Planning Your ENGAGEMENT SESSION

engagements

July 23, 2021

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 my photos taken – and I do this for a living!

I’m big fans 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 – 45 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 significant 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! Even if I’m not photographer, use this guide to help you plan your engagement session with your own photographer!

A note to THE GUYS

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.

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 based on schedules. 

Sessions typically last about an hour and a half and when when we can—I love to begin sessions about two 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.

Seasons

While I shoot most of my engagement sessions between April and late November, 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:

Winter : snowfall, hot cocoa and cozy coats

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. I recommend dressing in layers so that in between photos you can warm up. Make sure you bring a little extra makeup and tissues in case your nose begins running.

Spring : fresh flowers and sunny days

Even though Spring begins in March, I typically don’t begin shooting for another 6 weeks because the weather in Florida can still be pretty chilly. When I schedule spring dates, I typically schedule both a primary date and a backup rain date.

Summer : walks on the beach hand in hand

In spite of the heat, I’m a big fan of summer sessions! Because of the later sunset, sessions sometimes begin as late as 630pm. If you’re taking your engagement photos during the summer, I recommend bringing extra makeup and a few towels to make sure you stay fresh throughout your session. 

Fall : colorful leaves and snuggling close

Fall is one of the prettiest times of the year on the East Coast and because of the perfect weather, my schedules typically book up quickly! If you have your heart set on a fall engagement session, I recommend scheduling it as soon as you book!

Locations : Florida 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 among the classic architecture in downtown Orlando, 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 ski slopes to lavender fields to apple picking and college campuses, the options for engagement session locations are endless!

Classic + Elegant

Leu Gardens

Historic Winter Garden

Dickson Azalea Park

The Historic Thomas Center

Winter Park Train Station & Hannibal Square

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Beach

Washington Oaks Garden + State Beach Park

River to Sea Preserve

Honeymoon Island

Rustic

A vineyard

Tree + Flower Farms

Shingle Creek Regional Park

Belle Oaks Barn

Rustic Oaks Barn

La Chua Trail

Urban

Wall Murals of Downtown Orlando

DNA Bridge in Gainesville, Florida

Flagler College

Adventure

Cooking Class

Hiking

Sailing/Boating

The Mountains

While I take most of my engagement sessions in the Gainesville/Orlando/St. Augustine area, I’ve photographed sessions everywhere from Georgia to Tennessee to Boulder, Colorado. If you have a location in mind that is significant to the two of you, let me know because if our schedules align, we might be able to take your engagement photos outside of my normal area. My bags are always half packed! Travel fees may apply depending on the location and our availability.

Outfits

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 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.


for the ladies

wardrobe tips:

Heels lengthen legs but if your heels aren’t comfortable for walking, bring an extra pair of shoes to slip into in between shots. I love the way larger patterns photograph – just be careful not to choose a pattern that is too small – it may accidentally make your photo look a little too busy. Softer, pastel colors tend to photograph better than bright colors – especially since bright colors could reflect on your skin. I love bright, neon dresses, but I don’t love the neon reflection they add to your complexion. Say NO to NEON!

accessories:

Statement jewelry is a great way to add color or pattern to a simple dress. Lace and tulle look amazing in photographs. And dresses with lace sleeves are a great way to help slim arms. Depending on your location, you might want to consider a fit and flare or a flowy dress! They look great in walking and photos with movement. Choose an outfit you feel comfortable in, but don’t be afraid to dress up!

Favorite Shops:

Rent the Runway
ASOS
Morning Lavender
J. Crew
Anthropologie
Free People
Francesca’s
Jessakae
ModCloth
Hazel & Olive

Lulu’s 
H&M 
Shabby Apple
Vici Dolls
Nordstrom
One Loved Babe
Ardene 
Filly Flair

hair + makeup:

Engagement sessions are the perfect time for a hair and makeup trial! Professionally done hair & makeup last longer than typical hair & makeup. They also tend to hold up better for humidity and wind. I think it’s so important that you look and feel your best for your engagement photos – and if you’re planning to do a hair & makeup trial anyways, the engagement session is a great time to test how your hair & makeup look on camera.

manicure:

There will probably be times during your session when I’m 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!).

for the gents

wardrobe:

You can’t go wrong with a suit and tie. Consider pulling out that suit you had to wear last time you were a groomsmen! Layer with a blazer and a fun tie – you can even wear jeans with this look. Bowties are always a good idea. Be careful not to choose a pattern that is too small – it may accidentally make your photo look a little too busy. Softer, pastel colors tend to photograph better than bright colors – especially since bright colors could reflect on your skin. Cozy sweaters layered over button ups are a great way to stay warm and stylish during the cooler months.

favorite shops:

Rent the Runway
ASOS
 Suit Supply
J. Crew
Zara
Leather & Cotton
Jack Threads
Frank & Oak
Nordstrom 
H&M
Urban Outfitters

Ring Cleaning

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.

“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!

Date Night

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!

Thank you!

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 contact me.

Love + Light,

Nikki

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