The engagement session is one of my favorite parts of my time with my couples because it gives you both a chance to be in front of my camera before you get married. That makes the wedding day experience feel so smooth, seamless and comfortable. You’re going to be married forever, but you only get to be engaged for this short period of time. I adore capturing the short time in your life when you get to be each other’s fiancé (and it doesn’t hurt that we get to do it in the beautiful mountains of Colorado!).
In this post, you’ll find a bunch of helpful tips for getting the most out of your engagement session experience – so let’s dive right in!
I love natural light the best and suggest that we plan most of your session while it’s still light out. However, it can be fun, unique and elegant to capture a few images with off-camera flash during or just after sunset so I offer that as an option as well.
Depending on far apart the locations are, I typically begin all engagement sessions about 2.5 hours before the scheduled sunset when the light is the dreamiest. In most parts of Colorado, the sun goes behind the mountains significantly earlier than the specific sunset time you can look up online, so I try to keep that in mind when scheduling the start time.
For those of you not doing your session with me, use a sunset calculator online to determine the scheduled sunset for the date and location you’d like to do your session. Then, just subtract 2-2.5 hours to figure out your ideal 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 engagement session date. This is especially important if you’ll be taking off work or have evening plans afterward.
To get the most out of your session, plan a buffer when getting ready so you can arrive a few minutes early to your session and be ready to start on time. We’ll want to take advantage of every minute we have together before the sun goes down so being on time is very important. If you’re bringing multiple outfits, I’d suggest starting in the most casual and working your way to your most elegant outfit last so we can catch the sunset glow, city lights, and softer light in general for that one. I allow up to 3 outfits and suggest only 2 be the main options with the 3rd being more casual for a smaller amount of images.
The first thing to decide is whether you’d like to feature more nature or more city in your session. Most of my couples want to showcase the natural beauty of the landscape and mountains to give their out-of-town guests a fun preview of what to expect when they travel to the area for the wedding. Thankfully, since we’re mostly surrounded by mountains in the Colorado Springs area, I know lots of stunning spots in the mountains or with them showcased in the background. I’m also always up for exploring a new spot together if you have an idea too!
Want to add a unique, personal touch to your session? Bring a little extra something with you! A freshly-picked bouquet for you to hold, or fresh flowers to put on something else, like a bicycle basket, tree swing, picnic basket, car bumper or rowboat, is a fun way bring a little extra romance to everyday objects. Whether it’s larger items like classic cars, or smaller ones like blankets or hats, even incorporating just one extra styled item, could be a fun way to make your session stand out and feel more YOU.
Coming up next are some style tips for both the bride and the groom, but there is more to it than just what you wear. Great hydration the day before and the day of your session helps your face and skin to glow and look fabulous. Getting enough sleep the night before is also important to look refreshed and energized. Try to avoid drinking alcohol during the 24 hours beforehand as well as it dehydrates and allows for red skin and puffiness under your eyes.
Have you thought about rocking a sequined gown, tulle skirt or flower crown 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 engagement session, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! If you don’t want to add a new permanent piece to your collection, a lot of my brides love Rent the Runway for their engagement photos because you don’t have to spend a lot to feel like a million bucks. Plus, you can send the outfits back when the session is over. Other brides love having a great excuse to bring a new permanent piece (or two!) into their closet!
Long, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Especially when juxtaposed with a beautiful natural setting like the mountains. They can really make images with city lights feel extra elegant as well. Cute, shorter-length dresses photograph beautifully too. Dresses and skirts tend to look most stunning on camera because they really flatter the female body — which is probably why the red carpet is always full of so many dresses and not very many pantsuits! I recommend avoiding pants and shorts for your session (unless you want to wear one for your 3rd, more casual outfit), and saying yes to a dress or two.
When choosing colors for your outfits, I recommend selecting lighter tones and/or more muted shades. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces and let the eye focus on the way you feel about each other. The camera loves shades of soft pink and muted blues, mixed with sophisticated light neutrals like heather gray, creams, leather brown and white. That softer color palette fits beautifully into almost all natural outdoor environments. If you are wanting some evening shots with city lights, a bolder color palette can stand out nicely if you have an outfit you are dying to wear with bright colors, but the muted/pastel shades still photograph nicely in this situation as well.
As you’re coordinating your outfit with your fiancé’s, keep in mind that your outfits will look the most cohesive on camera when the color palettes coordinate, but don’t necessarily “match.” You should each aim to wear a different dominant color, but stay within a similar color palette family. So if you’re wearing a blush dress, soft blue earrings 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. Most of my brides choose their dress first, and then put together their fiancé’s outfit based on that. That’s why I have a section for each of you!
In my experience, every woman, regardless of her shape has an area of her body that she’s self-conscious about, so recognizing what that is in advance is key. Choosing flattering silhouettes and colors that complement your natural features is the best way to ensure you’ll love the way you look in your photos.
Three-quarter length sleeves create an awesome slimming effect on all arms, so be on the lookout for an option with a longer length sleeve. You could also bring a cute jacket, blazer or cardigan along, too. Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera, so we recommend avoiding those whenever possible if your goal is a set of slimmer-looking arms.
Heels elongate women’s legs, making them look fabulous. Closed- toes heels in particular look great on camera because they carry out the line of your leg all the way down to your toe. If your toes are showing in a peep-toe heel, you might want to schedule a pedicure before your session so you don’t regret letting your feet show. These little tricks make all the difference!
QUICK TIP: Bring a pair of flats or boots to wear while walking from place to place. Your feet will thank you later!
Pairing an accessory or two with your outfit can really help bring some extra dimension to your images. Big statement necklaces bring a lot of pop to the photos, while the smaller, delicate ones are not as noticeable on camera. Belts, bracelets and earrings bring great visual interest, so choose one or two that don’t compete for attention. Fresh florals in a crown or bouquet can be a really romantic touch as well.
Professional hair and makeup is on the top of most of my brides’ checklists because it looks amazing and removes the stress of getting ready on your own. 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. Plus, that’s the type of light we’ll be shooting in for most, if not all of our session, so it’ll give you the best expectation of how it will translate on camera. Most of my brides feel like their makeup is “too much” at first, since it’s more than you would wear on a normal day, so if you feel that way at the beginning, don’t worry! Good makeup artists know how to get it just right for the camera — and my brides always love the final result.
If you need a recommendation for hair and makeup, I would highly suggest Kelli Stephenson (firstname.lastname@example.org), owner of Lush & Lather Salon in Colorado Springs for both. She is a sweet, talented, unbelievable professional and a wonderful human being. You’ll love her and I know she will take good care of you!
BONUS TIPS: Don’t forget, your ring will be center stage, so give yourself permission to get it cleaned and get your nails done, too! Also, I recommend that you do NOT use tanning lotion or get a spray tan before your session, even a few days prior, because it tends to photograph orange (and often unevenly) even when it’s applied subtly and by a professional. Your actual skin tone will photograph the most beautifully!
Men look most striking in a well-tailored suit. If he doesn’t have one, maybe now’s the perfect time to invest in something he’ll wear for years to come! The best part? It’s a lot less expensive than you might think! While custom suits can cost thousands of dollars, some of the most well-known brands have off-the-rack suits in their stores for a fraction of the price. Solid shades of gray or navy are a strong complement to most women’s outfits, whereas pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye.
Many of my grooms love to mix a suit coat, blazer, or sport coat with a different pant color. It adds some extra visual interest, and can be more fun than wearing two full suits in a row. I’m a big fan of this fresh take on a timeless classic.
Next time you walk by a store like J. Crew, you’ll notice the male mannequins and models are always wearing several layers at once. Layers on men look great on camera, so even when it’s hot outside, trust us when we say that it’s worth an hour or two of discomfort for photos that will last you both a lifetime. Adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and coats up the level of any look. If the temperature permits, he could even consider adding a v-neck sweater with a pop of color from a long-sleeved collared shirt and tie underneath. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with layers!
Long pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from his legs and feet and place it where you want it: on the face you fell in love with. So, for your session, it’s best to leave the shorts, sandals and jeans at home, too. Suit pants, dress pants or colored pants work best. Brown leather dress shoes complement almost every look, whether he’s wearing a full suit or a blazer and colored pants.
Ties, bow ties, pocket squares, colored socks, belts, tie clips, suspenders, vests and watches are sharp complements to any suit. If you bring two suits to the session, you could start with a traditional necktie and belt, then switch to suspenders and a bow tie for your second look. If two suits are too stressful or feel overboard to you, no problem! One look will do the trick! You can still mix and match accessories to complement both of her dresses without doing a full change during the session. So, either way, you win.
Don’t forget to plan a dinner date! You’re already going to be all dressed up, why not take advantage of it? I know the wedding planning process can feel all-consuming, so take some time after the session just for the two of you to relax and have some fun together. You deserve it!
I know I just gave you a lot to think about, but I really want 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 marriage is the most important thing to me, and I want your engagement session to be a time for you to just be yourselves and enjoy it. Have fun together. Laugh a lot. And I’ll take care of the rest!
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