The Engagement Session: The Purpose

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The main purpose of the engagement session for me (and the reason why they're a permanent part of our wedding packages) is getting our clients comfortable in front of the camera.

The engagement session is a warm up for the wedding day. Most couples have never been professionally photographed before, and we hear from a lot of them (especially the grooms) that they feel awkward in front of the camera. In 2017, I took an entire course specifically on posing so I could be even better at helping our couples look and feel natural on camera. And I want them to ENJOY their session too!

I start our engagement sessions by teaching my clients my simple four-part posing structure. In just 5 minutes, they've learned everything they need to know. I know that the photos I take during the first 5 minutes or so are going to feel a bit awkward and look a bit staged. That's totally normal, because most people are used to taking selfies, not professional portraits. These are our practice shots. After we walk through the posing structure and my clients are feeling more confident, we can move on to locations with really beautiful light and get a posing flow going.

But trust me, even with all that teaching and instruction, I never leave my clients out to dry and expect them to 'just be cute' for the camera! I always tell them that it's my job to give direction, and they don't need to worry about what to do with their hands or when they should look at the camera.

Not only does the engagement session help our couples, but it helps me as well! The engagement session shows me what kind of direction each couple needs and what poses are best for them. How do they interact with each other? Do they need reminders to stand up straight or to relax their hands? (Next time we see each other, ask me about spatula hands!) How does their height difference influence posing? (Certain pose variations work best with different height ratios, so the engagement session gives us a chance to work out which poses work best for a particular couple.)

Cherry Blossom Engagement Session at Norfolk Botanical Garden-114.jpg

When the couple is comfortable in front of the camera and I know what direction they need  and what poses work best for them, we can fly through wedding day portraits! And we usually don't have a lot of time on the wedding day. If our clients choose to do a first look, we might be lucky enough to have an hour and use multiple locations around the venue. But it's not very unusual for me to have only 30 minutes (or even less!) for bride and groom portraits when the couple chooses not to do a first look, so we don't have time for a warm up on the wedding day. We have to dive right in and get moving!

We've worked with many couples who weren't initially interested in doing an engagement session, because they didn't understand how it would impact their wedding day! I always tell couples who aren't sure that it's not really about getting pretty pictures at all. It's worth doing an engagement session even if you don't think you'll ever use the photos. Because your wedding day portraits will be THAT much better!

The engagement session is exactly what they need to go into wedding day portraits with confidence!

Want to read more tips for your engagement session?
Choosing a Location
My Favorite Hampton Roads Locations
What To Wear
What Not to Wear
Shopping for an Engagement Session Dress
What Happens if it Rains
The Purpose
Getting to Know Your Photographer
How I Chose My Outfits
10 Final Tips

Stephanie & Jonathan - A Military Wedding at Fort Monroe

Stephanie & Jonathan - A Military Wedding at Fort Monroe

Jonathan and Stephanie stood in the entryway of the Commanding General's Residence, surrounded by their guests. One hand holding his glass, the other wrapped around his new wife, Jonathan addressed the crowd. He thanked them for traveling so very far to witness their marriage and beyond that, thanked them for their shaping influence in his and Stephanie's lives. They had encouraged him. Challenged him intellectually. Supported his hopes and dreams for the future. Showed him by example the kind of man he should be. They made him the man Stephanie would one day fall in love with. And others, in turn, had done the same thing for her.

Jonathan acknowledged that he and Stephanie would not be celebrating their marriage that day if it was not for each of the people standing in the room with them.

Because that's the kind of people that Jonathan and Stephanie are. When the spotlight shines on them, they push it out to others. And when their loved ones travel hundreds and thousands of miles to celebrate their special day, they focus instead on hosting those people thoughtfully and generously.

The Engagement Session: Getting to Know Your Photographer

The Engagement Session: Getting to Know Your Photographer

The engagement session serves many purposes, and one of those is the opportunity to get to know your wedding photographer. This is a big deal! I'm going to spend 6-8 hours with you on one of the most important days of your life!  So it's important that you feel comfortable around me! And beyond that, doing an engagement session is like a trial run of the entire wedding photography process:

Monday Musings: Ryan Quotes

Monday Musings - Ryan Quotes.jpg

Ryan has been saying so many funny things lately. So today we're skipping the musings and going straight to everyone's favorite part. Here's what you've been missing from Ryan:

Tradition. Cue fiddlers. Go go go.
Dat swamp juice.
Demon cotton ice cubes.
Either that or we have a pizza rat.
You win two mounties and a maple tree.
You just used two adjectives I don't like to hear about cereal.

Any guesses when or where he dropped this conversation bombs?

Julie & Jerry - An Elopement at Norfolk Botanical Garden

Julie & Jerry - An Elopement at Norfolk Botanical Garden

Julie & Jerry are adventurers. She lived in California. He lived in Virginia. And they met on the first day of a whitewater rafting trip at the Grand Canyon. The next sixteen days were filled with camping, hiking, swimming, and exploring the canyon. They enjoyed each other's company just as much as they enjoyed their beautiful surroundings. Maybe even more.

A year later, they were both on the same trip again. But this time, the 16 days felt like 16 dates and they soon found themselves making plans to live on the same side of the country. And then Jerry asked Julie to marry him. And they chose to say their vows at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, a place they love to explore together.

Ana & Chris - Cherry Blossom Engagement Session at Norfolk Botanical Garden

Ana & Chris - Cherry Blossom Engagement Session at Norfolk Botanical Garden

"I don't know if you've ever noticed this, but first impressions are often entirely wrong."
- Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning

Ana's first impression of Chris certainly was. Ana and her friend Rachel were celebrating New Year's Eve in DC and they were getting a quick tour of their friend Andy's house. When they stopped by Chris's room, he was caught up in a video game, wearing his pajamas and shouting into a headset. Immediately embarrassed, Chris called to Andy, “You can’t bring girls up here when I’m like this!”

But Chris quickly redeemed himself with his genuine interest in her, his ability to think on his feet, and his fun and sarcastic banter that always kept her laughing.


Ana and Chris live in Raleigh, but they're getting married here in Virginia Beach, and they made a special trip up here for their engagement session at the Norfolk Botanical Garden!