The Ultimate Engagement Shoot Prep Guide

Engagement sessions don't have to be scary.


The Ultimate Engagement Shoot Prep Guide

Engagement sessions don't have to be scary.

Unless you're a model by profession, the idea of being in front of the camera for two hours is probably all kinds of scary for you. The good news? If you're anything like me, preparation and lots of insight into what you can expect goes a long way to shake those nerves. 

This engagement shoot preparation guide is a work of pure love, written and tweaked over many months. It's meant to be a living, breathing document – constantly being improved upon to help make the weeks and days leading up to your engagement session as stress free as possible. You've got enough going on and this is meant to be a joyous time of planning, anticipation and dreams for your future! I'm here – and this guide is here – to ensure you are able to focus on the things that matter.


Preparing for your engagement session starts a few weeks before your shoot. The better prepared you feel, the more likely you are to relax and simply be present. Tension and stress have a sneaky way of showing up in photos so looking and feeling your best really does matter. Here's what you should be doing prior to your session:

  • Schedule an appointment to have your hair cut and/or colored one to two weeks prior to your session. 
  • Treat yourself to a manicure the day before the shoot (I'm looking at you too, grooms!). There will be more than a few engagement ring photos. Good looking fingers and nails matter!
  • Speaking of engagement rings - consider getting your ring cleaned before the day before or morning of your engagement shoot. It takes just about 10 minutes. Most jewelry stores will do them for free, and it will make a difference in the photos.
  • A few days before the shoot, both of you should try on your clothes to make sure that they fit. If they don't, return them for a better fitting size or find a different outfit.
  • Avoid eating high salt and high fat foods starting three days before your shoot. Being bloated will kill your confidence and make you feel even more uncomfortable in front of the camera.
  • Ladies, an engagement shoot is also the perfect time for your wedding hair and make-up trial. Give yourself a couple of hours buffer when scheduling the appointment. This way if anything runs late, you won't feel stressed or frazzled worrying about time and we won't miss some potential perfect light.
  • The night before your engagement shoot, gather all of your outfits and any props together in one location so that nothing gets forgotten.
  • Have a light but filling meal before your session and grab a snack or two to take along. We'll be doing lots of walking, laughing, giggling, etc... snack breaks are key!

LOCATION. is. everything.

The possibilities are endless and honestly, quite overwhelming. Brainstorm locations that mean something to you as a couple. Places that excite you or take your breath away are a good place to start. But don't be afraid to keep it simple either. Don't rule out your favorite neighborhood coffee shop or that antique store you just can't get enough of. Don't convince yourself that they aren't "fancy" enough. They are perfect if they make you happy. 

Start establishing a clear vision for what you want your engagement session to be. Outdoors and woodsy? Modern and urban? Cozy and laid back? Establish that and from there you'll more easily be able to narrow down into specific location ideas.

Logistics are an important consideration often overlooked. Some locations require photo permits and contracts in order to take professional photographs. Also consider parking options and if there is a private spot for an outfit change or two. If you have multiple locations in mind, plan a route in advance so you're making the most out of your session time. Once the location and date are picked for your session, work with your photographer to determine what time of day would be best in order to take advantage of the best light possible.


What to Wear

What to Wear

Now that you've decided where your engagement shoot will be, it's time to begin planning what you'll wear. Your goal is to match the mood of the location and wear something you might actually wear to that spot. It's a bit more complicated than that, but that is a good rule of thumb to get your creative juices flowing. 


go shopping

Or rent something fabulous! You are making an investment to have professional pictures taken, you should look your best. Being comfortable is absolutely essential, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get a little glammed up and come as a polished you.

dress smart

Avoid tight-fitting clothes that might accentuate any curves you’re not best friends with. Consider bringing a change of shoes if you don’t feel like you will be able to wear fancy shoes for the whole shoot. And don't forget to consider the weather. If it’s freezing outside – shorts and a tank top are not ideal.


Compliment each other, but leave the matchy-match outfits at home. Instead, coordinate more subtly by wearing varying hues or shades of the same color. Color coordination brings a balanced, easy feel to your photos. Bonus: it will be even easier to find light that flatters you both if you're dressing in the same color family.


color matters

Choose colors and patterns that won't visually fight with your surroundings. Stick to light colors and neutral shades for the base of your outfits. Think blush, cream, soft blues and light gray. That doesn't mean you shouldn't add in a pop of color! (But you probably will regret wearing bright yellow head-to-toe). 

be on the same scale

On the day of your photo shoot, you should both look like you’re headed to the same place. The easiest way to do this is to wear outfits that match in levels of dressiness or casualness. Guys, if you're wearing a suit and tie and ladies, you're wearing a t-shirt and jeans, it will stand out and not in a good way.  

bring a variety

If you’re debating between outfits, just bring your extra choices with you. We can take a look at everything prior to getting started and make decisions together. We'll consider light, location, temperature, and comfort level to help decide. Sometimes the option that you left at home could be exactly what would have worked perfectly.


What to Bring

What to Bring

Don't bring lots of heavy items or bulky garment bags that you'll need to carry or keep an eye on. If those things can stay in your car, or all fit in a small to medium sized manageable duffel bag, that's best. Here is a list of what you should bring with you to your engagement shoot:

  • Water bottles 
  • Snacks that are easy to eat and not messy (Trail mix or dried fruit? Yes! Doritos? No.)

  • A pack of gum 

  • Small makeup kit for touch ups

  • Hair brush and hair gel/spray

  • Small towel or hankie for perspiring faces

  • Comfortable shoes for walking

  • Umbrella (for rain or for shade!)

  • Headache medicine


During Your Shoot

During Your Shoot

I know, I know - 'relax and just have fun' gets thrown around a lot. If you can do this with a camera 6 feet in front of you, awesome! If you can't - don't feel bad - it's not easy for most people. 

My best piece of advice is to focus on your partner. Look into their eyes, try to make them laugh, hold onto each other and keep each other feeling relaxed and comfortable. As your photographer, will help set up shots and lead you into moments, but I'm relying on you two to stay loose and open minded and laser focused on each other.

If you are really having trouble shaking your nerves - have a glass of wine before your shoot. Yes, really! Even better - have a drink with your photographer just before so everyone is feeling loose and relaxed together.

tips, tricks & ideas

  • Don't think of this as a photo shoot - think of it as a date!
  • Flirt with each other. Flirt with the camera. Even if it feels silly in the moment, at the very least it will give you something to focus on.
  • Keep moving! Your hand, your gaze, your hair, your smile, your dress... small things like this add variety and keep the session flowing.
  • Soft kisses on the forehead, laughing, dancing, holding hands, whispers, etc... all breathe life into your photos. Go for it!
  • Talk sweetly and make corny jokes. These moments are helpful and are exactly what you should be doing.
  • Walk it off. Sometimes simply walking together will help if you're feeling stuck.
  • Get goofy! Show me your best (or worst!) dance moves just to keep everyone laughing
  • Don't over think it. Improvisation of some kind happens at every engagement shoot. Get out of your head, look into your partners eyes and be present.