Why book engagement photos?

Note: The images pictured in this post are from a recent engagement session in Cincinnati with Rodney and Mandi. Cant wait to shoot their upcoming wedding in the fall!

First I have to answer a twofold question: When and why should I book engagement photos? And that is a great question! I usually recommend taking them six months to one year before the wedding date.  If you wait until you are too close, you may become pressed for time when trying to find the best date with me, thus creating unnecessary stress. As far as the why goes, the best reason is that it's an excellent time to work with me for possibly the first time and get comfortable in front of my lens and with my style. It is also a great opportunity to have a shot to submit to your local paper with your engagement announcement, use them for a personal touch in your save-the-dates and wedding day décor, or give framed prints as gifts to your families. 

Spending a full session in front of my camera might be the key to preventing stiff and uncomfortable looking photos.  The number one question that I am asked when a couple starts their session is “Okay, what should we do?”  I get it. Being in front of a lens can be confronting. Besides, how often do we take professional photos, right? When I begin an engagement session, I let the couple know a few things up front about what to expect in order make them relax, and while it may take ten or fifteen minutes to get comfortable and natural, we will always get to the point where true personalities come alive! This is where the magic happens.

In truth, the best time to schedule your engagement photos depends on how and when you plan to use them. Here's a rundown of photo scheduling options—choose whatever works for you:

  • Day one: This can actually be a separate occasion in and of itself. Take a picture of yourselves to celebrate the very moment you get engaged—it can be over in an instant and what better way to remember it forever than with gorgeous photographs of the two of you together wearing natural, candid smiles and promising to take this journey together! 
  • First month: It is a good idea to schedule a photo shoot early in your engagement if your plans are to submit a formal engagement announcement with a photo to your local paper. 
  • When you set the wedding date: Having an image to use on  your wedding website or save-the-date—can be a meaningful way to add a personal touch to the design. If this appeals to you and you're planning to send guests an early heads-up, have photos taken 8 to 10 months before the wedding, which leaves enough time to print and send save-the-dates-- generally don't wait to do this any later than six months before the wedding!
  • Six to eight months before: You can also take engagement pictures once you've booked your wedding photographer or when you're narrowing down your final choices (If you haven't found your photographer at this point, now is the time! Many times we book up to ten months in advance, but it is always worth checking availability). 
  • Three months before: If you plan to submit a shot with your newspaper wedding announcement, check their guidelines for specifics and schedule a picture-taking session at least three months before the wedding. Larger newspapers ask to receive wedding submissions up to six weeks before the event, and you'll want to factor in four to six weeks before that deadline to see your proofs and make prints. 
  • Two months before: Trial run for heir and make up? Suit fitting?  Schedule hair and makeup trial appointments the same day as your engagement photo session to capture a preview of your wedding day looks  (you could do the salon in the morning and  a location shoot in the afternoon). This is a great way to relax and pamper yourself before your session. 
  • Four to five weeks: Planning to feature your smiling faces on the wedding program or favors? Schedule a session four or five weeks in advance, which will leave enough time select your favorites and get everything you need printed.

I always include an engagement photo session as part of the overall package, which gives me a chance for you to see my style, connect with you as a couple and interact with you in a more casual environment before your big day. It also gives us the chance to experiment with flattering angles, poses and lighting levels before the wedding day. Consider your wedding photography as an investment in a lifetime of memories. Your ability to relive those moments from the wedding day is most likely what you expect from your photographer and that’s understandable, so ensuring you are comfortable in front of the camera will add value to your experience in the long run. Trust me!

Before you call a single photographer, have a discussion with your partner about what kinds of engagement photos you'd like—posed or candid, formal or casual. My favorite photos tend to be ones where everyone is engaged, comfortable and interacting with each other. Understand that not every picture needs to have everyone looking at the camera and smiling at the same time! If you are relaxed and begin to view this as quality time together, your eyes will be on each other and your smiles will be natural. I believe these will be the images you are drawn to the most because they reflect your  dynamic as a couple and your love.  Advance planning will help you make the most of your pictures. Some photo-friendly options to consider for your engagement shoot: 

  • Bring it outside: My favorite photographs are almost always outside in nature with plenty of natural light to work with. Pick a spot that is meaningful to you and lets go on an adventure! Visiting a nearby greenhouse or botanical garden is a trendy option, or even a two hour drive to a stunning landmark if you are willing to make the trek. This is your moment and my job is to help you create something beautiful and meaningful that you can look back on for years to come. I am always open to suggesting locations, and we will discuss this when you  make your appointment.
  • Make yourself at home: Your home is your comfort zone, and when you're comfortable, you look better on camera. Choose an area like your living room, bedroom or front stoop. These photographs are intimate and meaningful because they feature your home and spaces where you are most comfortable. 
  • Cuddle up: You probably don't need me to persuade you to cuddle up to each other, but these are my favorite images.  Plan to get a few affectionate close-up pictures: hugging, holding hands, Laughing with each other. 

I always ask my couples to dress like themselves. An engagement photo definitely doesn't require you to shop for coordinating outfits. That being said, clashing patterns and colors may be a bit much. Here are some of basic guidelines for dressing the part: 

  • The wardrobe: I keep this part simple: Come dressed in outfits that make sense for your session. Keep the attire simple, but coordinate colors if you can. Solid colors are best, try to avoid large, bold patterns. Dress in something that will make you comfortable to be photographed in. 
  • The details: Keep your jewelry as simple as possible to avoid distractions in your pictures. For men, that means leave your watch and any rings at home. Women should stick to minimal accessories.

I hope I was able to answer any questions you have about booking an engagement session!

As always, I am available to answer your questions at Gretchen@hernameisgretchen.com or in the comments section.