Engagement Session Planning
The engagement session is one of our favorite parts of our time together because it gives you both a chance to be in front of our cameras before you get married, which is going to make your wedding day experience feel so smooth, seamless and comfortable. Not only that, but we get to create something so special together. You’re going to be married for over fifty years, but you only get to be engaged for this short period of time. We’re so excited to capture the only time in your life when you get to be each other’s fiances. We (Myself and Heidi, My Girlfriend whom you will meet very soon!) hope this guide helps you with the stress of planning. Let’s dive right in!
Choosing Time & Date
I'd like to consider myself, as a photographer, a light specialist. I believe that natural light, from the sun and its reflections, creates photographs that feel fresh, timeless and true to you as a couple. We begin all engagement sessions two hours before the scheduled sunset during “the golden hour,” when the light is the dreamiest. We do use additional light to add some “pop” to your images but we need to have a good base of sunlight! 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 two hours to figure out your 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, especially if you’re taking off work or have evening plans afterward. To get the most out of your session, please 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’re only able to shoot when natural light is still in the sky, so we’ll want to take advantage of every minute we have together before the sun goes down. If you’re wearing two outfits, save your favorite one for the second half, and if you’re wearing one, arrive in that.
Selecting the Right Location
The location of your engagement session is up to you! The first thing to decide is whether you’d like to shoot in a Downtown setting or venture to one of Iowa’s many beautiful sceneries. Like you will see throughout this blog, most of our couples want to showcase the beautiful nature Iowa has to offer and give a little outdoor feel to their photos. There are so many amazing locations around the state and we want to make our way somewhere that will complement your photos perfectly.
Think Outside the Box
I have a growing list of beautiful locations around the area and I would love to take you to a few of them. And I would also love for you to bring your dog, if you have one (you will see many dogs in the coming photos baha) But, before I take you to one of those places, lets try to get creative. This is the time to think outside the box, after all! Think of places that are special to you as individuals, and you as a couple. Also, you are very much so encouraged to brainstorm unique locations that you might have special access to that most people don’t. For example, maybe you, or someone in your personal or professional network, can secure permission to a location that would otherwise be off-limits. Maybe it’s a family ranch, upscale hotel or even an airplane hangar. The sky is literally the limit! Spend a few minutes thinking about it and checking around. You’ll be surprised with what you come up with.
Your engagement session includes our travel time anywhere in the Des Moines Metro area. If you’d like to go somewhere outside the area, we’re up for the adventure! The travel fee for 1-2 hour away locations is $150. We love traveling and are actually on the road quite a bit during wedding season! Also, If you’d like to look online for insanely cheap plane tickets to locations outside of Iowa and go somewhere outside of the Midwest, we are all for that too! Just reach out and we can go through details! (I hear flights to Iceland aren't that expensive! Ha!)
Styling Your Session
Want your engagement images to look more editorial? 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 more unique.
ARE YOU STILL WITH ME?!?
There is a lot to read but I promise, it's good stuff! :-) Here we go!
Style Tips: For Her
Because you’ve been waiting your whole life for this.
Dress It Up
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 outfit to your collection, a lot of 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 outfit (or two!) into their closet!
Say Yes to the Dress
Long, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Especially when juxtaposed with nature. Cute, shorter-length dresses photograph beautifully as well. 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!
When choosing colors for your outfits, we recommend selecting lighter tones and more muted shades. 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, and especially complements the desert.
Here are some guides to color matching - You of course do not need to use an entire palette, but consider using all neutrals between both outfits for a bottom, each of you choose a main or two, and sprinkle in an accent color or two.
Coordinating the Looks
As you’re coordinating your outfit with your fiance’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 our brides choose their dress first, and then put together their fiance’s outfit based on that. That’s why we have a section for each of you.
Flattering Your Features
In our 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. Heels elongate women’s legs, making them look great. 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 to wear when moving from place to place. Your feet will thank you later!
Make a Statement
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 be 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 if you're looking to get a little crazy.
Go Pro: Hair & Makeup
Professional hair and makeup is on the top of most of our 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, so it’ll give you the best expectation of how it will translate on camera. Most of our 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 our brides always love the final result. If you need a recommendation for hair and makeup, we work with the best in the business and have a go-to team! They’re sweet as pie, talented as heck, unbelievable professionals and wonderful people. You’ll LOVE them! Just let us know and we’ll send you their information. We know they’ll take good care of you! This is also a *great* time to do your trial run if you already have these individuals selected (kill 2 birds with 1 stone!)
Skip the Spray Tan
Although it might seem counter-intuitive, we recommend that you do not get a spray tan before your session, even a few days prior, because it tends to photograph orange even when it’s applied subtly and by a professional. Your actual skin tone will photograph the most beautifully.
Okay, we've almost made it. On to your guy!
Fashion Tips: For Him
Because dapper never goes out of style.
As Long as He’s Got That Suit & Tie (See what I did there?)
From James Bond to Don Draper, men look most striking in a well-tailored suit. If he doesn’t have one, now’s the perfect time to invest in something he’ll wear for the rest of his life! 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. I’m always looking for excuses to wear suits – take advantage of this prime opportunity! If you don't think a suit is your style, Mens Wearhouse often has blazers on clearance for under $100. Worth it.
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!
It’s All in the Details
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 and sandals home. 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, bowties, pocket squares, colored socks, belts, tie clips, suspenders, vests and watches are sharp complements to any suit. If you're looking to keep it a little more casual, look towards a button down shirt, khakis, and a well put together color scheme.
How to Prep Your Man
Most men aren’t overly excited to take photos for two hours, because they don’t have an expectation of what’s to come and why it’s so important to you. Take fifteen minutes to educate and empower your guy. Tell him why you chose us and our style of photography. Show him your three favorite photos that we’ve done, explain why you love them and express to him how much it means to you. Trust us, he’ll light up the camera for you! The most common thing we hear from guys before engagement sessions is this: because of a bad experience in the past, they don’t like taking photos or don’t think they’ll be good at it. By the time we’re done, though, they can’t believe how fast it went and just how much fun they had!
That’s What He Said
I went ahead and asked a few of my previous grooms to give me some feedback, to hopefully make this a little more logistically real for your guy.
“Taking engagement photos might not be at the top of every guy’s list, but let me tell you, it is worth every minute! When we saw our photos, and I saw how Steph's face lit up, it was just such a cool feeling. It was much easier than I thought to let go and be myself during the engagement shoot because Andrew made us feel so comfortable. While they were snapping away, I almost forgot that the camera was even on us.” - Ryan
“Taking pictures with Andrew was such a great experience. I know that, as guys, sometimes we don’t look forward to taking pictures, but Andrew makes you feel so comfortable. It feels more like hanging out with a good friend rather than just taking pictures." - Doug
“It’s really like getting together with friends you haven’t seen in awhile. You pick up right where you left off and seem to have not missed a beat. An engagement session with Andrew and Heidi is just like that. You’re with your favorite girl and it feels like two of your good friends are just taking a few pictures.” - Matt
“My photo shoot with Andrew was so much fun. He’s clearly a professional at what he does, but he doesn’t treat the photo shoot as just his job or you as just his client. The results captured our real reactions, and I had such a great experience with him." - Mike
After the Session
Don’t forget to plan a dinner date. You’re already going to be all dressed up! Why not take advantage of it? We 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.
One Final Note
We know we just gave you a lot to think about. We created this guide to 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 us, and we want your engagement session to be a time for you to just be yourselves and enjoy it. Have fun together. Laugh a lot. And we’ll take care of the rest!
Engagement Session Checklist
1. Set date, time and location with Andrew
2. Review guide for style tips
3. Schedule hair and makeup appointments if Applicable
4. Choose your outfits
5. Get your nails done (if you so desire!)
6. Clean your ring
7. Pack a bag with:
- Flats or flip-flops for walking between photo spots
- Outfit number 2 (including shoes and accessories)
- Touch-up makeup
- Water bottle (for warmer sessions)
-Bug Spray (For sessions where you know they're gonna eat you up!)
- Coat or cover-up (for colder sessions)
- Pick a fun post-session date night spot