Ok, everyone! You voted and now it’s time to share our own advice now that the tables have turned. *Ohh how the turn tables…* For once, we were on the other side of the lens and we’re here to share all the engagement session advice we have about the process!
If you’re joining this blog post completely unaware of who we are, well first of all – welcome! Second of all, we are Jen & Steve the couple and photography duo behind The Fox & The Hare Photography! A quick backstory about our relationship: 8 years ago I (Jen) came home for the holiday break from my freshman year of college. An old high school friend had joined Steve’s band as the drummer. Steve played bass at the time. I came to see their band play, and of course brought my camera. Steve was into me right away and I obviously was into him too, but I was going back to school and didn’t want to be tied down in a relationship just yet. Steve claims I blew him off for a year, lol, but we exchanged numbers and added each other on Facebook – proceeding to talk the whole year. The following Summer we FINALLY hung out again, just the two of us alone (yes, Steve is quite patient – this is how I knew he was the one) and we could not stop talking about music, art, how we both formerly worked at supermarkets & anything and everything else. We immediately felt so comfortable with each other and by September we made it official and started dating. Steve had dabbled in photography and worked in graphic design. He started shooting with me and everything snowballed from there. Driving back from a wedding in Maine, Steve suggested the name Fox & Hare. 8 years later here we are with our own business and finally engaged ourselves!
So now that you know a little bit more about us, some other things you should know are that we are actually somewhat camera-shy ourselves. This is why we choose to be behind the camera! We definitely enjoy fashion but we don’t exactly consider ourselves fashionistas. And sure, we photograph people all the time, but this was the first time really doing it this way ourselves. We have poses in the back of our minds but it’s totally different once you’re in front of the lens. All that being said, you should trust us when we say we are average people who were able to do this. So if you think you and your fiance are too awkward for this – GUESS AGAIN! Here are our basic tips for success during your engagement session (and for photos on your wedding day!) :
This has got to be our number one tip. We see the difference when our own couples feel comfortable with us, it brings the most natural emotions out of them so they are able to be themselves in photos. Always, always, always choose the photographer you are most comfortable with, for any portrait session or event! Sometimes if it’s a matter of saving a few bucks or picking the person you vibe well with, trust us when we say you NEED to feel comfortable to avoid overly stiff, posed or even awkward photos. This person should feel like your friend, and in our case we were lucky that Kate of Off Beet Productions agreed to shoot us! One of our oldest and dearest friends in the industry, we’ve been down the wedding photography road together for the long haul. We knew we’d be comfortable enough to be ourselves around her. But if you don’t personally know a professional wedding photographer, really sit down and meet with them one-on-one before hiring them.
We love to hike, we love the woods. We wanted tall trees, lakeside vibes and mountain views. We wanted all these things together which is actually pretty hard to find in NJ. Fortunately, our photographer Kate and her husband Denny had been married at Cedar Lakes Estate in Port Jervis NY several years ago. Steve and I attended their wedding as guests and partial photographers (we manned a “photobooth” with our actual cameras during their reception). This was one of the first weddings we attended together as a couple and we happened to be doing what we love together while we were there. It was full circle to ask Kate if she’d be willing to head back to her wedding spot to do our shoot. Having her shoot us there just felt right. It felt like all the components in our life coming together. And it checked off all of our scenic boxes, to boot! Now, if you and your fiance are homebodies or just don’t know where you might like to have your session – ask your photographer! If you picked someone you love they should be able to recommend a location you’ll love. We also always say it’s fun just to make a date night out of it. Think about you favorite things to do together; stay home and cook, go out to a local bar, head to an arcade, carnival that’s in town or do something you do together like bowling or paddle boarding. All these things can make for cute photos AND are super fun because it’s actually something you do together. It’ll also relax you, especially if one or both of you tends to feel stiff in general in photos. ANYTHING can be a good location for a photoshoot, it just depends what you want out of it! At the end of the day, just pick somewhere scenic for nice portraits if all else fails.
Ok. Let’s talk clothes. We’ve seen a lot of interesting outfits show up to engagement sessions in our days as photographers. But it’s really not super hard. #1 Be comfortable. #2 Wear something that actually feels like you. #3 But try to make it an “elevated” version of yourself, like you’re going out for drinks. #4 You don’t have to match but coordinate with complementary colors. #5 Choose up to two outfits, one casual and one dressy to give you options.
You don’t HAVE to buy new clothes. Again, you should wear something you feel comfortable in that feels like you. But it’s more than likely that you’re going to be compelled to buy something new for your session so you feel fresh. If you do, it doesn’t have to break the bank! We went to the mall together and split up but we ended up at similar stores! Steve and I both ended up finding what we needed at Cotton On, and I found the rest at Francesca’s and shoes from DSW. These three places are super affordable! And the funniest part was, we didn’t show each other what we bought until we met back up afterward. And we ended up in coordinating colors without trying! I guess we gravitate toward similar things. If you and your fiance do not like the same colors, try to find a happy medium by choosing neutral & earthy tones.
Seriously. As we said, you should make a date night out of this. And booze always helps take the edge off of getting photographed. If drinking isn’t your thing, this is by no means a requirement – but a suggestion! We aren’t talking getting drunk, just a light buzz. You can go to a bar together beforehand or bring some drinks with you. It’s really cute to bring a bottle of wine to share or champagne to pop, and both wind up being props. (Pro tip: if you want to shake champagne for a champagne pop photo, bring two bottles. One should be cheaper so you can really shake it up for the pop. Trust us, a lot will get wasted so make sure it’s the cheap stuff! Also make sure it’s a new bottle for plenty of fizz!) Steve and I opted to bring some beer from Industrial Arts Brewery. We happened to have some from the last time we went up to our venue. This brewery is on-site at our venue and we’ll be using beer kegs from them at our reception. Their beer is fantastic so bringing this along was just an added bonus! And it definitely helped lower our inhibitions and rid our insecurities. Oh and it kept us warm, too! This was the first chilly day in October so it was really nice to have a beer blanket, lol.
We love our pup Indie to pieces. She is our first adopted fur child together and we are absolutely obsessed with her. It wasn’t even a question to bring her, although I did have some misgivings initially. Even with a well-trained dog, you need someone there who is going to walk them when they’re not in the photos. You can’t be responsible for your dog the entire time you’re taking photos, otherwise you won’t focus. There isn’t always a good spot to tie the leash up and let’s face it, they aren’t going to be happy with that and bark their head off. Ask a family member or friend that knows your dog to tag along to handle him or her, and dangle some treats to get them to sit like a good boy or girl during photos. Indie really knows sit, down and stay commands. If your dog does not, it’s going to be a bit more of a challenge. But treats or squeaky toys definitely help!
We’ve done far too many shoots where couples or families bring their dogs and don’t consider the outcome of the photos. Typically a dog arrives with it’s usual ragged leash with a poopy-bag attached to it. Guys, this doesn’t look good in photos. There are a number of ways you can accessorize your dog if that’s your thing; bandannas, flower crowns, little signs around their neck, etc. I looked on Etsy for hours and got inspired by decorative leashes, but they were $65+! So, I got on Amazon and ordered a cute, brown-leather leash and matching collar for Indie in her size. I also bought a faux, eucalyptus garland in the same order – grand total was half the price, $35! It took maybe an hour and a half but I cut down the garland to be the same size as the leash. I wrapped a few sections tightly with green wire so it would adhere to the leash. Then I just hot glued the two ends of the garland to the leash so it wouldn’t fall off. It came out perfectly and I think this was the biggest compliment we received about the whole shoot! It just added a little something to the photos. Another word of advice though, don’t wait until the shoot to put a leash like this, flower crown, sign, etc on your dog. After I made this leash, I put it on Indie right away slowly and gave her treats. I walked her around our apartment so she would be comfortable. I did this a few times before the shoot and by the time we were at our session she was totally comfortable with it!
I cannot stress hiring a hair + makeup team enough. The most I do every day is a little concealer under my eyes, a small eyeliner wing and some Burt’s Bee’s lip balm. Once in a while I add mascara, a little shadow, highlighter *although I seriously don’t think I’m putting it on right* and maybe a matte lipstick. But truly, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing with makeup. If you do, maybe this doesn’t apply to you. But sometimes letting a professional do it just checks one more thing off the to-do list that you don’t have to worry about. I could not be happier with what my girls Mel & Kristen did to my hair + face. They understood I wanted to look like my regular self but enhanced like when I’m going out. Having my makeup done and my hair professionally curled (Mel understood I have curly hair but just needed to make sure the curls looked good) gave me the confidence I needed to feel good in front of the camera. Hair and makeup always takes the longest out of the getting-ready process, though – so just make sure you schedule your appointment several hours in advance!
The most romantic part of the day is sunset or golden hour. You should always start a portrait session 2 hours before sunset. This is going to progressively give you the best light of the whole day. We had this amazing October sunset over the mountaintop and the colors were unreal! October sunsets are the best, and we chose this time of year because our actual wedding date is set for October 3, 2020. You don’t necessarily have to do your session a year out from your wedding. But if you’re using the photos for save the dates, it’s nice for the photos to have the same seasonal vibe as your wedding! We also just love the fall! Another note is, don’t be late. We unfortunately were 10 minutes late to our session (because it was an hour drive with a little traffic) and chose to get changed once we arrived so we didn’t wrinkle our clothes. Steve and I are always early to everything but we just didn’t give ourselves enough time. This is the one thing we wish we could’ve done differently! We probably started shooting 15-20 minutes late which is against our own rules! You’re timing around the sunset so every second counts.
There’s so much to compare yourself to nowadays. Between Instagram and Pinterest and your friends posting their own engagement sessions on Facebook, it’s impossible not to compare yourself or hype your shoot up in your head. Don’t get us wrong, Pinterest / vision boards and Instagram hashtags are a great way to manifest the vibe and look you’re going for in your portrait session. It’s a great way to get ideas for examples of poses, locations, outfits, etc. But the more you deep dive into the internet, the more lost you’ll become. You’ll have too many ideas swimming around in your head. And then when you start dictating ALL of these ideas to your photographers, it might hinder them from being creative in the moment because they’re so busy trying to execute your shot list. This goes for your wedding day, too. Let things roll and you’ll be happier with the outcome. Let your photographer really see what’s around the environment to make the most out of the shoot. This moment below when Steve picked me up was completely unplanned. Maybe the pose was somewhere in our subconscious, but I hadn’t planned any poses in advance. We just followed the moment. I surprisingly let go of control and didn’t preconceive any shots for this session. I left it completely up to Kate and I’m so happy I did!
Take a second to remember what this is really about here. You’re marrying the love of your life. You’re unifying with this person and this session is an opportunity to commemorate this time in your lives that you became engaged. It’s supposed to be fun. You’re supposed to just have fun being around each other and enjoying each other’s company. Don’t snip at your fiance for doing something silly. Silliness and laughter are the keys to great, authentic photos! Yes of course, the whole thing is a staged portrait session. But this isn’t your grandma’s wedding album from the ’40’s. It’s time we look back on our photos and remember what it really felt like in that moment, to be staring at the person you love – ready to say yes to marrying them and being together forever. It should be joyful and remind you of why you’re doing this whole thing in the first place. Love takes precedent over anything else. Remember that.
Who made it possible:
Photographer / Kate of @offbeetproductions
Location / @thesistersofcedarlakes
Hair / @melanieawalode of @galleryasalon
Makeup / @kayy_facee of @galleryasalon
Outfits / Mostly from @francescas & @cottonon & @DSW