1. CHOOSE A LOCATION THAT IS TOTALLY “YOU

This little tip makes numero uno on the list for two reasons. One, usually the first step in planning your engagement session is choosing the location. Two, the location will affect the overall mood of your engagement or couples session. Think about it, you have weather to account for which will impact your mood. If we are photographing your engagement session in 100 + degree weather in the middle of a Temecula vineyard with no shade you may not be feeling the most comfortable. You will be hot and sweaty the sun blaring in your eyes making you squint all of the above may not bring out your most cuddly, romantic or silly selves.

The setting’s familiarity can affect your overall comfort of the engagement session as well. If you’re at all nervous about being in front of the camera for your engagement session (which face it, we all have a little case of nerves with new experiences) don’t heighten that by being in entirely new and unfamiliar surroundings. Choose a place you know well, that puts you at ease and it will definitely help you open up more in front of the camera giving you more honest imagery for your engagement session. How public the location may be also will affect the mood, Balboa Park will always be swarming with people, if you want an engagement session that really reflect who the two of you are and don’t feel like you can be your honest most vulnerable selves in the hustle and bustle of big crowds then I’d leave the super public places behind. Think about the mood you want in your photos, the surrounds will affect that mood immensely so choose to be surrounded by what the two of you love the most. Is it the beach, hiking, mountains, snow, the desert?

The only thing that matters is that it’s a location where you can feel the most you.

2. MAKE A DAY OF IT

Yup, you heard us right. We encourage you to make an entire day of it. If you woke up at 5am, sat in bumper to bumper traffic to get to a job that you hate and then did the same thing to get home just to have to hurry up and change and then rush to your shoot do you think you’re going to be feeling in the moment during your engagement or couples session? Probably not. Try to go a day without the errands and hustle and bustle of every day life. Take the day for the two of you. Sleep in, cuddle, have breakfast together, go to lunch, do a few of your favorite activities together. Really tap into each other and why we even scheduled this couples session in the first place. Because in this world of uncertainty theres one thing that is certain and that is that you don’t want to live without one another, damn thats powerful and we need to celebrate that kind of love! Don’t look at this as another wedding chore, this is for you two to have a day together to document where you were in this exciting stage of your life and to be able to look back and relive all of these exciting emotions you’re feeling in this stage of your relationship.

3. LOOSEN UP

We mean this literally, sometimes if we can sense your nerves we will take a moment to all just literally loosen up and shake them off, one awkward shake of the limb at a time, we aren’t afraid to look silly. Having a drink together beforehand can really help too. Whether that’s just the two of you getting some time together or if you wanted to meetup with us before hand we are open to it. Of course an alcoholic beverage will loosen you up more than a cup of coffee but if drinking ain’t your thang that’s fine too, we can meet you for coffee. Having that time together beforehand to find a little common ground and get to know one another before we start putting a camera in your face can be transformative for your couples or engagement session. We don’t expect you to show up and be models, it’s important to remember you’re not here to put on some kind of performance for us. We are here for the two of you. We are here to celebrate your unique love.

4. YOU DO YOU

When it comes down to what to wear, this piece of advice reigns king, you do you! We want you to be comfortable because if you’re not it will be an uphill battle to draw out your personalities. Also keep in mind the location you chose, heels on a mountain top or the beach probably aren’t going to work out very well. Some of our couples dress it up and others keep it casual. We are partial to wearing something that can blow a little in the wind if you choose an outdoor location but that’s just us. Also we are so happy to weigh in and give you an opinion. Lay out your ideas snap a picture and we would be happy to tell you from a photographers perspective which of your outfit options would be best. Layering your outfit for your engagement session always seems to work well because you change up the look of your outfit without physically having to go and change, you can transform the look of your photos just by removing a jacket or sweater or adding a hat.

5. HONESTY IS ALWAYS THE BEST POLICY

If you create a mood board and are drawn to those really intimate snuggling photographs, or the ones that are candid and the couple is just cracking up well you have to meet us half way to get those kind of images. We need you to be honest with us. Honest with what kind of couple you are touchy feely, more hands off, uncomfortable with PDA? There is no right or wrong but if you let us tap into your dynamic you’ll get photos that are infused with your personality as a couple. Most importantly, it will make the photos mean a lot more to you. We have had couples who have told us they show affection in ways other than touch but still wanted to get some of those more intimate photos. We are there to help guide you with posing, prompts and questions to nurture an environment that will bring out whatever it is you’re looking to exude. Most couples are multi-faceted so just let us know, hey we are goofy and romantic, a little bit country and a little bit rock n’ roll (you get it). Also let us know if you want more specific instruction for poses, we are totally happy to do that for you and posing is one of the areas we shine, just speak up we don’t bite.

6. IMAGINE WE GO WAY BACK

Imagine we go way back and don’t hold back. Easier said than done we know. But we want you two to create the mood for the shoot with your dynamic, so if you can imagine for a second that we aren’t strangers putting a camera in your face and rather old friends taking photos of you as we all vacation in a beautiful location instead that’s be great, k thanks. Okay, that’s a stretch and i’m sure would be difficult but meeting up before your couple or engagement session can help us all break the ice, find some common ground and feel more comfortable with one another before we start taking photos.

The MOST important thing here is if you imagine we are old friends you won’t act how you think you should be acting, we aren’t here expecting you to be models, truly we have no expectations because you aren’t here for us, we are here to document a day with the person you love for you. Our goal is of course to get you beautiful images but even more than that give you two an experience. At the end of an engagement session we hope you two leave feeling even more in love and connected to one another. So put aside what you think an engagement session should look like and make it an experience adventuring with your love and a new couple you’re hoping to vibe with.

7. EMBRACE THE ALCHEMY OF CHANCE

It may rain, haven’t had it happen on an engagement session yet but definitely have had it pouring cats and dogs at a few weddings we photographed. What does happen a lot, and we absolutely love it when it does, is the wind taking your hair and massaging all over your head, across your lovers face and in your lipgloss that you just applied. We say EMBRACE it, if you’re stressed and keep taking breaks to manicure your hair, touch up your lipstick etc. it can throw off the vibe we are trying to build up together. Building a mood is a snowball effect and we need to keep rolling that snowball in the emotions we want to get it to grow bigger and bigger. If we keep taking breaks it can flatten the mood, so if a wave splashes your butt and you look like you peed your pants its okay, we promise it will be something you remember and laugh about later. So you may get a little wet, a little dirty and a little wind blown but in the end it will all have been worth it.

8. PACK LIGHTLY or DON’T

This is totally your call. I think it’s important to keep props in mind with the location you chose. If we are parking somewhere quite a hike from where we will be shooting your engagement session you probably don’t want to be lugging around a huge picnic basket or other props. Things like smoke bombs can be fun but keep in mind if the location will allow it without the possibility of getting caught and fined. The other thing to consider is if you have props you will be interacting with those more than with your love so the photos with the props won’t have quite the same intimacy as just the two of you in a human pretzel or laughing together while snuggled up would.

9. MOOD BOARDS ARE ALWAYS WELCOMED

Do you love a particular engagement or couples session of ours that you saw a blog post on and loved? Tell us! We don’t recreate images because what fun is that? But we can get a better idea of the overall feel your’e going for if we see a little photo inspo. Your mood board doesn’t even need to consist of couples photos. It can have wardrobe inspiration, location inspiration, mood inspiration with images like cozy sweaters a fireplace and a cuddly couch etc. You get the idea the more inspiration you can pull the better idea we will have of what it is you’re looking to evoke.

10. OUR STYLE: ANTI-CAMERA AWARE

So when we first get started it’s always just getting used to being in front of the camera. It can be nerve wracking not knowing what to do or how to act. We don’t normally take a lot of “camera-aware” photographs. We try to get you two interacting with each other as much as we can. It can be hard because since we were all small children we have been trained to look at the camera and say “cheese”. We always get what we like to call “The Mom Shot” where we have you both looking directly at the camera because mom’s love your little faces and want to see them but after that we want you to forget we are there as much as humanly possible and just enjoy one another’s company.

What we don’t want is to put you into a pose with one another and tell you to kiss and then have you kiss and look at us right after for further instruction. We want you to just keep interacting with one another, if we yell out for a kiss go in slow, work it! after the kiss do what feels natural (go in for more, cuddle, hug tightly, laugh, whisper in one another’s ear about how goofy your photographers are) whatever feels right just do that. Sometimes we give an instruction and the best images that come out of that instruction are the moments just before the thing we told you to do and the moments just after, so if you can trust our process and get lost within each other you are going to get the best outcome.

We will try to get you to forget about us by giving you tasks. Something as simple as walking together or “go and cuddle under that tree” while we shoot from a far are some things you can expect. We also try to make it a memorable experience for the two of you. This is such an amazing time in both of your lives and we want you to leave your engagement session with us feeling even more connected and in love with one another. We try to make it more of an experience for the two of you rather than a few hours of being put into poses in different locations. We do this through games, through questions and prompts the point of all of them is to get you beautiful images while giving you a memorable experience that draws out your emotions for one another.

11. MAKE A PLAYLIST OR FALL VICTIM TO OURS

Make a playlist! We love using Spotify for this, otherwise you’ll be groovin’ to ours, Lumineers anyone? Music really helps set the mood and allows you two to just relax, don’t be surprised if we ask you to practice your first dance! What better way to do it than with the actual song? This will also help drown out the sound of our shutter going off, because if you’re nervous who wants to hear “click, click, click.” So let’s go out adventure together like old friends, groove to some tunes, have a drink together and capture this stage of your love, so you can look back and remember how hot n heavy ya’ll once were ;).