Everything you need to know about your engagement shoot...

As we head into May not only is it the start of wedding season for me it's also the busiest time for engagement pictures as the grass is now green, the flowers are blooming and the cold days of the snowless winter of 2011 are behind us. I send out a helpful little document to all of my couples before their engagement shoot but I thought it might be nice to share some of the information here plus it's easier to show you with pictures :)

Without further ado - here are my top seven tips for awesome engagement pictures

#1 Relax
I know the thought of having professional pictures taken can make some people freak out a little. I probably shoot around 25-35 engagement shoots every year and I promise you by the end the two of you will be super comfortable and relaxed. Also in the interests of relaxing don't overthink things. Engagement shoots are a little fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants. We'll wander around and I'll just look for some nice light. Let me worry about the exact locations for pictures.

#2 Location
Yup, location is part of the shoot if it's a place that has sentimental meaning to you both but here's a little secret. The location really isn't that important. These pictures are about the two of you. Enjoying life, enjoying each other. We're not trying to document every building and tree and sand dune. Engagement pictures are about people, not landscapes :) In this picture of Lauren & James we're actually at Bentley University which had a lot of meaning as it was where they met but in this picture we could be anywhere... Once in a while I'll have a couple who start off the shoot saying "Well, we want to take a picture on the bridge, and then one by the swan boats, and then one by the tulips, and then one on Comm Ave, and then one..." and I'll politely explain that it's better to just trust me and relax. Location is always secondary to the light. If I put a couple in an awesome location but the light on their faces is really harsh then they'll be squinting. Not a good look! By all means, tell me if there's one or two specific spots that are super important to you and I'll figure out what time we'll have the nicest light during the shoot. And just to prove my point, the next two pictures were all taken in parking lots. With nice light.

This is a parking lot in NH:

Another parking lot at St Anselm: And here is Daniella and Mark in front of the Sprint Store Window in NYC: And grass is grass. Maybe we're in the Public Gardens, maybe we're in a park in NH, maybe we're on a small patch of grass outside of Not Your Average Joes in Newburyport :) Happy 1 year anniversary to Diana & Jeff:

#3 Light
I mentioned it in #2 but photography is really all about the light. The most flattering soft golden light is usually in the couple of hours before sunset so this means during the summer months we'll probably start shooting around 5-6pm and in fall or spring maybe 4pm. I'm also a huge fan of night time pictures, especially if the location has a little twinkly light action going on and so in this case we'll start a little later to get some pictures once it's dark. During your engagement shoot I'll often find some beautiful light and suggest we hang out in that spot for a little bit. The nice thing is that when you get the pictures you'll be all "Ohhhh, now we get it, we DO look good!" and on the wedding day when I suggest you hang out in the parking lots you'll be running over there :)

#4 Be on time!!!
Engagement sessions are usually scheduled for late afternoon/early evening so you don't have to take the whole day off work and so we have some lovely soft flattering light before sunset. If we're scheduled to start at 7pm and sunset is at 8pm it's REALLY important to be on time. Remember to allow for rush hour traffic/not loving your first outfit/parking/having to iron a shirt/ spilling something on your top/getting lost etc etc #4 Relax some more
 On your wedding day I'm working like crazy and I have a strict no-drinking rule (I don't ever want a guest to be all "Ooooh, did you see the photographer? I think she was drunk!") but for engagement shoots I'm a little more chill and I love to meet up with couples a little early so we can all have a glass of wine or beer (or a coffee if you're non-drinkers). It helps you relax a little more and I can give you my "2 minute engagement shoot speech"

#5 You don't need to do anything ;)
 Sometimes we'll start out shooting and couples will ask me "But what do we DO?" to which I reply "Nothing. You don't need to DO anything! Just BE" and I explain that unless I ask you to look at me I want you to completely ignore me. And just try to imagine you're on a little date. Just the two of you. Hanging out on a bench or having a little kiss, holding hands, chatting etc. It can feel a little weird for the first 5 minutes but then you'll start to forget I'm there. And I'll be all "Seriously you guys, stop making out! I'm trying to take pictures here!"

Here are Melissa and Tom doing an awesome job of ignoring me:

#6 You also don't need to bring anything
Anything you bring will need to be carried by you (as I'm carrying the camera/lenses). Assuming you don't want to be carrying a backpack or clothing bag in your engagement pictures, it's better to leave anything either in the car or perhaps with the bellcaptain at a local hotel on our way (just tip them well, they're usually cool with holding a bag for an hour, especially if we have a drink there). So leave your purse, bulky keys, bulky wallets in pockets etc at home or in the car :) You can totally change outfits mid-way through the shoot if you'd like to, just leave your stuff hanging so it doesn't get wrinkled. I could be mistaken but I think Stephanie brought along a pair of flipflops for walking around:

#7 Be flexible!
Usually we have a plan in mind when we head out to shoot pictures but sometimes the best laid plans...so if we come across a last minute parade we might have to move! And if we get to the super popular and busy Public Gardens and one of you suddenly realizes you feel uncomfortable in crowds then we'll find somewhere quieter - here is a picture of Bridget & Matt in a very quiet area of Boston (good if you're feeling shy)

Hmmm, what other tips do I have for engagement shoots:
- Did I mention it's good to relax and not overthink things?
 - Throw in a pair of old flip flops if you're wearing killer heels so you're comfortable as we move between locations
- Wear sunscreen (this is good advice in general)
- Skip the tanning (it can lend an orange hue to your skin on camera, I can pull back the orange but then you'll look gray)
- Leave the sunglasses at home, you want to be able to really look at each other
- Professional hair and make up will be the smartest decision you make
- Put on your outfit and do a little dance in front of the mirror, make sure you love what you're wearing and it's not riding up/falling down/flashing your underwear!
- Make a dinner reservation afterwards, you'll be all dressed up and you can laugh over dinner about all the crazy things I made you do
- Skip the garlic nachos at lunch or bring some breathe mints - you might be making out :)
 - Trust me, it can be tempting to try to suggest I take a picture of you in front of every single tourist attraction but then your engagement pictures will look like postcards ;)

 If after reading this you're all "More!!! I want more!!!" and you're talking about engagement pictures you might like to click **here** to see the 28 engagement shoots I did last year. And **here** is a blog post filled with tips on what to wear to look your best on camera :)

And/or you might want to check out this little video all about engagement pictures in the words of my previous wedding couples:

That's it for today! I hope this is useful info!!! I found myself with a few days free of engagement shoots and my official 2012 wedding season doesn't start until May 12th (well, actually I've already shot two weddings this year but you know what I mean :) so I hopped on a flight to the UK for a few days. I've been hanging out with my family and my gran and took a few days off email/facebook/twitter and it's been rather lovely!

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