How To Prepare for Your Engagement Session

Jared Jarvis

Owner and Lead Photographer
Jared Jarvis

Jared Jarvis

Owner and Lead Photographer
Jared Jarvis Photography

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So, you recently got engaged, and have started planning your wedding. You just hired your wedding photographer (or at the very least someone to photograph engagement photos), and your session is fast approaching. How do you prepare? What factors should you consider to make your engagement photos unique and special? We will attempt to answer these questions and more in this post. Everything discussed in this post are simply my personal suggestions, but I hope I can help you nail down the basics of preparing for your engagement session.

1. Vibe

The overall vibe is by far the most important thing to consider when planning and preparing for your engagement session. Think of the session vibe as the ‘overall big picture’. It will dictate your wardrobe choices, your location, if you use props or not, and the overall feel of the session as a whole. Think of the vibe as the theme of the session, where all the individual parts are catered to that overarching theme. The definition of vibe is, “a person’s emotional state or the atmosphere of a place as communicated to and felt by others”. When done right, those who look at your engagement photos should be able to feel your vibe without it being explained to them. And hopefully the vibe of the session will match with you and your partner’s emotional vibe as people.

Many times, a single session can have multiple vibes. That’s because the overall goal of the session vibe is to highlight you and your partner as a couple and as individuals. For example, you could pick multiple locations and outfits based on your relationship and hobbies. Maybe you met while playing tennis, so you start your session in tennis gear with your rackets on a court. Then later in the session you change into some nice casual wear, and take pictures walking around a farmer’s market because that’s what you enjoy doing with your significant other. Of course, your session vibe will be unique to you, and if you feel you need some help crafting a vibe, or theme for your session, pinterest and vision boards can be very helpful. Also, feel free to reach out to me and I will do my best to help you come up with a session vision board.

2. What to Wear

This is the one everyone thinks about first. It can seem daunting when you’re thinking about what to wear for your engagement session, especially if you’re fashionably challenged like I am. However, there are a few basic guidelines that you can follow to easily get you and your partner looking like a million bucks!

When deciding what to wear, there are a few things to consider. First and foremost, what is the overall vibe you want your session to have? For example, if you’re going for a “night out on the town” theme, you may want to dress up in a sultry cocktail dress and your partner in slacks and a blazer. This is just one example, but you want to make sure your clothing choices match your theme, or vibe. 

Style is really up to the individual. A good rule of thumb is to dress at least as nice as you would to meet friends. Going one step above with your style never hurt either. A few things to watch out for are: 1. No T-Shirts or Sweat Pants (Yoga pants can be ok depending on context and rest of outfit) 2. Check in the mirror for any stains 3. Watch for wrinkles. 

Colors and Matching
This is the thing most people worry about, but it’s honestly the easiest part of deciding what to wear. Just remember that it’s much easier for women to get away with bold color choices than men. If you’re a man, darker, neutral colors are your best friend. This means whites, blacks, grays, browns, and navy. This does not mean that men cannot get away with bold colors. There are men out there that definitely know their style and what looks good on them. Women can usually get away with more variation in color, but if choosing something bold like pink or yellow, a light or pastel version is usually a good choice. A joke to remember (that actually rings true in this case) is that women should dress in colors and styles that compliment them, and men should dress to match the women. Potentially more important than the colors you choose, is making sure that as a couple you contrast one another. You both may look good in blue, but neither of you will look good if you are both wearing blue side by side in your photos. When picking contrasts, remember that light and dark contrasts play well off of each other. White, gray, and black can work with just about any color or opposite tone (it’s not advised to match brown with black unless you really know what you’re doing). Pastels (especially pink or yellow) look really good matched to navy blue. Many times, simply laying out multiple colors together will help you find out how they look, even if you don’t consider yourself fashionably adept. The biggest issue I find with colors and matching is that the couple does not take ample time to figure out their wardrobe before the session, so make sure you do that! 

A few examples of couples complimenting each other and their overall session vibe by utilizing their wardrobe correctly.

A couple looks at each other in front of a house
This is a perfect example of how black and white can go with just about anything. Normally, if someone told me they were planning on wearing a black top with an orange skirt to a session I would be worried, but because her hair matches the skirt and she did a great job of also matching her boots the same color, she really pulls it off. His outfit is pretty basic but works well to compliment her. They also did a good job of dressing to match their location and overall session vibe.
Engagement portrait in the snow by a bright lamp.
This is a great example of outfits matching the overall session vibe. It's NYC during the first snowfall of the year, and they get bonus points for wearing contrasting tones.
couple dance to a saxophone player in the park
Sometimes it's ok to break the rules if you know how. He's the one wearing the bright pastel pink, but it works well with her white dress. The colors play perfectly off of the spring colors in the park, completing the vibe. Although the sax player is wearing a more salmon color which clashes slightly with the pink, there are so many colors in this image it feels as though it belongs.

3. Location

Location is the final third of our engagement session trifecta. Choosing your location is a lot like choosing your outfit. You want your location to match the overall session vibe and your personalities. The great thing about many locations is that they can work for multiple outfits. A ballroom gown and suit would look just as good on a downtown street as it would on a balcony overlooking a vineyard. A floral mini-dress and button up would look amazing  perusing a farmer’s market, or out on the beach.

Things to Think About When Picking a Location
– Does this location mesh with your overall session vibe?
– Why are you picking this location? (The reasons could vary, all the way from ‘I like how it looks’ to the location having sentimental value to your relationship.)
– Are there any rules or stipulations for doing professional photography at this location? (I could help you find this out.)
– Are there fees associated with photography at this location? (Many event venues allow you to do photography at their location, but may charge fees. Many times your wedding venue will allow a free engagement and / or bridal session at their location.)

A few examples of awesome locations really enhancing engagement sessions.

Roan Mountain Engagement Photography
The mountain vistas really showed off this outdoorsy couple's engagement session.
Engaged couple in front of colored houses
The colors of these buildings lend themselves to a 'postcard' feel on this photo.


A few bonus tips to think about:

Hair & Makeup – If you’re planning on having your hair and / or makeup professionally done before your session, make sure you set that up plenty of time in advance to make sure your HMU artist can schedule you in the day of your session. I would suggest researching and contacting hair & makeup artists at least 2-3 weeks before your session date.

Props – have a prop you want to incorporate?

Pets – A pet is part of your family, and bringing them to your session can make it extra special. 

This post is to be taken as an overall guideline to preparing for your engagement session. This is definitely not the only way to do it, and I would love to work alongside you to incorporate your own ideas to make your engagement session special and unique to you and your relationship. If you are interested in booking your very own unique engagement session with me, please contact me here.

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