TIPS FOR PLANNING YOUR ENGAGEMENT SESSION
Listen. There are two main camps for engagement photos. Either you love them or your hate them. There is no in-between.
I’m here today to tell you why you should not only love them, but should be obsessed with them.
First off: what do you think of when you hear “engagement photos?” I’ll bet you a million dollars you immediately thought of some super cheesy, stiff pose where the girl has her hand all plastic-Barbie-style on the guy’s chest and they’re both smiling, heads cocked, at the camera. Right? RIGHT?
Okay but guess what. Your photos don’t have to be like that.
When you book an engagement session with me, the first thing I’ll tell you to do is to think of an activity you and your partner enjoy doing together and then invite me along to awkwardly third-wheel with my camera.
Love camping? So do I! I’ll even bring my own tent so the third-wheeling doesn’t get *too* awkward.
Want to hike an epic trail and watch the sun set (or rise) from the summit of a mountain? You’re speaking my language, baby.
Is it mid-August and muggy and all you want to do is swim in a cool alpine lake or jump in some waterfalls? You can bet I’m just as hot and sweaty and would love nothing more than to do the same.
Are you guys homebodies who just want to cuddle and chill (not Netflix and chill. You guys can do that later.) at home or in a cute AirBnb? I’ll bring the coffee and whiskey and play some sweet tunes and we’ll get our relaxing on.
These can all be used as your engagement shoot! Think of them more as lifestyle sessions than plastering the word “engagement” all over it. Engagement shoots are a celebration of you guys as a couple. So there’s a brand new ring on the finger, that’s cool, but there’s no ring without some epic background story and history. Let’s expound on that history. Let’s celebrate it. Let’s highlight that lifestyle you two enjoy together as a couple!
So you’ve decided what you want to do for your photos, now what?
LIGHT | Yo. The best time of day to photograph is during what we call golden hour. This is either the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset. Blue hour is also pretty epic too. That’s those few minutes before sunrise or alternatively, the few minutes after sunset. Expect your session to last through both blue & golden hour as the light will be absolutely clutch* then.
*Clutch light = soft and glowy. It’ll make your skin look flawless and minimize harsh shadows.
WEATHER | Listen. I’ll shoot in any type of weather. Rain, sleet, snow, wind, sun. If you’re game, I’m game. The only conditions where there will be a chance of rescheduling is if the weather turns dangerous (thunderstorms) or is bitterly cold (negatives to low teens). Otherwise, I have the correct gear to safely photograph you in any other conditions!
If the weatherman is calling for rain, don’t immediately jump to reschedule! Rainy photos bring a totally different element to your session and can result in some epic, intimate shots. Plus, you get bragging rights because you did your engagement shoot in the frickin’ rain and were totally all #wethairdontcare about it.
LOCATION | This is something we’ll figure out together! If you have a special place in mind, we’ll do that! If you say “We want to do X but aren’t sure where to go,” I’ll take it from there and send you a list of locations to pick from! Be creative! We don’t have to settle on a public park just because it’s close to your house. If you two are LoTR fans and want to go to New Zealand for some epic landscape shots, let’s head there (okay, extreme example but I mean, if you want to go I’m sure as heck not saying no). Tickets to Iceland are pretty cheap from the east coast. Let’s head there for the weekend and I’ll provide you with insta-worthy shots for months to come. (::winkwink::)
Even if it’s a location I haven’t been to before, I’ll do as much research as I can ahead of time to ensure you guys get the best experience possible!
WARDROBE | This is always super fun to talk about and we’re going to go pretty in-depth here. If you’re already super stylish, feel free to skip over this part. For the rest of us pions though, read on for some stellar wardrobe advice!
Simplicity: ever hear of the acronym KISS? No, not the band. KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. I’m not even kidding. I was taught that in my college marketing class but it holds true for your wardrobe choices! Simplicity is always best so when in doubt, keep in mind that “less is more.”
Avoid patterns and stripes (this includes animal prints!) as they’ll be super distracting and often times will conflict with the more natural elements of your portraits. Don’t wear a Nike tee shirt, please. Or Adidas. Or A&F. Or WHATEVER HAS A PROMINENT LABEL. Find a plain tee shirt or article of clothing that doesn’t proudly advertise what store it came from. Those little logos are more distracting in photos than you may realize. If your eye goes to that little patch of white on your shirt first rather than your face, you’re doing it wrong.
Colors: neutral colors such as beige, white, black, tan, and grey often photograph the best as they complement skin tones and don’t compete with background colors. I’m big on earth tones and color-coordinating to the location we’re shooting in so draw inspiration from nature! If you like color, stick to jewel tones that will complement the area we’re in. Example: if we’re mainly in the woods, don’t wear emerald green or any other shade of green as you’ll blend right in! Goldenrod, deep oranges, magentas, etc. will ensure you not only stand out from your background but don’t clash with it either.
When shooting in the snow, avoid white (for obvious reasons). If you want to stick with a neutral palette, opt for cream or beige as that will allow for some distinction between you and the white background.
If you do chose to wear black, make sure:
A: you aren’t BOTH wearing black (you’ll blend seamlessly in to one big black blob) and,
B: your black has either some texture or detailing to it. Ladies, if you wear a plain, all-black dress, you’ll look a lot wider than you actually are as the viewer’s eyes will literally go from shoulder to shoulder without making the distinction that you have arms. Find a black dress with texture on it that the camera can pick up (lace, embroidery, etc), features cool cut-outs that emphasize your shape, or accessorize with something on top that’ll break up the color.
Fit: wear clothing that fits properly! A proper fit that allows you to move and feel comfortable will help you feel more confidant in your photos! Don’t try to squeeze into a dress that’s too small or wear boots that are stylish but hella tight. I’m miserable for you just writing this.
Guys: wear simple, plain tee shirts (crew or v-neck), casual button-downs, slim-fitting pants, and a warmer layer in case it gets cool (think chunky sweaters, zip-up hoodies, or a light jacket). Stay away from pressed chinos, collared polo shirts, dress shirts, suit jackets, etc. These may all look nice IRL but you’ll look like a dad coming from the country club in your photos! Plus, you should know by now I shoot in pretty rugged settings so dress accordingly!
Girls: I love it when girls wear full-length dresses and skirts out in nature but hey! These are YOUR photos! If you’re not a dress gal, that’s totally fine! Loosely follow the same guidelines for the guys. Plain tops, nice-fitting pants, and a few layers and you should be good to go!
If we’re shooting in cold conditions, wear thermals under your clothes. THERMALS, ladies. Not thin, fashion leggings. If you’re wearing a light-colored or white dress, pick nude or white thermals. With dark dresses, find some dark thermals. They’ll blend in with whatever you’re wearing and you’ll stay a million times warmer. Guys: don’t be afraid to wear thermals under your clothes, too! Comfort and warmth is key to enjoying your session in the winter.
Always dress with full length in mind and include shoes and socks in your wardrobe planning. Shoe styles should be simple and non-distracting. Stay away from athletic sneakers and opt for a classic shoe such as Vans or Keds. Other great options are rugged leather boots, durable sandals, or even barefoot (once we’re reached our location and it’s warm!). Steer clear of white socks and instead, wear either a color that will blend in with your pants/skirt/dress or find ones with a fun pattern!
Guys: do NOT wear nice leather loafers/dress shoes. I cannot reiterate this enough. The classic leather loafer has a classic leather sole and ZERO traction…meaning you will slip and fall…a lot. Trust me on this one. They are NOT meant to be worn outside.
Girls: if you’re wearing a “fashionable” boot/bootie, make sure there is a good sole on them! Again, some ladies shoes have the same leather sole with no traction. PICK ANOTHER SHOE. If we’re shooting in the snow or wintery conditions, invest in a good pair of Yak-Traks or microspikes. They’ll blend in with your shoes and provide much needed traction when out in slippery conditions.
Accessories: I normally recommend wearing minimal jewelry for your photos. Jewelry that you wear on a daily basis is fine but I’d prefer to not have you accessorize and add extra jewelry that you normally wouldn’t wear. If you do wear jewelry, KISS (remember that?) and it’s color should be neutral and non-distracting.
Hair & Make-Up: apply makeup and style your hair as you normally would! Now is not the time to try out a new haircut or makeup that you aren’t comfortable with!
Fake Tan: PLEASE! I recommend NOT going for a professional tan (spray or otherwise!) or intentionally tanning outdoors prior to your session. A fresh tan may look good in person but the camera is more sensitive to skin tones and your natural color is always more flattering in photographs. Spray tans, or just being unnaturally tan, will come off as super orange in your photos. It can be quite time consuming to tone down your skin color so save that tanning session for later! If you show up to your session with tan lines you want edited out, additional editing charges will apply!
LINKS: Can’t visualize what I’m talking about in terms of wardrobe planning? Check out my Pinterest page for wardrobe inspiration! Also below are a few websites I love when dress shopping!
MOOD | This session is about celebrating your love, as cheesy as that sounds. Try to do something together before we meet that strengthens your feelings towards one another. Cuddle in bed, go out for breakfast, hit up your favorite beach — anything that brings you two closer together! Avoid running errands, wedding planning, paying bills or other activities that might stress you out. I want you to show up blissfully in love and as relaxed as possible! Make this entire day about the two of you and put off your to-do list until tomorrow.
Your engagement session doesn’t have to be cheesy. It doesn’t have to be an obligatory, rushed affair that you’re doing just because it’s included in your wedding package. Take full advantage of this session and make it as special and unique as you two are (oh whoa, hey cornball alert). If you need help planning your session or have a freaking amazing idea brewing, hit me up and let’s get this ball rolling!