Engagement Sessions: My Giant List of Tips, Ideas, and Locations

August 24, 2019 , Advice

An engagement session is a couple’s portrait photography session prior to your wedding. It’s all about celebrating your love for each other, getting to know your photographer, and having some great portraits made that can be used for your save-the-dates, invitations, or displayed at your wedding itself.

Engagement sessions are typically casual and give you a chance to get to know your photographer without all the pressure of the wedding day. They usually take about 1-2 hours and are a lot of fun!

Your engagement session might be your very first time together as a couple in front of a camera. I put together a list of tips, ideas, and locations in northwest Washington that can help make your engagement session successful and fun.

1. My Tips for Great Engagement Sessions

Comfort is key

Shopping for a brand new outfit is fun and yes, your engagement session is the perfect reason for it… but I always emphasize how important it is for your outfits to be comfortable. If you do decide to get everything brand new (and really, who can blame you!?), make sure you wear it at least once before your shoot to make sure it fits and feels great. You don’t want to find out your shoes give you blisters when you’re out in the middle of your shoot! Which leads to my next tip…

Engaged couple in Zuanich Park at Sunset

A great attitude leads to great photos

If you’re in pain or unhappy, it’s going to have an affect on your photos. If you don’t feel comfortable, your won’t look comfortable. This goes for personalities too… make sure you get along with the photographer you choose. If your photographer is uncomfortable to be around, imagine spending 10 hours with them on your wedding day!

Your engagement session is meant to be fun for everyone. Make sure you and your partner don’t view it as a chore!

Change up your looks

I suggest bringing a couple different outfits – one casual and one slightly dressier. For example, casual clothes may work better for more casual photos like running down a path, scrambling over rocks, etc. while classier outfits can look better for slightly more formal shots. This way you get photos that could be used for slightly different purposes, and it can give the impression you’ve had more than one portrait session. (By the way, engagement sessions are a great way to have nice photos of yourselves other than your wedding portraits where you’ll be in your wedding dress and suit).

Wear complementary outfits

I recommend that my couples wear outfits which complement each other rather than match. What does that mean? Well, try not to wear the exact same colors (you aren’t twins!), but do pick colors that go well together. You can get ideas pretty easily from moodboards on Pinterest or elsewhere online. Also, I suggest avoiding shirts with big logos or words because they can be distracting. But ultimately you should choose outfits that feel normal to you!

Prepare the day before your engagement session

Take some time the day before your shoot to get everything together, cleaned, ironed, and steamed! Make sure your accessories are in one place, any wrinkles in your clothing are history, and any stains / spots are busted well before the shoot. I’ll remind you that your session is coming up a few days beforehand, so you’ll have plenty of time and no excuses to be well prepared. Being relaxed before your session is key to beautiful, natural images.

Use your engagement session to trial your wedding hair and makeup team

This is a big one! I always tell my clients to think very seriously about having hair and makeup professionally styled for their engagement photos (if that’s your thing!) This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for you, and you’ll have these photographs for many, many years. Hiring a professional will ensure you look your absolute best on camera. As a bonus, have your hair and makeup done by your wedding stylists: this will give you and them a chance to perfect your look for your wedding day.

Long & flowy = romance

If you’re looking for a dreamy, romantic look in your images, I highly suggest choosing outfits that are long and flowy. Look for long, romantic dresses or flowy skirts in gauzy fabric that catch the breeze and the light. High heels and delicate, sparkly jewelry add a finishing touch! And then make sure your partner’s outfit has a complementary feel.

Engagement Photos at Boulevard Park, Bellingham, Washington

Just be yourselves

This will depend on your photographer, but I want my couples to know that their engagement session are about them. They’re not magazine models, we’re not in a studio, we’re making photographs that show their personalities and celebrate their love for each other. So don’t be afraid to tell your photographer what you want!

Really this gets back to the common theme: relax and have fun. Your photographs will be the very best they can be!

2. Ideas for what to do during your engagement session

Here’s a list of great ideas for your engagement sessions. Some are a little out of the ordinary. I highly recommend doing something that feels natural to you, but maybe this list will give you some engagement session ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise!

  • Go for a hike
  • Walk on the beach
  • Your morning routine at home (make coffee, listen to records, etc.)
  • Visit a cute coffee shop
  • Get ice cream cones
  • Take an evening walk downtown
  • Mountain bikers? Get you photographer to ride along and make it an adventure shoot!
  • Rent kayaks or canoes
  • Stay at home movie night (complete with giant bowl of popcorn and boxes of candy)
  • Go full out on a sunset portrait session
Bellingham wedding photography
  • Explore your city – find brick walls, alleyways, and cool buildings
  • Go wine tasting
  • Just explore a pretty place! Planning your engagement session around a specific activity can be fun, but it’s also perfectly great to just explore a great location and do portraits in a variety of spots!

3. Great engagement session locations

Engagement session locations are almost limitless, especially if you think outside the box. Remember that a good photographer can work magic from a location that seems really ordinary. Here’s just a SMALL selection of possible engagement session locations in northwest Washington to get your creativity flowing!

  • Harbor/Marina
  • North Cascades National Park
  • Downtown La Connor
  • Zaunich Park, Bellingham
  • Tacoma’s Museum of Glass
  • Pioneer Square, Seattle
  • Larrabee State Park
  • Tennant Lake, Ferndale
  • Western Washington University campus
  • Woodstock Farm, Bellingham
  • Rosario Beach, Deception Pass State Park
  • Woodinville Wineries
  • Fort Casey, Coupeville
  • Your home!
  • Your favorite coffee shop
  • Washington Park Arboretum
  • Horseshoe Bend trail (hwy 542)
  • A greenhouse (excellent for rainy days!)
  • Artist Point and Heather Meadows (hwy 542)
  • Secret river spots (shhh!)
  • Galbraith Mountain for (biking, hiking, or pretty nature!)
  • Squalicum Beach, Bellingham
  • Fremont neighborhood, Seattle
  • Lake Union Park, Seattle
  • Ravenna Park, Seattle
  • Waterfront Park, Seattle
  • Semiahmoo, Blaine
  • North Beach, Deception Pass State Park
  • Washington Park, Anacortes
  • Boulevard Park, Bellingham

There you have it! My best tips and ideas for killer engagement sessions. I hope this is helpful when it comes time to plan yours!

If you’re in the middle of planning your wedding, or just getting started, check out this guide: How to make sure your wedding day will be perfect and stress free

Still looking for a venue: Here’s a list of 75 of the best wedding venues in Bellingham, Seattle, and across northwest Washington