Choosing the perfect time, location, outfit & more!
YOUR GUIDE TO PLANNING THE MOST PERFECT
One of my favourite ways to help couples is by offering this comprehensive guide to getting the most out of your engagement session, so your photos are amazing and the session runs as smoothly as possible! You'll probably find answers to questions you didn't even know you had!
So about engagement sessions - I'm a big fan 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 to naturally pose. Timelines can be pretty tight on wedding days and 30 minutes may be all we have for portraits - I've found that the wedding day portraits can be so much more enjoyable when you've had an engagement session ahead of time.
Second, you can showcase your personalities in a more casual setting that is signficant to the two of you (and even include pets!). While they’re great for save-the-dates, I've also 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 questions, I thought this guide would be helpful to walk 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!
I get it. Having your picture taken for 1-2 hours might not be in your top-10 favourite things to do. And at first you might feel sort of awkward. But you’ll find that by the end of the session, it’s a lot easier than you thought... and maybe you even had a little fun?! So bring lots of positivity and prepare to get a little lovey with your best friend!
When is the best time to take photos?
Engagement sessions can take place immediately following a proposal to just a few days before the wedding. There isn’t really a good or bad time. I like to plan a session based on a particular 'look' you might have in mind, spring flowers for example, or if time allows, we can match the season to your wedding date and maybe even meet at your venue.
Sessions typically last about an hour and when I can, I schedule sessions during what I believe will be the best light of the day. I also like to get two dates in the diary in case the weather takes a turn for the worst.
While I shoot most of my engagement sessions between April and late October, 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:
Spring fresh flowers and sunny days
Spring can sometimes be a little chilly so you may want to plan your outfit to include a cute jacket or sweater. Trees and flowers start blooming around mid-month. And because of the chance of rain, when we're talking spring dates I like to schedule both a primary and a backup rain date.
Summer that summatime light
Even though it's sometimes a little too hot, I'm a big fan of summer sessions! Because of the later sunset, sessions can begin as late as 6pm. If you’re taking your engagement photos during the summer, I recommend bringing extra makeup so you can freshen up throughout your session.
Autumn colourful leaves and snuggles
Autumn is one of the prettiest times of the year so my schedule typically books up quickly! If you have your heart set on an autumnal engagement session, I recommend scheduling it as soon as you book!
Winter hot chocolate and cozy coats
If you’re planning to take your engagement photos during the winter, keep in mind that the latest time to begin shooting is 2:30pm so we don't loose the light. I recommend dressing in layers so you're warm without needing a thick coat. Remember you might want to bring a little extra makeup and tissues in case you get a runny nose.
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 are hoping to use your engagement photos for your save-the-dates, I recommend scheduling your session at least two months before you plan to send them out. Between inclement weather, editing, designing and printing, two months is generally a safe amount of time to make sure your images and cards are ready for when you want them.
OXFORDSHIRE, COTSWOLDS and beyond... GREAT ENGAGEMENT LOCATIONS
I love it when you choose a location for your session that complements your wedding. For example if you’re planning a chic, elegant wedding, it may be fitting to take your engagement portraits among the classic architecture of Oxford Universities, while a local park or flower-filled fields may be more fitting for a couple planning a rustic day. And of course I'm happy to make some suggestions on this (see below), but the best session locations are meaningful places to you! From garden centre coffee shops to town squares, strawberry picking and manicured gardens, the options for engagement session locations are virtually endless!
GARDENS & ARCHITECTURE
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire
Kiftsgate Court Gardens, Gloucester
Brill Windmill, Aylesbury
Minster Lovell ruins, Witney
URBAN & RURAL ARCHITECTURE
Oxford City Centre
Street Art trail Cowley Road, Oxford
St. Clements Street, Oxford
Harcourt Arboretum (University of Oxford)
Batsford Arboretum, Moreton-in-Marsh
Wychwood Wild Garden, Chipping Norton
Oxford Botanic Garden & Arboretum, Oxford
Badbury Hill, Faringdon
ACTIVITIES & ADVENTURE
Fruit picking, Millets Farm
Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford
Bibury Trout Farm, Cirencester
Hiking, Charlton Kings Common, Cheltenham
The Cotswold Water Park
Remember: the above locations are all beautiful, but I also love exploring locations that are meaningful to you!
Your dog is huge part of your family, which is why I love including them in your session.
We’ll need to choose a pet friendly location and I recommend planning for your pet to be at the first part of your session and then if possible, having a friend take them home so we can focus on just the two of you.
Exercising your pet before the session and bringing a favourite toy or treats can keep them calm and depending on your pet’s fur type, it might also be a good idea to groom them before the shoot.
When picking outfits, keep in mind the word “complement” rather than “match.” For example, if one of you is wearing a blue shirt, the other may want to choose a soft blue dress. It can also be a great idea to choose “colour-families,” such as pastels or jewel tones. Go easy stripes and avoid big graphics or logos.
A typical one hour session generally doesn't allow for an outfit change, so just pick your favourite thing to wear and rock it! If we're doing a longer two hour session, feel free to pick two outfits: usually a more formal outfit and a casual outfit. I recommend saving your very favourite outfit for later in the session, when you will 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.
Check out these great colour palettes (not necessarily the outfits themselves, but the colours) that work well together!
Hair & Makeup
what to do if it rains
I like to put two engagement session dates on the calendar: a primary date and a rain date. Having two dates just gives us some flexibility and helps us get the look you have in mind for your photos.
I’ll check in the week of your engagement session to confirm the time & location we’re meeting and the weather. I 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 me know what works best for the two of you - but even if the weather looks like it won’t be great, we typically try to make the call no more than 24 hours in advance.
champagne is always a good idea
If you’re planning to bring props to your engagement session, it's better if they’re meaningful to you. Shots of drinking coffee at a local coffee shop is cute if that’s where you met and hiking up a hillside to fly a kite or toasting marshmallows over a fire pit can be great fun and create memories in each photo. But this could look contrived or loose meaning in the future if it isn't a part of your relationship.
"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 “natural poses” that are super easy and relaxed. If I suggst 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 we’re actually looking for.
Throughout your session, I'll keep an eye on your hair, makeup and outfits the best I can to make sure things stay in place. We want you to feel as relaxed as possible and enjoy your time together!
If you’re anything like my me and my husband, you probably don’t get dressed up all that often. That means that the day of your engagement session is the perfect occasion for a date night (or brunch date if your session is in the morning)!
The engagement session is another part of celebrating your love, so why not make the most of your preparations and head off to dinner afterwards, even keep the party going - a great way to end a fantastic fun day!
When to Expect Your Images
I always have the conversation with you about how you would like to see your pictures. The usual way is I'll post a photo or two as a preview on social media within a few days of your session. Alternatively, you can wait until your gallery is fully edited and uploaded which can take 3 to 4 weeks after your session.
After your pre-wedding session you will feel amazing about your portraits and look forward to the photos on your day.
So sit back and relax, it's going to be great!
I know that this guide is long, but hopefully it covers everything you need to know to prepare for your engagement session! If there is something I missed or you need a recommendation, feel free to email