Planning a Stress-Free Engagement Session

April 8, 2022

Congratulations — it’s time to start planning for your engagement session!

cliffside engagement session in san francisco

You have such a fun journey ahead and I am excited to share some tips for how to create a fun, seamless engagement session experience! You deserve to have an engagement session that feels fun and stress-free.

As a photographer, I believe your engagement session is one of the most important parts of the wedding planning process for a few reasons.

  1. Your engagement session gives you a chance to spend time with your photographer and get comfortable with their posing style.
  2. It also allows you to connect with your photographer in a stress-free, relaxed environment so you can be sure that you vibe really well together!
  3. The session allows you to have beautiful images that you can use for save the dates, your wedding website, prints to display at the rehearsal dinner/wedding/ reception, and around your home!
  4. But most importantly, it provides a way for you to freeze this moment in time and to truly enjoy this season of life that you’re in. While wedding planning might feel stressful and daunting in the moment, you’ll eventually look back and be so grateful for the process!

In this post I’m going to dive deep into my top stress-free engagement planning tips so that you can ENJOY the process and also have a whole lot of FUN!

First things first, get clear on what season you’d like to schedule your session during!

Are you dreaming of a sunny, summer beachside session? Or a cold weather weekend away in the mountains? Think about what would make you feel the most excited and what you feel best represents you as a COUPLE! You’ll want the photos to feel true to you and your personalities, and knowing this will help you start to plan out your outfits! When you can have an idea around your outfits ahead of time, you’ll likely feel much less stressed during the planning process.

I always recommend scheduling sessions a few hours before sunset so we get beautiful, golden light throughout the shoot. You can use a sunset calculator to determine sunset times throughout the different months of the year to help you prepare!

sunset engagement in North Beach California

Next, decide if you want to hire someone to help with your hair and makeup!

When you have someone on hand for hair and makeup, you’ll feel so much more at ease and less stressed throughout your engagement session. I always recommend having professional hair and makeup because 1) it just makes you FEEL GOOD and 2) it makes the day feel less stressful since you don’t have to do it yourself. You can also think of it as a great trial run for your wedding day because you can get a feel of what it’s like to have it all done up!

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to locations either!

Part of planning for a stress-free engagement session is to have a clear plan of action! Do you have access to a private estate or country club that would provide a beautiful backdrop? Do you have a favorite place you like to visit on the weekend (vineyard, resort, etc.) I love exploring places with my couples and I’m always down for fun adventure spots! Some of my favorite sessions are destination engagements in beautiful places like Yosemite, Tahoe, Joshua Tree and along the California coast! One of the ways to guarantee a fun and stress-free engagement session is to have a set plan of your locations and logistics around any travel required.

Styling your session can be a really fun way to add some extra personality to your engagement photos

If you want to set up a picnic or incorporate another special element into your session, just let me know! Maybe you have access to some larger props that have a real “wow” factor, like a boat, classic car, vintage bicycle or hot air balloon. This is the time to dream a little bit and decide what really feels like you! Props aren’t a must by any means. Some of my couples love them and go all out for their engagement session. Some pick one or two items to bring. Others stick with just their outfits -­ and that’s great, too! The most important things you need to bring to your engagement session are love and laughter. I’ll take care of the rest!

Click here to see a beautifully styled beachside engagement session that I photographed in Seattle, styled by the talented Amy from Gather Design Company!

Getting dressed up is always a good idea for your engagement session!

Dresses and skirts tend to look most stunning on camera because they really flatter the body! I recommend choosing long, flowy dresses or skirts because they’re flattering on all body types, look amazing on camera and bring extra movement and dimension to your photos. Maxi (or floor length) skirts and dresses will give us the best “twirl factor,” add more romance to your walking photos, and look especially gorgeous when juxtaposed with nature, like the desert, forest, fields or beach. Cute, shorter cocktail-length dresses or midi skirts photograph beautifully as well. My brides who choose to bring two dresses will sometimes choose one of each! Flowy dresses and fancy clothes help add more fun to the shoot and create a stress-free, fun atmosphere!

Joshua tree engagement session outfit ideas

As you’re coordinating your outfit with your fiance, keep in mind that your outfits will look the most cohesive on camera when the color palette and wardrobe pieces coordinate, but don’t actually “match”. You should each wear a different dominant color, but stay within a similar color palette family. So if you’re wearing a blush dress and nude heels (blush being your dominant color), then he could wear a navy coat with gray pants, paired with brown leather shoes and maybe even a blush pocket square. Now he has his own dominant color (navy) while still incorporating a few touches of your color palette.

A few other tips:

Clean your ring before the session! There’s a chance your ring hand will be featured in a lot of the photos, so if you have time before your session I always recommend having it professionally cleaned and treating yourself to a manicure!

Skip heavy spray tans/at home tanning lotions. Although it might feel like a good idea, sometimes these fake tans photograph more “orange” and can be noticeable in the photos. If you must have a spray tan, keep it very light and get it done at least 2-3 days before your session (so you have a few days for it to tone down a bit and settle).

And lastly, the most IMPORTANT thing to remember when planning a stress-free engagement session is to not forget to HAVE FUN! Plan a nice date night after your session since you’re already all dressed up. Wedding planning can sometimes feel a little overwhelming, and so it’s really important to treat yourself to nice little things during the process. Don’t forget to enjoy and celebrate this season of your life!

Want more wedding planning tips? Check out my blog post on how to create the perfect wedding day timeline!

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I'm Krista! Wedding and Personal Brand Photographer & business coach based in Northern California. I’ve been photographing weddings & women business owners since 2010, and I fall more in love with my job everyday. 

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