choosing the perfect time, location,
outfit & more!
A NOTE ABOUT THIS GUIDE
I’m so excited to be working with you and I can’t wait for our time together during your engagement session! It’s normal to be a little nervous about your session. I always tell people that I still get nervous before having our photos taken – and I do this for a living!
I’m a big fan of engagement sessions for a few reasons. First, they allow you to get comfortable in front of the camera. It takes time for most couples to warm up to being photographed and understand how I pose. Timelines can be pretty tight on weddings days and 30 minutes may be all we have for portraits – which is why I’ve found that wedding day portraits turn out so much better when couples do engagement sessions ahead of time.
Second, you can showcase your personalities in a more casual setting that is signficant to the two of you (and even include pets!). While they’re great for save-the-dates, I’ve taken engagement photos anywhere from 18 months in advance to a few days before the wedding.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to planning a session and since I get asked the same things over and over again, I thought it would be the most beneficial if I put together a guide that walks you through everything you need to know.
I’ll cover what to wear, whether to bring pets & how to manage them, location ideas and more!
A NOTE TO
I get it. Having your picture taken for 1-2 hours might not be in your top-10 favorite things to do during your downtime. And at first you might feel sort of awkward being in front of the camera. But I think you’ll find that by the end of the session, it’s a lot easier than you thought, and you even had a little fun. I look forward to it because it’s a great opportunity for us all to hang out a bit before the wedding day.
TIME & LIGHT
Is there a "good" time to take photos?
Engagement sessions can take place anywhere from immediately following a proposal to just a few days before the wedding. I’ve found that there isn’t a “good” or “bad” time to take your photos. I normally plan sessions based on a particular “look” a couple has in mind, spring flowers for example or summery greenery, or based on schedules.
Sessions typically last about an hour and a half and when when we can—I love to begin sessions about two to three hours before sunset. I prefer to shoot when the sun is lower in the sky to avoid harsh shadows and bright sun patches. The first two hours after sunrise is also an ideal time to shoot.
I schedule sessions during what I believe will be the best light of the day – which means that it’s super important to be on time. If you’re late to an evening session, we could run out of light before we’ve finished shooting and if your session takes place in the morning, the sun gets more harsh as it rises.
While I shoot most of our engagement sessions between April and late October, sessions can take place all year. Most of my couples choose a season based on the location where they want to shoot.
A few things to keep in mind during each season:
NORTHWEST IOWA AREA ENGAGEMENT LOCATIONS
I love when couples choose a location for their session that complements their wedding. For example if you’re planning a chic, elegant wedding, it may be fitting to take your engagement portraits in a place with classic architecture in downtown area, while a local park or flower-filled fields may be more fitting for a couple planning a more rustic affair. The best session locations are often meaningful places to the couple; however, I’m also happy to make recommendations. From luscious gardens to lavender fields to apple picking and college campuses, the options for engagement session locations are endless!
An old vintage barn or farmyard
A field or prairie with long grass
PHOTOS WITH A VIEW
Palisades State Park (Garretson SD)
Stone State Park (Sioux City, IA)
Blue Mounds State Park (Luverne, MN)
Pine Hollow Hideaway (Sioux Falls, SD)
Newton Hills State Park (Canton, SD)
Downtown city parking ramps
First date location
Where he proposed
Your favorite hobby/activity to do together
MODERN / minimal
240 Studios (Sioux Falls, SD)
Whitespace Studio (Sioux Falls, SD)
City downtown (Sioux Falls, Sioux City, Orange City)
Parking ramps (Sioux Falls or Sioux City)
Neutral colored buildings
GREENERY & blooms
Puddle Jumper Trail (Orange City, IA)
Adams Nature Preserve (Sioux City, IA)
Outdoor Campus (Sioux Falls, SD)
Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum (Sioux Falls, SD)
Vineyard or orchard
Most locations listed under “Photos with a View” also have a lot of greenery and blooms.
the above locations are all beautiful but I also love exploring meaningful locations with my couples!
Destination Engagement Sessions
While I take most of my engagement sessions in the Northwest Iowa area, I’m willing to travel if you have a location in mind that is significant to the two of you. Let me know because if our schedules align, I might be able to take your engagement photos outside of my normal area.
Travel fees may apply depending on the location and my availability.
Used for Mobile – Dont delete
I love when couples choose to incorporate pets into their session. Keep in mind that bringing a pet along often means that we’ll need to choose a pet friendly location.
I recommend planning for your pet to be at the first part of your session and then either dropping them off or having a friend take them home. I won’t use the pet in every single photo so it’s also nice to have a friend available to hold him or her in between shots.
If you’re going to bring a pet, I recommend exercising your pet before the session and bringing your pets favorite toy or treats! Depending on your pet’s fur type, it might also be a good idea to groom them before the shoot.
TIPS FOR LOOKING YOUR BEST
When picking outfits I recommend keeping in mind the word “complement” rather than “match.” For example, if the groom-to-be is wearing a blue and pink pastel plaid shirt, the bride-to-be may want to choose a long, soft blue dress. It can also be a great idea to choose “color-families,” such as pastels or jewel tones.
Generally couples pick two or three outfits for an engagement session: a more formal outfit and a casual outfit. I recommend saving your favorite outfit for later in the session, when couples usually feel more comfortable in front of the camera. And don’t forget to bring a few accessories! Statement necklaces, cute shoes and classic watches are great ways to add detail to outfits.
what to do if it rains
It’s typical for us to schedule two engagement session dates. A primary date and a rain date. Having two dates helps us make sure that your photos happen in a timely manner. Coordinating schedules can be tough and I’ve found that the best way to make sure my couples get the look they have in mind for their photos is to schedule two dates at the same time.
I’ll check in the week of your engagement session to confirm the time & location we’re meeting and the weather. I know it takes a lot of time to get ready for engagement session and it’s the worst to get dressed up and drive out to your session only to have it rain. Let me know what works best for the two of you – but if the weather looks like it won’t be great, I typically try to make the call at least 12 hours in advance.
When I can, I always try to take a photo of your ring during your engagement session – so it’s a good idea to have it cleaned or clean it yourself before your shoot! To clean at home, soak your ring in warm water with dishwashing soap for 20 to 40 minutes. Then gently brush the stone with a soft toothbrush, rinse and repeat if needed.
champagne is always a good idea
If you’re planning to bring props to your engagement session, I recommend including them only if they’re meaningful to you. Shots of drinking coffee at a local coffee shop would be cute if that’s where you met; however, a trying to fly a kite together when it’s not a part of your relationship may come off as contrived.
"What do I do with my hands"?
When it comes to posing for your engagement session, you don’t need to worry about a thing! I’ll guide you through the entire process beginning with “poses” that are super easy and natural. If I tell you to do something that feels a little funny, it’s probably because I know it’s going to make the two of you laugh – and that’s the photo I’m actually looking for.
Throughout your session, I’ll keep an eye on your hair, makeup and outfits to make sure things stay in place. I want you to feel as relaxed as possible and enjoy your time together!
If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t get dressed up all that often. Which means that the day of your engagement session is the perfect occasion for a date night (or brunch if your session is in the morning!)
The engagement session is another part of celebrating your love and heading off to dinner is a great way to end the session!
Used for Mobile – Dont delete
When to Expect Your Images
As soon as possible after your session is complete, I’ll ship your film off to my lab in Utah if I shot any rolls of film during your session. It normally takes them about 10 business days to send the digital files back to me – and then it takes me about a week or two to edit your images. You can usually expect to receive your engagement photos between 3 and 4 weeks after your session.
I know that this guide is long and hopefully it covers everything you need to know to prep for your engagement session! However if there is something I missed, or you need a recommendation feel free to email