Bringing Your Fairytale to Life - The Engagement Session

Happy First Day of Spring! With the weather warming up and the flowers getting ready to bloom, spring is one of the most popular seasons for engagement to fall of course. Now that spring is here and engagement sessions are about to pick up, here are things to consider to help bring your vision to life.

Surprise Proposal or Planned Engagement Session

If you're already engaged, you can skip this part.

In current 2019 Instagram culture, it shouldn't be a surprise to see surprise proposal listed on a blog about engagement sessions. It used to be that professional photography for couples was reserved for those who were engaged or already married, and even still today there are some who are hesitant to include non-married significant others in professional photos. However, there is a growing popularity of non-engaged unmarried couples hiring professional photographers. It's a thing.

That being said, it's also pretty popular to surprise your significant other with a ring during these seemingly casual sessions. So a casual couples session then becomes a surprise proposal/engagement session. For some couples, those who are maybe more spontaneous or adventurous, this is the perfect arrangement. Surprise proposals make some gorgeous images that you'll treasure forever.

But for others, maybe those who want to be more involved in the planning or those who want to keep the proposal more private, having your proposal professionally photographed might not be the best option. Your proposal story is unique and sometimes the magic is in keeping it between just the two of you. And then, the two of you will be able to plan your perfect engagement session together.

Creating a Plan

Whether you're about to propose or getting ready for an engagement session, it's important to have a plan. You'll want at least a general idea of what your goal is (are these for your personal enjoyment or will these pictures be shared with grandma) and what kind of look you want (dark & moody, light & airy, candid, posed, etc...). You've landed here, so I'm going to assume you are interest in vibrant images. My style is characterized by vibrant colors, moody blacks, and intimate shots and posing. Once you figure out the photography style you want, you'll want to work with your photographer to figure out the best way to tell your engagement story.

As we continue to grow at Cyn Davis Photography, we strive to build a more specialized service. For us, that means really being able to assist our clients in planning their sessions and weddings. We try to meet in person with every wedding client, and if we can't do that, we schedule a call or video call. When it's time to discuss engagement sessions, we like to get as much information as possible about what appeals to our clients and what their personalities are like. So we discuss a few different topics to help us plan a session.

Classic, Lifestyle, & Stylized

Are you looking for classic, lifestyle, or stylized? While we have plenty of clients who know what all those terms mean, there are just as many who don't.

A classic engagement session is our most common session type and is typically characterized by us taking our clients to an outdoor location where we assist in classic posing as well as unposed prompts. Clients like these sessions because they are easy to plan and result in beautiful curated images that show them looking like themselves at their best.

A lifestyle session takes a little more planning, but also a little more spontaneity. That may sound like an oxymoron, but it truly make sense. It takes a certain adventurous freedom to desire a session that's a raw look into your life. Not everyone is comfortable with bringing a photographer into their home to take pictures of them snuggling up on the couch.

However, it can also take planning to choose which aspect of your life you want to highlight, and whatever part of your life that is might require special permissions. For example, if you want to have a session at your favorite bar because that's where you met, we would have to get permission from the bar owner. If you want to have an adventure session out hiking in the mountains, that would require additional time and planning for a safe hike. Lifestyle sessions are what you make them. They are as fun and unique as your love story. The draw is a much more personal and real experience.

Stylized sessions are what they sound like: sessions styled around a theme. This type of session requires a lot of collaboration between the photographer and client to fully bring the creative vision to life. These sessions can be as elaborate or simple as the client and photographer want. Fine art photographers tend to specialized in stylized portraiture, where long couture gowns are common. When I've done styled sessions, they were more stylized around hobbies and interests. Like the picture showing Josh's interest in old cars. I did a styled shoot with instruments and made up the models to look like rockstars. Stylized sessions can go anywhere your imagination--and budget--takes you. Here are some fun style ideas:

  • 50's soda pop shop

  • Old Hollywood Glam

  • The Princess Bride

  • Harry Potter

Location & Time

Once you figure out what sort of session you want to do, you'll have to pick the perfect location and time. Some of my most commonly used locations are Oglebay Park, Raccoon Creek State Park, Pittsburgh, and a little known field off of Route 22. I am always keeping my eyes open for new spots, just in case I ever want to to try something new. I also try to have a variety of scenery options so that my clients have a lot to pick from. Furthermore, I am open to my client's suggestions if they have any.

Things to keep in mind when choosing your location: the type of session, time of day, and lay of the land. The latter two will determine what kind of lighting you'll be working with. If we're on top of a hill, I can photograph well until sunset and get amazing golden hour images. If we're in downtown Pittsburgh or at Frankfort Mineral Springs, we won't get golden hour light because the light is obstructed. Frankfort Mineral Springs--specifically--gets dark about 2 hours before sunset.

You'll want to consider what kind of lighting you want to work in. Some couples really desire the golden light that comes during the hour before sunset. Some couples aren't as concerned with the light. I've found that we really only get great golden light when the sky is clear or only partly cloudy. Overcast skies will produce very soft flattering light.

When it comes to the weather, I am comfortable shooting in all safe conditions. If the weather is hazardous to our safety, we will reschedule. I keep an eye on the forecast the week leading up to your engagement session. If the forecast shows rain, we reschedule based on how severe the weather is and my client's decision. I typically carry clear bubble umbrellas just incase any couple feels bold and wants to have a romantic rainy session.

For indoor lifestyle sessions, I try to approach the setting with a documentary mindset. This means that I will use what available light there is before I pull out my artificial lighting. So when you schedule to do an indoor session, try to schedule it for the time when the natural lighting is best inside your home or building. However, I am familiar with flash and artificial lighting and will use it if necessary.

What to Wear

After planning the whole session, it's the hard part: picking your outfit. What to wear is a very commonly asked question. My advice is to wear outfits that are typical to what you usually wear, it's not the time to try a new style. You'll also want to coordinate. Coordinating does not mean matching. Sometimes matching can be really nice, but coordinating your outfits is always much better. Coordinating means choosing colors, patterns, and textures that compliment each other. If one of you wears forest green the other could wear plumb. If one of you is wearing plaid the other could wear a solid. And so on. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to outfit inspiration, so anytime a client asks me for ideas, I send them my board. If they send me pictures of what they're thinking, I tell them what will look best of the options they've given me.

For classic sessions, my clients typically bring two outfits, one that's more dressy and one that's more casual. For lifestyle sessions, one outfit works well and typically a more casual choice depending on the activity.

Getting to Know Each Other

Sometime during the session, I like to do little video interviews with my clients so that I can get to know them better and gush about them in my blog later. I write a blog about every client, unless they ask me not to. In the past, I've done these videos at the end of the session, but going forward I will begin the sessions with them as a sort of ice breaker. This helps the clients to relax and causes all those warm lovey feelings to really shine during the session. It also helps me know how to really pull out those genuine emotions while I'm photographing you.

During the session, I will end up walking backwards, getting low, or climbing on something. It's inevitable. You'll probably laugh at me at some point...or possibly fear for my life. And I will warn you of this at the beginning of our time together.

When we begin the session, I always try to start with easy classic poses and work my way up to more candid unposed prompts. I like to provide a variety of images and I've found this to be the easiest way warm clients up. The first 15 minutes are going to be awkward...embrace it! You're awkward, I'm awkward...we'll all laugh about this later on. You'll probably laugh about it during the session, at least that's one of my goals. That's why I incorporate different prompts into the session, they give you something fun to act out or say that helps draw out laughter...or blushing. I want to provide you with a photography experience that will leave you smiling. If you fall a little more in love with your significant other by the end of the session, I'll consider it a job well done.

True beauty is found in genuine emotion and that's what I strive for.

I feel like I've covered a lot, but if you have any questions, please contact me! I'd love to answer any questions. We are currently booking engagement sessions and weddings, book now!

We are Ohio Engagement Photographers who are happy to travel to Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas.

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Wedding ring trio sitting on a pink rose in a colorful bouquet.


Steubenville, Ohio

(304) 919-1327

Office  Hours: Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm

We are on location shooting during the weekends. Messages received during this time will get a response on the following business day.

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