choosing the perfect time, location, outfit + more!
A NOTE ABOUT THIS GUIDE
We’re so excited to be working with you and we can’t wait for our time together during your engagement session! It’s normal to be a little nervous about your session. We still get nervous before having our photos taken—and we do this for a living!
We’re big fans of engagement sessions for a few reasons. First, they allow you to get comfortable in front of the camera. It takes time to warm up to being photographed and understand how we’ll guide you. Timelines can be pretty tight on weddings days and 30 minutes may be all we have for portraits, which is why we’ve found that wedding day portraits can turn out better when couples do engagement sessions ahead of time.
Second, you can showcase your personalities in a more casual setting that is significant to the two of you (and can even include pets!). While they’re great for save-the-dates, we’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 we get asked the same things over and over again, we thought it would be the most beneficial if we put together a guide that walks you through everything you need to know.
We’ll cover what to wear, whether to bring pets and how to manage them, location ideas, and more!
- TEAM ANNA DELORES
We get it. Having your picture taken for an hour or two might not be one of your favorite things to do during your downtime. And at first you might feel sort of awkward being in front of the camera. But we hope 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. We look forward to it because it’s a great opportunity for us all to hang out a bit before the wedding day.
A NOTE if you're
Engagement sessions can take place anywhere from immediately following a proposal to just a few days before the wedding. We’ve found that there isn’t a “good” or “bad” time to take your photos in relation to your wedding date. We normally plan sessions based on everyone’s availability, a particular look you might have in mind (spring flowers, for example), or when you want to send out “save the dates.”
Sessions typically last about an hour and when we can, we love to begin sessions about 90 minutes before sunset. We 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, if you're morning people!
We schedule sessions during what we 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 weather is best between April and late November, sessions can take place all year here in California! Our schedules tend to be more flexible at the very beginning of the year (January through March), but we can usually accommodate your preferences if we plan enough in advance.
A few things to keep in mind during each season:
CRISP AIR + CHILLY BREEZES
If you’re planning to take your engagement photos during the winter, keep in mind that if your session takes place in the evening, we could begin shooting as early as 2:30pm to catch the sunset. We recommend dressing in layers so you can warm up in between photos. Make sure you bring a little extra makeup and tissues in case your nose begins running.
fresh flowers and GREEN HILLS
Even though spring technically begins in March, it's still a little chilly through April (and that's when we can usually look forward to the prettiest green hills and spring flowers). When we schedule spring dates, we typically schedule both a primary date and a backup rain date.
Extra hours of sunshine
While our weekend availability is more limited during summer months, we can almost always count on great weather! Because of daylight savings and long days, sessions sometimes begin as late as 6:00 p.m. Bring extra makeup, bottled water, and even a few towels to make sure you stay fresh throughout your session.
California's favorite season
Fall is another popular season for California weddings, so if you have your heart set on an autumn engagement session, let's get it on the calendar ASAP! Weather tends to be warm and pleasant through November and we'll mid in mid-to-late afternoon depending on the month and location.
If your wedding is local, save the dates should be sent between 6 and 8 months before the wedding. For a destination wedding, you’ll want to send them out 8 to 10 months before the wedding.
If you’re hoping to use your engagement photos for your save the dates, we recommend scheduling your session at least two months before you plan to send out your save the dates. Between inclement weather, editing, designing your save the dates and printing, two months is generally a safe amount of time to make sure your images and cards are ready.
There are a few different directions you can go with location for your engagement session. Going with a lovely outdoor backdrop is a surefire, dependable option and what many of our clients choose. We also love a location that has some meaning to you, like the location of your first date, your favorite weekend getaway (whether a destination city or your favorite Sunday morning coffee shop), or a place that represents your shared love of a hobby or interest (for example, a bookstore might be a great choice if you both love to read). An engagement session in your home is always a great idea, especially if you're hoping to involve your pet(s)!
Vasquez Rocks (Santa Clarita)
Joshua Tree National Park
The above locations are all beautiful but we also love exploring meaningful locations with our clients; we love an at-home session like this or this!
Please note that some locations, including Paradise Cove, Clairmont Lavender Farm, The Line Hotel, and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden require an additional permit and/or fee.
While we take most of our engagement sessions in southern and central California,
we’ve photographed sessions everywhere from San Francisco to New York City to Lake Tahoe. If you have a location in mind that is significant to the two of you, let us know—if our schedules align, we might be able to take your engagement photos outside of our normal area.
Travel fees may apply depending on the location and our availability.
Our dogs are huge parts of our own families, which is why we 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.
We 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. We won’t use the pet in every single photo so it’s also important to bring a friend to hold him or her in between shots.
If you’re going to bring a pet, we 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 we recommend keeping in mind the word “complement” rather than “match.” It can also be a great idea to choose “color-families,” such as pastels or jewel tones.
For your one-hour engagement session, we recommend one outfit and one location. If you've booked an extended engagement session with your wedding photography package, then we have enough time for two outfits; most couples choose a more formal outfit and a casual outfit. And don’t forget to bring a few accessories! Statement earrings or necklaces, cute shoes, classic watches, and sweaters or jackets are a great ways to add detail (and layers enable us to get the vibe of a second look without you actually changing your whole outfit!).
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Dress according to the environment (we typically don’t recommend heels at the beach!) and the weather to ensure maximum comfort. Wearing layers is a quick way to change the look of an outfit without doing a full change (a changing area might not be immediately available, or we're limited on time). Choose an outfit you feel comfortable in, but don’t be afraid to dress up! Dresses look great with movement or a soft breeze. And if you want to wear white before the big day, go for it!
If you buy something new for the session, wear it for an hour around the house to make sure it still feels (and looks) good.
WHERE TO SHOP
HAIR + MAKEUP
Heels lengthen legs, but if your heels aren’t comfortable for walking or you’re not used to wearing them, bring an extra pair of shoes to slip into in between shots.
Statement jewelry can be a great way to add color or pattern to a simple dress. And we always love a cute hat for accessorizing!
A scarf can be a playful outfit add-on for a fall or winter engagement session; a light denim jacket, smart blazer, or soft cardigan are fun layers in any season to mix up your look without doing a full outfit change.
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WHERE TO SHOP
HAIR + MAKEUP
Engagement sessions are the perfect time for a hair and makeup trial! It’s important for you to look and feel your best for your engagement photos, and if you’re planning to do a hair and makeup trial anyway, an engagement session is a great time to test how your hair and makeup look on camera. The confidence shows through in your photos, too! Here are our favorite hair and makeup stylists if you still need to book someone:
TEAM Hair + Makeup
The Queen’s Bees
Cheek to Cheek Artistry
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WHERE TO SHOP
HAIR + MAKEUP
There will probably be times during your session when we’re shooting your hands holding or the engagement ring on your hand, which means it’s a good idea to clean up your nails before your session (this applies to the guys, too!).
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WHERE TO SHOP
HAIR & MAKEUP
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You can’t go wrong with a suit and tie, or even just a blazer with jeans (our personal favorite).
Patterns are fine as long as they aren’t too busy and complement your partner’s outfit.
If a suit or blazer is too formal for you (again, you want to ensure your outfit complements your partner’s wardrobe, so if they’re wearing jeans, a suit may look out of place), a sweater layered over a button-up shirt is a great option; you can also opt for just the button-up shirt with nice jeans or slacks.
WHERE TO SHOP
what to do if it rains
We’ll check in the week of your engagement session to confirm the time and location we’re meeting, as well as double-check the weather forecast. We know it takes a lot of time to get ready for an engagement session and it’s the worst to get dressed up and drive out to your session only to have it rain.
Let us know what you prefer (some couples embrace the rainy day engagement session!), but if the weather looks like it won’t be great, we can reschedule according to what works for you (and your hair and makeup artist, if you’ve booked your trial for the same date as our shoot).
When we can, we 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, we 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.
When it comes to posing for your engagement session, you don’t need to worry about a thing! We’ll guide you through the entire process beginning with “poses” that are super easy and natural. If we tell you to do something that feels a little funny, it’s probably because we know it’s going to make the two of you laugh— and that’s the photo we’re actually looking for.
Throughout your session, we’ll keep an eye on your hair, makeup, and outfits to make sure things stay in place (and let us know if there are any elements you're worried about!). We want you to feel as relaxed as possible and enjoy your time together!
“What do I do with my hands?"
If you’re anything like us, 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!
As soon as we get home from our session with you, we back up your images on our hard drives for safe keeping. The images are culled and selected for editing (usually around 75-100 images for a one-hour engagement session).
You can expect to receive an email in your inbox with a link to view and download your completed engagement photo gallery collection in about four weeks!
We know that this guide is long and hopefully it covers everything you need to know to prep for your engagement session! If there is something we missed or you need a recommendation, feel free to email us at