How to get the most out of your engagement session

Due to vacation, I’ve had a couple of weekends off – so in lieu of my usual “Wedding Wednesday” blog highlights, last week we visited ten ways to make your wedding images even better. This week, we take a look at ways to get the most out of your engagement session, and make it truly a representation of you as a couple and your lives.

Think long and hard about where you want to shoot.
I maintain an exhaustive list of potential shoot locations around Kansas City, and like to explore them all. I notice a trend at the beginning of each shooting season (spring) – after my first couple of sessions, I’ll have a flurry of other sessions that choose to shoot at the same location as the first few I’ve blogged. There’s nothing wrong with that – at all! But think outside of the box. Not all sessions have to be in a park or in the middle of bustling downtown. Again – there’s nothing wrong with that! But, if you have interests that would make for some fun images if we involved them, or a spot in town that has meaning to you, the images will be all the more poignant and most of all – different. I’ve shot engagement sessions about everywhere – in airplanes, libraries, bars, ice cream parlors, coffee shops, tunnels, train stations, family farms, wheat fields and small towns – and with family dogs, horses, heirlooms, and vehicles. I am particularly looking forward to an upcoming session this fall that will feature a donut shop and a movie theater! Think outside of the box – with most engagement sessions clocking in around two hours, we’ve got plenty of time to hit a fairly traditional location as well as something that might be a bit more unorthodox.

Tyler is a pilot – so he and Danielle planned part of their session to be aviation-themed.
Airline History Museum Kansas City engagement photography

the library? Why not?
Kansas City engagement photos

Farming is a way of life for this couple, so the entire session reflected that (I traveled to Hays, Kansas for this session)

(oh and include the pets? why not?)

Parkville Missouri engagement photography

Coffee shops are always fun for shooting.

Plan ahead.
Having a game plan ensures that we can get the most out of your session while we are together. I shoot portrait sessions during the “golden hour”, which is a period of time in the morning and again in the evening when the light is at its best for photography. At best, we get about 2 to 2.5 hours of great light – so we obviously want to get as much accomplished as we can in this time. We can certainly visit more than one location – I do most of the time – but if they are 30 minutes apart, you will seriously eat into shooting time with driving. Plan your outfits out, and have a game plan for changing (I can help with this – the game plan, not the changing! :)).

Planning ahead also involves planning when you want to shoot – think about the time of year you would best like to be reflected in your images, and go ahead and schedule a date. Want a wheat field? Better plan to have your session done no later than late June, before the wheat harvest. Want fall colors? Plan WAY ahead. Fall is the single busiest time of the year for portrait sessions, and competes with June for the busiest time for weddings. Photographers (myself included) book up early during the spring and especially the fall months of September, October and the first part of November. Many photographers who specialize in wedding work have little to no weekend availability for portrait sessions during peak seasons, so keep this in mind as well (personally, I can’t take weekend portrait sessions in the fall and spring due to the extreme (and I mean extreme!) number of weddings I’m shooting during these times – however, during the winter when the days are short, I will schedule weekend sessions as my wedding schedule is much lighter).

There’s a reason photographers schedule sessions in the evenings!

This kind of light doesn’t occur mid-day.

…but morning light is equally as gorgeous, so if your schedule allows, it is a viable alternative!
Shawnee Mission Park engagement photographers

Fall is the most popular time of year for portrait sessions – so plan WAY ahead to get your session scheduled.


What do I wear?
I get this question a lot. The simple answer is to wear clothing that you would normally wear – be yourself! Many couples plan two to three outfit changes through the course of a session – but be careful, just like driving to far-flung locations, too many outfit changes can cut into shooting time. Make sure your photographer doesn’t have a limit. (I don’t – I just recommend no more than three outfits.) A dressier pair of outfits (such as a cocktail dress and slacks) work best in urban type environments, and casual outfits work just about anywhere. If you are planning a country location, keep in mind that a skirt and sandals may not be the best choice if you are going to be wading through a bunch of tall grass – oh, the chiggers! As far as color, think about the environment you are going to be in. Bright green grass looks fantastic with jewel tones such as pinks, purples, yellows and bright blues. Muted colors, such as those found in fields of tall grass in the fall, look amazing with muted tones – denims, burgundy, beige, sage green. In the city, you can get away with about any colors – my only recommendation is to not clash (i.e. no burnt orange against hot pink), and not to MATCH, either – if a couple are both wearing black, for instance, their bodies tend to blend together and the shot loses depth. But most of all, be comfortable, and be you!

Take weather into account.
If the weather for a session looks to be detrimental, I always contact the couple to make sure they still want to go. I will shoot in anything (well, if I’d had a session yesterday when it was 109 degrees, I would have rescheduled it!), but if the weather will in any way affect the outcome of the shots negatively, or make the couple uncomfortable, I’ll always give them the option of a reschedule. Some couples are on a time crunch for various reasons, such as an impending move, so we press ahead – and make the best of it. Shots in adverse weather (rain, snow) CAN be amazing! Do keep that in mind when considering whether to reschedule.

Rain can be a fun “accessory” to a shoot!
Kansas City Crossroads Arts District engagement photography

Snow on the ground? No problem! (No one wants to do a wintertime shoot – but I love ’em!)
Shawnee Mission Park Kansas engagement photos

Kansas City engagement photography

Plan to walk.
My sessions involve covering a lot of territory – so, if you are planning to wear heels, consider bringing a pair of flip flops to change into to minimize discomfort and blisters. Just a PSA for you! 🙂

Can’t do the whole session in daylight? No worries!
Sometimes, scheduling is such that we are pressed for time on the back end of a session, especially if a couple can’t get away from work early and the days have shortened significantly, as they do well into fall. Nighttime shots can be AMAZING! Some couples consciously choose to start a bit later so they can have some night shots.

Nighttime shots are very dramatic.
Liberty Memorial engagement photography




Most of all – have FUN!
My number one goal for any engagement session is for the couple to look back and think “wow, that was fun!”. I love for true emotion to come through in my shots, so be prepared for jokes, laughs, and some cuddly moments. Get into each other, joke, do what it is you would normally do without the photographer present. The best shots, it seems, are almost ALWAYS unscripted!




One Response to “How to get the most out of your engagement session”

  1. […] this week. I always make sure to do an informative post for clients on those days (check out my ways to make the most of your engagement session and ten easy (free!) ways to make your wedding day photography better from the past several […]

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