just take an hour or two, or something that could take most of the day or even overnight? The most important thing is finding a place that you will both feel comfortable with so that you can enjoy the experience. I’ve done sessions in pretty much any location type you can think of; inside people’s homes, on top of mountains and everywhere in between!

You don’t need to have the exact location picked out, but come up with some ideas for what you think sounds awesome, and totally you for your photographer to help make some suggestions that might be a good fit! Also, don’t forget that the weather here in this goofy state can be pretty unpredictable, so keeping the season you are planning for and the weather you’re likely to experience will be important!

2. So we should do this at noon right?

So contrary to popular belief, bright sunny days are NOT the most ideal time to have a photo session, and in many ways sunny cloudless days are the worst days for photos. Crazy right? The reason is the unfiltered sunlight creates bright and harsh light where the sun is shining and deep shadows where it is not. While this can be cool for doing some creative stuff with all of the contrast, it isn’t generally the look that most people are looking for in their images.

Similarly super cloudy and rainy days aren’t really the vibe most people are wanting for their images either. Sure it’s fun to be creative in the rain and create some extra moody images with the darker clouds, but it is not usually someone’s first choice for how they want to spend their engagement session.

The good news is, there is a special time of day in pretty much every weather that is amazing for photos. We call it the Golden Hour, and it’s basically the 60-90 minutes before sunset or the 30-45 minutes just as the sun is rising in the sky in the mornings. The low angle of the sun gives these great warm golden tones and magical soft light that is perfect for photos!

I always advocate for planning for a Golden Hour shoot for engagement sessions, usually in the evenings since that sunrise time is pretty early for most folks lol. My absolute favorite is to shoot through sunset and into the Blue Hour just after sunset as the sky transitions for day to night and becomes a beautiful deep blue color.

3. Styling and Wardrobe

This one really comes down to what you are most comfortable in. I would never ask you guys to wear something that’s totally not you, this isn’t Halloween, its your engagement photos! You know your style, you know what you look good in, and if you need help, just ask.

It’s all about coordinating! Don’t think matching, but rather coordinating colors and styles. I always recommend choosing a color palette that is easy to play with and that you feel you look best in. This is where Pinterest is your friend! Hit up the search bar and type in “engagement photos color palette” and you’ll find a whole series of amazing ideas put together by people who do design and styling for a living! Pick out one you like, and off you go!

Small tip, I always recommend thinking about layers, and how you can create a few looks with the same basic outfit without having to make an entire wardrobe change. So can you add a jacket, vest, scarf, jewelry, hats, etc. to compliment the primary pieces and then remove later for a different look? If so, then do it! It’s always better to bring more things than you need and not use everything than to say “damnit I should have brought the jacket!”

I also generally recommend planning for at least one total clothing change to create two different looks for your photos. Sometimes that could mean one more formal and one more casual but it really could mean anything. I’ve had couples wear formal clothes for the majority of their photos and then go swimming in the lake in their underwear basically at the end. LOL

4. Proper Prepping Tips

Book a hair and makeup artist! It’s worth it, plus as you are making plans for your wedding day this could be the perfect opportunity for a trial run to make sure you are hiring the right person/team for your day! Even if you’re amazing at doing your own hair and make up, chances are you aren’t going to be doing that on your wedding day, right? So making sure you’ve got the right person lined up is important! Plus having your engagement photos taken is one of those “treat yo self” moments, so relax and let a professional do their thing =)

Iron/steam your clothes!!! For reals, I know that nobody enjoys doing this, but the difference between showing up looking A+ vs looking like you found your clothes at the bottom of the hamper will be worth it! Likewise, if you have a pet, make sure you hit that lint roller to remove any hair on items that might be an issue. It might not seem that important, but trust me, nothing makes your photographer grumpier than retouching clothes! <3

Getting a spray tan? This one is a bit hot or cold depending on who you ask. Obviously we’ve seen photos of spray tans gone wrong, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not totally a good idea if you want that sun kissed look for your skin. For best results, make sure to book your session 2-3 days prior to your photo shoot and be sure to notify your artist that you are having engagement photos done.

Eat! For reals, it might sound obvious and silly but nobody likes being hungry. It’s a sure fire way to put yourself in a crappier mood and make your session less enjoyable. So grab a bite before you leave, pack a snack for the road, or even plan to incorporate some food in your session. Also don’t forget some water, all that kissing can make a person thirsty LOL

5. Okay we are dressed and ready, now what?

Have fun! Look I get it, having your photos taken is awkward and maybe even a little stressful right? But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be? What if I told you that you could walk away smiling from ear to ear over how fun that actually was? It’s totally possible, and it’s really the goal for each session I have. Sounds awesome right, but how?

First of all, this isn’t going to be super serious. Like, not even really at all. It’s okay to let your guard down and just be yourself, in fact that’s what will make your photos meaningful to you! I always hear people say “well I don’t know what to do, or how to stand, or I just look weird in photos” and honestly less than 5% of the photos I’ll be taking of you guys will be a “stand and smile” type pose. Instead I focus on interactions, and creating situations for you to be yourselves with each other. To hold hands, to hold each other, to laugh, to kiss, and to really forget that I’m even there pointing a camera at you.

My favorite part about engagement sessions is planning activities or incorporating things that you both love into your session! Do you love picnics, or reading, or playing disc golf or ___________? Whatever you love, let’s figure out a way to include or incorporate it into your session. That could mean bringing along some props to use, going to actually do something together you both enjoy.

I hear so often that “we just need some photos” and although that is probably true, it’s also your chance to make your session 100% you! There’s no reason that your session can’t be totally awesome and totally and unique to the two of you. That’s what makes these so much fun =)

Want to see what this looks like in action? I had my friend Mike Baltierra tag along last Spring to an engagement session to shoot some behind the scenes video for me! We met up with Stephanie and McKenzie at Gold Creek Pond and had a blast. Check out the linked video below for a little behind the curtain look at their awesome session as well as some of the images from their session below the video.

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