Planning for an Engagement Session


I typically use this space to indulge my penchant for all the melt-in-your-mouth, scrumptious, overindulgent, finger-licking' nosh that I cook up for my family and friends. But today I'm here to give you some advice. As I have broadened my professional portfolio to include portraiture I've had a lot of different questions from clients regarding what to do either in preparation for or the day of the session. While this post is about engagement sessions much of the information here can be applied to any portrait session. So here are my top tips on how you can prepare and make the most out of your session.

How soon before our wedding & where should we plan on having the engagement shoot?

When depends on how you intend to use the photos. Typically, couples want to use at least one of the photos for their save-the-dates, if that's the case sooner is better.  The next consideration should be location (keep in mind certain locations may require booking and a fee to photograph at their location), a location may look better at certain times of year more than others. Winter can be make a beautiful backdrop but can also make the spot you loved in summer look drab in comparison.

It’s not always the easiest job in the world to “look natural” in a busy street with people passing by, which is why location is key. Select a place that means something to you and makes you feel at home is just as important as any pose you’ll strike.  Keep in mind that weekends more people are out and about so consider a weekday, there will be less gawkers. I'm open to suggestions and constantly scouting for new locations, but a few of my favorite outdoor locations are Canandaigua Lake, Schoen Place, Tinker Park, Highland Park and Mendon Ponds Park

When is the best time of day to shoot?

Usually the “worst” time to shoot is high-noon – or whenever the sun is at its peak height. The sun is most “harsh” at this time. So, my typical start time for portrait sessions in general is 2 hours before sunset; this could be as late as 6:30pm in the summer, or as early as 2:30pm in the winter. 


What about the weather?

If I feel the weather will compromise the quality of the photos, I’ll be happy to reschedule with no extra fees. Wind is probably the biggest reason for postponements. A light breeze is workable, but gusts beyond 15 Mph can threaten to blow equipment over, which would be an expensive accident indeed. Plus, those gusts are not hairdo-friendly, so it’s best to postpone or change location if there’s time. Cloudy skies can often lend some drama to the scene. Really light rain is no big deal, bring a cool umbrella. If it’s been falling for a while, that means mud and lots of wet surfaces, which will limit posing options. Do yourself a favor and don’t stress over the 10-day forecast. Now somewhere in the future I plan on having my own Studio as an option for inclement weather but I don't have one currently so if weather concerns are going to be the kind of thing that keep you up at night, we can plan on an indoor location as "back-up" for the session date.

What to wear?

So this next part is for the soon as we've booked your session, call your salon and make an appointment to get your hair done, maybe make-up as well. Two reasons behind my saying this...1. It's a confidence builder! Who doesn't feel like a movie star whilst walking out with freshly done locks...and 2. This can be a great time to schedule a "Trial Run" for your wedding hair and make-up. This may not work for everyone but I defiantly think it's something to consider. Now with that important information outa the way, we can move on to clothing.


Most of my engagement shoots happen outdoors, be prepared for your back side to potentially come in contact with any number of “dirty” surfaces as I like to experiment with a variety of poses. I recommend casual clothing. If we’re shooting in the woods, don’t wear really dark colors unless you blend into your background like a hunter on opening day of deer season. Now ya don’t need to be all matchy-matchy (but that can be fun to, see image below) if you don't want to, buuuuuuut it would be cool if there was some sorta stylized connection between you. *See image above, burgundy on him and on her sweater.
Feel free to bring multiple tops or outfits, but be prepared to constantly pick it up and put it down throughout the shoot and keep in mind there may not be a convenient place to change. Just try to keep whatever you wear comfortable, clothing like a tight fitting button down across arms and chest you won’t have full arm mobility which can make some poses feel awkward. If you can't put your arms around your sweetheart, it's probably to tight.


Can we show you some poses we want to recreate from Pinterest?

I'm open to suggestions and It's a great way for me to see what style of photography you like. *Keep in mind, your photos will not look exactly like the Pinterest samples because each photographer has their own unique style, however it can work as inspiration.  

Let’s get to know each other. I start every shoot by keeping things light and fun by chatting with couples for a few minutes. Clients will often ask “What should we do?” in the beginning of shoots. If I have a suggestion, I always shout it out, otherwise I just want to observe things unfolding naturally to get a sense of your comfort level. Once the session gets into a groove, I watch the couple interact before offering new suggestions. I try to stay away from falling into too many posing patterns by keeping things fresh and allowing clients’ personalities to inspire me during the shoot. Maybe you're not into public displays of affection, which is totally fine. There are other ways to show affection. Sometimes small challenges like that stir creativity even more. If you don’t like the idea of doing anything formal, consider throwing a get together with friends and just having candid moments captured.

Props, Pets and Exercise involved during the shoot?

Wanna bring your dog, kids? Sure, just keep in mind you may want to have someone else there to keep the pup or kiddos busy after we're done with that portion of the shoot.


Props? Absolutely, why not right! Balloons or a picnic setting, sure bring it. In the interest of not lugging a bunch of props for your entire shoot, I recommend we work with any props at the very beginning so we can be light on our feet for the rest of the shoot.

Exercise? There's a fair amount of walking so be prepared to walk about a mile or so.  


Last but not least, Smile! Have fun at your shoot and make each other laugh. This is probably the most important tip, the image above right after he made her laugh is so genuine and was one of their favorites from the session. Talk to your fiancé about the funny thing your co-worker did the other day or discuss the new season of your favorite sit-com…whatever makes you smile and forget you’re being photographed for a few minutes.

Congratulations on your engagement!