All About Engagement Sessions

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Hey friends!

The warmer weather is right around the corner, and I’ve been getting a ton of questions all about engagement sessions. So, today I’m answering your most frequently asked questions, and we’ll go over everything you need to know about planning, preparing and executing a great e-session!

 

When Should I Schedule My E-Session?

The truth is, there is no “right” or “wrong” time to schedule your engagement photos, and a lot of the determining factors have to do with your preferences. There are 2 main things you want to determine that will help you decide when to schedule your session:

  • Are you planning on using these photos for save-the-date cards?
  • What season do you want to showcase in your photos?

 

If you’re planning on using your e-photos for your save-the-date cards, keep in mind that save-the-dates should go out 6-8 months prior to your wedding date. This being said, you want to make sure that you allot enough time from getting your photos taken, to receiving your photos back from the photographer, to creating  and ordering your cards and then finally receiving them in the mail.

Next, deciding what season you’d like showcased in your photos will obviously play a role in determining when you should have your e-photos taken. Always make sure that once you set a date, also set a rain-date just in case! Especially up here in the North Country, we know that the weather can be very unpredictable!

 

What Should I Wear?

Probably one of the harder decisions to make is deciding what to wear at your engagement session. Of course everyone’s style and preference is different, but my suggestion is to bring one dressy outfit and one casual outfit, and to start with the dressy option first. I say the terms “dressy” and “casual” loosely, because again, everyone has their own interpretation and variation of what is considered dressy vs. casual, and that is completely okay!

I suggest not wearing anything that accentuates or bring attention any areas that you might consider “a problem area.” For example, for me personally I’m not too fond of my arms, so if I were having my photos taken, I probably wouldn’t wear anything strapless, because in every photo, I would automatically be focused on what my arms looked like, instead of the entire picture as a whole. I want you to look and feel great in all of your photos, so sticking with outfits that you know you look and feel great in is a top priority!

If your man is anything like mine, he probably wears a hat 99% of his life. Just as important as it is for us to feel comfortable and “like ourselves”, it’s important for the guys to feel the same way. So, I’m actually not totally against hats in photos, but I will encourage some photos to be taken without the hat as well. And don’t worry, I don’t mind being the “bad guy” and asking your man to take off his hat 🙂 The reason that hats are sometimes an issue in photos is because they can cover his face, or cast a shadow over his eyes, which isn’t ideal for photos. The face and eyes are always the very FIRST place we look at in a photo of a human, so anything that could potentially distract, take away from, or hinder visibility of the face is something that we want to mostly avoid. So, I’ve found that the best solution here is to let the guys wear their hat for some shots and take it off for others. That way, both of you feel comfortable and we are compromising both ways.

Shoes do matter! When picking out your outfits, remember that your shoes will be visible in some of the shots, so definitely take this into consideration!

Dress like the season. If you really want a “fall vibe” definitely play this up by dressing in “fall clothes.” For example, boots, a cute scarf, maybe a light jacket, anything that we might wear during the fall season will absolutely further translate the “look” your going for in your photos. Here are some great examples of “dressing like the season”

 

What Should I Bring?

First and foremost, you are absolutely welcome to bring your dog!! This is a super popular question, and for any of my e-sessions, the answer is always YES! Just give your photographer a heads up just in case they are allergic! If you are bringing your dog, here are a couple of helpful tips!

  • Bring treats, toys, anything that will help get their attention for photos!
  • Bring a leash!
  • Ask a friend or family member to come to the session to help handle your pup when they’re not in the photo with you.
  • Let your dog sniff around first before trying to get their attention for photos. If you’re taking photos in an unfamiliar location, show up a little early so your dog can become familiar with the area first.

 

As far as “props” this isn’t something that you need to overthink or something that is totally necessary. Again, a lot of this has to do with preference. Remember that “props” should compliment your photos, not distract. Remember that your “props” can also be incorporated into your ring shots as well! Here are some popular props that you might want to incorporate into your photos:

  • Banner/sign with your wedding date
  • Anything sentimental that has to do with your relationship
  • Blanket to sit on/wrap around you
  • Sign/banner for your dog to hold or wear

 

Here are a few examples of props done right!

 

How Do I Pick A Location?

Locations can be tricky, especially because LIGHT is the biggest determining factor when it comes to locations. Our eyes don’t see light like a camera does, so picking a location is definitely something that you’ll want your photographer’s input on.

When picking a location, just like we thought about seasons, think about what aspects do you want showcased in your photo? Do you want to be by the water, do you want to be in a field, or near the trees? The best locations are often places that have a lot of variety and can provide multiple “looks.” For example, one of my favorite places to shoot is at a local park that has sand and a little “beach” but then has trees and grass a few feet away. As a photographer, variety is always our friend and we can make the most out of one location!

As I mentioned, light will play a factor in what time of day is best to shoot at the location, so be sure to talk with your photographer about the location and leave it up to them as far as when the best time of day to shoot will be at that location.

Next, any location that has some sort of sentimental value to a couple is always a great place to shoot. These photos are about YOU as a couple, and anything that can add to the personalization of your photos is always a bonus!

If you’re totally lost on what location would work best, ask your photographer! I will also encourage you to TRUST your photographer when it comes to locations. Often times, the most random locations end up being the prettiest! Locations don’t always have to be extravagant with unicorns jumping out of waterfalls in the background. Here are some examples of one location that provides multiple “looks”

 

How To Prepare:

There are a couple of things that you should do to prepare for your upcoming e-session:

  • Clean the ring!
  • Get rid of chipped nail polish!
  • Schedule a makeup-trial
  • Haircut for guys 3-5 days prior
  • Spray tan 2-3 days prior

 

It’s no secret that your ring will probably be photographed at some point during your engagement session, and a shiny clean ring always photographs best! You don’t have to get it professionally cleaned, the best hack I’ve found is to use a little squirt of windex! I’ve heard this from a couple of my brides and it works just as great to make that baby sparkle!

This is usually a no-brainer, but I also suggest cleaning up your nails! Polish isn’t an absolute must, but definitely make sure that you don’t have any chipped polish, because this can be a big distraction!

if you’re thinking about hiring a professional makeup artist for your wedding, then I ABSOLUTELY recommend scheduling a makeup trial for your engagement session. This is extremely helpful because it lets you see how your makeup is going to photograph, and this is one of my top recommendations!

If your guy needs a haircut, I’ve found that 2-3 days prior to the session is usually best. That way it provides a little bit of time for it to “grow in” a little and look more natural! Again, this is your preference!

If you’re thinking about getting a spray tan, and it’s your first time, I would suggest scheduling your spray tan 2 days prior to the shoot. That way, if it’s too dark, or doesn’t turn out exactly the way you’d like, you have time to fix it before photos! However, if you’re familiar with spray tans, do whatever already works best for you!

 

If Your Guy Isn’t Into Pictures

This is VERY common, and a frequent concern I hear from many of my brides. They are unsure how cooperative or “into it” their guy is going to be when it comes to having photos taken. It’s completely normal to feel a little unsure or nervous about photos (guys especially) so here are my best tips to getting your guy on board:

  • Don’t let it get to you
  • Let the photographer make corrections
  • Set expectations
  • Ask for his input
  • Express yourself

 

First and foremost, it can be easy to become stressed or annoyed when he doesn’t seem all into the whole photo thing. Remember that this probably isn’t exactly at the top of his to-do list and this is unfamiliar territory. I would encourage you not to be discouraged by his attitude about the whole photo thing prior to the session. He might seem totally uninterested or ask something along the lines of “do we have to do this?” It may be hard, but don’t let this topic become an argument or a fight even before you’ve had your photos taken together, because that will further put a negative stigma on the whole photo thing.

Once you’re at the session, make sure to let the photographer make any corrections or adjustments. The photographer is the one looking through the camera, and they certainly are not going to let your look any less than your best. Remember the hat thing? Let the photographer be the one to bring this up at the session, just be sure to give your photographer a heads up that you’d like the hat off in some photos. When these adjustment/corrections come from the photographer, they are not taken personally because it’s our job to make adjustments. However, when it comes from you, it might be taken as being “nit-picky” which could have a negative affect on the overall experience.

As mentioned, one of the biggest reasons that guys aren’t “into” photos is probably because he has no idea what to expect. I suggest taking a few minutes sometime prior to your session and showing your guy a couple of previous e-shoots that your photographer has done. This allows you to set expectations and provides insight to him as far as what to expect.

Include him in on the planning. Get his input as far as locations and outfits and allow for him to be included. If he shrugs his shoulders or doesn’t have a preference, that’s totally fine! And who knows, he might surprise you!

It’s important to explain to him why these photos are important to you. I think this often gets overlooked and can sometimes be assumed that it’s just another thing you “have to do.” By explaining why this is important to you will help him understand and probably be more willing to be a little more cooperative. Talk it out and also find out what his reservations are and how he’s feeling. Prior communication is key!

Lastly, I will say that he will probably surprise you with his cooperativeness. Honestly, I’ve NEVER come across a guy who is just completely NOT into it, or not cooperative throughout the entire session. Remember that it is OUR job as a photographer to ensure that BOTH of your are comfortable and look your best. As weird as it may sound, photographers spend a lot of time analyzing people, body language and both verbal and non-verbal communication, so rest assure, we’ve got a couple of tricks up our sleeve to ease those nerves and get you guy into the photo groove. Rest assure, we’ve got this and I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

Get Familiar With Your Photographer

One of the most important things about your e-session has nothing to do with the actual photos. E-sessions are crucial because they allow you to become familiar with your photographer as a person AND as your photographer. The great thing about an e-session is there is no pressure and you can take the time to work with and get familiar with your photographer’s style and workflow. It makes a world of difference come the wedding day when the couple is already comfortable with the photographer, and chances are, a lot of the instruction that you learn during your e-session is the same stuff on your wedding day, so you’ll already be way ahead of the game!

Things To Find Out

As you are scheduling your e-session, it’s important to find out these things:

  • What is the price & when is payment due?
  • Is there a discount if I’ve booked my wedding with you?
  • How and in what form are images delivered?
  • What is the approximate image turnaround time?
  • Will I be provided with a print release?

 

Obviously price is one of the first things that you will inquire about, but make sure that you ask when payment is due and what forms of payment the photographer accepts. It’s very common for photographers to offer e-sessions at a discounted rate to couples who have also booked them for their wedding, so there’s nothing wrong with asking!

For my e-sessions, the regular price is $300, but If the couple has also booked me for their wedding, I offer e-sessions at a discounted rate of $100. Full payment is due at the session and I accept cash, check or credit/debit cards.

Next, you’ll need to figure out exactly how and in what form you’ll be receiving your completed images. Some photographers provide digital images, while others provide actual prints. Make sure that you know exactly what you’ll be receiving and if there are any additional costs or add-ons for receiving them.

For me, all of my sessions include full-resolution digital images which are delivered in an online gallery, and the digital images are included in the base price.

The turnaround time for your images is especially important if you’re using them for your save-the-date cards, as previously discussed. Let your photographer know that you’d like to use these images for the save-the-date cards, and when you’d like to send them out, so your photographer can take this into account when deciding on a date for your session.

For me, the average turnaround time for an e-session is about 2 weeks.

Lastly, you’ll want to find out if your photographer provides a print release if they are providing you with a print release. The print release is a physical signed document that gives you permission to print the photos. This is DIFFERENT than a copyright release, which basically hands off the rights to the image to you. You don’t NEED a copyright release to print, just a PRINT release. If your photographer only provides actual printed images, chances are they do not provide a print release, because they handle the printing themselves. You will need the print release if you plan on using your images for the save-the-date cards, so make sure to become informed on your photographer’s policy when it comes to printing for save-the-date cards.

For me, all sessions are provided with a digital print release within the gallery, so all couples are welcome to print their images on their own!

And Lastly: 

Remember that this should be a fun and exciting experience for both of you! Planning an engagement session can seem like a bit much, but I promise it is SO worth it, and it a GREAT opportunity to “practice” for your wedding photos! I think this is one of the LONGEST blog entry I’ve written, but I hope I’ve answered all of your questions when it comes to engagement sessions!!

Till next time!

Cristina