Engagement Sessions 101: All about planning your engagement session
Amy Taylor - Photographer at Amy Taylor Photography is a Kitchener based wedding photographer
Engagement sessions are probably my favourite type of session to shoot. For me it's really important to get to know my brides and grooms ahead of time. Getting to know each other ahead of time really makes the whole wedding day more enjoyable. Less worries about who you are working with on the day, less anxious about being in front of a camera, and understanding the posing process a bit can really make the day less stressful and more enjoyable.
I know often times, the engagement session is the first time a couple has been photographed together professionally. Often times, the engagement session is in itself a nerve wracking experience, not knowing what to expect, and knowing that you are the star of the show can be enough to make anyone nervous. So allow me to ease your nerves a bit and explain the process a bit more in depth!
I'll admit it, by nature I'm a bit of a planner. I like to put things in place to ensure that things go smoothly, once the magic starts happening, then I like to follow it wherever it takes us, but let's set ourselves up for success shall we?
Location, location, location
First thing to plan is location. The location you choose sets the tone for your entire shoot and can say a lot about you together as a couple. Are you both coffee snobs? A funky coffee shop that has a cute little table by the windows is sure to be a great place to begin your shoot. Outdoorsy? Put on your hiking boots and head somewhere amazing, Ontario is filled with outdoor treasure to discover. City slickers? (yes, I just said that, I'm from a super small town surrounded by farming so I think I can get away with it). Let's head to Toronto, maybe over to Toronto Island, with amazing views of the city in the background, or the historic distillery district, or find a rooftop with sweeping views of sky scrapers surrounding us. Homebody? Look no further than your couch! Let's start by cooking something yummy in the kitchen and having a glass of wine, then head to the couch for some snuggle time, maybe end the session drinking tea and reading books all cozy in bed. In home engagement sessions are starting to become very trendy! Fun loving? What about a local fair, or a record store, nothing is really off the table!
The second most important aspect that needs planned is wardrobe. Wardrobe helps pull together the whole mood of the shoot. I always like to recommend you have 2-3 outfits for your shoot, variety is the spice of life. It is important to keep in mind that wardrobe should compliment your location in some regard. For example, what colours will go well with your location, what style of clothing will compliment. When it comes to planning your session, keep in mind that it is okay to treat yourself to a new outfit every once in a while, especially for photos that will last a lifetime! I like to recommend at least one casual outfit, and then something a little nicer. How often do you get to get all dressed up and have your photos taken? By no means am I recommending that you put on a ball gown if you are the type of girl who wears jeans every day. I want you to be comfortable and feel like yourself, just a shined up version of yourself! When you are picking out your outfits, you don't have to match, in fact anything too matchy matchy looks forced and unnatural. Instead, try to find outfits that complement each other! When it comes down to what exactly should we wear, lets first talk about ladies and then the men!
Ladies, if you are having a make up trial done, this is a fantastic day to do it, may as well make good use of the trial! Also don't forget to remove any old nail polish or have a fresh manicure done, we will be showing off your new bling. For your casual outfit, it is nice to have it be a bit more stylish than your regular everyday clothing, accessories like jean or leather jackets, hats, scarves and footwear are a great way to pull an outfit together. When thinking about colours for this outfit, colours that tend to look best in my types of sessions are neutrals and earth tones as I am usually shooting in nature. Colours that should be avoided are neons (always), pastels (mostly), bright Easter egg like colours, they just really don't flow well with most of the locations we may be shooting at. When looking into your fancier outfit choices, make sure you check out the hashtag #atpcloset on instagram, I try to keep up with hash tagging the clothing that I have purchased for my client closet, so be sure to check that out or ask me about anything specific, you may not have to go shopping at all! If you do decide to go shopping, things to look at are maxi dresses, skirt and top combos, or you can go all out and get a glamorous dress and have your man wear a suit if that's your thing! I usually recommend that you keep your skirts or dresses long because short dresses limit the posing that we can do, it makes fun things like piggy back rides, being picked up or even just sitting on the ground a bit more limiting because we always have to be careful about making sure things are covered.
Guys- For the guys, again stick to neutral coloured clothing (jeans included in that) and earth toned colours. For shirts, I recommend avoiding anything faded, with a logo, most patterns, most plaids (exception would be flannel, lumber jack style plaid for a hipster look), and stripes. I find that pants work best, even if its summer, unless you have a beach shoot or river session planned then I would avoid shorts (even pants are fine at these locations). Types of tops that look best are nice button up shirts - not dress shirts but nice casual button ups, they can be worn done up, or can be left open with a t shirt on underneath. Plain neutral or earth toned coloured t shirts are good, long sleeved sweaters are great as well. Footwear for the men is very important as it is for the women, running shoes, crocs, sports sandals aren't a great look for photos.
If you are having your session done in the winter, though I do try to aim for a warmer day so we don't have to wear coats, consider that your coat may be photographed as well, so make sure your coat and winter boots are nice. Accessories like hats, mitts and scarves are great for these sessions too!
Let's be honest, this is the part that scares people. Posing is hard, "I don't know what to do with my hands", if you know where that quote came from then we will get along just fine! You don't need to be a professional model to look fantastic in your photos, let me assure you of this. My approach to posing is fairly simple, I prefer more natural posing, and natural expressions. My approach is to put you in certain positions, and then give you direction to hold each other in a way that feels natural. From there I may refine a hand placement or two, I may ask your partner to be to whisper something funny in your ear to make you laugh, or whisper something sweet like a favourite memory from a date. My approach is to place you in situations that are flattering to the camera, and to try to elicit natural looking emotions. It really isn't that hard, basically cuddle your cutie and think about how much you love each other! Your job isn't to be a model, your job is to enjoy your time with your partner and to trust that the person you hired to photograph you wants you to actually like your photos, so is being diligent in ensuring that everyone is looking their best. I am sure you have glanced at my portfolio if you are reading this blog, a lot of my posing is quite romantic in nature, so people who aren't comfortable with displays of affection will need to let me know ahead of time. I do not do a lot of everyone look here and smile perfectly at the camera shots, I will do one or two but that is not what most of the session is about. I am aiming to capture the connection between you and your partner, I want you to be able to see the love you have for each other when you look back on your images.
Lighting can be a tricky one to plan, as we are dependent mostly on nature for that part, clouds and overcast days provide a whole different lighting situation. If you find yourself being drawn to sunset images and the beautiful light that golden hour brings before it, then you will need to schedule your session during that time of day. I prefer to schedule my engagement session two hours before sunset generally. I also love a good sunrise session as well, something magical happens when the light first comes out for the day. If you are choosing a city location amongst buildings then earlier in the evening is best as the light is lost much earlier when surrounded by tall buildings.