Written and Photography by Shillawna Ruffner
Are you planning an engagement photo session with the love of your life?
Engagement photos are a beautiful way to capture this exciting new step in your life and to be able to remember this beautiful moment of young love for a lifetime.
What do you need to do next?
1.Find a photographer, of course! Wedding photographers typically book a year to eighteen months in advance, so this is one of the first vendors you need to book. It’s a really good idea to use the same photographer for both your engagement session and your wedding for multiple reasons: Your collection of images from your engagement session and your wedding will look cohesive if you use the same photographer and (the most important reason of all) your engagement session is the PERFECT time to break the ice with your photographer and get to know them better. You will feel a million times more at ease (meaning you will look so much more natural in your photos) on your wedding day if you have had the chance to work with your photographer before all of the pressure is on.
2. If you are particular when it comes to your images and pricing, it is important to do your research. Start with a referral from friends or family or perform a simple web search for photographers in your area, or wherever you want your photos taken. Once you find a few whose work you love, check out their websites and definitely their social media! You’ll get an instant feel for their style and their personality and be able to decide if you want to pursue things further with them. Don’t be afraid to ask to see full engagement and wedding galleries. It’s important to see the photographer’s work in all kinds of lighting conditions and locations. Take the time to meet your favorite photographers in person or schedule a Skype, FaceTime, or phone conference if you’re not able to meet face to face. This will really give you a good idea if your personalities jive and which photographer is the right one to document two of the most photo-worthy moments of your life.
3. Choose a date and location. If you find and book your photographer first thing, you should have enough time to have your pick of seasons. Decide if spring blossoms, sunny days and tall green grass, emblazoned foliage, or frosty scenery is important to you, and go from there. Engagement photos can be done anytime from the moment you are engaged, right up until two months before the wedding. (But let’s face it, there’s enough to do that close to your big day, so the earlier, the better!) A really lovely way to showcase your engagement is by choosing a location that is meaningful to you both. Think about places that are special to you – like the place where you both grew up or went to school. Perhaps you met or were proposed to somewhere unique, you both love the forest, or there is a favorite past time you both enjoy. The more personal the location, the more emotion and love will emanate from you and shine through images.
4. Choose what to wear. I always recommend that you dress up for this very special moment! It’s not every day that you have professional portraits made, and you will never be sad if you make the decision to glam it up. I adore a long, flowing dress on ladies, and every man looks dapper in a well-tailored suit. If wearing a dress and suit aren’t your idea of fun, think about how you will feel about your session years in the future. You can always bring a second, more casual, outfit to change into, but I promise you won’t regret putting in the extra effort to dress to the nines. Make sure everything you wear fits well and is as comfortable as possible. Keep the weather in mind when selecting your wardrobe, and make sure to bring plenty of cold water in the warmer months and something warm to drink and hand warmers in the colder months. Flip flops or furry slip-on boots are great to have on hand to slip on if any walking between sets of photos in is order.
5. Invest in having your hair and make up done by a professional. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is! Again, your engagement session is one of the highlights of your life and one of the most fun events during your wedding planning process! Not only will having your hair and makeup done make for a fun and memorable experience, it will also ensure you are looking and feeling your best and that you are completely camera ready! I swear hair stylists use witchcraft when it comes to getting hair to look amazing and styles to LAST through all kinds of circumstances. And an experienced makeup artist knows exactly how to make you look like the best version of yourself and feel like a million bucks! If you feel great about how you look, that confidence will show in your photos! Plus, it’s a great way to get a head start on finding a hair stylist and makeup artist for your wedding day! Win/win!
6. Style your session. The next time you page through a Bridal magazine, or any magazine for that matter, pay attention to your favorite editorial spread. It probably caught your eye because of the special attention that was paid to detail and how those details helped communicate the story that was being told. I always encourage my couples to not only select a location that is meaningful to them or their relationship, but to also incorporate items into their engagement session that will help tell their story. It can be as simple as bringing along a special blanket or heirloom quilt to wrap in or sit on, a favorite dessert or food to nibble on, or an item that represents a shared passion or past time. I’ve had couples bring along banners, special coffee mugs, and floral arrangements. Don’t be afraid to go all out either! If you have an idea for a full-on styled session I’m sure your photographer would be happy to help you bring it to life! From a picnic at your favorite park to a tandem bike ride in the setting sun, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Just make sure that whatever you incorporate makes sense for you and your relationship and that all parties involved are on board with your vision. (Another perk with styling your session is by including “props” to work with, it gives idle (and often nervous) hands something to do. Which again, leads to more natural looking posing.)
BONUS TIPS: Make sure to eat before you come, bring bug repellent, and hit the restroom before you begin. It’s never fun having to rush through a session because someone is uncomfortable. We like to enjoy the whole experience! Fur babies are always welcome to join in on the fun, but make sure to bring along a handler, aka someone your furry friend is comfortable with, who can manage your pet while they aren’t being photographed and take them home when their photo ops are finished.
Lastly, relax and have fun! Professional photographers have your best intentions (and good sides) in mind, so there is no need to stress. It always turns out more fun than people anticipate, especially if all the above steps are followed.
Don’t forget to smile 🙂
To find out more about Shillawna Ruffner and her photography, go to www.shillawnaruffner.com or on Facebook @shillawnaruffnerphotography