How to make a creative engagement session experience and unique engagement photos
I assume you've clicked on this blog because you're early in your engagement journey. If so I would just like to start by saying congratulations on this new and 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, personalization and customization necessary to make sure it all echos your persona 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 and encourage them in finding 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 other than 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, does anyone ever stop to think... "why do we opt in for the same engagement session experience?" Why is it always the same and why does that example come to mind when we think "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 wanted what would you do?
That was the starting point of what became an inspiring change in the way I conducted engagement sessions. That questions 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 bar and skee-ball joint. After a few email exchanges 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
PJ and Kaitlyn are photography enthusiasts that really have an eye for wildlife photography in the Northwest Houston area. They shared with me how much they love photographing birds and have even caught a few bald eagles in the area. It made sense keep their session close to the nature and incorporate their cameras. It always makes being in front of the camera easier when you have or are doing something familiar to you which is why I love for couples to bring actual physical objects if relevant to their engagement session.
4. Draw inspiration from current events
Moriah and Mag already had a love 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 so badly wanted the apocalyptic vibe complete with the plague masks. This was was the fall of 2020 and it was such a breath of fresh air to see them really lean into the horror and mess that was 2020 and make light of it. Not to mention 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 far away
If you have the opportunity or you and your partner are always bitten by the travel bug, take your engagement session somewhere out there! Weather its a road trip or a boat trip or a plan trip away, make it happen! Your session should excite you and spark creativity and make you feel all sorts of things. This session is supposed to exemplify you and your favorite things!
6. Go to your favorite bar/restaurant
This one is for you city people who love the restaurant and bar scene in the heart of the concrete jungle. 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
Now, I got one for you introverts out there (my people!). Maeve and John know what they're about. They are about their love for cocktails making, their cats, and their sanctuary. No frills and no fluff, all they wanted was simplicity. We captured images of 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. Bring the indoors outdoors
This is a small twist on tip number seven. Skylar and Kyle also love couch cuddles but didnt want to totally abandon the idea of an outdoor shoot in nature. In sheer creativity, they combined the two and brought a blue velvet mini sofa to a park for their session. It was wonderful to see them enjoy the best of both worlds in one perfect little sunrise engagement session
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9. Lean into your youthfulness
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 private rooftop building 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 or have never been in front of a professional photographer before and are scared they wont be able to act natural. Doing a hobby completely takes you mind off the fact that you're being photographed and on to the activity you are doing. AND it's a win-win because you will have great artistic photos of you and your partner enjoying your hobby.
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 of too many (or any) venue spaces, ask your photographer. Chances are they know of or have shot at every venue in the area 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
Oh how 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 happens seamlessly! Not to mention its a really great way to escape the summer heat.
13. Chase the birds
If none of the above appeal to you or you feel you are missing the means to make any of it happen 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 bam! you got yourself a fun date like activity you can basically do anywhere! And the pure fun something like this elicits is very photogenic!
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 you like or 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!