The No-B.S. Guide to Planning Your Engagement Session
Engagement photos are the portraits of you and your partner that commemorate and mark the new soon-to-be married phase in your life and relationship. These engagement sessions could be used to fulfill a specific purpose like getting photos for save-the-dates or for your wedding website, and more so they kickstart a key vendor relationship through your planning journey: your photographer. You’ll also get to play with your attire, poses, and styles, making it a fun experience.
“Engagement photos are such a great way to get to know your photographer before your wedding day,” says photographer Megan Rei. “Not only do you get the practice with their posing and directions, but you also get to know your photographer more as a person. They'll be by your side your entire wedding day, so it's nice when you've spent more time with them!”
Planning an Engagement Session
When to Have an Engagement Session
Scheduling a session with your wedding photographer all depends on what you’re looking for from it. Is it just a fun memory, or will these photos fulfill a specific purpose as mentioned — perhaps for Save the Dates or another element to be used on the wedding day for your wedding reception. Rei explains that if they are for Save the Dates, then having them done at least a year before your wedding day is a good plan. But if you don't need them for Save the Dates, there really is no set timeframe!”
In fact, she tells us she’s done engagement photos for couples a week after they got engaged all the way up to a couple days before their wedding.
Another consideration might be the weather and season. Rei notes, “There are definite pros and cons to each season when it comes to your photos. Summertime is tricky with the heat and humidity, but a sunrise session is a great way to beat the heat. Winter sessions can be cold, but bringing hand warmers along can make a huge difference, or you can always choose an indoor location.
“Spring and fall are probably the most popular seasons for engagement photos since you aren't dealing with the temperature extremes. Some people also like to consider the season of their wedding — if they're having a fall wedding, some couples choose fall engagement photos to stick with their theme. But others will choose a spring or summer engagement session to get some more variety since they'll have fall photos at their wedding!”
Where to Have an Engagement Session
With plenty of decision-making coming your during the wedding planning, this is another decision, but luckily if it’s not an easy or obvious choice, for this you can fall back on your photographer for suggestions, Rei tells us.
Bur first make sure you consider locations that might hold some special significance to you as a couple. Rei likes to ask if you’re a hiking couple, where did you get engaged, and where was your first date — all good brainstorming questions that might just turn up some good options.
“I love photographing engagement sessions in the mountains of Shenandoah National Park! The views there are just incredible,” so if you are a hiking couple, love the outdoors, or are just adventurous, then remember nature always wins and in the U.S. we have plenty of parks and mountains that just beckon.
Ultimately, wherever you choose, as Rei reminds, that location (especially if it’s meaningful to you as a couple) is the best way to make your session memorable. Use what’s around you, get playful, and create new or more memories!
What to Wear for Your Engagement Photographs
You’ll want to make sure you’re dressed as the best (and most comfortable) version of yourself. You’ll have these photos for a longtime, sure, but more so, they should be reminiscent of your style and personality. Rei advises, “You'll want to be dressed up a bit but still feel that you look like you.” And she makes a point to remind that your shoes should be comfortable because you’ll be walking around a lot!
Pro Tip: Do not wear the exact same color as each other (read: avoid being matchy-matchy), otherwise you’ll run the risk of blending into each other in the photos, she notes.
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room when it comes to engagement photographs: outfit changes. Yes, this is a thing and it’s more common than you’d think! As Rei puts it: “An outfit change is a great way to get some more variety in your photos!” But she also tells us that a choice to have an outfit change does have a consequence on the session — it takes time away from the photography session. “And depending on the location you choose, there may not be public restrooms available.”
Pro Tip: Pack a bag with the things you’ll need, like a hairbrush, change of shoes, clothes, compact mirror. Also be sure to throw in your essential items like phones and keys, wallets/handbags. You’ll be glad not to have to worry about all those loose items. You can thank us later!
Finally, onto the topic of testing your hair and makeup for your session. According to Rei, “Many people do try to get their hair or makeup trials done for their engagement photos! But others prefer not to if the styles don't fit — if you're planning an updo and bold makeup look for your wedding day that may not fit well with your hiking engagement session in the woods.” So as you consider this, keep in mind the overall vibe and style you’re looking for because you want all decisions to play into one another for a cohesive and well-executed result.
Hiring a Photographer for Your Engagement Session
While many couples opt to use their wedding photographer for their engagement session, we’ve seen more than a few who have hired different photographers, especially if their doing a destination wedding with a local photographer. Ultimately there are plenty of considerations, and they can certainly vary by couple, but Rei shared with us some excellent advice she things you should keep in mind (and what we love about it most is that it’s appropriate for hiring a photographer anytime !).
“Review as much of their work as you can to get an idea of their posing and editing styles to make sure it matches your vision for your photos! I highly recommend seeing some of their full wedding galleries, not just the highlights that you can find on their Instagram or website. You'll want to be sure you're happy with their full day's worth of beautiful photos!”
Client Reviews and Testimonials
“Check out what their previous clients have to say about them by checking out their reviews on sites like Google, WeddingWire, The Knot, or Facebook. If a photographer doesn't have publicly available reviews, that's a sign that they either haven't been in business very long, or that they're disabling reviews to prevent unhappy customers from commenting.”
“You want to be sure your photographer is someone you'll enjoy having by your side your entire wedding day! You can get a feel for their personality from their writing (in email, on their website, or on social media), but you'll definitely want to talk to them either on the phone, video chat, or in person before making your photographer decision.”
“Every photographer is different with their delivery times, so be sure to check your contract! I typically try to get some sneak peeks out within a week of the session.”
“Many photographers include an engagement session in their most popular wedding packages. The price for an engagement session will vary, but you can probably expect to pay around $500-$1000 if adding one on to your wedding package.”
For travel, most will tell you their typical radius and whether they can accommodate a preferred session location outside of their radius, Rei tells us, and what the travel fee is.
Photos courtesy of Megan Rei