engagement session guide

capturing real life, real love

Bailey

Your engagement session is one of my favorite parts of our time together! It gives you both a chance to be in front of my camera before you get married, which is going to make your wedding day experience feel so smooth, seamless and comfortable. Not only that, but we get to create something so special together. You’re going to be married for decades, but you only get to be engaged for this short period of time. I’m so excited to capture the only time in your life when you get to be each other’s fiances! 

To help make planning your engagement session FUN rather than one more item on your to-do list, I created this guide for you, packed with all of my best secrets for getting the best out of your engagement experience. 

Ready? Let’s do this :)

what every couple
 needs to know

We feel awkward in front of the camera and hate taking pictures. Can you help?

QUESTION 5

My dear, I photograph people for a living and even I feel awkward in front of the camera. Every! Single! Time! That’s why I’m here to help you through your engagement session, starting with this style guide. During our session I’ll walk you through different poses, prompts and games that bring out your most natural laughs and love so you won’t have to second guess yourself for a second. My goal is to keep things feeling energized throughout our session so it feels effortless and fun!

I’m overwhelmed with ideas for locations and outfits! Where do I start?

Do I have to spend an arm and a leg to look good in my engagement photos?

What if the weather is terrible on our session date?

QUESTION 5

engagement session FAQ

I’m overwhelmed with ideas! Where do I start?

help! we feel so awkward in front of the camera!

Do I have to spend an arm and a leg to look good in my engagement photos?

What if the weather is terrible on our session date?

QUESTION 5

Absolutely not! All of these tips are meant to help guide you through the planning process for your engagement photos. By no means are they mandatory or required :) Let’s talk about what tips you like and we’ll create the perfect session plan for you!

Do I have to spend an arm and a leg to look good in my engagement photos?

Absolutely not! All of these tips are meant to help guide you through the planning process for your engagement photos. By no means are they mandatory or required :) Let’s talk about what tips you like and don’t like and we’ll create the perfect session plan for you!

We feel awkward in front of the camera and hate taking pictures. Can you help?

I’m overwhelmed with ideas for locations and outfits! Where do I start?

engagement session FAQ

What if the weather is terrible on our session date?

QUESTION 5

I’m overwhelmed with ideas! Where do I start?

help! we feel so awkward in front of the camera!

Do I have to spend an arm and a leg to look good in my engagement photos?

What if the weather is terrible on our session date?

QUESTION 5

Absolutely not! All of these tips are meant to help guide you through the planning process for your engagement photos. By no means are they mandatory or required :) Let’s talk about what tips you like and we’ll create the perfect session plan for you!

We feel awkward in front of the camera and hate taking pictures. Can you help?

I’m overwhelmed with ideas for locations and outfits! Where do I start?

What if the weather is terrible on our session date?

I will be monitoring the weather in the days leading up to our session together. If it looks like it’s going to be rainy or too cold I’ll contact you to discuss our options. We can either relocate to indoor locations or reschedule. No big deal!

engagement session FAQ

Do I have to spend an arm and a leg to look good in my engagement photos?

QUESTION 5

I’m overwhelmed with ideas! Where do I start?

help! we feel so awkward in front of the camera!

Do I have to spend an arm and a leg to look good in my engagement photos?

What if the weather is terrible on our session date?

QUESTION 5

I will be monitoring the weather in the days leading up to our session together. If it looks like it’s going to be rainy or too cold I’ll contact you to discuss our options. We can either relocate to indoor locations or reschedule. No big deal!

To get the most out of your session, please plan a buffer when getting ready so you can arrive a few minutes early to your session and be ready to start on time. We’re only able to shoot when natural light is still in the sky, so we’ll want to take advantage of every minute we have together before the sun goes down! If you’re wearing two outfits, save your favorite one for the second half (for the dreamier light!), and if you’re wearing one, arrive in that.

I’ll help you determine the best time to begin our engagement session on your date, taking into consideration the time of sunset on your date. We’ll begin your engagement session two hours before the scheduled sunset, giving us time to warm and get used to the camera before “the golden hour,” when the light is the looking its absolute best and the most flattering for you! 

I specialize in natural light portraiture photography, which is a fancy way of saying I enjoy photographing people and places in natural settings and situations to create photographs that feel fresh, classic, and true to you as a couple. 

pro tip!

make a plan

golden hour = the best hour

golden hour:
the best hour

choosing a date & time

My weekends fill up fast and far in advance. Scheduling your session mid-week ensures that we can capture your engagement session in the season you want. Plus, popular locations are far less crowded on weekdays. And what better use of an afternoon out of the office then spending it in love with your beau?

pro tip!

setting the scene

Your engagement session includes my travel time anywhere within a 1-hour radius of the Kansas City Metro area. (That can get us as far as Lawrence or Powell Gardens!) If you’d like to go somewhere outside the city, I’m 100% up for the adventure! The travel fee beyond my 1-hour radius is dependent on the destination, and I’m happy to provide you a custom quote if you have a particular place in mind. I love traveling and am actually on the road and in the skies quite a bit. I’ve photographed from coast to coast, everywhere in between, and even abroad, too. If you’d like me to meet you in a destination outside of Kansas City for your engagement session, just let me know and I’m happy to work with you to plan the perfect adventure!

destination: love

This is the time to think outside the box! I encourage you to brainstorm unique locations that you might have special access to that most people don’t. For example, maybe you, or someone you know, can secure permission to a location that would otherwise be off-limits, like a beautiful private estate, sports stadium or uniquely Kansas City landmark. Maybe it’s a family farm, upscale hotel or even an airplane hangar. The sky is literally the limit! Spend a few minutes thinking about it and checking around. You’ll be surprised with what you come up with.  

For example, maybe you, or someone you know, can secure permission to a location that would otherwise be off-limits, like a beautiful private estate, sports stadium or uniquely Kansas City landmark. Maybe it’s a family farm, upscale hotel or even an airplane hangar. The sky is literally the limit! Spend a few minutes thinking about it and checking around. You’ll be surprised with what you come up with.  

This is the time to think outside the box! I encourage you to brainstorm unique locations that you might have special access to that most people don’t. 

Think outside the box

If you get stuck or need inspiration, check out the engagements section of my blog and keep browsing through this guide.
I know some great go-to locations around town that we can always explore, too. Just let me know which session you love, and what types of backdrops you’d like, and we will go from there!

inspiration awaits

When selecting your engagement session location(s), think about what types of backdrops - or even vibes - that stand out to you. Perhaps you two are outdoorsy and want your engagement photos to capture a more nature-y vibe? Or perhaps you’re urban explorers and downtown Kansas City seems like the perfect backdrop for your love and personalities! Or maybe you want to feature your first/favorite date spot! Really, the possibilities are endless, and I’m always up for exploring a new spot together!

choosing your locations

location, location, location

Want your engagement images to look extra polished? Bring a little extra something with you! A freshly-picked bouquet for you to hold, or fresh flowers for your hair or an accessory like a picnic basket, is a fun way infuse a little extra romance into your photos. 

Whether it’s larger items like classic cars, or smaller ones like blankets or hats, even incorporating just one extra styled item, could be a fun way to make your session more unique. 

styling your session

Your engagement photos can also be a fun opportunity to show your interests or hobbies through your clothing choices and accessories. Maybe you’re really into sailing and you want to wear a sail-themed bowtie with your blazer! Or perhaps you want to give a subtle nod to your alma mater by creating outfits based on your school’s colors. I’ve even had a couple wear "KC" shirts since their initials are K & C!

delighting in the details

styling your session

Skip the spray tan! Although it might seem counter-intuitive, I recommend that you do not get a spray tan before your session, even a few days prior, because it tends to photograph orange even when it’s applied subtly and by a professional. Your actual skin tone will photograph the most beautifully, promise :)

pro tip!

Getting professional hair and makeup done is one great way to remove stress from your photos because it looks amazing and you don’t have to get ready on your own. Whether it’s lash extensions or blown-out hair, professional hair and makeup will give you an extra boost of confidence in front of the camera, and it always photographs like a dream. If you’re working with a makeup artist, have her apply your makeup in natural light, if possible, so that it looks fresh and not too heavy. Plus, that’s the type of light we’ll be shooting in, so it’ll give you the best expectation of how it will translate on camera. 

NOTE: Most brides feel like their makeup is “too much” at first, since it’s more than you would wear on a normal day, so if you feel that way at the beginning, don’t worry! Good makeup artists know how to get it just right for the camera — and you’ll love the final result. If you need a recommendation for hair and makeup, I’ve worked with the best in the business and am happy to offer recommendations.

bring in the pros:
hair & Makeup

Pairing an accessory or two with your outfit can really help bring some extra dimension to your images. Big statement necklaces bring a lot of pop to the photos, while the smaller, delicate ones are not be as noticeable on camera. Belts, bracelets and earrings bring great visual interest, so choose one or two that don’t compete for attention. Fresh florals in a crown or bouquet can be a really romantic touch as well.

make a statement

Every woman (me included!), regardless of her shape has an area of her body that she’s self-conscious about. Recognizing what that is in advance is key. Choosing flattering silhouettes and colors that complement your natural features is the best way to ensure you’ll love the way you look in your photos. Three-quarter length sleeves create an awesome slimming effect on all arms, so be on the lookout for an option with a longer length sleeve, if that’s your spot. Jackets and cardigans double as cute accessories and "problem fixers" too. Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera. Closed-toed heels elongate women’s legs, making them look fabulous. 

flattering your features

Most of my brides who choose two outfits will bring one “wow” dress, and then another shorter sun dress or cocktail dress for a more casual “us on a date” feel. But if you want to bring two “wow” dresses, do it! The camera loves runway-esque apparel and so do I! Remember, though, you don’t have to bring two looks if you’d rather stick to one fabulous look. One outfit that you love will be so much better than one outfit you love and another you’re less excited about. I want you to look amazing, feel confident, and love all of your photos, not just half!

one or two? it's up to you!

Long, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to your images. This is especially true when they’re juxtaposed with nature, like grassy parks, grasslands, or forests. Cute, shorter-length dresses photograph beautifully as well. Dresses and skirts tend to look most stunning on camera because they really flatter your figure. I recommend avoiding pants and shorts for your session, and saying yes to a dress or two! 

Cute, shorter-length dresses photograph beautifully as well. Dresses and skirts tend to look most stunning on camera because they really flatter your figure. I recommend avoiding pants and shorts for your session, and saying yes to a dress or two! 

Long, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to your images. This is especially true when they’re juxtaposed with nature, like grassy parks, grasslands, or forests. 

say yes to the dress

Have you ever thought about rocking a sequined gown, tulle skirt or flower crown but just never had an occasion for it? My dear, this is that occasion! Remember: There is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your engagement session, so don’t be afraid to have a little fun! If you don’t want to add a new permanent piece to your collection, I recommend using Rent the Runway so you don’t have to spend a lot to feel like a million bucks. Or splurge on that outfit you’ve been dying to add to your wardrobe!

there's no such thing as overdressed

pro tip!

Avoid small patterns, bright colors or neons, and words or logos when planning your outfits! They'll prove distracting in your images, drawing the eye away from the emotions and connections shared by you and your fiancé.

As you’re coordinating your outfits, keep in mind that you two will look the most cohesive and editorial on camera when your color palettes coordinate, but aren’t “matchy-matchy”. Aim to wear a different dominant color, but work within a cohesive color palette. For example, if you’re wearing a blush dress, soft blue earrings and nude heels (blush being your dominant color), then your fiancé could wear a navy coat with gray pants, brown leather shoes and maybe even a blush pocket square. Your fiancé has their own dominant color (navy) while still incorporating your color palette. 

coordinating your looks

When choosing colors for your outfits, I recommend selecting lighter tones and more muted shades. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, your images will focus on the way you feel about each other.

Shades of soft pink and muted blues, mixed with sophisticated light neutrals like heather gray, creams, leather brown and white photograph best! 

choosing colors

styling tips for her

Long pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from your legs and feet and place it where you want it: on the love you two share. 

Long pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from your legs and feet and place it where you want it: on the love you two share. 

it's all in the details

Next time you walk by a store like J. Crew, you’ll notice the male mannequins and models are always wearing several layers at once. Layers on men look great on camera, so even when it’s hot outside, trust me when I say that it’s worth an hour or two of discomfort for photos that will last you both a lifetime. Adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and coats up the level of any look. If the temperature permits, even consider adding a v-neck sweater with a pop of color from a long-sleeved collared shirt and tie underneath. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with layers!

layered looks

pro tip:

Solid shades of gray or navy are a strong complement to most women’s outfits, whereas pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye.

The best part? It’s a lot less expensive than you might think! While custom suits can cost thousands of dollars, some of the most well-known brands have off-the-rack suits in their stores for a fraction of the price. 

From James Bond to Don Draper, men look most striking in a well-tailored suit. If you don’t have one, now’s the perfect time to invest in something you’ll wear for the rest of your life! 

From James Bond to Don Draper, men look most striking in a well-tailored suit. If you don’t have one, now’s the perfect time to invest in something you’ll wear for the rest of your life! The best part? It’s a lot less expensive than you might think! While custom suits can cost thousands of dollars, some of the most well-known brands have off-the-rack suits in their stores for a fraction of the price. 

nothing beats a suit

styling tips for him

Long pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from your legs and feet and place it where you want it: on the love you two share. So, for your session, leave the shorts and sandals at home. 
Suit pants, dress pants or colored pants work best. Brown leather dress shoes complement almost every look, from a full suit to a blazer and colored pants. Ties, bowties, pocket squares, fun socks, belts, tie clips, suspenders, vests and watches are sharp complements to any guy’s outfit. If you bring two suits to the session, you can start with a traditional necktie and belt, then switch to suspenders and a bow tie for your second look. If two suits are too much, no problem! One look will do the trick. You can still mix and match accessories to complement both of your fiancé’s outfits without doing a full change during the session. So, either way, you win.

Online gallery with all of your final, edited, high-resolution images

2 weeks after

Sneak peek of some of my favorite moments we captured together :) 

1 day after

Finalize all of your outfits, accessories, clean your engagement ring, and get your beauty rest!

1 day prior

Final email from Bailey compiling all of our plans (locations, schedule, weather report, etc.)

5 days prior

Schedule your hair/makeup trial, start thinking about color palettes and outfits

4 weeks prior

session timeline

preppring for your session

-- Secure your date, time and location(s)        with Bailey

session checklist

-- Review this style guide for tips

-- Schedule your hair/makeup     
    appointments

-- Select your outfits

-- Mani/pedi time!

-- Clean your ring

-- Pack a bag with:
      - flats or flip-flops for walking between
         photo spots 
      - outfits #2 (don’t forget your shoes
        and accessories!) 
      - makeup for touch-ups
      - water bottle (for warmer sessions) 
      - coat or cover-up (for colder sessions)
      - pick a fun post-session date night spot  

-- See you soon!!

washington, dc

lauren & luke

kansas city, mo

parthvi & shail

kansas city, mo

Adrienne & nelson