BLOGS FOR BRIDES: Tips for Planning your Engagement Session

  Alex & Paul | Inner Harbor : Baltimore, Maryland

Alex & Paul | Inner Harbor : Baltimore, Maryland


Couples typically aren't used to spending much time in front of the camera prior to their Engagement Shoot and Wedding Day. It's rare to find a couple who are both comfortable with being photographed and feel natural in front of a working photographer. 

When you see yourself in a photo, what do you typically notice? Is it your hair? Your clothing? What you're doing? The look on your face? If you're like me, you notice it all and critique every bit of it. So I want to make sure you not only feel comfortable during your Engagement Session, but also love the way you look and feel in your images to ensure the shoot is a complete success and maybe, just maybe, an unforgettable memory that you and your fiancĂ© share together. :) 

In my experience in photographing couples together, I've witnessed aspects of the Engagement Session that work, and parts of it that don't. I've gathered together the most important elements for you to consider and compiled them into an acronym to help keep things simple and easy to remember:  LOVE!

Location
Outfits
Vibes
Expressions 


LOCATION

Comfort
It's so important to choose a place not only represents the two of you and your relationship, but somewhere you feel comfortable expressing that love. Not all of us are all about the PDA so if the privacy of your living room or the middle of a quiet forest is best for the two of you, then that's where we'll shoot! If there's a favorite bar on the corner where you grab a drink together every Friday night, then sounds like that's a winning choice. Maybe you have a place that feels really sentimental to the two of you - somewhere you like to spend time together to bond and feel at peace (my hubby and I have a favorite spot like this on the Eastern Shore) then perhaps we could photograph there! Pick a location in which you feel comfortable being a little lovey and smoochy together, and just really be yourselves.

Diversity
Choosing somewhere with a few different backgrounds, textures, angles, and even some things to do is a great idea. Not only does it inspire me to get creative with the shots while the two of you enjoy each other's company, but it gives a fun variance and and artistic feel to your final gallery. Try and look for a place with 3 "sub-locations" or highlights within it's vicinity. Perhaps your favorite brewery is on a super cool city street with cobblestones (spot 1), with an awesome window with a couple high-top tables to grab a beer together (spot 2), and an outdoor terrace or patio that overlooks the city skyline (spot 3). Say you want to pick something a little more nature-inspired like a local park. Look for a fun feature like a boat house or dock, an especially distinct row of trees or wooded area that's easy to walk through or around, and maybe a pretty wheat field or wildflower meadow. We will move throughout the shoot, spending about 15 to 20 minutes at each of these locations. This will add variety to your gallery and move the session along smoothly. 

Activities
I want you two to really focus on each other as we make the memory of your Engagement Session together, but if you're like my husband and me, sometimes it feels a little funny to repeatedly hold hands, kiss, walk, talk, and smile at each other for the entirety of an hour. As much as we love each other, we'd rather do something together while being flirty and sweet! So think of a location that offers something for you both to do to keep you interacting. A museum, restaurant or bar, or even a carnival are all great ideas. This way, we can tell a little story together and keep the shoot feeling authentic and organic. If you decide on a location that's a bit more down-to-earth, bring a little cheese and wine to enjoy or maybe a few of your favorite books with a blanket. Think about an activity that really represents you both, and is something you actually do together. 

  Chrissie & Justin | Federal Hill : Baltimore, Maryland

Chrissie & Justin | Federal Hill : Baltimore, Maryland

OUTFITS

Style
Choose an outfit that you'd normally wear. If you go out and buy something fresh for the shoot, that's great! But don't overthink it. Again, you want to look and feel like yourselves. If you have a brand new pair of shoes on and you end up getting blisters while walking around during your shoot, that may be how you'll remember that time together rather than how much fun it was. Be comfortable and cute with a bit of style and flair without breaking the bank or misrepresenting yourselves through how you decide to dress. And don't forget to wear something appropriate for your location! Think about what would make sense to wear for the weather and location you've chosen. And feel free to bring a second outfit for each of you along too! 

Colors
Pulling colors from your wedding palette would be great but is definitely not necessary. Think about the location you've decided on, and then what colors would compliment the background of the place you've picked. I can help with this too if you'd like - I love helping with the outfit planning! Say we'll be photographing part of your shoot in a forest of tall old pines. You wouldn't want to wear green or brown because you'd blend right in with the background. Instead, a bold red, white, mustard yellow, or orange would look amazing against the color of the trees! Think about what colors might "pop". Bold colors are always great! Smaller prints and plaids don't always photograph as well as larger ones do. Try not to choose something that completely matches, but rather pick out outfits for yourselves with complimentary colors, tones, and prints instead. If you've chosen downtown Annapolis during the springtime and want to go with a navy and white color scheme, then I would suggest you wear maybe some cute navy blue shorts with a white tank, a cream cardigan or blazer, some cute sandals, and a statement necklace or striped scarf with hints of blues or another accent color - and he could wear khaki's, a white oxford with the sleeves rolled up, with a nice belt, some Sperry's, and a navy blazer. And make sure aren't both wearing the same color shirts or same color pants. You want to visually switch it up! Pick colors you feel good in. I personally love to wear fresh crisp white or an earthy olive green, so those colors would be my first choices. Look at a color wheel and see which tones and hues compliment others. Again - I'm here to help if you need me to! My couples email me pictures of their outfit choices all the time for advice. :)

  Amanda & Joe | Ellicott City, Maryland

Amanda & Joe | Ellicott City, Maryland

VIBES

It's easy to get caught up in your nerves prior to the shoot, but try your best to relax! I'll help with that too, and coach you through everything so you feel most comfortable. Sometimes it helps to have a drink together before you meet up with me! Couples do that all the time and say it really helps to calm themselves down and take the edge off. I completely understand wanting everything to go well - I do too! I want the vibes to feel good, fun, happy, authentic, super chill, and natural. I really want you two to do your thing and enjoy each other's company. Be honest with me during the session too - if there's something you're not feeling or a direction I may give seems off or not reflective of the two of you - please tell me! I'm usually pretty good at picking up on those things, but communication is key in this relationship we have! I want you guys to love your images and to do everything possible to ensure that. So let's keep it cool and if need be, share how we feel along the way! 

  Kirsten & Mike | Hauser Winery : Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Kirsten & Mike | Hauser Winery : Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

EXPRESSIONS

This sort of goes along with the whole just relax and enjoy the shoot thing. But that's hard at first because it's not easy to find the balance of knowing the camera's there so you're being aware of your facial expressions, to forgetting your picture's being taken and just going with the flow. But the piece of advice I have is simply to not overthink it. Just be yourselves. Try not to laugh, smile, pose, or act a certain way because you're in front of the camera, but more so just try and tune it out and focus on each other. I'll get those laughing, smiling, sweet moments - I promise. It's my job to pay attention to those milliseconds in between the moments when the true essence of who you are shines through. So when you both just relax, be yourselves, and not overthink the way your face looks or what kind of expression you have, that's when you'll enjoy having your photo taken the most. When you see your images, you'll see your true selves. Throughout the session, try and really focus on each other and the life you're building together. Dig deep, think about this big step you're making, and most importantly - why you're making it. Look and really see the person sitting in front of you, holding your hand, walking beside you, and really allow all of the reasons why you're choosing them as your "forever endeavor" as my husband Tyler and I always say. :)

  Michelle & Scott : Battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Michelle & Scott : Battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania


Engagement Session are so much fun and I absolutely love them! It's such a perfect way for me to get to know you both more, witness your chemistry, hear your story, and become inspired by your love. It's truly a privilege I don't take lightly. I simply want to have fun with the two of you, let you guys hang out , relax, and enjoy your time together while I snap away at your precious and unique love, turning it into something tangible, long-lasting, artistic, and beautiful.

Do you have any questions about how to better plan for your Engagement Session? I'd love to help you and answer them for you! Email me at kirsten@kirstensmithphotography.com or visit the Contact page on my website to get in touch!