The Journal

How to prepare for your engagement session

We’ve posted before about what to wear for an engagement photo session, but wardrobe isn’t the only way to prepare for your engagement photos! So, here are a few more tips on what to expect from an engagement session!

These tips are, of course, from our perspective and thus most accurately describe the particular nuances of an Anna Delores Photography session, but many of these points are relevant for sessions by other photographers, as well!

Montecito engagement session

Meredith + Steve in Montecito

How to choose an engagement session location

First of all, there are a few different directions you can go with location for your engagement session:

  • someplace pretty (usually outdoors for us here in California)
  • a location that’s meaningful to you as a couple (sometimes involving an activity like drinking coffee, riding bikes, cooking, whatever!)
  • a unique setting; getting creative and coming up with something you haven’t seen before

Any of these options have their own virtues. Obviously going with a “pretty” backdrop is a surefire, dependable option and is usually a safe choice for couples who have no ideas or aren’t sure what type of look they want from their engagement session photos (think beach, woodsy park, etc.).

A location that has some meaning to you and your fiancé might be something 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 a favorite idea, and certainly important to you as a couple (if you already live together).


Getting your photo taken can be awkward in the beginning.

Having your photo taken is a bit of a strange experience, and your first few minutes in front of your photographer’s camera will feel a little awkward. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s totally normal. You gotta call it what it is. The important thing to remember is that the awkwardness will go away. It takes a few minutes to loosen up and get used to the idea of your photographer following you around with his/her camera, but it’ll happen!

This is another GREAT reason for having engagement photos taken in the first place. The initial discomfort of having your photo taken (since most people simply aren’t accustomed to having professional photos taken on a regular basis) is something you can tackle before your wedding. Once the big day arrives, the experience of your photographer (hopefully the same one who snapped your engagement photos, so you know him/her already, too!) following you around throughout the day is less bizarre. Plus, your wedding day has so many other elements buzzing around your head, you’ll forget about (or at least be distracted by something other than) your photographer a lot sooner.


Santa Ynez engagement photos

Nicole + Nathan in Santa Ynez

What to expect during your engagement session

This part is a lot more specific from one photographer to the next, but I’ll talk a little bit about what an Anna Delores engagement session is like. This is also part of why it’s a little awkward when we first get started: we don’t want to put you in a lot of unnatural poses that will look strange or uncomfortable in the final image, which means we don’t do a ton of posing in the first place (we like to call it “gentle guidance”). You should really be yourselves as much as possible! Your favorite images come from candid, spontaneous moments of genuine laughter, sweet gestures of true affection, and the natural, in-the-moment scenes that usually come from a distinct lack of posing!


Los Angeles engagement photographer

Molly + Matt’s engagement session at El Matador State Beach

Professional hair and makeup can make a big difference.

Ladies, consider having your hair and makeup professionally done. You know how you feel when you first leave the salon after a haircut? That confidence definitely translates to photos (plus you’ll truly look your best). But really, the inner boost you get from feeling all “done up” after someone else applies your makeup and styles your hair is what really inspires that outer glow just as much, if not more so, than the actual hairstyle or makeup you’re wearing.

You can get your trial hair and makeup scheduled for the same day as our engagement shoot — two birds with one stone! You’ll want to do a trial run with your hair stylist and makeup artist at some point before the big day, and you’ll also be able to see how it photographs.

And don’t forget a manicure in case of close-ups of your engagement ring. Remember a pedicure, too (if you’re wearing open-toe shoes) and don’t neglect your shoe choices in general — they’re part of your outfit. Jewelry counts, too. Accessories like a nice watch or a hat are fun for dudes, as well!


Only bring meaningful props to your session!

Bring goodies to your engagement shoot only if you feel like they’re meaningful to who you are either as individuals or as a couple. Props can be so fun, but there’s a little too much emphasis on props these days (thanks, Pinterest). If you bring props but don’t really know what to do with them or how you might want to incorporate them in your engagement photos, that will show in the final product. Props have the potential to make a shoot more interesting; just make sure any props you bring will fit your personalities. This relates to the notion of selecting a location that’s relevant to your relationship in some way (like the bookstore if you and your betrothed are big readers). If you don’t want to actually shoot at a bookstore (just to continue with the same example), you can bring some of your favorite books to the session, or you can take photos sitting on your living room sofa with your current reads. You get the idea.

There are also plenty of pretty simple, straightforward props, like blankets to lay on or snuggle with. Even then, though, it’s important that the prop also fit in with the location of your session. If you’re in a coffee shop or a bookstore, for example, it might seem a little strange to open up a quilt to sit on or wrap yourselves in. It’s much more appropriate for an outdoor session (like a chilly beach location, for example).


Timing and lighting are two of the most important elements of your engagement photo session.

The “magic hour” that photographers are always raving about is technically the time before and a few minutes immediately after sunset (as well as the hour right after sunrise), but the 1-2 hours leading up to magic hour can be pretty magical as well. Timing is crucial; as soon as the sun sets, it’s all over. This is obviously not as important for an indoor location, but it does still matter if relying on natural light for the session.

Meet a little on the early side just to ensure you’ll have the time needed. When couples run late, the session tends to be rushed to get images before the sun goes down. It’s stressful for all involved! Fifteen minutes late is okay, but pushing the session back by an hour or more is generally a bad idea because it just means you won’t be able to take full advantage of the light that nature has to offer. And you’ll feel stressed from the rush, which will show in the photos.


The Line Hotel Los Angeles

Alyssa + Loess in Los Angeles

What to expect after the session is over

What I do after our engagement session is load the images we took throughout the day, then sift through the collection to narrow down to the best 50-75 photos. Those are the images I’ll spend more time editing — the images you’ll get in an online gallery within a few weeks of our session. The images you’ll get from me are high-resolution, print-quality files so you can use them for printing actual photos to display at your wedding, or for “save the date” cards and guest books. Every photographer includes different goodies in his/her packages, so remember to ask your own photographer about what to expect after your engagement session comes to a close.

Ready for more inspiration?