Weddings and engagements are a beautiful time for a couple.  There is the anticipation and excitement of the wedding, the ceremony and the reception, the honeymoon destination, and the promise of a new life together, perhaps with dreams of children and a family.  As a wedding photographer, my goal is to capture this beautiful time, along with the excitement and emotions that come along with it, in photographs for you and your loved ones to enjoy for a lifetime.

Wedding planning, especially in the planning you do with your photographer, is a key component to the celebration being made perfect.  After all, this season is one of the most important times of your life and you want everything to be exactly as planned.  One of the most important aspects in  planning the big day, and often times one of the most overlooked, is the engagement shoot.  With so much focus on the wedding day itself, along with the high energy and anticipation of the wedding, couples many times do not put much thought into scheduling, planning and enjoying a beautiful and memorable engagement shoot together.   But what is very important to understand, is that including an engagement shoot along with the wedding shoot usually results in the main event having more memorable and more beautiful photos to choose from.

Strategic planning prior to the wedding day is essential to making the photographs tell the story of your wedding day. And a good plan also should include an engagement session, also.  But why is this so important?  And also…how do you prepare for an engagement shoot?  What do we wear?  Where do we shoot?  How soon before the wedding do we shoot?  These are great questions and I thought it would be helpful to include some simple, but important details to keep in mind when preparing for an engagement session along with a wedding.

First and foremost, above everything else, engagement sessions should be fun!  This is the time in the planning strategy where these is no pressure.  During the wedding day, we’ll be pressed for time and there will not be a whole lot of it to get to know one another.  The engagements session should be relaxed.  This is a time when we get to learn about each other, and a session in which you can be comfortable and have fun.  Now please don’t misread what I am saying.  Your wedding day is going to be amazing and the one of the happiest days of your life!  But engagement sessions prior to the wedding are also very important, because this is a critical time in which we will get to know one another.  As a result, when the wedding day comes, you the bride, will feel more comfortable in front of the camera.  And I, the photographer, will learn a whole lot about the two of you.  This will empower me to add another element of creativity to the wedding, and the result will be gorgeous photos which reflect your very own personality, along with the loving hearts you have for one another.  We will all be better prepared, and properly equipped, to maximize the potential of creating stunningly beautiful (and definitely more meaningful) portraits to remember your special day.  Simply put, the engagement session will enable you to become professionals in front of my my specific lens and my camera.  And you will feel more comfortable and relaxed, knowing what to expect on the big wedding day.

I am a firm believer that what separates good engagement shoots from being great engagement shoots, are the elements of emotion that come from the images,.  As your photographer, my aim is to not only to ensure that the lighting is right and and the camera settings are perfect, but also that the photographs tell a story.  This is unique because it is YOUR story.  Great photos tell a unique story of the love you both share, and it is specific to you, unrivaled by anyone else.  Engagement shoots are one of the most romantic, most special and fun tasks in the wedding planning strategy.  Because you will relive the story of how you met, and how you fell in love, and how excited you both are to be looking into the future and planning your lives together as husband and wife.

During the session, the groom should be focused completely on his future bride.  He should remember the reason he initially courted her and fell in love with her.  He should remember how they first met, and the things about her that first attracted him to her.  In a few short weeks and months after the engagement session ends, this man is going to take her hand in marriage.  He will spend his days loving her, cherishing her and protecting her.   And he should be focused on everything  in his heart that makes her beautiful to him.  Her smile.  Her laugh.  Her gentle and warm spirit.  Her ability to draw out the very best of him in a man.

The bride to be should be focused on her future husband.  This is the man that will be cherishing her, loving her, providing for her and protecting her for the rest of her life.  She should focus on during the shoot, the qualities about him that made it easy for her to fall in love with him.  She should focus her heart completely and solely on him, and think about grateful she is to have him by her side, and how safe and protected she feels in his arms.  She should focus her thoughts on how he makes her heart melt when he tells her how precious she is to him.  He is her fiance and the love of her life, but he is also a hero and a knight in shining armor to her.  This is why she fell in love and gave her heart away.

You see, the best way to prepare for an engagement shoot is to simply focus on each other!  Take a break from the busyness of life and planning, and just focus on each other!  An engagement shoot is like going on a fantastic and unforgettable date, and even though the photographer is there recording it for you, you hardly notice because your attention, your thoughts, your hearts, and your gaze, are on each other.  That mindset = gorgeous and romantic, natural looking images.  You are not looking at fake poses and simple smiles.  You are looking at genuine smiles, real laughter, and a true love song being beautifully orchestrated in the images being shot.

Make no mistake, engagement photos, much like wedding photos, are an emotional time.  People should be able to look at your photos, and even if they never met you or knew you before, they will get a glimpse into your heart and be able to tell how so deeply you love one another.  This is the most important part of engagement session.  We are photographing a celebration of the love you both share for and with one another.  And we want it to display it in the photographs.   So the most important thing to bring to the session, is your heart and your love.

Also, you want to focus on the time of year.  Some couples prefer to have their portraits done in the season opposite of the season of their wedding. So if you’re having a spring wedding, it may be nice to have a fall engagement session.  If this is what you would like to do, it is important to schedule the session as early as possible and lock the date in place so that there are no scheduling conflicts.

In addition to bringing your love for one another to the session, here are some other tangible tips and suggestions to make sure that you are 100% prepared for your engagement session:

1. Outfits and What To Wear : Most couples usually have at least two outfits, one casual and one that is dressier. The best advice I can give about clothing selection would be to try to wear neutral colors, but have the colors be coordinated instead of both of you wearing exactly the same things.  Try to stay away from patterns or pictures on clothing, which can be distracting in photographs.  The most important thing is that you are comfortable and relaxed, and that your clothing and outfits are showcasing you and your personality!

2. Preparing To Be Photographed: This is the part that most of the ladies should pay close attention to!  You know your partner better than anyone else and so only you can help prepare him for this shoot. I hear it time and time again.  “My fiance’ hates being photographed”.  “You are going to be hard pressed getting him to smile”.  “He feels awkward and uncomfortable being photographed”.   I am in no way suggesting that all men are the same, but there is definitely a common denominator when it comes to taking pictures of couples.  Women just seem to enjoy it more!  If your fiance’ is really uncomfortable getting photos taken, he likely will be very uncomfortable when I ask you to get close together or have him whisper in her ear.  Men like things simple.  And most men are just expecting to snap a few pictures, smile at the camera (even if it’s fake and posed), and be done with it!  So it’s your job to explain to him why you love romantic photography and help him to get to know what to expect before the shoot! Maybe show him some photographs I took (some right here on this blog page) so he knows what to expect.  The most important thing to do is be natural.  Be comfortable.  Be in love.

3. Relax and Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff : As you’re preparing for your engagement session,  remember I am not expecting you to be a pro at this. I rarely, if ever, work with professional models.  I always like to take a little time before the shoot so I can get to know you and you can get to know me.  You can relax, and there is no need to be nervous at all.  Just love each other and I will take care of everything else.  You’re going to be so good at this by the time we are done that you may even fall more in love with your future spouse by the time we are done!  Also, I promise you…you are going to love the images we shoot!  Remember…bring your heart and your love for one another and I will do all the work to make the photos look perfect for you!  I will take care of everything and give you the beautiful photographs that are exclusively made up of the DNA which makes you and your future spouse a couple in love.

4. Be on Time: This is so very important.  Timing is so crucial when doing outdoor photography and there is only a small window of time to have the perfect lighting for your shoot.  We want to get that soft, beautiful light in order to make your images look amazing!  Harsh and unattractive lighting, or not enough light, have a huge impact on the final outcome.  If you show up late, we will lose that amount of time during their session due to the lack of light and we will miss what photographers refer to as “The Golden Hour”.  Now I realize that things happen beyond out control like massive amounts of traffic and accidents.  But if at all possible, plan ahead and give yourself extra time.  We don’t want to lose one second of that beautiful soft sunlight needed to make your photos look perfect!

5. Location and Time: The best time to shoot any portraits is normally 2 hours after sunrise or 2 hours before sunset. This rule of thumb can be applied to any time of the year. When it comes to picking the location for your portraits, I love shooting engagements in locations that mean something to my clients.  Maybe it is where you met, or where you went on a magical date together.  Maybe it is a place where you share a special memory together.  If not, I can always find a beautiful location for you.  Let me do the hard work and you just enjoy yourselves.

6. Makeup, Hair & Engagement Rings: Many women like to have their makeup set up close to or exactly the way that it will be on the wedding day.  This way, they can see what their makeup will look like in the photographs before the wedding day arrives! This is a great strategy and always a wonderful thing, for it makes for great preparation for the wedding.  It’s always fun when a bride gets her hair and makeup done for her shoot!  If you want to do your own makeup, make sure you apply your eye makeup a little heavier than normal for your pictures. Last but not least, I will be definitely be taking a ring shot! So if that diamond could use a little cleaning, that would make it really shine!

I hope those tips were helpful!  And I truly hope that you see the not only how to prepare for an engagement session, but also that see the value of them.  Trust me when I say that you will not want to miss one single second of this special time.  Beautiful and creative photography done right, will help you to remember the time in an even more special way.

Thanks for reading!