Your Guide to a Perfect Engagement Photo Session: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Client Education
June 5, 2024
A couple kisses in a lake by the mountains in Aspen Colorado.

What to expect at your engagement photo session: as a Colorado wedding photographer, of course I love to photograph engagements and anniversaries. An engagement portrait session is so important as it’s a wonderful opportunity for couples to celebrate their love story, get comfortable in front of the camera, and create beautiful memories before the big day. Additionally, many couples like to use their engagement portraits on their save-the-date cards.

Getting to Know You

Most of my engagement clients are also my wedding clients. But I do occasionally photograph just engagements and anniversaries. After booking, my clients receive a questionnaire to help me get to know them and learn about their vision. I’m available for video consultations, as well.

Preparing for the Session

In Colorado, most couples choose a mountain backdrop. However, I also photograph couples that prefer a downtown vibe. My location guide includes lots of options, and I’m always open to discovering new places. My portrait style guide shares tips and tricks to help style your session. I love helping style sessions, too. Women may consider having their nails, hair, and makeup fresh and professionally done. Many couples email me photos of their outfits for feedback. Both the location and portrait guides are sent to couples after booking. Portrait session times vary based on location, season, and weather. Assuming nice weather, most sessions occur approximately 1 – 3 hours before sunset. Shortly before sunset is the best time for optimal lighting, which is crucial as a natural light photographer.

What to Expect At Your Engagement Photo Session

Please arrive on time, or even 5-10 minutes early. Running behind adds stress and can sometimes strain the relationship between couples. Give yourselves plenty of time so you’ll be relaxed. When possible, I like to start my sessions with movement – usually walking – to get my clients warmed up in front of the camera. It’s a no-pressure way to start the session with an easy win. And I will instruct you how to walk on camera in a flattering way, as well.

Capturing Authentic Moments

It’s completely normal to be a little nervous in front of the camera. I still feel that way when I have my photo taken. But my goal is to create a fun and relaxed atmosphere where my couples can be themselves. I enjoy blending both guided portraits with candid moments, and making my clients feel comfortable and at ease. With that in mind, here are a few unique things I may say and request.

Don’t Look At Me

What? Not smile at the camera? Yes, that’s correct! Unless I specifically ask you to look at me and smile, I want you to do your best to ignore me and pretend I’m not even there. I know that’s harder than it sounds. But for at least 75% of your session, I want to photograph your unique interactions. Oftentimes these moments happen through movement or prompt-based instruction. Feel free to add your own personality to these instructions.

Upstage vs. Downstage

With that said, I will also gently guide you into poses for art-directed images and may request your upstage hand go here or your downstage leg go there. What does that mean? Upstage is your body part that’s farthest from the audience/me/camera. Downstage is your body part that’s closest to the audience/me/camera. I’ve spent my entire life in performing arts and on stage. And upstage/downstage directions are the quickest way for me to get ideas out of head. Don’t worry, I don’t expect you to memorize these terms and I will explain them during the session, too.

Stay Connected

For engagements and anniversaries, I love capturing the intimacy shared between my couples. I will, 99% of the time, have you connected in some way. This could be holding hands, embracing, hugging, kissing, snuggling, etc.

Denver engagement film photographer
A guy and girl walk along the sand at Lake Dillon in Colorado.
Boulder engagement photographer
An engaged couple laughs at giggles together near Sapphire Point in a grainy black and white photo.

Incorporating Personal Elements

My clients are welcome to bring along personal items and pets that reflect their personalities and relationships. My favorite is their dog(s). I love photographing my clients’ pets and incorporating them into the photo session. Another popular item is a Champagne bottle for a champs pop. And if you plan to do one, I usually bring stylish flute or coupe glasses for a few detail shots. Read more about how to do a champs pop here. Another neat idea is a vintage or cool car, or a picnic, or a floral bouquet (I can make one for you!). For engagement couples, I enjoy taking a least one close-up photo of the engagement ring.

An engaged couple poses with their dog, an English Cream Retriever named Archie.
An engaged couples poses at Ashcroft for their Aspen Colorado engagement photos.
An engaged couple walks hand in hand and prepares a charcuterie board for their summer picnic near Aspen.
dog engagement photos
An couple pops champagne on a Denver rooftop to celebrate their engagement
An engaged couple walks through the blossoms at the Highlands Ranch Mansion.

Slowing Down The Pace with Film

Many of my portrait sessions are photographed on both film and digital. Why film? Working with film allows for intentional moments to unfold with beautiful results, and allows for a slower pace during each session. The beauty of film is irreplaceable and I seamlessly blend medium format film scans with digital images for a cohesive gallery.

Denver Skyline Engagement Photos on Film
Lake Dillon Engagement Photos
Denver engagement film photographer

Post-Session Expectations

After the session, I hope my clients say, “that was so much easier and more fun than I was expecting it to be.” If a session was photographed on film, I will mail film rolls out the next business day. From there, it can take anywhere from one to four weeks to develop and receive film scans from my lab, depending on the time of year. That’s the longest wait. Once I receive the scans, I’m fairly quick with the digital editing, and I will match the digital images to the scans for a beautiful gallery. Clients receive their images via a digital online gallery, where they can be downloaded directly to their devices.

Building a Connection

One of the most significant benefits of an engagement portrait session is the opportunity to build a connection between me and the couple. This session isn’t just about capturing beautiful photos; it’s also about creating a comfortable atmosphere and trusting relationship. When couples feel at ease with me, it translates into more relaxed and genuine expressions in their photos.

Additionally, the couple gets a chance to experience my style and way of working. They can see firsthand how I give direction, how I capture moments, and how I make them feel at ease in front of the camera. This familiarity breeds confidence, so when the wedding day arrives, they know exactly what to expect from me. They won’t be meeting me for the first time; instead, they’ll be reuniting with someone they already trust and feel comfortable with.

Making the Most of Your Engagement Photo Session

In conclusion, knowing what to expect at your engagement photo session is an invaluable experience that goes beyond just taking beautiful photos. It’s a chance to celebrate your love story, get comfortable in front of the camera, and build a connection with me. Remember to relax, be yourselves, and enjoy every moment. This session is about capturing the essence of your relationship and the unique bond you share. So, embrace the experience, have fun, and let your genuine emotions shine through while I capture this special story of your journey.

What to expect at your engagement photo session

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *