Engagement sessions are super fun! And also, engagement sessions are when my clients and I really get to know each other–it’s the first time we create gorgeous images together. Notice that I said, “create beautiful images together.” Even though I am the one behind the camera, composing the shots and giving direction and guidance, so much of the look of the photo is based on what my clients bring to it. My clients ultimately choose the location, their outfits and accessories, and if they want they choose a theme and/or bring a few props. I might be the director/producer but they are the art directors and the writers of the story. So when you really think about it, engagement photos offer a huge opportunity for a couple to showcase their styles, personality, have fun, and create a little visual story about themselves. Sometimes it involves acting out a fantasy they have for their future and sometimes its just being raw and real. But either way there is no doubt that when my couples help style their engagement photos they get a truly unique collection of once-in-a-lifetime photos as a result.
That said, I know styling your own engagement shoot can be daunting. Where to begin?? Below are four super easy tips to help you style your own engagement session!
1. Think about and collect props!
Props are little extras you bring your session. You can be really small and subtle with it. For example, my bride Jen just brought these little hearts she found at Michael’s yet they made for such cute and unique photos.
I’ve also had many couples get more elaborate with props– especially when they come up with a theme (see my next tip for more on themes)! If you want to bring multiple props that is great! Begin collecting early. Search through your own house or garage for stuff, or maybe even at your parent’s or grandparent’s for family treasures. Thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets are also GREAT resources for finding fabulous props without a high price tag. The key is to begin thinking and collecting early.
2. Come up with a theme!
A theme can be elaborate such as “Lady and The Tramp” or a little more casual and open for interpretation like ” Spring-time Vintage Picnic.” Your theme can also just be “Stuff we love!!!” Identifying a theme gives you a jumping off point for finding appropriate props, and will also guide you in choosing what to wear. Some tips for choosing themes:
1. Base your theme off the season/time of year we are shooting. My bride Carolyn chose a very Spring picnic theme, complete with a pastel color palette, because our session was in April.
2. Base your theme off of pop culture. Do you two love a certain genre of movies or music? Or maybe just one movie, artist or song in particular? If you two have a strong link to something in pop culture go ahead and run with it in your engagement session. For example, Brooklyn + Mark love Disney movies so they chose a Lady and the Tramp theme to their session.
On the other hand, Virginia + Alex both worked in the film industry, so they have a love of film, particularly Old Westerns. And that inspired their theme.
3. Lastly you can base your theme around an assortment of things you like. Kim told me her and Mark loved vintage things, picnics, playing all kinds of board games and their alma mater UCSB… so she brought a lot of props that reflected that and we turned those things her and Mark loved into this:
Ultimately, a theme can be anything you want and you are only limited by your imagination. Think about the things you and your fiance love to do most together and begin brainstorming. Then search google and other wedding blogs like Style Me Pretty or Green Wedding Shoes for some visual inspiration.
3. Make it PERSONAL!
Things that are truly personal or reflective of you and your fiance will always enhance a photo. You will love your photos so much more if you really honored who you two were when styling your session. Themes, and props can be made personal. And that’s so important. My bride Rachel found 90% of the props for her camping themed session in her grandparent’s home. These items all had an extra special place in her heart because she remembered them from childhood camping trips with her grandma and grandpa. Now these items made for one very cool photo shoot and every time Rachel sees the photos she will be reminded not only of her love for Sean and their future together, but also her past and family history as well. And isn’t that what engagements and weddings are all about?? Families blending and coming together as one.
Another way to truly be personal is to hand make a prop for your session. My bride Carolyn owns a bakery and so she baked adorable cupcakes, and frosted cookies pops for the session. This really speaks to who she is at heart.
4. Enlist help (professional or otherwise)!
For the busy professional, making time to find props or style your engagement shoot can be a challenge. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Perhaps assign a task to your fiance. Ask your crafty friend to help you make something. Or even turn to your vendors. If a client brings props, I will always help arrange them at the shoot to make it look cute. However, hiring your event planner/designer or even your florist to style your engagement can make a huge impact on the look of your engagement. Plus this gives you a real taste of how your designer/planner translates your inspiration into a set up before the big day. It’s a great trial run in working with your vendors, beyond your photographer.
So those are my four easy tips to having a gorgeously styled, super cute, unique engagement! Hope you enjoyed and found it helpful!