The Engagement Session Guide
The Engagement Session Guide!
A note about this engagement session guide
I’m so excited to be working with you and I can’t wait for our time together during your engagement session! It’s normal to be a little nervous about your session. I always tell people that I still get nervous before having my photos taken – and I do this for a living!
I’m a big fan of engagement sessions for a few reasons. First, they allow you to get comfortable in front of the camera. It takes time for most couples to warm up to being photographed and understand how I pose. Timelines can be pretty tight on wedding days and 30 minutes may be all we have for portraits – which is why I’ve found that wedding day portraits turn out so much better when couples do engagement sessions ahead of time.
Second, you can showcase your personalities in a more casual setting that is significant to the two of you (and even include pets!). While they’re great for save-the-dates, I’ve taken engagement photos anywhere from 18 months in advance to a few days before the wedding.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to planning a session and since I get asked the same things over and over again, I thought it would be the most beneficial if I put together a guide that walks you through everything you need to know. I’ll cover what to wear, whether to bring pets & how to manage them, location ideas, and more!
Note for the guys
I get it. Having your picture taken for 1-2 hours might not be in your top-10 favorite things to do during your downtime. And at first you might feel sort of awkward being in front of the camera. But I think you’ll find that by the end of the session, it’s a lot easier than you thought, and you even had a little fun. I look forward to it because it’s a great opportunity for us all to hang out a bit before the wedding day.
While I shoot most of the engagement sessions between April and late November, sessions can take place all year. Most of our couples choose a season based on the location where they want to shoot. A few things to keep in mind during each season:
Summer // Walks on the beach hand in hand
In spite of the heat, I’m a big fans of summer sessions! Because of the later sunset, sessions sometimes begin as late as 6pm. If you’re taking your engagement photos during the summer, I recommend bringing extra makeup and a few towels to make sure you stay fresh throughout your session.
Spring // Fresh flowers and sunny days!
Even though Spring begins in March, I typically don’t begin shooting for another 6 weeks because the weather in Michigan is still pretty chilly. When I schedule spring dates, I typically schedule both a primary date and a backup rain date. Unless you want rain shots then bring your umbrella.
Fall // Colorful leaves and snuggling close
Fall is one of the prettiest times of the year on the East Coast and because of the perfect weather, our schedules typically book up quickly! If you have your heart set on a fall engagement session, I recommend scheduling it as soon as you book!
Winter // Snowfall, hot cocoa and cozy coats
If you’re planning to take your engagement photos during the winter, keep in mind that if your session takes place in the evening, I could begin shooting as early as 2:30pm to catch the sunset. I recommend dressing in layers so that in between photos you can warm up. Make sure you bring a little extra makeup and tissues in case your nose begins running.
Time & Light
Is there a “good” time to take photos?
Engagement sessions can take place anywhere from immediately following a proposal to just a few days before the wedding. I’ve found that there isn’t a “good” or “bad” time to take your photos. I normally plan sessions based on a particular “look” a couple has in mind, spring flowers for example, or based on schedules.
Sessions typically last about an hour and a half and when I can—I love to begin sessions about two hours before sunset. I prefer to shoot when the sun is lower in the sky to avoid harsh shadows and bright sun patches. The first two hours after sunrise is also an ideal time to shoot. So if you’re an early riser we can make morning shoots happen.
I schedule sessions during what I believe will be the best light of the day – which means that it’s super important to be on time. If you’re late to an evening session, we could run out of light before we’ve finished shooting and if your session takes place in the morning, the sun gets more harsh as it rises.
Mostly Metro Detroit Engagement Session Locations.
I love when couples choose a location for their session that complements their wedding. For example if you’re planning a chic, elegant wedding, it may be fitting to take your engagement portraits among the classic architecture in the Law Quad in Ann Arbor, while a local park or flower-filled fields may be more fitting for a couple planning a more rustic affair. The best session locations are often meaningful places to the couple; however, I’m also happy to make recommendations.
From Mural walls to lavender fields to apple picking and college campuses, the options for engagement session locations are endless!
Classic & Elegant
University Of Michigan Law Quad
The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House
Zingerman’s Cornman Farms
Lake St. Claire Metropark
Port Huron Light House
Stony Creek Metropark
Gallup Park Ann Arbor
The Belt Detroit
Some locations require a photo fee or entry fee.
While I take most of my engagement sessions in the Metro Detroit area, I’ve photographed sessions in Michigan from Grand Rapids to Luddington. If you have a location in mind that is significant to the two of you, let me know because if our schedules align, I would be thrilled to take your engagement photos outside of our normal area. Travel fees vary depending on the location and availability.
Let’s have an adventure shall we!
Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes
Pictured Rocks (The UP)
Tahquamenon Falls (The UP)
Presque Isle Park (The UP)
Isle Royale National Park This is a HIKE it’s an Island above the UP
Yosemite National Park
Point Reyes National Seashore
Half Moon Bay
Sequoia National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
St. Mary’s Glacier
We can go anywhere in the world you want really, these are just a few dream locations.
What to Wear
tips for looking your best
When picking outfits I recommend keeping in mind the word “complement” rather than “match.” For example, if the groom-to-be is wearing a blue and pink pastel plaid shirt, the bride-to-be may want to choose a long, soft blue dress. It can also be a great idea to choose “color-families,” such as pastels or jewel tones.
Generally couples pick two outfits for an engagement session: a more formal outfit and a casual outfit. I recommend saving your favorite outfit for later in the session, when couples usually feel more comfortable in front of the camera. And don’t forget to bring a few accessories! Statement necklaces, cute shoes and classic watches are great ways to add detail to outfits.
Wardrobe Tips: Heels lengthen legs but if your heels aren’t comfortable for walking, bring an extra pair of shoes to slip into in between shots.You can’t go wrong with a suit and tie. Consider pulling out that suit you had to wear last time you were a groomsmen! I love the way larger patterns photograph – just be careful not to choose a pattern that is too small – it may accidentally make your photo look a little too busy. Softer, pastel colors tend to photograph better than bright colors – especially since bright colors could reflect on your skin. I love bright, neon dresses, but I don’t love the neon reflection they add to your complexion.
Statement jewelry is a great way to add color or pattern to a simple dress. Lace and tulle look amazing in photographs. And dresses with lace sleeves are a great way to help slim arms. Depending on your location, you might want to consider a fit and flare or a flowy dress! They look great in walking and photos with movement. Choose an outfit you feel comfortable in, but don’t be afraid to dress up!
Hair & Makeup
Engagement sessions are the perfect time for a hair and makeup trial! Professionally done hair & makeup last longer than typical hair & makeup. They also tend to hold up better for humidity and wind. I think it’s so important that you look and feel your best for your engagement photos – and if you’re planning to do a hair & makeup trial anyways, the engagement session is a great time to test how your hair & makeup look on camera.
There will probably be times during your session when I’m shooting your hands holding or the engagement ring on your hand – which means it’s a good idea to clean up your nails before your session (this applies to the guys too!).
“What do I do with my hands”?
When it comes to posing for your engagement session, you don’t need to worry about a thing! I’ll guide you through the entire process beginning with “poses” that are super easy and natural. If I tell you to do something that feels a little funny, it’s probably because I know it’s going to make the two of you laugh – and that’s the photo I’m actually looking for. Throughout your session, I’ll keep an eye on your hair, makeup and outfits to make sure things stay in place. I want you to feel as relaxed as possible and enjoy your time together!
champagne is always a good idea If you’re planning to bring props to your engagement session, I recommend including them only if they’re meaningful to you. Shots of drinking coffee at a local coffee shop would be cute if that’s where you met; however, a trying to fly a kite together when it’s not a part of your relationship may come off as contrived.
My dog is huge part of my family, which is why I love when couples choose to incorporate pets into their session. Keep in mind that bringing a pet along often means that we’ll need to choose a pet friendly location.
I recommend planning for your pet to be at the first part of your session and then either dropping them off or having a friend take them home. I won’t use the pet in every single photo so it’s also nice to have a friend available to hold him or her in between shots.
If you’re going to bring a pet, I recommend exercising your pet before the session and bringing your pets favorite toy or treats! Depending on your pet’s fur type, it might also be a good idea to groom them before the shoot.
Save The Dates
If your wedding is local, save the dates should be sent between 6 and 8 months before the wedding.
For a destination wedding, you’ll want to send them out 8 to 10 months before the wedding.
If you’re hoping to use your engagement photos for your save the dates, I recommend scheduling your session at least two months before you plan to send out your save-the-dates. Between inclement weather, editing, designing your save-the-dates and printing, two months is generally a safe amount of time to make sure your images and cards are ready.
When do you get
You will get your images as soon as possible after your session is complete, it normally takes about 30-90 business day to edit your images.You will receive a digital gallery that you can share with your family and friends. You can expect to receive your engagement photos between 4 and 8 weeks after your session. If you have an engagement box with your collection you can expect that 4-6 weeks from when you get your digital images. Time frame is dependent on the printer.
You will get your images as soon as possible after your session is complete, it normally takes about 30-90 business day to edit your images.You will receive a digital gallery that you can share with your family and friends. You can expect to receive your engagement photos between 4 and 8 weeks after your session.
If you have an engagement box with your collection you can expect that 4-6 weeks from when you get your digital images. Time frame is dependent on the printer.