How To Prepare Your Heart for Your Engagement Session (And Some Practical Tips Too!)

It's March, y'all, one of my FAVORITE seasons of the year! Not only because we literally jump from winter to spring overnight.... not only because the flowers and trees begin blooming like crazy... but because it's the beginning of wedding and engagement season!

 A spring engagement session is the perfect time to wear that flowy, flowery dress!

A spring engagement session is the perfect time to wear that flowy, flowery dress!

I know so many of you sweet brides & grooms out there are getting ready for your engagement sessions, and that can be a stressful process! I mean, most of us don't dress up and go out and get our pictures taken very often, right? And many times, your photographer is someone you have NEVER met, or that your barely know, and that can add to the feeling of uncertainty. I mean, who IS this person behind the camera??

When a precious new bride & groom to be invite me to be part of their wedding journey, before I start listing out my practical tips for their e-session, we talk about the biggest stress factor: the idea of having to "perform for the camera."

This is one of the things that stresses EVERYONE out! So one of the very FIRST things I tell our sweet clients is this: I put absolutely no expectations on you! I don't expect you to become someone you're not when I raise my camera. You are under NO PRESSURE to perform or be super romantic or impress anyone or make the next photo that blows up all over Pinterest.  ZERO PRESSURE HERE.

 A spring engagement session is also a perfect time to rock suspenders and a bow tie and an adorable t-shirt and tulle skirt!

A spring engagement session is also a perfect time to rock suspenders and a bow tie and an adorable t-shirt and tulle skirt!

And the other thing we might talk about is vulnerability. Because being photographed is a very vulnerable thing to do, y'all! We all have this picture of who we are in our mind, and another picture of how we want others to see us... and the gap between the two can make most of us veeerrrryyy uncomfortable. When we take selfies, we can usually manage to get a picture that matches the "for others" image - especially with the help of a few filters! But when SOMEONE ELSE is taking the pictures, you're not in control.

UNCOMFORTABLE MOMENT, right?

(Because, personally, I really REALLY don't want the world to know how deep my crow's feet are getting!)

So there can be a sense of stress or even dread when you've got a photography session coming up. You can make all the practical preparations you want - pick the perfect outfits, make the cutest props, and get the perfect stylist lined up - but if that dread is there, you're not going to enjoy planning your session at all! 

So one of my goals as a wedding photographer is to remove some of that stress and ALL of the dread BEFORE I meet my clients for their session!

 Katy-Whitten and Brandon actually had their e-session in January, but it felt like spring outside!

Katy-Whitten and Brandon actually had their e-session in January, but it felt like spring outside!

How do I do that?

By telling you that I understand. I GET IT. This is not something you do everyday, and that's okay. It's okay to be nervous. It's okay to feel awkward and unprepared. It's absolutely okay to feel vulnerable, and if you do feel vulnerable, I am going to be super gentle with that feeling. I'll ask you way ahead of time what makes you nervous about being photographed. I'll ask you about the places that make you happy, or where you feel most comfortable. What makes you laugh? What makes you feel treasured? What makes you feel safe?

And on the day of your session, I'll come prepared. I'll bring my equipment, but I'll also bring what you've shared with me. I'll bring my small collection of mostly bad jokes. I'll bring snacks. I'll bring my camera, but I'll also bring empathy. I'll give you coaching if you need it. or I'll just step back and let the magic happen. I'll bring my favorite lenses, but I'll also bring my prayers for you and your life together. 

I will do my absolute level best to help you forget about that scary camera in my hand, and focus on your sweetheart and the bright, wide open future in front of you. Plus make you laugh. And help you just breathe.

 Madeline and Thomas, imagining their sweet future during their engagement session in Natchez!

Madeline and Thomas, imagining their sweet future during their engagement session in Natchez!

So once we talk about the big boogers of pressure and vulnerability and kick the Mean Girl called "I Hate How I Look" out of the room (don't you just get sick of listening to her??) then we get down to fun practical stuff. Are you ready to talk about fun practical stuff? Me too!

I coach my clients to ask themselves these questions as they think about the details of their session:

Think of places that are meaningful to you. Do you love the outdoors, or do you love old-fashioned downtown streets? Do you love an urban/edgy feel? Are you most comfortable at home? What environments do you feel happiest in?

Would props - signs, bubbles, smoke bombs, vehicles, books, coffee, sparklers, etc. - add fun to your experience? Or would trying to pull something like that together stress you out? Because if it adds stress instead of fun, it's likely not really YOU. (This is true about including your pet! If including your puppy or kitty will absolutely be fun for you, then by all means bring them too! But if the thought of managing your fur baby for a photo session gives you a headache, it's perfectly okay to let them stay home!)

 Amanda and Jamie's fur babies were a hoot at their engagement session! And that's just how I like them to be!

Amanda and Jamie's fur babies were a hoot at their engagement session! And that's just how I like them to be!

Do you both love the same activities? Or are you completely opposite when it comes to what you love to do? It can be so fun to play up how you are different as well as how you are alike!

What do you REALLY like to wear? Do you thrive on dressing up and feeling fancy, or are you happiest in a t-shirt and jeans? Don't cave to Pinterest pressure to look or dress a certain way!

Here's a big one: 

When your great grand babies are looking at your photos one day, what do you want them to see about the two of you? Yeah, I know, I went THERE! Cue the tears! But that's a big part of what these photos are FOR, y'all. Sure they're for sharing on social media and making Save the Dates, but they're really there to save the story of your love for your future family. Okay, moving on before I choke myself up...

 Once upon a time, a boy met a girl, and that's where your family story begins.

Once upon a time, a boy met a girl, and that's where your family story begins.

Sweet brides, do you want to get your hair and makeup done for your engagement session, or do you want your natural beauty to shine? Scheduling a hair & makeup session for your e-session helps some of us to feel confident and extra special, but for others it just adds stress! It can be a fun way to give a hair/makeup artist a trial run for the wedding, though, and give you a reason to celebrate the end of your session with a fancy dinner out (hint, hint, guys!)

And speaking of the guys, here's one last down-to-earth, let's-be-real tip just for you:

Hey, I get it. For some of y'all all this fuss over pictures can seem a little crazy, right? And maybe you're not a guy that likes to get all mushy in front of a camera. I know that this is probably pushing you WAY out of your comfort zone. But you're not doing this for me.... you're doing this for HER. So talk to your sweetie about what she hopes your session will be like. Think about what you admire and love about her and how you can tell her and show her that during your session. Before the day, look over other engagement session galleries with her, especially ones by your own photographer - checking out their work will help you know what to expect.

Guys, if being photographed is absolutely NOT your thing, it's okay! I promise, if you go into the experience with a heart of love, determined to bless your sweet bride-to-be by fully jumping into the experience, your investment of your positive attitude & support will pay off, big time! Plus, you want your grandsons to see where they got their good looks from, right?

Finally, sweet bride and grooms, don't look at your engagement session as just "taking photos."

It's a CELEBRATION of the love the two of you have found in each other! I hope this post took away some of the stress and negativity you might have been feeling, and I very much hope it gives you a little fun inspiration to work with as you plan! Happy engagement season, y'all!