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Guest Post: Planning Your Engagement Session Thursday, January 19, 2012

I first connected with today's guest blogger last June when I featured this perfectly lovely wedding that she had shot in Hawaii (on the same island I visited last week, in fact!) Not only does Melissa Dunstan do amazing work as a wedding photographer, she also has oodles of phenomenal engagement shoots under her belt! You may remember this sweet engagement shoot that I featured of hers last Fall, and I actually have another one of hers in my queue that I plan on sharing with you in the next couple of weeks! Since I'm such a fan of her work (and she's so very sweet!), I'm excited to have her guest posting here today to share some things to consider when planning your engagement photography session with your honey!

One piece of advice I always give my wedding couples is to do an engagement session. There are a few reasons: It's a great way to get to know your photographer before your big day, a way to get used to being in front of the camera and most importantly, it can be a fun experience and lessen a lot of the anxiety surrounding the wedding day. It also can provide the couple with some great images for their wedding "Save the Date" cards and to use at their reception.

But, before you schedule the session, here are a few things to consider:

Location, Location, Location!

Most photographers will offer a choice of locations and will be up for almost anything you can imagine. Whatever location you choose, make sure it's meaningful to you and your fiance. Think of where you first met, where he proposed, your favorite places to travel together, and what activities you like to do together.

One of my favorite engagement sessions involved hiking out on the Arizona Trail, just north of Flagstaff, AZ, where the couple would spend their days mountain biking together. Essentially, this is where they fell in love. The location was extremely sentimental to both of them, and you could tell from the photos just how relaxed they were and how much they loved this special place.

Engagement photos

Another favorite engagement shoot of mine was a session that took place in a more urban area. This couple had met at a popular bar downtown and wanted their photographs to reflect that location somehow. So, after slipping the doorman a $20 tip, we found ourselves up on the rooftop of the fabulous Monte Vista. I think this will be a photo they'll love forever.

Engagement photos

Can't decide on one location? Most photographers will offer two locations for your session, as well. Most of my couples tend to gravitate toward a combination of a natural landscape and a more urban area for their photos, each lending to different opportunities for final moods for the photos.

Engagement photos Engagement photos

The Right Time of Day

I usually have my engagement sessions start about 90 minutes before sunset. The best light, in my opinion, is the beautiful glow right before the sun dips beyond the horizon. Everyone looks fabulous in this light! Of course, if you're going to be working in an urban environment, scout out the area you want to use first and see where the shadows are falling. You'll want your whole body to be in the shade, or to have the sun at your back. Backlight is one of my favorite lights and I take advantage of it as often as I can in my photo sessions!

Engagement photos

In the case of a snow engagement session, you can usually do your photos anytime. This is, of course, a little trickier to predict, but the effect cam be amazing. During a snow storm, the sky is constantly filled with clouds that cast a nice diffused light on everyone's skin. It's like having a giant soft box traveling with you on location!

Engagement photos

What to Wear

At our studio, we get asked this one a lot..."What should we wear?" We always tell our couples to bring a couple of outfits for each location; one a bit dressier than the other. It's best to compliment each other's outfits, but don't try and match the colors you're wearing exactly! That goes for white and black shirts, too. I have never, ever seen two white shirts that match up perfectly. In addition, a white shirt can compete with a person's teeth coloration and the whites of their eyes, making them look dingy and off white.

Think about the environment, as well. If you know you're going to be in the forest, stay away from anything the same color as the grass and trees to avoid blending in too much with the environment.

Engagement photos


Can can be a fun way for you to show a little bit of your personality in your photo session. Bring a favorite cowboy hat, a funny scarf, or simply a card with your date of your wedding on it. And, if your dogs are family, bring them along as well! Look around the environment and pick a pretty wildflower, that can easily become a cute prop. Some of my clients go as far as bringing an old car along! Also, don't forget that your engagement ring is the ultimate prop!

Engagement photo props

And lastly...As super cheesy as this sounds, just remember to have fun! The time between the engagement and the wedding goes SO fast, so breathe it in and enjoy! Congratulations to each one of you reading!!

Engagement photos

Insert Comment | View Comments (2)




Yuliya M. (Sacramento, CA)

Jan 23, 2012 10:56 AM

Loved reading this, thank you for sharing!

Rachel (Spokane, WA)

Jan 25, 2012 11:24 AM

Great post! I really like the idea of choosing a location that is meaningful, I think it's a good way to keep the shoot fresh and unique to the couple.