choosing the perfect time, location, outfit & more!
A NOTE ABOUT THIS GUIDE
I'm so excited to be working with you and I can’t wait for our time together during your engagement session! It’s normal to be a little nervous about your session. I always tell people that I still get nervous before having my photos taken - and I do this for a living!
I'm big fans of engagement sessions for a few reasons. First, they allow you to get comfortable in front of the camera. It takes time for most couples to warm up to being photographed and understand how I pose. Timelines can be pretty tight on weddings days and 30 minutes may be all we have for portraits - which is why I’ve found that wedding day portraits turn out so much better when couples do engagement sessions ahead of time.
Second, you can showcase your personalities in a more casual setting that is significant to the two of you (and even include pets!). It's perfect time for photos with the cows! While they’re great for save-the-dates, I’ve taken engagement photos anywhere from 18 months in advance to a few days before the wedding.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to planning a session and since I get asked the same things over and over again, I thought it would be the most beneficial if I put together a guide that walks you through everything you need to know.
I’ll cover what to wear, whether to bring pets & how to manage them, location ideas and more!
I get it! Having your picture taken for 1-2 hours might not be in your top-10 favorite things to do during your downtime. And at first you might feel sort of awkward being in front of the camera. But I think you’ll find that by the end of the session, it’s a lot easier than you thought, and you even had a little fun. These photos are important to her, because she loves you & she is proud of you. I look forward to our shoot because it’s a great opportunity for us all to hang out a bit before the wedding day.
A NOTE TO
Engagement sessions can take place anywhere from immediately following a proposal to just a few days before the wedding. I normally plan sessions based on a particular “look” a couple has in mind, spring flowers or fall leaves for example, or based on schedules.
Sessions typically last about an hour and a half & I love to begin sessions about two hours before sunset. I prefer to shoot when the sun is lower in the sky to avoid harsh shadows and bright sun patches.
I schedule sessions during what I believe will be the best light of the day - which means that it’s super important to be on time. If you’re late to an evening session, we could run out of light before I’ve finished shooting!
While I shoot most of my engagement sessions between May and late November, sessions can take place all year. Most of my couples choose a season based on the location where they want to shoot.
A few things to keep in mind during each season:
snowfall, hot cocoa and cozy coats
If you’re planning to take your engagement photos during the winter, keep in mind that if your session takes place in the evening, we could begin shooting as early as 2:30pm to catch the sunset. I recommend dressing in layers so that in between photos you can warm up. Make sure you bring a little extra makeup and tissues in case your nose begins running. Winter is the perfect time for richer colors like reds, greens and blues.
the season of new life on the farm
From the end of March through to Mid May every year I set down my camera in order to devote my attention to calving my families 150 commercial cow/calf pairs! If you'd like a spring engagement, its best to book it in the early spring months (Jan, Feb). We may have snow or dry brown scenery - both are beautiful!
cows are on pasture, life is good
In spite of the heat, I'm big fans of summer sessions! Because of the later sunset, sessions sometimes begin as late as 6pm. If you’re taking your engagement photos during the summer, we recommend bringing extra makeup and a few towels to make sure you stay fresh throughout your session.
colorful leaves and weaning calves
Fall is one of the prettiest times of the year on for us on the prairies but because of the fall color being so dependent on our weather (blizzards in September, anyone?), my schedule books up quickly with shoot dates and reschedules! If you have your heart set on a fall engagement session, we recommend scheduling it as soon as you book! Make sure your wardrobe takes hints from the natural scenery (burgundy, mustard yellow) but doesn't steal the show!
If your wedding is local, save the dates should be sent between 6 and 8 months before the wedding. For a destination wedding, you’ll want to send them out 8 to 10 months before the wedding.
If you’re hoping to use your engagement photos for your save the dates, I recommend scheduling your session at least two months before you plan to send out your save-the-dates. Between inclement weather, editing, designing your save-the-dates and printing, two months is generally a safe amount of time to make sure your images and cards are ready.
CENTRAL ALBERTA ENGAGEMENT LOCATIONS
When planning a location for your engagement session, think of your engagement session as a country music video starring the two of you. What would you be doing as part of your love story? It may be fitting to take your engagement portraits at your own farm, in a cow pasture, where you feel at home. If taking photos on the farm isn't an option, you can get adventurous and we can take your portraits in a flower-filled field at the Gathered, by a riverside, or with the Rocky Mountains as your backdrop along the Kananaskis trail. The best session locations are often meaningful places to the couple; however, I'm also happy to make recommendations.
A Cow Pasture
Any Iconic Buildings
Banff Upper Bankhead
Johnson Canyon Inkpots
Willow Lane Barn, Olds
Sweet Haven Barn, Huxley
Wright Family Barn, Airdrie
Train Bridge at Ardenode
The Garden at The Gathered, Airdrie
Grove of Trees, Airdrie
Grove of Trees, Cochrane
McKinnon Flats Riverside
The above locations are all beautiful but I also love exploring meaningful locations with my couples!
While I take most of my engagement sessions in the Central Alberta area,
I live just an hour & a half from the Kananaskis Trail & a 2 hour drive from Banff. My favorite time to photograph in the mountains is August (the blooming flowers) & September (fall color)! Usually I hop in your vehicle to carpool & socialize on the way, or I can drive separately. The sun disappears behind the mountains faster in the evenings, so we will start our session 2 hours before my regular start time. If we are lucky, we will get a cloudy day (no harsh light) to really highlight the mountains!
Travel fees may apply depending on the location and my availability.
As a breeder of Australian Shepherds, dogs are a huge part of my family, which is why I love when couples choose to incorporate pets into their session. My experience around dogs & the techniques I use to get your dogs attention means I have never missed an iconic shot of you with your dog!
I recommend planning for your pet to be at the first part of your session and then either dropping them off or having a friend take them home. I won’t use the pet in every single photo so it’s also nice to have a friend available to hold him or her in between shots. Or, bring a long leash I can tie onto my belt! Read More Here.
If you’re going to bring a pet, I recommend exercising your pet before the session and bringing your pets favorite toy or treats! Depending on your pet’s fur type, it might also be a good idea to groom them before the shoot.
TIPS FOR LOOKING YOUR BEST
When picking outfits I recommend keeping in mind the word “complement” rather than “match.” For example, if the groom-to-be is wearing a blue and pink pastel plaid shirt, the bride-to-be may want to choose a long, soft blue dress. The colors that photograph the best no matter the season are burgundy, navy blue & hunter green in conjunction with neutral colors like creams, tans and browns. Fabrics like denim, lace and leather photograph beautifully!
Generally couples pick two outfits for an engagement session: a more formal outfit and a casual outfit. I recommend saving your favorite outfit for later in the session, when couples usually feel more comfortable in front of the camera. And don’t forget to bring a few accessories! Statement necklaces, trophy buckles and classic watches are great ways to add detail to outfits.
find it fast
If you are wearing a dress, find a dressier pair of cowboy boots in a solid colour. Usually, that means Tin Hauls are off limits! For formal outfits, heels lengthen legs but if your heels aren’t comfortable for walking, bring an extra pair of shoes to slip into in between shots. Booties photograph amazing!
We love the way larger patterns photograph - just be careful not to choose a pattern that is too small - it may accidentally make your photo look a little too busy.
Softer, neutral colors tend to photograph better than bright colors - especially since bright colors could reflect on your skin. Bright, neon dresses are cool, but I don’t love the neon reflection they add to your complexion.
for the ladies
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Statement jewelry is a great way to add color or pattern to a simple dress.
Lace and tulle look amazing in photographs. If its the winter or fall, consider layering with a gorgeous scarf.
Dresses with lace sleeves are a great way to help slim arms. Kimono's & wraps are a great way to slim any problem areas.
Depending on your location, you might want to consider a fit and flare or a flowy dress! They look great in walking and photos with movement. Choose an outfit you feel comfortable in, but don’t be afraid to dress up!
for the ladies
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I am the preferred photographer for Central Alberta's B&B Boutique, my favorite stop for modern western clothing! Take a look at their lace dusters, rompers and dresses. All of her jewelry will pair well with them!
My Brides receive a 10% discount off their purchase with B&B Boutique!! Just ask me for your special discount code.
for the ladies
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Engagement sessions are the perfect time for a hair and makeup trial! Professionally done hair & makeup last longer than typical hair & makeup. They also tend to hold up better for humidity and wind.
I think it’s so important that you look and feel your best for your engagement photos - and if you’re planning to do a hair & makeup trial anyways, the engagement session is a great time to test how your hair & makeup look on camera.
for the ladies
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There will probably be times during your session when I'll be shooting your hands holding or the engagement ring on your hand - which means it’s a good idea to clean up your nails before your session (this applies to the guys too!).
for the ladies
find it fast
For your country engagement, a western button-down with jeans is a great look. If you want to upgrade your look, layer with a blazer! Consider pulling out that suit jacket you had to wear the last time you were a groomsmen.
Be careful not to choose a pattern that is too small - it may accidentally make your photo look a little too busy. Softer, pastel or neutral colors tend to photograph better than bright colors - especially since bright colors could reflect on your skin. Cozy sweaters layered over button ups are a great way to stay warm and stylish during the cooler months.
for the gents
When I can, I always try to take a photo of your ring during your engagement session - so it’s a good idea to have it cleaned or clean it yourself before your shoot! To clean at home, soak your ring in warm water with dishwashing soap for 20 to 40 minutes. Then gently brush the stone with a soft toothbrush, rinse and repeat if needed.
Make it Personal
horseback rides & tailgating
If you have any theme or activity in mind for your engagement shoot, I would LOVE to hear it! If you’re planning to bring props to your engagement session, I recommend including them only if they’re meaningful to you. Tailgating is always a cute idea, and a horseback ride is so romantic!! I've always dreamed of a hunting theme, campfire theme, or a fly fishing themed engagement.
When it comes to posing for your engagement session, you don’t need to worry about a thing! I’ll guide you through the entire process beginning with “poses” that are super easy and natural. If I tell you to do something that feels a little funny, it’s probably because I know it’s going to make the two of you laugh - and that’s the photo I'm actually looking for.
Throughout your session, I’ll keep an eye on your hair, makeup and outfits to make sure things stay in place. I want you to feel as relaxed as possible and enjoy your time together!
If you’re anything like myself, you probably don’t get dressed up all that often. Which means that the day of your engagement session is the perfect occasion for a date night!
The engagement session is another part of celebrating your love and heading off to dinner is a great way to end the session!
As soon as possible after your session is complete, your photos will be sent to my in-house editor. Unless I have a holiday closure, you can expect to receive your engagement photos between 3 and 4 weeks after your session!
I know that this guide is long and hopefully it covers everything you need to know to prep for your engagement session! However if there is something I missed, or you need a recommendation feel free to email