choosing the perfect time, location,
outfit & more!




We’re so excited to be working with you and we can’t wait for our time together during your engagement session! It’s normal to be a little nervous about your session. We always tell people that we still get nervous before having our photos taken – and we do this for a living!

We’re 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 we pose.  You’ll get all your nerves out at your engagement session instead of your wedding day!  Timelines can be pretty tight on weddings days , which is why we’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 signficant to the two of you (and even include pets!). While they’re great for save-the-dates, we’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 we get asked the same things over and over again, we thought it would be the most beneficial if we put together a guide that walks you through everything you need to know. 

We’ll cover what to wear, whether to bring pets & how to manage them, location ideas and more!


des moines engagement photo


The Guys

We 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. Plus, you get to spend time with your fiancé, which is always a good thing!


Is there a "good" time to take photos?

Engagement sessions can take place anywhere from immediately following a proposal to just a few days before the wedding. We’ve found that there isn’t a “good” or “bad” time to take your photos. We normally plan sessions based on a particular “look” a couple has in mind, spring flowers for example, or based on schedules. 

Sessions typically last about an hour and a half and when when we can—we love to begin sessions about two hours before sunset. We prefer to shoot when the sun is lower in the sky to avoid harsh shadows and bright sun patches. The first two hours after sunrise is also an ideal time to shoot.

We schedule sessions during what we 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 we’ve finished shooting and if your session takes place in the morning, the sun gets more harsh as it rises. 


While we shoot most of our engagement sessions between April and late November, sessions can take place all year. Most of our couples choose a season based on the location where they want to shoot. 

A few things to keep in mind during each season: 

Save the Dates

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, we 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. 



We love when couples choose a location for their session that compliments their wedding. For example if you’re planning a chic, elegant wedding, it may be fitting to take your engagement portraits among the classic architecture of a downtown area.  If you love a more natural setting, a local park or flower-filled fields may be more fitting. The best session locations are often meaninful places to the couple; however, we’re also happy to make recommendations. From mountain sides to rolling hills to apple picking and college campuses, the options  for engagement session locations are endless!  


College Campuses
Des Moines Riverfront
Old Capitol Iowa City
Country Clubs
Historic mansions and streets

gardens & estates

Des Moines Botanical Gardens
Des Moines Art Center
Reiman Gardens
Newton Arboretum 
World Food Prize Garden
Brucemore Estate
Salisbury House & Gardens
Raspberry Hill B&B


Downtown Des Moines
Downtown Iowa City
Downtown Cedar Rapids
Historic Small Towns


Lake Red Rock
Rock Creek
Racoon River


A Vineyard 
Tree & Flower Farms 
Brenton Arboretum
Waterworks Park
Jester Park
Palisades Park
Ledges State Park
Kent Park
Squaw Creek Park
Terry Trublood
Nature Preserves
Amana Colonies


Apple Orchard
Flower Farm
Cooking Class
Your Home!

the above locations are all beautiful but we also love exploring meaningful locations with our couples!


We love the opportunity to photograph in new places! Within Iowa, there are many MANY beautiful locations and we can help recommend options (see the list above) but we are also willing to go to uncharted territory.  When planning your engagement session, you’ll want to take these travel considerations into mind:

  • If you decide to have your session near us, within 30 minutes of Grinnell or in the Des Moines metro area, travel is included
  • If your location is further than a 30 minute drive, there is an additional travel fee of $75 per hour for additional roundtrip travel time
  • We have an add-on engagement option that includes more time for your session & extra travel, as well as options for makeup and hair styling!

If you have specific questions about your location, let us know!  

Destination Engagement Sessions

While we take most of our engagement sessions in the Iowa area, 
we’ve photographed sessions everywhere from Chicago, Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Las Vegas, Colorado, Boston, London, Barcelona, and Amsterdam! If you have a location in mind that is significant to the two of you, let us know because if our schedules align, we might be able to take your engagement photos outside of our normal area. 


P.S. Most guys get excited about engagement sessions when you help them think outside the box – so dream a little together and see what you can come up with!

Travel fees may apply depending on the location and our availability. 

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Your dog is huge part of your family, which is why we love when couples choose to incorporate pets into their session! Keep in mind that bringing a pet along often means that we’ll need to choose a pet friendly location. 

We 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. We 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. 

If you’re going to bring a pet, we 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.  And a lint brush can be a good idea for yourself!



When picking outfits we recommend keeping in mind the word “compliment” 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. It can also be a great idea to choose “color-families,” such as pastels or jewel tones. 

We have two different types of engagement sessions: simple, and full.  Our simple engagement session (included in our 8 hour bronze collection) includes one outfit.  Couples who have booked our collections that include our longer full engagement session or have upgraded their session may have up to two outfits for an engagement session: a more formal outfit and a casual outfit. We 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 accesorries! Statement necklaces, cute shoes and classic watches are great ways to add detail to outfits. 


Inclement Weather

what to do if it rains

We know you want beautiful weather for your engagement session!  Iowa can be a tad unpredictable during the summer months, but over time, we’ve definitely learned what weather is best to make YOU look your best!

We’ll check in the week of your engagement session to confirm the time & location we’re meeting and the weather. We know it takes a lot of time to get ready for engagement session and it’s the worst to get dressed up and drive out to your session only to have it rain. Let us know what works best for the two of you – but if the weather looks like it won’t be great, we typically try to make the call at least 3  hours in advance. 

All that being said – stormy skies and rain CAN be super dramatic and make for some truly unique photos!  So don’t discount rain as the end of the world.

Ring Cleaning

When we can, we 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.  Many jewelers will offer free ring cleaning as well.


champagne is always a good idea


If you’re planning to bring props to your engagement session, we recommend including them only if they’re meaningful to you. Shots of drinking coffee at a local coffee shop would be cute if that’s where you met; however, a trying to fly a kite together when it’s not a part of your relationship may come off as contrived.

kylea and josh summer engagement session


"What do I do with my hands"?

When it comes to posing for your engagement session, you don’t need to worry about a thing! We’ll guide you through the entire process beginning with “poses” that are super easy and natural. If we tell you to do something that feels a little funny, it’s probably because we know it’s going to make the two of you laugh – and that’s the photo we’re actually looking for! 

Throughout your session, we’ll keep an eye on your hair, makeup and outfits to make sure things stay in place. We want you to feel as relaxed as possible and enjoy your time together! 

And if you really are curious to know what to do with your hands – you can always hold hands, put an arm around each other, and guys can always have a free hand in their pocket.  We promise we’ll explain everything and it will feel natural and be very easy!

Date Night

If you’re anything like us, 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 (or brunch if your session is in the morning!) 

The engagement session is another part of celebrating your love and heading off to dinner is a great way to end the session!

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When to Expect Your Images

After your session, we’ll work our magic on all your images! You  can expect to see your images within 2-4 weeks after your engagement session.  

Not only will you receive digital images from your session, but you also have the opportunity to have a beautiful engagement book, save the date cards, and wall art from your session.  All options are available directly within your online gallery, saving you time and guesswork!  We’re also happy to set up a video chat or in person appointment at the studio to go over design options.  Showcase and PRINT your photos!  They are meant to be enjoyed!


We 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 we missed, or you need a recommendation feel free to email