I know first hand how difficult it can be to prepare for Engagement Sessions. Having been through it for my own Engagement Session (and every photo session since) and walking my couples through it for their own sessions means I've got quite a bit of experience in this department!

Everything from scheduling, picking the outfits, having hair and makeup done, finding parking and even what to eat for dinner after the session is enough to create a small amount of anxiety. That is, if you don't have the tools at your finger tips to make it a breeze! So today we're going to fix that! No headaches at MP Engagement Sessions - just two people who are madly in love!

1. Scheduling

First, choose what season you'd like for your session. Maybe you'd like to wear that sleeveless organza dress, or you would prefer autumn leaves in your photos - determine which months will best fit your vision. Or if you're crunched for time, at what point do you need to be sending out your Save-the-Date cards? Then plan to schedule your session 4 weeks earlier. Compare schedules with your Fiance and pick 2-3 dates that would work well for your session! When I open my calendar to schedule your E-Session, I can't always guarantee your #1 date. But with 2-3 dates to work with, I can more easily accommodate you. This is especially important if you are also trying to coordinate schedules with your HMUA! Aligning the schedules of 4 people is a lot, but if you have a few dates to choose from, your flexibility will pay off!

Pro Tip:

Because weekends are prime real estate for weddings (both for photographers and HMUA's), your best bet for scheduling Engagement Sessions are week days. Mornings and evenings are both options! (See below!)

2. Timing

I begin all portrait sessions no more than two hours before the scheduled sunset during “the golden hour”, or within two hours of sunrise, when the light is the dreamiest. Sunrise sessions should begin 15 minutes before the scheduled sunrise time. For sunset, just subtract two hours to figure out your start time. Remember, the sun sets much earlier during the colder months of the year and much later during the warmer months, so make sure to factor that in when choosing your portrait session date, especially if you’re taking off work or have evening plans afterward. To get the most out of your session, please plan a buffer when getting ready so you can arrive a few minutes early to your session and be ready to start on time. I'm only able to shoot when natural light is still in the sky, so we’ll want to take advantage of every minute we have together before the sun goes down. If you’re wearing two outfits, save your favorite one for the second half, and if you’re wearing one, arrive in that.

Pro Tip:

Let me do the heavy lifting. I use a sunset calculator online to determine the scheduled sunrise/sunset for the date and location you’d like to do your session.

3. Location

This is the time to think outside the box! I encourage you to brainstorm unique locations that you might have special access to that most people don’t. For example, maybe you, or someone in your personal or professional network, can secure permission to a location that would otherwise be off-limits, like an urban rooftop, or members-only garden or resort. Maybe it’s a private estate, upscale hotel or even a boat. The sky is literally the limit! Spend a few minutes thinking about it and checking around. You’ll be surprised with what you come up with. Plus, if something seems out of reach, just remember: you never know until you ask! My clients have secured permission to some pretty amazing places in the past. If you get stuck or need inspiration, scroll through my Instagram!

Pro Tip:

I have some great go-to locations around town that we can always hit. And if you'd like a destination (Eiffel Tower, anyone?) portrait session, say the word! Just let me know which type of session you’d love and we’ll go from there! Easy. Peasy.

4. Outfits for HER

Have you thought about wearing a romantic gown, amazing heels or that little black dress but just never had an occasion for it? This is your chance to do it up! Remember: There is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your portrait session, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! If you don’t want to add a new permanent piece to your collection, you just might love Rent the Runway for your session because it’s such an affordable way to feel like a million bucks. But maybe you'd love having a great excuse to bring a new permanent piece (or two!) into your closet!

Pro Tip:

The golden rule is "Dress as if you were attending a wedding". Black is always a great option for photos too - it’s slimming, polished, and elegant! For a lighter feel, neutrals look wonderful as well as light pastels (pick colors that work well with your skin, hair, & eyes). Nothing is too dressy for photos, even if we’re shooting in a meadow in the middle of nowhere - a classy dress and a tailored suit look great anywhere we go!

5. Professional HMUA

This is the time to treat yourself! Whether it’s lash extensions or blown-out hair, professional hair and makeup will give you an extra boost of confidence in front of the camera, and it always photographs like a dream. If you’re working with a makeup artist, have her apply your makeup in natural light, if possible, so that it looks fresh and not too heavy. Most of my clients feel like their professional makeup is “too much” at first, since it’s more than you would wear on a normal day, or that they're false lashes look too big, so if you feel that way at the beginning, don’t worry! Good makeup artists know how to get it all just right for the camera — and my clients always love the final result.

Pro Tip:

If you need a recommendation for hair and makeup, I work with the best in the business and have a go-to team! They’re sweet as pie, talented as heck, unbelievable professionals and wonderful people. You’ll LOVE them! Just let me know and I’ll send you their information. I know they’ll take good care of you!

6. Style Tips for HIM

Long, fitted pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. So, for your session, it’s best to leave the shorts, sandals and jeans at home, as well as any pants that are loose or baggy. Fitted dress pants or fitted chino pants work best on camera. Solid shades of black, gray or navy are a strong complement to most women’s outfits. When a woman is wearing a patterned dress, pinstripes or plaid patterns on the man as well tend to distract the eye. I also recommend staying away from graphics and logos. Many guys love to mix a suit coat, blazer or sport coat with a different pant color, for their session. It adds some extra visual interest, and break up the color tones. I'm a big fan of this fresh take on a timeless classic.

Pro Tip:

Match the leather color for you shoes, belt and watch for the ultimate outfit win. Bringing a blazer (even if it's just to throw over your shoulder) or rolling your sleeves 3/4 length is a great way to add visual interest.

7. Styling Your Session

Want your photos to look more editorial? Bring a little extra something with you! Fresh flowers bring an extra “wow” factor to just about everything, especially when they’re attached to something else, like a bicycle basket, tree swing, tent, picnic basket, balloons or car bumper. You may want to incorporate larger items like classic cars or bikes, or maybe its just smaller ones like blankets, a picnic basket, champagne glasses or hats. Even planning for just one extra styled item could be a fun way to make your session more unique.

Pro Tip:

The best accessories are those that naturally fit into the setting and allow interaction between you and your fiance. For example, a picnic basket in a garden or on the beach would feel natural and intimate and allows me to create authentic interaction between the two of you as you lay on the blanket, pour glasses of bubbly, or sneak kisses across the basket

8. Just Let Go

Make enough time to prepare on the day of your session, so you don’t feel rushed and anxious. Let go of your need for perfection. This is the biggest source of anxiety! So, don’t worry about a thing. I’ll take care of making you look fantastic and I’ll give you plenty of direction. The only thing you need to do for me is be madly in love!

Pro Tip:

Some of the best photos come from unplanned and imperfect moments. It is their raw, genuine mid-action splendor that makes them remarkable. So just slow down, and enjoy the moments with the love of your life. The beauty will unfold in that simple action.

9. Make it a Date

Because most couples choose to have their engagement session in the evening, and for much of the year sunset ends right around dinner time, its good to plan ahead. Definitely grab a snack before your session - but you might still be pretty hungry by the time we are done with your session. So make it a date! You'll already be dressed up and looking fabulous, so after your session is finished, plan to have a night on the town with your sweetheart!

Pro Tip:

If your restaurant selection has a rooftop patio with city views, lets chat about spending the last 15 minutes of your session there! Maybe its just just to get photos the incredible view, or maybe you'd like to include cocktails and cafe tables in your photos - either way, we'll make it remarkable!

10. Little Details

We will start on time!  The timing of your session isn’t a coincidence, it is scheduled so that we have the best lighting for your photos. Please allow enough time when you find yourself planning and include time for travel or traffic. We will shoot until the sun sets, so if we begin a bit late, we won’t be able to stay late!

Leave your purse in the car. I’ll carry around small items like car keys, phones, and lip gloss in my bag. I want your hands to be free during the session!

Use the restroom right before you leave. Many places that I shoot don’t have accessible restrooms nearby, and I want to be sure to maximize the shooting time we have together.

Pro Tip:

Know where you're going ahead of time. Car fights (especially about the directions) are not a fun way to begin your session. Before your session I'll send you parking suggestions if applicable, or any special directions for finding an obscure location. Review these before you hop in the car and use your travel time to talk about the time you first met or the moment you knew you were in love.

Final Note

I know this is all a lot to think about. This is a guide to help make your Engagement session experience something you’ll look back fondly on for years and years to come. At the end of the day, though, the location you choose and the outfits you select won’t matter nearly as much as the memories you make together. Your future memories are the most important thing to me, and I want your session to be a time for you to just be yourselves and enjoy it. Have fun together. Cuddle up. Have tickle fights. Laugh a lot. And I’ll take care of the rest!

Pro Tip:

Many of the directions I give couples during Engagement Sessions are more of prompts than "posing". These prompts encourage authentic interaction, emotion and conversation. So embrace your natural responses, and let them draw you nearer to the one you love.