Module 3: The Engagement Session

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Engagement sessions are super important. They basically set the foundation for getting great photos on your wedding day and give you chance to get to know your photographer and establish a great working relationship throughout your wedding planning process. You can get a lot out of these sessions and we want to make sure you've got all the info you need to make them as successful as possible. 

STEP 1: PICKING AN AESTHETIC

We went through this process in the first module. I recommend going through it again, but this time focusing on engagement photos. Engagement photos are a little bit different than those you see for wedding photos, so I think it would be well worth your time to repeat the process and find your "engagement look." 

Other things you will want to consider for your engagement shoot are the season and the time of day:

Season

Different seasons have different aesthetics. If you have some wiggle room with your schedule, give some thought to which seasonal "look" will best suit your photos. You can decide to do them in the same season as your wedding so they have the same look/vibe as your wedding pictures or you could choose to do them in a different one to have a little contrast in your photos.

  • Winter: Not the greatest time for "outdoors in the woods" types of shots, but sunset colors tend to be super vibrant this time of year and who doesn't love a great "snuggling in my winter gear" shot? You can also try to time a nice snowy winter shot if your area kicks butt at the Winter Wonderland game.
  • Spring: This season has great temperatures and could make for some great outdoor shots if you catch the flowers in bloom. It also tends to be super rainy and wet, so talk to your photographer about their policy on backup dates and rescheduling just in case.
  • Summer:  Could make for great warm-weather shots and, as long as it isn't raining, outdoor shots will always look nice this time of year. But high temperatures and humidity may make you look a bit sweaty and hot. Nothing a good makeup kit can't solve, though!
  • Fall: A great time to catch the fall colors and the temperatures can be nice this time of year. But, like spring, the weather can be a bit finicky and you never know when the fall colors will change. Again, check to see if your photographer is willing to be flexible about these issues before getting your heart set on this season.

Time of day

  • Golden Hour: Defined as the first few hours after sunrise and the last few hours before sunset, this time of day has a beautiful warm glow and nice even lighting that makes photos look gorgeous. This is the most popular time to take photos.
  • Mid-day: At this time of day, the sun's rays tend to be a little harsh and can be difficult to make super flattering photos with. That doesn't mean it is impossible - the harsh effects of mid-day sun can be overcome with artificial lighting, but it has a very distinct look.
  • Night: This is probably the least popular time to take photos, but it is not a time that should be ignored. Photos taken at night will definitely have a distinct look and mean opportunities for some fantastic looking shots. 

Here are some examples of how differht times can make different looking shots:

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STEP 2: LOCATIONS

This next part is one of my favorites because this is when you get to make sure your personality really shines through in the photos. We recommend picking locations that have a special meaning for you so that, on top of having beautiful picture of you and your honey, you've got pictures that also tell parts of your unique and beautiful story. For instance, if we took pictures at the place the two of you first met, the photo will trigger the memory of that first day and you'll be able to not only tell your kids and family the story, you can show them as well. See how powerful that can be? How much more you get out of the photo if it tells the story? That's why we work to find meaningful AND beautiful locations for your engagement photos. 

Here are another few ideas of places that could have meaning that would work great as photo locations:

  1. Where the proposal happened
  2. The wedding venue
  3. Where you had your first date
  4. Your favorite hangout spot on beautiful days
  5. Any parks or trails you love to go to/walk on together
  6. Your house/yard
  7. Your favorite sports team's court/field/arena
  8. The campus of the college you both attended 
  9. Your favorite bar/restaurant 
  10. Any place that sparks a great memory

Now, it's also good to have a few ideas of pretty landscapes etc. so that on top of the "good story" photos, you have a mix of beautiful locations as well. But we think the ones you will walk away liking the most are the ones that remind you of how this wedding came to be. Start jotting down some ideas and we can talk through them and decide which would 1) be the best to highlight and 2) best fit the aesthetic style we defined in Step 1. 

Note: You will want to come up with a Plan B in case of bad weather. You can either have backup locations picked out OR schedule a backup date with your photographer (if they allow this) shortly after your original date that would also work in case you want to scrap the first day all together. 

STEP 3: WARDROBE

Picking wardrobe for an engagement session will heavily depend on the locations you pick, the time of year and the aesthetic you decided on in Step 1, but there are a few rules of thumb that will apply across the board:

Rule #1: Dress for your location.

You want to make sure you have clothes and shoes that will look right in the location you choose. That doesn't necessarily mean if you pick a location out in the woods that you will need to be in full-on hiking attire. You will, however, want to pick clothes with colors that compliment the colors we find in the woods: more natural and soft tones (see photo above). Bold and bright colors might clash with the surrounding landscape and the photo won't be as pleasing to the eye.  We will help you make color pallet choices once we've picked all of the locations and know what we are working with, so you won't have to make this decision on your own. But! Start sifting through your wardrobe so you have an idea of what we are working with once the time comes to choose. 

Rule #2: Dress like you!

Make sure the outfits you pick look like something you would wear. Does that mean you can't get really gussied up if you don't always get gussied up? Not at all. Just make sure the super nice outfit you choose reflects that kind of gussied up you would normally choose. You'll be more comfortable and look more like you. Which in the end will guarantee that you like the photo. 

Rule #3: Be sure not to clash

When you and your boo are picking out your outfits, make sure the colors and styles don't clash. When there is overall harmony in the photo, your eye is going to like the final image a lot more than it would if there were colors or styles that don't agree. That being said, you also don't want you to have perfectly matching outfits, just focus on picking outfits that compliment each other and work well together. Your photographer can help you with the decisions if you want some guidance. 

Rule #4: Be comfortable

Make sure whatever you wear is comfortable! If you are uncomfortable, that discomfort will shine through in the photos and you won't like them as much. 

Second Note: We encourage picking out backup outfits juuuust in case a wardrobe malfunction occurs during the shoot and you need to change. Perhaps not a backup for *every* outfit, just ones where we are in locations that might cause trouble (aka: a restaurant with messy food or an outdoor location with water/mud/bird poop etc). 

The night before...

Make sure that the night before your session you:

  1. Layout all of the clothes and accessories (including backups!) we have picked out for your session. We also recommend bringing an extra pair of comfortable shoes to put on between locations just in case your feet start to hurt!
  2. Make sure all clothes are wrinkle-free. Iron stuff if you need to!
  3. Pack some snacks in case you get peckish during the session. Nobody wants to look hangry in their photos! :) 
  4. Put the first location in your GPS to make sure you know how to get there the next day (and how long it will take!). Also, make sure you have plenty of gas in the car so you're not scrambling tomorrow. 
  5. Pack an emergency hair and makeup bag for touchups during the session. Bobby pins, combs, lint rollers, hairspray and lipstick are all good things to have in case something needs adjusting before we are done. 
  6. Put the photographer's number in your phone just in case you need to call!
  7. Drink lots of water! It will help with bags under eyes and will make your skin look *fabulous.*
  8. Get plenty of sleep! No amount of makeup or photoshop will help get rid of that tired look in your eyes. 

DO NOT:

  1. Make any major changes to your hair or face treatment. If you want to try something new or drastic (such as a haircut or a facial scrub/peel) make sure you've tried it well in advance of the shoot and know how your skin and hair will look for the shoot. 
  2. Eat lots of greasy or fatty foods. You won't feel good the next day and your skin will look greasy and oily. No bueno!
  3. Stay up all night worrying about the shoot. You got this! I promise! You have made all of the right choices for location, style and outfits and tomorrow the photographer will show you exactly how to pose so that you look amazing. It's going to be awesome. I swear. 

The Day of...

Yay! The day is here! There shouldn't be much for you to worry about since you've prepped everything already. But here is a quick checklist to make sure everything goes smoothly:

  1. Pack everything in the car. Make sure all clothes are hanging so that they don't get wrinkled! 
  2. Leave at least 15 minutes before you think you need to just in case of traffic or bad GPS directions. A lot of times your photographer has planned your session around the perfect lighting or certain events and if you get started late, you may miss the perfect window of opportunity. 
  3. If you are running late, call the photographer immediately so they can plan around the time difference. 
  4. Get ready to have some fun! 

The Session

This part will go different for every couple but the key thing to remember is to stay relaxed and have a good time. If you are uncomfortable, it will show in your photos. We have seen folks bring bottles of wine to their session to help them relax a little bit; if that is something you can safely do, go for it! 

After the session

There are a few things you can do after the session that will help you enjoy your photos so much more (and for much longer!)

  1. Take some time to think about what you want to do with the photos once they are delivered. If your package comes with printed photos, think about where you can hang them or who you might gift them too. If you get digital files, make a list of what you may want to print and where they may go in your house. Don't just let the photos sit on a USB or in a frame that never gets hung. You will love them so much more if they are hanging! Printed albums are also great ways to enjoy them afterward. 
  2. Think about which photos from the shoot you may want to use for a Save the Date.
  3. If you get digital copies of the images, make sure you back the files up several times afterward so that they don't get lost. Computers and hard drives crash, USBs can be lost or damaged. If they haven't been backed up, there is a chance you could lose them forever. We recommend making several physical copies that you give to family and friends for safekeeping AND backing up somewhere online (Dropbox of Amazon photos are good ways to do this!). 
  4. Look at all of the photos really closely and jot some notes down about waht you love and what you would have tweaked about your images and chat with your photographer about these. Knowing what to focus on and what to adjust will help them know exactly how to photograph your wedding in a way that you will love. A note here, be careful not to go too far in what you ask your photographer to adjust. You hired them for the artistic taste and style, so don't ask them to change everything about how they style and photograph things. Focus more on poses that you think make you look unnatural or expressions that you didn't like etc. 

FILLING OUT YOUR PLANNER:

Step 1: Go through the visual style steps from Module 1 using engagement photos instead of wedding images. 

Step 2: Considering the different seasons, time of day and your schedule, work with your photographer to schedule your session. 

Step 3: Brainstorm a list of locations that will have meaning for you and your fiance and work your photographer to see which will work best for engagement photos. 

Step 4: Pick out outfits for you and your fiance that fit the season and location you have chosen AND that match your style and preferred comfort levels. Jot those down in the planner.

Step 5: The night before the session, go through the checklist in the planner to make sure you are 100% ready for the session the next day. 

Step 6: Enjoy the session! Have fun!

Step 7: Figure out where you want to hang photos and how whether or not you want to gift them. Also, jot down all of the places you have backed up digital files if you were given them. 

Step 8: Looking at the photos, jot down any feedback you may have for your photographer. Tell them what you love and what maybe you'd like for them to tweak (within reason) so that they know exactly what you like and can recreate that for your wedding photos.