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YOU’RE ENGAGED!! Congratulations, this is such an exciting time! I’m excited for you, you’re excited for you, andddddddd it’s probably time to prepare for your engagement session. Lucky for you, I’ve helped plan many engagement sessions throughout my career. That’s why today we are going over everything you need to know to prepare you for your own.
Though this doesn’t directly relate to planning, the first thing you need to do to prepare for your engagement session is to soak up this time. Your engagement is oftentimes one of the shortest periods of your relationship. And though all of the planning and celebrating is SO exciting, make sure to prioritize some time for the two of you to spend some quality time with one another. Prioritize some time alone for the two of you to really be present with one another and enjoy the time you have together.
In the early stages of preparing for your engagement session, you should sit down with your partner and think through what kind of feel you want your engagement session to have. Urban or nature? Fancy or laid back? Spooky, playful, or serious? Vintage or modern? There are SO many different directions you could take your engagement session. Once you have a few ideas, communicate your ideas with your photographer. This feel or vibe will influence your location, time of day, outfits, and even how I prompt you and boo throughout your engagement session.
Once you have chosen your photographer (ME ME ME), and decided on a vibe, we will work together as a team to put together your engagement session. We will really take the time to get to know each other. We will talk through what you hope to get out of this session, and together we will talk through your vision if you have one and put together an experience that matches the vibes you hope to achieve. Your photos that are delivered at the end of your engagement session are important, but so is the experience leading up to and throughout your session!
When setting a date for your engagement session there are a handful of things you will want to think about to choose the best date for you and your boo. You will want to go back to the vibe, think through what you want your backdrop to look like, think about how long your engagement will be and what you plan to use these photos for. With all of these factors in mind we can choose the perfect time for your engagement session.
If you’re planning to have a long engagement, you will have many more options when it comes to choosing a date for your engagement session. If you are having a shorter engagement though, you will want to get your session on the books right away. Photographers book out their schedules months in advance, and if you want a weekend date or within a specific time range you will want to be sure to talk to and book them early.
If you are planning to use your photos for save the dates, you will want to plan your engagement session so that it is about 9 months to a year or so out from your wedding day. Turn around time for engagement sessions ranges from 2 weeks to 4 weeks roughly depending on the photographer, so if you plan to send your save the dates out in the 8-12 month range that is traditionally used, you will want to make sure you have your photos back at least 9 months out from your wedding day.
You’ve already thought through your engagement and what you’re planning to use your photos for, so if you have flexibility, then you can start to think about what season you want to plan your engagement session in! One of the best things about living in the Midwest is that we get the best (and sometimes the worst) of all of the seasons. Thinking about your vision for your session, what seasonal backdrop will fit this vision best? Do you picture your session in a beautiful snowy landscape? Or maybe you want a colorful summer sunset! Whatever it may be, choose a season or a month out of the year you hope to have your session in and then contact your photographer to set a date.
Winter: When it comes to winter engagement sessions, your comfort is always top priority. Warm shoes, gloves, and a cute jacket that you can pop on and off throughout your session is the best way to go. Add in some warmer socks, hand warmers, and ear muffs to use between photos and you’ll be set.
Spring: The grass is green, flowers are blooming, and there is so much to love about spring! When it comes to spring time sessions, the most important thing to plan for is potential rain or the aftermath of a rainstorm. Wearing shoes that do well in all types of weather and potential mud, and making sure you’re ready to reschedule if the weather is unbearable are the two primary things you will want to think about with a spring time session.
Summer: Summers in Illinois can get HOT, bring water, Gatorade, and something light and comfy you’ll be okay sweating in
Fall: Layers!! Falls in the Midwest are beautiful but can be unpredictable! Wearing layers such as sweaters and denim to your session are the best way to be prepared and looking good for a fall engagement session.
When it comes to choosing a day of the week for your engagement session, weeknights are generally my go to, specially for an engagement session in a public location. Week nights are best because there are generally less people out and about, giving you the streets of your downtown or the inside of your local bar or park all to yourselves. If you do plan to have your engagement session on the weekend in a more popular area, prepare to have potentially more people around, or schedule your session for an off time of day where less people are present. Speaking of time of day for your session!
For the most part I prefer to start my engagement sessions in the AM with the sunrise, and then my PM sessions to start 2 hours or so before sunset. These times of day have the best even lighting for your images and make for some beautiful golden toned images. As a general rule of thumb, if you plan to have your engagement session in the morning you can expect less crowds, you will want to get up well before the sun rises though so grab some coffee if you’re not morning people.
Your engagement session showcases you and your relationship with your boo. As you prepare for your engagement session and choosing a location, choosing somewhere personal to you is my go to. Your home, your favorite coffee shop, a walk or a trail you two like to walk on weeknights after work. Think of a location that holds meaning for the two of you right now, and whether or not it will be a good location for your session. Whether that location is somewhere that already has meaning to you like a favorite brewery or somewhere new like a hiking trail you haven’t tried yet, having your session in a location that is personal to your relationship makes it all the more special.
Pick something comfy! Maybe it’s a new outfit you just bought, or one you feel most yourself in. Look in your closet for an outfit you already own!!! You’ll want to look back on this session and think “Omg that was my favorite dress!!!” That’s the power of photos. Pick an outfit you love and one you feel comfortable in. It should scream you. You will want to make sure you wear something you’re familiar with and can move comfortably in. This means if you do choose to buy a new outfit for your engagement session, you will want to try on your outfit and at least wear it around your home for a bit to be sure you’re comfortable in it before your engagement session (this includes shoes!).
When it comes to choosing your outfits, neutrals, muted colors, grays, even simple textures work well in all locations. Neutral colors also age well, so your photos will be more timeless. I love incorporating patterns and textures into outfits as well. Busier patterns work better in more urban settings, while simpler outfits tend to work better mixed in with nature. If one partner wants to wear a pattern, I recommend the other partner wear a solid colored outfit made up of colors pulled from the pattern or within the same color range for your engagement session.
In general, you will want to avoid the following when choosing your outfits: Logos, neon colors, oversized patterns, large text, and baseball caps. These things can be distracting in engagement photos and can also end up distorting your body in the final images.
Layers create so much visual interest in your photos, and can be great for the colder seasons. Hats, scarves, cardigans, and jean jackets all can add a lot of dimension and comfort to your engagement photos. Chunkier textures such as cable knits or pleated skirts also can be a great addition to an outfit.
Want to bring your pupper along? Awesome. Make sure to have a friend be there with you to wrangle them, with a leash, poop bags, and treats!! I recommend starting your session taking pictures with your pup OR end it with the dog and then send them home with the friend you asked to come along with. If your dog is super high energy and you do want some images holding them or sitting with them, I also recommend taking them for a long walk earlier in the day or helping them expend some energy before the session. Lastly if you want to incorporate other pets that might not be able to leave the home, opt for an in-home session!
Your engagement session experience is SO important to me. That’s why I like to customize my engagement sessions every step of the way. Here are four things I ask of each of my couples to do leading up to their engagement session to really create a personal experience.
1️. Share a playlist of your favorite music with me! Music you know makes you feel more relaxed and at home more than you realize. I love to play YOUR favorite tunes while working with you in front of the camera.
2. Make the whole day (or half day) a date with each other!! Plan to go out for a fun dinner before or after. Celebrate with each other, your engagement is a huge deal!
3️. Talk to your partner about your nerves beforehand. Maybe they are just as nervous as you! Or if you’re confident, maybe they will want to lean on you for support in front of the camera. Being open with one another will put you both at ease.
4️. Tell your falling-in-love story to me!!! ♀️ An invested photog wants to know more about you both! We aren’t in it for the money. We are in it for your story.
Now that you have this guide in your hands you should be ready to prepare for the engagement session of your dreams! If you’re still looking for a photographer head to my contact page to send me an inquiry. I’d love to get to know you, your story, and help plan your session!
January 6, 2023
All love is welcome & celebrated here.
Rachael Marie Photography values inclusivity and will never discriminate against your gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, body type, or abilities. You are wonderful, beautiful, and loved here.