How to Create a Comfortable and Meaningful Experience at Engagement Sessions

For Photographers

“I wasn’t expecting it to be, but that was actually a lot of fun!”

I hear this phrase a lot from our couples after their engagement session has ended. And every time, it’s music to my ears.

Of course, one of the main reasons we photographers provide engagement session services to our couples is to document this special season of life before their wedding day is here and marriage begins. We also know very well how important and useful an engagement session can be in developing rapport and trust with clients, strengthening our relationship with them and getting them comfortable and confident in front of our cameras prior to wedding day. A well executed engagement session is absolutely key in providing an exceptional overall experience to our clients. Today I’m sharing five practical things that you can do to create a comfortable and meaningful experience for your clients at their engagement session.


1. BECOME A STUDENT OF YOUR CLIENT

Providing a comfortable experience to your clients begins well before the date of the engagement session – it actually starts at the consultation. Each time I meet or speak with a potential new client, I take some time immediately following the meeting to jot down any and everything that I can think of that we talked about…how the couple met, when they got engaged, where they grew up, special family members they are close with, what band they were thinking about booking for the wedding…anything! I place it in a temporary file and if they book with us, I transfer those notes into their client file that I can refer back to (and add to) throughout their time as a client with me. Immediately before the session begins, I like to review their file to have some potential talking points to direct conversation. For example, if the bride mentioned at the consultation that she was planning to take a trip to New York to go dress shopping, make it a point to ask her about the trip, who went with her, what her dress looks like, etc.

Remembering specifics about things your couple has mentioned in the past will go in a long way in making them feel special and show that you really care about them as a couple and not just about getting paid.

2. ANSWER QUESTIONS BEFORE THEY ARE ASKED

The majority of our couples have never been photographed professionally before and are usually at least a little nervous leading up to their engagement session. It’s important to us that we do what can to calm those nerves and begin to develop trust prior to our time with them. A great way to do this is to help them through the planning of their session by providing helpful information and answering their questions before they even have to ask. We recently created a photography planning booklet that we provide to each incoming couple that has been extremely well received (we started with a template from Katelyn James). While I truly believe the investment of the time and money you will spend on this project is beyond worth it, if you aren’t quite ready for that, I would suggest creating a simple PDF to attach in an email or at minimum, a link to a blog post with tips, etc. (here is one that we created in the past).

Suggested topics to include:

  • What to expect and general tips
  • What to wear/clothing inspiration
  • Recommendations for a hair and makeup artist
  • How and when to schedule their session
  • How to choose a location

3. SET THE TONE

The first ten minutes of arriving…before you even begin shooting…are some of the most important, as they set the tone of session. Here is a quick breakdown of the flow of how I begin things with my couples.

  • Shoot the breeze – How was your day? Was there much traffic getting here? Where do you live? How is planning going?
  • Ask them how they are feeling about the session. Give them the space to express if they are nervous and then speak to any hesitations they may have.
  • Share a little of my heart behind why I shoot engagement sessions.
  • Assure them that most couples feel awkward for the first 10 minutes, but then it will get easier and more comfortable.
  • I assure them that I will direct them on where to go and what to do. However, I encourage them to not “get stuck” (i.e. keep moving and talking) and just enjoy each other.

4. MAKE IT MEANINGFUL

When a new client books with us, we send a small welcome gift to say thank you and to let the couple know how genuinely excited we are to be working with them. In the package includes some sweet treats, as well as two little booklets that we instruct them to hold onto for their engagement session. As their session date approaches, we ask the couple to take some time to think of 10 things that they love about the other person and to record their answers in the booklets that we provided. At some point during the session (usually more toward the beginning), we put on our long lenses, get back and allow the couple to go back and forth reading to each other what they have written about their partner. Not only does it create a memory for the couple and gives them a keepsake from their engagement, but it creates genuine emotion and connection between them. This activity always goes over well and has become one of my favorite parts of the engagement sessions we photograph.

* Note – this year we created the “This Is Worth Fighting For” letterpress booklets seen below through Igloo Letterpress, but in the past we had been using the “Reasons I Want to Marry You” journals from BHLDN. Unfortunately, it looks like they are sold out. After a quick search, here are some other leads to purchase similar booklets/journals if you’d like to incorporate this activity into your sessions as well:

“Love Notes” Journal

“Reasons Why I Love You” Notebook

“Reasons I Want To Marry You” Notebook

“Reasons I Want To Marry You” Journal

“All The Things I Love About You” Journal

5. GIVE DIRECTION

I can remember WAY back when Geoff and I had our engagement pictures taken. I was a nervous wreck the entire time, as I had no idea what we should be doing. Mostly, we just stood there awkwardly peck kissing over and over again and saying, “I love you”. Y’all, I’m legitimately cringing as I remember this! And that is exactly the reason why we think it’s highly important to provide direction for our couples during their engagement sessions. The last thing I want for our couples is to look back at their engagement session images, regardless of how pretty they might be, to remember how awkward they felt. 

For us, the goal is to make them look and feel as though they aren’t posing, even though technically, they most often are. We want to create images for our couples that are natural, authentic and emotional, but very rarely does that happen without some guidance and encouragement for what they should be doing. While we do have our go-to more traditional poses that we frequent, our shooting approach is to create a space for them to genuinely interact in an easy and lighthearted way. Our secret weapon to achieve this is through the use of simple, fun prompts. 

If you’d like to know which prompts we use the most, you are in luck! We have created the guide 5 Easy Prompts for Engagement Sessions that you can grab by going right here.


So there you have it! From here, I want you to take action, friend! Tell me, which of these are you going to commit to implementing in your next engagement session? Leave a comment below if you need some accountability!

For more business and wedding photography education, click here or follow along on Instagram.

Cheyenne Schultz

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  1. Amanda

    October 18th, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    I LOVE these tips! As a non-photographer, and someone who hopes to have an engagement session some day, these would really help me and my boyfriend!

  2. Cheyenne

    October 18th, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks, Amanda. So glad they were helpful. 🙂 xoxo.

  3. Dianne Adams

    October 19th, 2017 at 12:14 am

    Thank you for linking to my Etsy shop. I’d love to make booklets with custom wording for your clients.

  4. Cheyenne

    October 19th, 2017 at 9:07 am

    You are so welcome, Dianne! I myself am set with the booklets that I need, but I’m sure this offer might be helpful to another photographer if they reach out! Enjoy the rest of your week! xoxo.

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