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8 Ways to Personalize Your Engagement Session

In case you missed it, our first engagement session installment is here:
7 Reasons to Schedule an Engagement Session

So, you’ve decided to schedule an engagement session, but you want to avoid that same ol’ cookie cutter frolicking in the park in your Sunday best for your Save the Date card. Or you want to show off your Weird, or want a session that doesn’t feel super “posey.” Who could blame you? Here’s 8 ways to make your engagement session uniquely “you.”

1. Choose a place that is meaningful – not just pretty

Of course a lake, or forest, or a field of flowers will always make for a beautiful background, but if you want your engagement session to reflect you and your one-of-a-kind relationship, choose a place that is near and dear to you. Maybe you and your intended bonded over your love for the local sports team in the nosebleed section, met at the beach (a wella wella wella), or have a go-to bar for date nights. You might choose to have your session at the place where you first met, or first kissed — whether it is a “beautiful place” or not, there’s magic in those locations.

2. Ask your photographer where she’s always wanted to shoot

Utilizing your photographer as the expert (after all, she does this for a living!) certainly gives you extra bang for your buck. If you are stumped for creative or unique locations, definitely ask your photographer if she has a place she’s always wanted to shoot a portrait session. After all, you’ve hired her for her creative prowess and knowledge of the business, and she’s probably got loads of ideas you might never consider. My favorite thing in the world is to be given the opportunity to photograph a portrait session from one of my Bucket List locations.

3. Try a different time of day

You might have heard photographers talk about Golden Hour–those precious hours just after sunrise and before sunset each day that provide the holy grail of warm, golden light. While I know the struggle is real, it might be well worth it to wake up a few hours early to check out those sunrise hours instead of sunset. Or for the truly brave, you might even consider a night shoot. For me, night time shoots give me the opportunity to flex my lighting muscles and create more dramatic portraits.

4. Don’t let the weather scare you

Rain or snow in the forecast for your scheduled session? Embrace it! Some of the most fun and unique shots come from the imperfect.

5. Center your shoot around a hobby or a fun date activity

If you want your shoot to include some action, or if you’re nervous about posing for two hours, you might want to spend at least a portion of the shoot engaging in an activity that the two of you like to do together. Maybe you went bowling on your first date and want to recreate the magic. Or if you cook elaborate meals together every Sunday, invite your photographer in to capture the importance and simplicity of that ritual. Make your session about your relationship by including the things you like doing together the most. Use shared love of activities or hobbies to make your engagement session stand out by allowing these photos to tell a story about your relationship.

6. Relax

Don’t be afraid to be your yourself and even get goofy. Weird is wonderful. Your relationship might not be about traditional PDA or some of the serious poses that other couples prefer. Don’t be afraid to loosen up with a goofy face. I’m all about having fun at my engagement shoots, and it’s a great way to draw out my clients’ true personalities, whatever they may be.

7. Bring a prop

The question I hear over and over at engagement sessions is, “What do I do with my hands?” The simplest answer to that question (besides, “throw them around your wife-to-be!”), is to fill them with props. Bring a cute sign to hold with your wedding date or a cheeky saying (Free Drinks!) to use for your Save the Date cards. Maybe your love has a cherished car or truck you can include. Or couple your props with your unique location ideas — stop off at the local pub for some beers (added benefit of filling your hands and loosening you up!), or the local ice cream joint to share a scoop. You might plan a styled winter shoot with hot cocoa and mittens and blankets, or a summer shoot with a wine picnic.

8. Bring a furry friend

THIS ONE IS MY FAVORITE. Ahem. Speaking of props, pets make the best props! Occasionally couples ask me if they can bring their dog(s) to their engagement session and I not only agree, I insist. (I will also accept pigs, cats, fish, bearded dragons, horses, and really any living thing you share your lives with.) Having your pup at your engagement session is not just fun for all of us, it takes some pressure off the posing, and always provides some comic relief. If you do decide to bring a pet, I usually recommend bringing a friend or family member to act as a pet handler while we’re focusing on images of just the two of you.

Did I mention I love dogs?

Be sure to head over to part 3 of 3 for some styling tips for your engagement session!

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