Most brides are really love their engagement session – it’s low key, romantic, and a chance to totally cut loose and be your goofy selves in front of the camera. I love engagement sessions because it always helps me get to know the couple better (even if I already know one half, it’s still amazing how much I learn about a couple just from 2 hours spent taking their picture!) and I have the opportunity to shoot in a more creative style at interesting locations. Which brings me to todays tip for brides: how to choose amazing locations for your engagement session.
There are soooooo many things I could say on this topic, it’s hard to narrow it down! It’s so important that you put a little bit of thought into your location when preparing for your engagement session. But it can be difficult to know where to start. Downtown? Country? What about that cute garden over there? All of these are great places. But the place itself isn’t what makes a good location and for good photographs. There’s a lot more to it!
Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the location for your engagement photos.
The quality of light at a location is the number one thing to look for when you’re scoping out a spot. I often encourage couples to find what is called “open shade”. Open shade is created by clouds, buildings, trees, overhangs, hedges, and similar architectural or natural features. Some of the best open shade is when you have a shadow cast by something (say a building) but the sky is still overhead. That’s why it’s called “open” shade.
In the shot below, it was a partly cloudy day where the quality of light was constantly changing from soft (cloudy) to harsh (full sun), so I took this shot underneath some large trees that cast some additional shade to make for an evenly lit photo.
The other thing to look for is natural reflectors. Basically, this means you should look for light colored or reflective surfaces that might bounce light around. Things like cement sidewalks, white or gray buildings, some kinds of windows, and even water (though that can be tricky!)
Taking another shot from Beth & Ren’s engagement session, this time we were in a dark brick colonnade with a number of arches. It was actually quite dark underneath, but because the sidewalk acts as a natural reflector, bouncing light from all four sides of the colonnade back onto Beth & Ren, it worked really well as a location!
Also, think about the time of day we might be shooting at. Most engagement sessions either take place early in the morning, or right after or around dinner time. This means the sun is lower and the quality of light is softer and less direct. This makes for that pretty soft light, which is always super flattering.
2. Make it Personal
I looooove when couples choose a location that is important to them personally. Whether it’s where you met, where you got engaged, or a location that reflects your hobbies or mutual interests, it’s always special to have engagement photos that illustrate the important places in your relationship. You could even have your engagement session at your home or backyard 🙂
For Cindy & Ben’s engagement session, we spent most of our time on the grounds of Mount Holyoke College, especially by the chapel. Cindy & Ben have both performed there, and it definitely holds a special place in the history of their relationship.
3. Keep it Simple!
I am always up for creative and wacky ideas for engagement shoots! Yes, I shoot in crazy places like the middle of city streets or fire escapes. But I also encourage you to keep it simple. Think about locations that will highlight YOU and your relationship, not just that will be distracting and all about the place. You don’t want too many elements that detract from the central focus of the photo – the two of you! And if you do choose a more interesting or eclectic location with lots of details, I tend to shoot those locations a bit differently. You’ll see more environmental portraits and compositions.
Back to Beth & Ren — can you tell I loved their session!?! — they specifically requested photos with the Chicago skyline since living in Chicago has been an important phase of life, it’s where they met and fell and love, and they will be moving cross country after they get married in September. Skyline photos are tricky because it sort of feels like a tug-of-war for attention, but we were able to find this little hill-like sand dune and make it work, which was great for a more environmental and creative engagement photo. Not exactly simple, but we made it work!
The BEST locations have all three of these tips at play, and make for a fabulous engagement photos.
For Amy and Matthew, we had gorgeous light late in the evening with open shade, plus a location that was simple and didn’t detract from them as the focus, but was special to them as a couple. I absolutely love what this photo reflects about them – the joy, laughter, and warmth of their relationship – and the location works perfectly to highlight this!
If you’re still not share after reading this whether a location is ideal for your engagement session, that’s okay! I’m more than happy to talk through ideas and give suggestions. I do hope that some of these tips and examples will help you start thinking about what locations will work well for your engagement session!