How to prepare for your engagement session

When working with couples newly engaged, most can agree that their engagement pictures will be the first time they ever had professional photos taken.  With that, there may come many questions :

  1. What season is best for our pictures or what time of day should we meet?
  2. Where should we meet or how many locations should we choose?
  3. What should we bring or not bring?
  4. What do we wear or how many outfits should be bring?
  5. What should we expect from our photographer?

As I am gearing up for this year’s engagement & wedding season, I thought I would share some of my advice for creating a fun & successful session.

The first question asked almost every time a couple books their wedding with me is how long before the wedding date should the engagement session occur?  On average, I deliver portrait session galleries to my clients 6-8 weeks after the photo shoot.  With that information, my clients can estimate a delivery date so that they can plan ‘Save The Date’ orders, or they can determine which season of the year would work best for their timeline.  This brings me to my first question :


No matter which season a couple chooses, the biggest decision will be the time of day for their session.  The most important thing for the best photographs is lighting.  Choosing the time of day for your pictures is key.  In Summer, the sun sets late.  In the Winter, the sun sets a lot earlier.  Planning your day around the seasonal sunset times can make the difference between a good picture and a GREAT one. 🙂

I always refer to this sunrise & sunset link online :

While I have and will continue to photograph couples during the winter (because sometimes we just don’t have any other available time), planning can be tricky.  You’ll always want to check the weather ahead of time and agree upon 1-2 backup dates in case the weather is too bad to go out in.  While we consider how cold we might be walking around, I also have to consider my equipment.  When it’s freezing, our bodies slow down.  The same thing can happen with my camera.  Above all else, determine what kind of look you want for your day : cold/warm/sunrise/sunset/etc.  From there you will be able to decide what season you prefer and then choose a time of day.

In the Summer, sunrise sessions (5:30-9:30am) or sunset sessions (5:30-9:30pm) are usually the best time slots for pictures.  In the Winter, later morning (9:30am-12pm) or early evening (2-4pm) works best.

My favorite is usually sunset…

But there is something about seeing the sun rise and photographing a couple in love. <3 🙂

(Photos taken while 2nd shooting for the amazing Maria Harte Photography)

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To better answer this question, I always ask what areas, specifically suburb or city, are particularly important to the couple.  Where did they meet? Where was their first date?  Where do they currently live?  Every couple is different.  Some people who live in the suburbs prefer city pictures for a change of scenery, and visa versa for city residents.  While the location or locations of choice are always the clients to choose, I suggest as many areas as I can from where I have photographed in the past.  However, I also like to explore new areas as well so that each couple gets unique, one of a kind pictures.

So whether you choose the suburbs…

OR the city…

…they key is to choose a place that is important to you two.  When you look back at these images, you’ll want to remember a happy day in a place that meant something to the both of you in the year you were planning your wedding.


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One of the biggest questions couples ask is can we bring props?  OF COURSE!  These are your pictures.  If you have a unique idea, tell your photographer!  I’m always game for creative ways to make your session even more tailored to you. 

It’s always fun to bring in some prop help!  I’ve had some amazing clients that seriously know their DIY stuff.  However, if you aren’t as DIY-thumbed as some, there are always sites to help you out.  Try Etsy!  Every time I ask a client where they got a sign or banner (and it wasn’t homemade), it’s almost always on Etsy.

Think about your SAVE THE DATE cards and if you’ll want to incorporate any personal items, such as the actual date (HA!), details that will be in the decor on the wedding, or family heirlooms.Plan ahead for weather.

No matter how many times we try, we can NEVER predict the weather.  What we can do is plan accordingly, create backup dates, or JUST HAVE FUN WITH IT! 🙂

Rain is not the end of the world.  If it happens on your wedding day, there is no rescheduling.  There is only preparing and extra luck!

I always keep an extra umbrella with me for shoots and weddings.  Chicago, in particular, has very unpredictable weather.  It’s important to be prepared for anything.BLANKETS!

Sometimes I’ll have you sit, or even lay, on the ground if I’m having a ‘think out of the box‘ moment. 😉  Blankets can be added in for warmth, comfort, or even a fun color pop.BIG details!

Cars can be used for more than just transportation.

Whether you are simply getting around the city in a fun taxi……or using it for a light source at night, cars can be a fun addition to any shoot.Think about the Season.

Fall is probably the most popular for engagement pictures.

Pumpkins and leaves.  That’s what I think about when it comes to Fall.  If you prefer Spring, Summer, or Winter, think about details of those seasons that you love (i.e. Spring flowers in parks, Summer beaches, Christmas decor.)

Whatever the preference, make it all about what YOU TWO like.Another ‘detail’ that is always fun to add – the family dog!  I’ve photographed MANY different dogs ranging from puppies to older beauties.  No matter how well behaved they may be…and I’ve seen it all…they are part of your family, which makes them important to you, and ultimately important to me.  Talk with your photographer way ahead of time if bringing your dog is something that interests you.  That way you can plan locations accordingly and/or pick up/drop off options for when we take pictures of just you two.

Let’s be honest, these cuties ONLY add awesomeness to the pictures. <3*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *


I am always happy to help when it comes to deciding on what to wear.  There are 3 key points I suggest :

  1. Try to avoid logos, wild patterns, or clothes that will date you.  When you look back 10, 15, or even 20 years from now, you’ll want your pictures to look as timeless as possible.  (Sorry, I can’t do anything about the 80s & 90s – those were just awesome!). 😉
  2. Make sure you are comfortable.  If you choose to wear something you don’t wear on a regular basis, it may have you questing your choices the entire day.  Ladies, while high heels can be fun to photograph, not everyone can walk well in them…including me!  A good rule of thumb is to practice walking in your shoes & outfit at last a week or two prior to your session.  Think of it as a dress rehearsal.  You do this for your wedding, why not do it for your engagement?  Also, wearing something that will constantly be clinging or rubbing you in the wrong places won’t photograph well.  Choose clothes that make you feel like you.
  3. Help each other.  This is a photo session for BOTH of you.  That being said, have fun with it and complement each other.  Bring out a color from an item on one of you and make it stand out on the other.  Mixing and matching can be fun!  And don’t worry about the silly rule, ‘you can’t wear black with brown’. Times have changed and so I say YOU DO YOU. 😉

So whether you choose to bring two options : one formal and one casual…

…or one…make sure what you choose shows off the best YOU. 😉*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter : make sure it’s a season you like.

Pick a location that means something to you two as a couple, and ALWAYS talk with your photographer ahead of time for suggestions.

No matter if you pick a winter date and choose a location inside…

…or decide to brave the cold……or decide to be a Summer tourist for the day…

The BIGGEST piece of advice I can ever give is HAVE FUN! 😉This brings me to my last question :

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When you are searching for your photographer, make sure to find a style that fits your personality.  If you are not comfortable with a lot of formal poses, go with a style that is more laid back and candid.  MEET with your photographer ahead of time to get to know them on a more personal level.  THIS IS KEY!  When you decide on your date for pictures, you will then have already talked and broken any sort of uncomfortable ‘stranger’ ice. 😉  Your engagement session will be pictures documenting you two as you were in that time of your life.  They will be pictures you can look back on as memories of the year you planned your happiest day….the day that started your life as a married couple.

When working with ME as your photographer, you should expect to have fun! 😉  I always make sure you both are comfortable with every location, pose, and/or suggestion I give.  In addition, I’ll gladly take any suggestions you have as well.  This day is all about YOU!  The only thing I ask from you is that you trust ME.  Trust me that I can photograph you together looking your best.  I’ll always do everything in my power to create candid/storytelling images for my couples.  Those are the best kind.

So sit back, take a deep breathe, be yourself, and prepare to have an awesome time! <3 <3 <3


Can’t wait for this year’s season!


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