You're engaged!!!! You are probably super excited, staring at the ring, big smile and wanting to tell anyone who hasn't already heard about it this exciting news. Next step is naturally engagement pictures, right? Right...or maybe not. Here I will break down some tips and things to think about before you book the nearest photographer (or these days, a friend) to take those pictures. So here we go folks, this one's a long one, but full of good info I promise.
1. First things First: Do you want Engagement Pictures? Being engaged does not mean you have to have engagement pictures. Say what??? That's right, a photographer telling you that you may not need pictures taken. I may love taking your picture, but if there is not a need or you aren't wanting them, then save yourself time and money. Maybe you and your SO have recently had pictures taken or the proposal was photographed and you consider those the engagement pictures. There's no rule that says you have to have an engagement session if it's not something that's important to you. For some, all they have their entire relationship is phone pictures/selfies and this is one of the first professional portrait sessions they will have together. Wedding photos is one thing, but engagement photos are more laid back and your everyday selves to have displayed at home, in the office or shared on FB and IG. Some couples love to use their engagement pictures for Save the Date cards, Guest book/canvas to be signed and other various details for the wedding.
2. Look for a Wedding Photographer first. Yes, I know, I'm a photographer so of course I'm suggesting that. But really, here are my reasons why.. One, photographers (like most wedding vendors) book up well in advance, about 6 mo to a 1 yr and in some cases even 2 years. Some photographers like myself, have a maximum number of weddings they take on per year. I personally don't want to shoot weddings every weekend of the year, I shoot other genres as well, so I have a number of weddings that I take on per year and try not to go over that amount. Two, it gives you time to budget for your photographer. I do 25% retainer fee and the rest due 30 days prior to the Wedding date. Some couples pay all at once, some pay half and then half, or monthly. Everyone is different and I'm happy to accommodate however I can. And thirdly, some wedding packages come with an Engagement session! So many times I get booked and the couple already had engagements taken prior because they hadn't booked the Wedding photographer yet and didn't know the packages came with a free engagement session. So this is something to consider because it could also save you money.
2. Your engagement photo session can serve as a trial for the wedding. Just like when you go in and try on dresses, have a trial with a hair and makeup artist, you also can use this time as a trial with your photographer. This is the time to get to know your photographer before the wedding. If you are unsure or testing out the photographer before booking the wedding package (which I have as an option just let me know) then this is a great way to do it. It's one thing to see a photographers portfolio, but another to work with the photographer, get a feel for their personality, how they work and what your personal pictures will look like. Also as a couple this helps you be at ease in front of the camera with that photographer the day of your wedding, because it won't be a first for us working together... trust me, one session and you'll get to know me pretty well.
3. Do your research when looking for a photographer. Word-of-mouth can be so helpful, friends, venues and other wedding vendors can be great for this. You'll still want to do your own research though. Look up reviews, referrals from past brides, look at their portfolio (consider their indoor shots vs outdoor shots as some photographers are not prepared for low light receptions/ceremonies, look at poses and their style). You can also check out their Instagram to get a feel for their work as well.
4. Your other half may not be as excited as you. It's totally normal that one out of the two of you is more enthusiastic about the session than the other. If both of you are not into it than go back to tip number 1. Maybe you want really intimate and sensual pictures and your partner is not into any form of PDA. This is where having your thoughts on the session together and shared with the photographer and partner helps. This way the two of you can talk it out and be on the same page with what you want and what they are willing to do with a camera in their face. I try to make it as comfortable as possible for both of you, but a camera taking your picture is still not your everyday thing so there's always a bit of that to work through. Try to be understanding of how your other half feels too.
5. Research images that give you all the Feels. Pinterest can be a great resource for this. I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. It can be so useful as far as giving your partner and the photographer an idea of what you are attracted to and the feel that you want from the session. Maybe you like more lifestyle (in the moment, unposed looking) or maybe classic posed styles get you every time. Either way, pinning pictures that you immediately think "oh I love that" will help everyone be on the same page. Just remember that a Pinterest board should be used to give an idea of what you like, not a shot list of copying every picture. There's a natural flow (or should be) to a session, stopping to replicate someone else's pictures can put a damper on that and not be as authentic to you, so keep it mind. That said, if there is a few that you just absolutely love, please mention it and we can make it happen!
6. Think about who you are as a couple. Having pictures out in a field with a beautiful barn, especially out here in the Midwest, can be great...but what if you are not a barn loving couple? What if you as a couple love to go out for some drinks, hit the town and have never been in a field in your life as a couple together. Well then that field and barn may not make sense for you. I'm always down for some pictures with nature, it's lovely and I usually suggest it as at least a second location. But what I want most for you is to showcase who the two of you are together. We can go to the top of a garage and get the cityscape, walk the streets downtown, go to your favorite coffee shop together. Share your thoughts with the photographer so it can be properly planned out for you.
7. Try to meet your photographer prior to the session if possible. This is really helpful with being comfortable with the person behind the camera prior to having the pictures taken. It can feel uncomfortable having a stranger pose you and rightfully so. But usually after meeting with me I won't feel like a stranger to you...I'm pretty outgoing and the more excited you are the more excited I am. I really feed off your energy and love planning along with you.
8. Verify that the photographer you are booking is the one taking the pictures. For the most part, at least here locally, the photographer is a one man show. But there are some businesses that are Photography studios that have a staff of photographers that they rotate. If you meet with one from the studio that you really love make sure that's the one that will be shooting for you.
9. Think about the session as a whole: location, time of day, and what you would like to be doing in the photos. Once you have narrowed down city vs nature, river vs barns, you can then visit the location and get an idea of when it's not busy as well as lighting. Golden hour is a magical time and can give that romantic feel. Maybe you want full on light or go for something more adventurous with an evening shoot and the lights from the city in the background. Know what you and your partner want in the photos. Are you a super affectionate couple and want that captured or perhaps that's not you guys at all. Let your photographer know this so they aren't asking to kiss throughout the session. And if you are the cuddly type, then say so and let that be apart of your session.
10. If you have a strong vision, convey that to your photographer. It's good to know up front if the photographer is up for what you have in your head for the session. Communication is sooo important! You can't complain (well you can, but shouldn't) that the photographer didn't capture "this and that" if you never told them what you were thinking and just showed up for the session waiting for magic to happen. If you've got that Pinterest board or a few photos saved then send them their way. Tell them what you love about the picutres and what you are thinking because we are not mind readers. If the photographer isn't interested from the start then it's best to know that right away so you can move on to the next photographer and get what you are wanting.
11. Think about having your hair/makeup done for you or make sure it's right for photos if you plan on wearing makeup. Regular makeup vs camera ready makeup can be very different. If you are doing your own then research natural contouring techniques and products that are best for photos (they help diffuse light and aren't overly shiny looking). Plus doing a trial run on yourself can alleviate any last minute panic when you are trying to do it an hour before you have to be at the session. Having your hair & makeup done can be great too, also a way to do a trial with someone for wedding day makeup. I'm not saying have them do a wedding day makeup trial, that's different, but something simpler and just a start to get to know if you like their style and tell them what you like and don't like. A sidenote on contouring: It can be awesome in defining your face for pictures, but you really don't want to go crazy with it. When editing pictures I have found that heavy contouring on the cheeks comes out looking like bruising at times...so don't go overboard!
12. Print Rights vs Prints. Not every photographer is the same in what they offer. When booking a photographer be sure you are clear on what the session includes as far as the end product. Some photographers require you purchase an album or prints before they release image files or they sell image individually. Never ever assume anything. There is no wrong way of doing business. If one photographer wants to sell images separately that is ok, remember that's how they run their business, you just need to know that up front and know what you're needs are.
13. An hour long session is usually enough. If you are booking two spots then maybe allow for an extra 30 mins for traveling and outfit change. But usually an hour gives you plenty of time to walk around the location for pictures and a variety of photos to choose from.
14. Don't put pressure on yourself. It's so normal for people to feel like they are awkward in front of a camera or feel like they aren't going to be perfect. It's ok to be imperfect, unless your day job is modeling, of course you aren't feeling completely natural in front of a camera. Relax, give yourself some grace, be yourselves no matter how silly, intimate or simple that may be. Plan the session out with the photographer and allow things to naturally flow throughout the session. Don't put weird expectations on yourself as if you are letting the photographer down for not giving them an award winning pose...these are YOUR pictures.
15. If you start to feel tense, remember why you're there. Focus...not on the photographer, but on eachother. It's really important that you use this time to really take in why you are there in the first place. It's about the love you have for one another. Wedding planning is stressful, you may feel like all eyes are on you along the way in the planning process... just don't get lost in it. Remember what it's all truly about, take a deep breath, look at one another, grab his hand (put your arms around her waist), give that hug when needed... don't worry about breaking a pose, enjoy the session and this time together.
Thank you so much for reading all the way to the end of this! Whew, this was a long one, but I feel like good info for potential clients to consider. Special thanks to this lovely couple Jordon and Mariah whose engagement session I had the pleasure of photographing last fall. I loved getting to know them as a couple more during the session and really it allowed them to be completely themselves at the wedding (that will be a later blog). And a fun fact, Mariah is also my assistant for Weddings! She's fantastic, helpful and is known for shedding a few tears... yes we get emotional for you as the couple as well. So congratulations on your engagement and I look forward to helping you in anyway I can!