Tips for the Perfect Engagement Session


How to have a fun and stress-free engagement session!

Let's face it, if you're not used to being in front of the camera, portrait sessions can feel a little scary. I mean, how often as adults do we have a camera pointed at us for an hour straight? For most of us, the answer is "not often". 

To help put your mind at ease, we've put together some tips to help you have a great engagement session experience! First we'll start with the practical tips, and then get into how to really enjoy your engagement session! 


Now, there are two 'times' to consider when looking at the timing of your engagement session, the time of year, and the time of day. 

  • Time of year: The question to ask yourself on time of year is whether there is a particular season you love that you want to have captured in your photos (Fall or Winter for instance) or do you want to capture a different season than your wedding will take place in. Like if your wedding is in Fall, would you want a Spring engagement session to shake things up? Other factors to consider are how long you have before your wedding date to plan an engagement session, and if you'll be using any of the photos from the session for the wedding itself or for Save the Date cards. Make sure to work with your photographer to leave enough time between when the engagement session takes place and when you need the photos for wedding purposes!

  • Time of day: Once you narrow down a time of year, it's time to figure out, with your photographer, what the best time of day will be for the date you've chosen! Your photographer may have a particular preference, and you'll definitely want to discuss that with them, but a good general rule of thumb is to avoid midday when the sun is directly overhead (strong overhead light is not anyone's friend, and also causes a lot of squinting). Personally, we love doing sessions in either the early morning (just after sunrise, and yes I know that's early) or later in the afternoon, in the hour before sunset, because the light is so freaking pretty at those times! Remember that things like time of year and daylight savings time greatly impact the time of day that the sunset actually occurs, and plan accordingly!



The old real estate adage of location, location, location is really true for a lot of things, and that includes engagement sessions! There are so many things to consider when picking a location (or locations) for your engagement session, but here are a few tips to get you started! 

  • Pick a location that has personal meaning to you: Do you and your guy or gal have a favorite restaurant, coffee shop, hang-out that features heavily into a ton of your favorite memories? Why not go there for photos! Don't be afraid to think outside the box! One caveat is that if you're visiting a business, you or your photographer will want to do a courtesy check-in with the establishment to make sure they feel comfortable with you unobtrusively taking pictures there.

  • Pick a local landmark: Chances are that wherever you live has tons of important local landmarks like beautiful parks, a thriving downtown area, or an area with a funky bohemian vibe to it that you just dig. In any case, engagement photos near local legends can be a great way to introduce your out of town guests to your awesome city in advance!

  • Go au naturale: No, I don't mean naked (hey, unless that's your thing, no judgment). I mean find a great nature spot near you to explore while you have photographs taken! Here in Madison, WI, the UW Arboretum is one of my all-time favorite engagement session spots because it's huge, offers an endless variety of lovely Wisconsin scenery, and is gorgeous year round!

  • Pick your photographer's brain: Your photographer should be an expert on helping you decide what location works best for you, and is going to be a wealth of knowledge when it comes to getting ideas! Make sure to check in with them if you're feeling stumped to see what ideas and suggestions they might have!

If you're near Madison, WI and want more ideas for portrait session locations, we recently posted a more in-depth look at great portrait session location ideas in Madison, WI that you can find here

What to Wear

I know, this is a tough one. There are some fashion-forward couples who have their engagement session outfits picked out months in advance, including matching accessories, and this part of the post is probably not for them. If you're a little less outfit confident and need some suggestions, this part might be for you! 

  • Solid and complimentary colors: When in doubt, go with solid colors or subtle patterns, and while the colors you and your partner wear should be complimentary, try to avoid having them be exactly the same. You don't want to be that couple.

  • Try some bold accessories: Muted colors with bold accessories look fabulous, and are a great way to add a pop of color and some visual variety without having an entire day-glow orange outfit on deck for photos. The time of year can give you some ideas for fun accessories too, like scarves, hats, and mittens!

  • Casual or fancy: This is totally up to personal preference, but I would err on the side of whatever you feel comfortable in! If you hate dresses, no worries! You can rock those jeans without fear, and you can always bring a change of clothes (but just know that you might have a changing in your car adventure if you don't have a public restroom nearby!)

  • Hair and makeup: If you're a makeup person, an engagement session is a great time to schedule a wedding makeup practice run! If you’re not a makeup person, no worries! My only recommendation, particularly during warm weather, would be to bring either powder or blotting sheets or a towel to keep sweat at bay during photos. Whatever you choose to do with your hair and makeup, just make sure to let the real you shine through! Your friends and family want to see you in the photos, and you'll feel more comfortable if you feel like yourself, and that's going to come through in your photos!

  • Things to avoid:

    • Transition lenses (trust us)

    • Shoes that you can't walk well in (we'll most likely be doing some walking)

    • A frown (no really)


Here are some non-clothing related items that are good necessities or fun props for any engagement session! 

  • Necessities (always be prepared):

    • Bug spray (if it's not snowing, you'll probably need it!)

    • A picnic blanket to sit on (one that's washable is my recommendation)

    • Chapstick/lipstick for touch-ups

    • Water (good to stay hydrated!)

    • Your engagement ring(s) if you have them!

  • Fun stuff!

    • Your pets! We LOVE having furry friends tag along for photos! (pro-tip, have someone come along to help as a pet wrangler if you're planning on bringing a larger pet)

    • Props like favorite books, comic books, cheese heads, whatever makes you happy!

    • Thank you signs if you plan on using your engagement photos for your thank you cards!

    • Thermos of coffee or hot chocolate (especially if you're planning for a winter enagement session!!!)


Things to Remember

Above are all the practical advice we can offer to help  you feel at ease with your engagement session, and here are a few gentle reminders about how to let go and have fun with it! 

  • Turn it into a date: If you're getting all dressed up, why night make a nice night of it with your sweetheart and hit up a restaurant for dinner and drinks after you're done! Or grab drinks before. I won't tell. *wink*

  • Look at this as an adventure: Instead of looking at your upcoming engagement session with a sense of dread (hey, I get it), try reframing the whole experience as a kind of wacky adventure you get to have with your partner. How often do you get to celebrate your love by hanging out and climbing trees and grabbing a beer and hugging and kissing while getting to have lasting memories captured of you two just being adorable? Not often? That's what I thought. So go on you crazy kids, go have an adventure, and give in to the goofy!

  • Get to know your photographer: This is an amazing opportunity to get to know your photographer, and for him or her to get to know you! Take advantage of that awesome opportunity and talk shop while you're snapping photos! Finding common ground and cracking jokes helps ease tensions and make sure that you feel super comfortable with your photographer by the time your wedding day roles around!

  • Take some time just for the two of you: Wedding planning can be stressful! Having some time for just the two of you to be silly and play a little dress-up and run around taking photos with your photographer will go a long way to re-invigorating your excited feelings about the wedding, when it's sometimes easy to lose site of that while you're in planning purgatory. Enjoy it, friends!


If you're recently engaged, we'd love to hear from you! Drop us a line, and we'd be happy to talk more with you about your vision for your wedding day, and what you're thinking for engagement photos, and let's make it happen!