The warmth of holiday gatherings, the nostalgic ambiance of twinkling lights, a serene, snow-covered landscape, the inviting aroma of freshly baked gingerbread and cinnamon wafts out the door. Inside, a crackling fireplace casts a warm, golden hue across a room adorned with garlands of evergreen, delicate ornaments, and stockings hung with care. The festive spirit fills the air and loved ones come together to celebrate. It’s the holiday season, or as we photographers, call it, ENGAGEMENT SEASON. 

I know that the end of the year often inspires reflection and gratitude and blah blah blah, but it also signifies the two months out of the year when partners step up, kneel down, and break out that ring. Coincidentally, it’s also the slowest time of the year for wedding and portrait photographers, who are waiting on the next season in everyone’s lives to begin: booking season.  That’s when all the couples who get engaged start planning their weddings and start booking their vendors. But that’s another blog post entirely.  This blog post is specifically to help you navigate the decision of whether or not you should have and how to prepare for your engagement photos.

Congratulations! Let’s say that you and your partner have decided to take the next step in your journey together and have gotten engaged! Whether or not to take engagement photos is always a discussion and as a wedding and portrait photographer, I’m here to encourage you that it’s a great idea for many reasons.

Why take engagement photos?

My number one reason that I herald engagement photos is that they offer you an excellent opportunity to establish a rapport with your photographer. This will let y’all become comfortable in front of the camera and understand your photographer’s style and approach to formal photos. Are you an anxious person? Familiarity can ease any nerves and ensure that you feel more relaxed on your wedding day, which, subsequently leads to more natural and authentic moment-driven photos.  Win, win!

Second, holding an engagement session allows you to understand how to make the most of your time during the portrait session on the wedding day.  You’ve had practice feeling silly already but you know it helps create beautiful images.  You move through your portrait sessions faster, quicker and more adept, helping you efficiently plan and maximize the use of your time on an already busy day.

Lastly – use those photos!  Engagement photos are typically used for save the date cards, guest books, or incorporating them into wedding decor, whether it be on guest tables, entry tables, or gift tables.

How to prepare for your engagement photos

Find the Perfect Location: Choose a location that reflects your personality as a couple. Are you climbers and you want to commemorate your favorite climbing spots?  Are you city people and want to celebrate your favorite cityscape?  Do you want a date night feel?  Or to tromp in the waves of your favorite beach?  Selecting the right location can set the tone for your photos and make them more meaningful. Consider places that hold sentimental value or that resonate with your shared interests.

Coordinate Outfits: You want to be cohesive, without being matchy-matchy.  I generally suggest two complimentary colors and a neutral as a color palette.  Solid colors and subtle patterns often work well, but be mindful of the location and the overall theme you’re aiming for (emerald greens don’t always read well in a pine forest). Dress comfortably and wear something that makes you feel confident and reflects your personal style.

Time of Day: Your photographer will lead with this, and trust them.  Take into account the best time of day for lighting. Soft, natural lighting, such as during the golden hour (an hour after sunrise or before sunset), is generally always the best time for photos, but it’s also location dependent.  There are spots where sunset may be earlier or later due to obstructions (like mountain ridges) that needs to be accounted for.

Relax and Have Fun: Remember that the purpose of the engagement photo session is to capture y’alls authentic personality. Try to relax, enjoy each other’s company, and have fun during the session. Natural, candid moments often make the best photographs, so embrace the experience and let your love shine through. In the hands of a good photographer, you are going to get authentic photos that are driven by actions, suggestions or activities that create that feeling in the photos. Because every client is different, I always alter my approach to your session slightly differently based on the couple and their needs.  You might need lots of direction, you might need none at all, but either way, if we all trust each other, your photos will be beautiful.

Be Flexible: Be prepared for unexpected weather changes or other unforeseen circumstances. Have a backup plan in case the weather doesn’t cooperate or if there are any unexpected challenges. Embrace any changes or improvisations with a positive attitude, as they might lead to unique and memorable photos.  Sometimes the best most sunny weather is not the best for photos.

What to wear to your engagement session

Plan Ahead: Plan the logistics ahead of time, including any necessary permits (like ones necessary for the frequently requested Sand Harbor State Park), reservations, or other arrangements required for the location. Make sure you have a clear timeline for the day of the photo session, allowing ample time for travel and any last-minute touch-ups.  Your photographer will generally know which locations in their area need a permit and which ones do not.

And last but not least, yes, you should ALWAYS include your dog!

Arastradero Preserve Engagement Session

Remember, your engagement photo session is a time to capture your energy, your love for each other, and the excitement of this new chapter in your lives. By following these tips on how to prepare for your engagement photos and simply being present and embracing the experience, you can ensure that your photos reflect your personalities as a couple. And your mom will like them too.