You’re getting married! HOORAY!!  To celebrate and capture this incredible moment in your relationship you’ve decided to do an engagement session. That makes me happy! Of course, I be lying if I told you being photographed isn’t weird. It’s totally weird! Especially when it’s just the two of you and me and I have as many cameras as there are humans. That can feel like… a lot. But all this getting married stuff is stressful enough!  Taking pictures – especially your engagement photos – should be the fun part!  So let’s have some fun dang it!  Let’s lean into the weird and have a couple hours together where we have a blast and make some super fun photos!! In an effort to help you stay calm and for us to get the most out of a session together I’ve put together some tips and tricks for how to have an awesome engagement session! Let’s do this!

How to have an awesome engagement session - Sarah Maren Photography


Engagement sessions are most importantly about celebrating your love and life together. This is about YOU!  This is not about me or my artist vision (sorry… did I just strain my eyes from rolling them so hard? I did!).  It’s a chance to capture and create moments that tell your story, embrace your individuality, showcase creativity and illustrate the love you share. I’m gonna put you in some pretty light and let you love each other!

My sessions are laid back and stylish with a bit of quirk.  The result is photos that share who you are when you’re with the person you love.  Aside from having photos of the two of you, this session is when we really get to know each other – you, me and the camera. 

It’s the perfect way for us to learn a lot about each other – personalities are important!  I want to know if you are introverted or extroverted, how you react to being photographed (personally, I become hyper aware of my hands), and what your physical chemistry is.  It is amazing how much I learn about how you interact with each other just by hanging out for a few hours and making some pretty pictures.

I tend to ask a lot of questions when I’m photographing you.  I want you to tell me things. I want you to let your walls down.  That’s how we make images together that will make your guts shake and your smile huge.  The kind of images you’ll be able to look back on for years and see the beginning of a lifetime with your person. I also chat a lot about my experiences as a wife and mom because they are the things I do most and I think getting to know a bit about me and how I see the world is important too!  While we are chatting I’m usually leading you to the good light, or the color, or whatever. Good photos don’t just magically happen! This is a collaboration! I will gently guide you into spaces that are pretty and poses that evoke connection. Your job is to love each other! To let down your walls a little and enjoy spending time with your person.

How to have an awesome engagement session - Sarah Maren Photography

After your session I’m open to any feedback you have in case we need to change things up for wedding day portraits.  Some couples prefer less kissing photos, sometimes an engagement session leads to the discovery of a “good side.” Whatever the case may be – I’m happy to hear your thoughts.   Of course, chances are you’re going to LOVE them and think you’ve never looked better. I’m just saying. 🙂

Your engagement session is also great practice for the wedding day photos.  As my football playing husband says, “You’d never go to the big game without practicing first.” So think of your engagement session as practice for the big game of your wedding day.  You’ll find photos on your day go smoother, a little more quickly and we are SO much more comfortable with each other. Instead of a wacky stranger coming in with cameras, it’s your old pal Sarah. You know what to expect, your walls are down and we can get to the business of recording your day without awkwardness and introductions.


How to have an awesome engagement session - Sarah Maren Photography


Choosing your engagement session location can seem daunting – but it can also be A LOT of fun.  It’s important that you choose a location that is unique to you and reflects your relationship. Think about the things that inspire you, consider places that have a special meaning to you both, mutual hobbies or passions and then incorporate that into your location selection.  Make it personal. Avoid monuments and landmarks if they aren’t important to you. The best locations are a mix of quirky and obscure.

Get together and brainstorm anything that describes you as a couple.  If you’re both coffee fanatics perhaps we should start your session at your favorite local cafe.  If your style is more modern or minimal you may want to pick a part of the city that reflects your modern flair.  We can start with a cocktail at your favorite restaurant or bar and then go on a walkabout of your favorite neighborhood.  If you’re foodies, a colorful outdoor market or picnic may be an option. If you’re both nature lovers and want to spend your session in the sun or the grass in flowing clothes – then grab a picnic basket and your bikes and we will make it happen! And don’t forget the simplest location of all – your home!! Recording your love in the space you occupy together is intimate and relaxed.  Trust me, years from now you’ll want to remember those first days in that tiny apartment or weird house. It’s a great place to start your session so you feel nice and cozy!

Oakland Engagement Session - Sarah Maren Photography

Think about the colors and styles of potential locations and how you can compliment them with your outfits.  If it helps to include props (or pets!) to show who you are and what makes your relationship special absolutely bring them along.  Keep in mind that sometimes the best locations are in the most unusual places – abandoned lots, sneaking past signs that say “private property” or where we feel like our lives might be the tiniest bit in danger.  Our shoot doesn’t have to be deep and conceptual – it’s about you WAY more than it’s about the location – but it really helps if you love where you are.  

If you have a mood, concept or theme you want to incorporate feel free to talk about what you have in mind.  We can work together to execute your awesome ideas and make incredible images you’ll cherish always.  

If you just can’t decide on one more thing, just tell me the feeling you’re going for and I’ll give you some options for a great location to fit your needs.How to have an awesome engagement session - Sarah Maren PhotographyHow to have an awesome engagement session - Sarah Maren Photography


Like the locations, your outfits should also be a reflection of you.  You’ll also want to keep your chosen location in mind when you’re planning your session wardrobe.  Like most things in life, this is a “You get what you give” kind of situation.  I’m gonna give you ALL the tips on how to look your best but remember that what you put into your session is what you get out of it – and that is especially true for your clothing choices. When it comes to being photographed, confidence is paramount.  Choose to wear something you feel comfortable in that compliments your physical features and body shape.  Make sure you can move in it too! But most importantly, make sure you are wearing something you feel AMAZING in!  That confidence will shine right through in your photos.

I have an inspiration board to show some items that work well in photos.  You can check it out HERE.

There are a few tips and color/pattern combinations on individual pins on the board that I think work really well too.

Primary and secondary colors are wonderful for photography.  A touch of red, yellow or blue can make any ensemble pop and help you stand out from the background.  Even adding a pair of red or yellow shoes, tights or a bright blue tie will transform your outfits.

This session is a great time to get that great fashion piece you’ve been eyeing.  But it’s also a fun time to get something bold and daring. I LOVE it when clients use Rent The Runway to get a spectacular outfit that they wouldn’t normally spend so much on.  Make your session special! This is the best time to splurge on an amazing look.

Accessories can be a great addition to your look as well.  A simple necklace, floppy brimmed hat, bright socks, a colorful belt, a pop of color scarf, a stack of bracelets or add some layer to make your look a little more stylish.  And guys can (and should!) accessorize too!

For him, a great, fitted button-up shirt is great.  But see if he’s comfortable in a chambray shirt, maybe suspenders or a tie.  Have him roll up his sleeves for part of the session for a more casual look. Bring a blazer to add a touch of formality.  The possibilities are endless!

Complementing accessories are important as they are a perfect way to bring your outfits together.  Think about colors that go well together, but please try to avoid matching. Dress as though you are attending the same event.  If one of you is dressed for a coffee shop and the other is dressed for the opera that can make your photos a bit awkward. 

How to have an awesome engagement session - Sarah Maren Photography

Clothing that is well structured is vital to making you look your best in photos.  Avoid baggy clothes, light denim, tennis shoes and logo t-shirts. Also, try to avoid clothing that might show bra straps, tags or is semi-transparent and could reveal undergarments.  And any t-shirt that has more tattoos that you do should probably be left at home.

During your session we will be walking a fair amount.  So, if you’ve brought your sexiest heels you might want to grab some flats or flip flops to wear while we’re hunting out the good light.  You should also plan on carrying the bare minimum of stuff during the shoot. If you can, please leave purses, bags, cell phones and the like in your car.  I will be carrying my bag, camera and possibly a light stand so I won’t be able to hang on to things for you. The lighter we travel the better.

I highly recommend scheduling your make-up and hair trial for the day of your engagement session if at all possible.  Being dolled up just makes you feel more ready to be photographed! Plus, you’ll get to see what all that makeup looks like in photos so you won’t be insecure about how much you wear on your wedding day.  Getting your nails done is always nice too. A beautiful nude nail polish on a fresh mani/pedi always makes your pictures prettier. Hands are a big part of interacting with your partner during photo sessions,(photos don’t talk so you gotta say I love you with your hands!) so make sure you won’t be annoyed by your nails when you see them in photos.

Of course, as with all of life, rules are meant to be broken.  I truly trust your personal style and want your pictures to be a great representation of you as an individual and as a couple.  I highly encourage you to bring 2 or 3 outfits for each of you. We can go through them together if you’d like and choose what will look best for your session.  Also, then you have options should you get dirty or we have time for an outfit change.

How to have an awesome engagement session - Sarah Maren Photography


Typically your engagement session will be scheduled during the week (Monday – Thursday) and ideally we’ll be shooting in the evening or the early morning.  The best light, and therefore the best pictures, are created at sunrise and in the two hours before the sun sets.

As early as a sunrise session sounds (and it totally is) I promise, the light is perfect.  Sometimes there is early morning fog, and if it’s midsummer, there is no better way to beat the heat.

I schedule sessions on a weekday morning or evening because the sidewalks are always a little more cleared out, parks are usually emptier and we can schedule further out in advance. Weekends are for weddings and the occasional free day with my family. 🙂

NOTE: When we schedule the date for your engagement session will depend on what you want the end result of the photos to be.

If you don’t have a deadline for your photos and we’ll just be taking some awesome photos and hanging out, feel free to choose a time of year for your session depending on what you’d love to incorporate.  Ice cream cones and flowing dresses work well on warm days, bundled plaid layers are best in autumn and beach and campfire sessions are perfect for warm summer nights.

Good to know wedding deadlines:

Save the dates are pre-invitations usually sent out at least 4-6 months before the wedding.  Since the average edit time for engagement sessions is 4-6 weeks, I recommend scheduling your session at least 6 months out from your wedding day for Save The Date purposes.

When ordering a guest book or an engagement album to display at the wedding, I recommend scheduling the session at least 3 months before the wedding so I’ll have the time to edit your images, design your album, make any changes, order and deliver the final glorious product to you.

How to have an awesome engagement session - Sarah Maren PhotographyI hope after reading all this your heart rate has slowed and your excitement for your session has grown exponentially!  We are going to have a blast making a whole bunch of pretty together! I can’t wait to get to know you and your love better!!

Want some more inspiration?  Check out the Engagements gallery on my website to see a whole bunch of awesome!!


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