I assume you've clicked on this blog because you're early in your engagement journey. If so, I would like to start by saying congratulations on this exciting time. There are so many great things you will encounter throughout the planning phase. The engagement session is just one of them! Just like the wedding, every decision you make from decor to who attends, it all should echo your character and story.
My favorite part of being a wedding photographer is the transcendence from Sonder to Story. I feel it's my job as a photographer to help support couples find ways to incorporate their character into everything we do during our 6-12 month relationship. After all, todays images are tomorrows nostalgia, so why would anyone want to have photos that echo anything outside of their own uniqueness.
After seeing hundreds of engagement session in a field, during sunset, in a dress, dip & kiss, spin around... blah blah blah, you wonder, have we ever stopped to think... "why do we copy and paste the same engagement session experience?" And why does this scenario come to mind when we imagine an engagement session?
I challenge my couples to break the mould by asking them one simple question:
If you could have a day/evening to do anything you want, what would you do?
That was the starting point of what became an inspiring change in the way I conducted engagement sessions. That question alone, ignited my couples to think outside the box.
What did they REALLY want to do?
I've taken a collection of all the answers I've gotten over the years and created this blog in hopes that you don't waste the opportunity to curate a fun, interesting and super unique engagement session experience AND images that bring back all the nostalgia.
1. Recreate your first date
Recreating the first date can be a lot of fun (depending on your first date of course lol)! Marissa and Josh met at film school here in Austin, Texas and had their first date at Full Circle Bar that doubles as a skee-ball arcade. After a few email exchanges with the owner, I was able to get them in before business hours for a portion of their engagement session.
*use arrows to scroll through all slideshows*
2. Incorporate your love for Food
Did you and your partner meet at a fast food place or do you bond over your love for a quick drive through meal? Why not make it a part of your engagement session? These two LOVE Taco Bell (and tacos in general) so much there wasn't any way around making it a focal point of their session. Not only did we snag images in a Taco Bell but they ordered 20 or so Tacos to munch on around Austin's South Congress.
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3. Bring or do something that bonds you
If it's wildlife photography at your favorite lookout spot like PJ & Kaitlin, biking together like Amelia & Matthew, or your love for renaissance festivals and homemade meat pie like Ros & Wayne, make it about your story and the unique things you like to do together
4. Draw inspiration from current events
Moriah and Mag already had a love for all things dark and spooky. She was actually the first ever to tell me she HOPED it rained on their engagement session day (and it did) because her and Mag wanted the apocalyptic vibe complete with the plague masks she bought for their session. This was fall of 2020 and it was such a breath of fresh air to see them lean into and make light of the mess that was 2020. It was SO FUN as a photographer to do an engagement shoot like this. It was full force creative fun for all of us. No doubt this was and IS still one of my favorite engagement sessions to date!
5. Jetset somewhere
If you have the opportunity and you and your partner are always bitten by the travel bug, take your engagement session somewhere out there! Whether its a road trip or a boat trip or a plane ride away, make it happen! Your session should excite you and spark creativity! Don't be shy, this session is supposed to exemplify you and your favorite things!
6. Go to your favorite bar/restaurant
This one is for the people who love the restaurant and bar scene in the heart of the city. Depending on your location of choice, most places will let you in an hour before working hours for a fee. If you're lucky some will let you in without a fee! Whatever you do, be sure to ask permission. Showing up with your photographer for a full on paid shoot on private property is a sure way to get kicked out, fined, or both.
7. Big homebody? Do an in-home session
Dont' worry, I got one for you introverts out there (my people!). Maeve and John know what they're about. They love cocktail making, their cats, and the peace and quite of their home. No frills and no fluff, all they wanted was simplicity. We captured them sipping homemade cocktails and couch cuddles together with their cats. Remember that your session doesn't have to top anything you've seen and it doesn't have to be complicated, it just has to be you.
8. Make it about your story
Katie and Eric met on the ATX metro. After months of small talk and their ride to and from work, Eric slipped Katie his card and said she should email him. Your story is unique and if there is a practical way it can be incorporated into your engagement shoot, I say, it's worth it!
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9. Rooftop Pizza Party
Like an indy team film, Addy and Nolan drew on their youthfulness and the fact that they have been together since high school. I took them to a rooftop building located in downtown ATX where they had a little pizza party on skateboards and watch the city work and rush beneath their very unhurried time together.
10. Incorporate a hobby
When you are preoccupied with an activity you love it's so easy to forget you're being photographed. This is a win for those who are extremely camera shy and fear that they wont be able to act natural. Engaging in a hobby completely takes your mind off the fact that you're being photographed and on to the activity you are doing. AND it's a win-win when you have professional photos of you two doing your thing together.
11. Book a venue that suits you overall vibe
Did you know that a lot of venues will rent their space out by the hour? Is there a venue that has a space that you really love? Maybe one that speaks to your dark academia alter-ego, then book it! If you like the idea but don't know enough venue spaces, ask your photographer. Chances are they have a mental library of venues they have worked at and can point you in the right direction for the vibe you are looking for. In this session Paul and Robyn did a passionate dark academia styled couples shoot and brought a little liquid courage to help them loosen up for those implicitly sensual photographs.
12. Submerge yourselves
I love when couples are down to jump in the water. Whether you want a playful summer feel or a steamy romantic vibe to your photographs, a body of water is such a versatile place to make both happen seamlessly! Not to mention its a really great way to escape the summer heat.
13. Chase the birds
If nothing above appeals to you or feels authentic, a simple a fun thing to do is find a place where animals congregate and feed them! Every town has birds, or a random pond with geese that will eat out of your hands. All you need is a box of cereal or old rice and VIOLA you got yourself a fun date like activity you can basically do anywhere! And the pure fun something like this elicits, is very photogenic!
13. Plant Lovers
It's no secret us millennials and Gen Z'ers love our plants. If you're one of us there are several nurseries around austin that allow photo sessions for a small fee. This session was done at Tillery Street Plant Co. and at the time of the session it was a $50 fee. Not bad for a unique, lush, and beautiful backdrop for your engagement session.
13. Do something Classic to your location
Hailey & Neil are austin locals and there are few things more Austin than a retro boat rental on Lady Bird Lake.
Do you like what you see? I'd love for you to follow along on Instagram @RebekahPaulPhoto
Leave a comment below, ask me any question or let me know how this blog helped you think outside the box and create a personalized, fun, and creative engagement session. I can't wait to hear from you!