Engagement Session Styling Tips

It can be hard to settle on a style for your engagement photographs.  It’s a chance to say so much about yourselves, and can quickly get overwhelming, especially if you start looking through lots of other engagement photographs!  I’ve put together a small list of tips, tricks, questions to ask yourself, and things to avoid when planning your engagement session outfits.

How can your outfit compliment the location you’ve chosen?

Think about your outfits in relation to the location you’ve chosen for your engagement photographs.  This will quickly help pare down your options.  If we’re going hiking, maybe put those summer dresses back in the closet, if we’re at the cottage then suddenly a bathing suit sequence could be part of the shoot, and if we’re going out to your favourite wine bar for a night on the town, consider opting for something a bit more dressy than your daily jeans and white T-shirt combo.  

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 Dress like yourselves

Don’t try to put on a persona for your engagement photographs.  This is an opportunity to document who you are in your lives together at this point in time.  If you’re feeling cool and want to ride your motorcycle around the neighborhood for your shoot, let’s do that in your favorite worn in leather jackets.   If you’re outdoorsy and live in your Patagonia half zip, then let’s go hiking in Tobermory and wear those fleece tops!  If you love hats, wear a hat, if you never put on dresses then why squeeze into one for your shoot? Above all, you want to look back on these photographs, sigh contentedly, and say ‘hot dam those photos are so US’.

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 Be comfortable

I always say ‘don’t be fidgety and don’t be freezing’.  This is pretty self explanatory, if you don’t feel comfortable in your clothing, you won’t look comfortable in your photographs!  If we’re taking winter engagement photographs, steer clear of shorts and summer rompers, wear your favorite cashmere turtleneck and camel coat instead.  If you really want to wear that new top you just bought, but feel like you have to keep tucking your boobs back in, maybe save it for a night out and not your engagement photographs.  If you have to keep worrying and fidgeting with your outfit you will have a hard time getting into the flow and relaxed movement of an engagement session.

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Lean towards lighter colours

If you’ve chosen me to be your photographer because you like the light and bright style of my photographs, then style your engagement session to play this up.  Choose clothing that is lighter coloured, and more pastel in hue.  If you’re deciding between black jeans or light wash, go for the light wash.  If you’re deciding between your fave LBD or and organic flowing linen number you love, go for the linen.  My work is very organic, soft, and light coloured, and if you love this we should make sure to style your engagement session appropriately.  The exception to this is of course if you prefer wearing dark colours, anything works to photograph in the right environment! 

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 Book your hair and makeup trial

Sometimes people book their hair and makeup trial for the same date as their engagement photographs.  This is a great idea IF the hair and makeup style you choose compliments your outfit and activity (glam buns and lashes out to there will look out of place at the park with your dog).  If you’re booking your hair and makeup trial just to get to know your stylist more, then opt for a look that will compliment your engagement photographs instead of serving as practice for your wedding day.

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Things to avoid

While I never want to tell people what not to do (there are always exceptions to every rule!) here are a few things I’ve found are usually best to avoid when styling your engagement session outfits.  We want to actually be able to see your face in your engagement photographs, so avoid covering up with something like a ball cap.  Hats are okay, and can play perfectly into your style, just make sure we’ll be able to see you easily and without too much dark shadow over your eyes.  Avoid neon colours.  Again, this might play up your style, in which case go wild, however I generally find that really bright and neon colours reflect light up onto your face and create strange skin tones that are difficult to normalize.  If you don’t absolutely love it, steer clear of that pylon orange t-shirt.  Finally, I recommend avoiding extremely large and graphic logos.  They look distracting in portrait photography, and could say something or represent a brand that you’re not going to love so much years from now.  Unless you’re high up on the Levi’s food chain and want to rep that company, maybe opt for the simple white T instead. 

Rebecca & John: A Sunrise Session in Trinity Bellwoods

If you don’t already know, couples who agree to sunrise engagement sessions with me capture my heart right from the get go.  I’m a hopelessly early riser, and getting up to start the day with the sunrise is one of my favourite things.  When couples want to join me, get a cup of coffee, and do something fun to start the day as well, I know that I’ve found my people!

            Rebecca and John were happy to meet me in Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods park as the sun was coming up, and made the usual sunrise session even better by bringing along their classic tandem bicycle as something fun to do during their session. Yes, read that again, their.tandem.bicycle.

            We started with a warm cup of coffee from White Squirrel Coffee to wake ourselves up and warm up a bit as the sun rose higher, then ventured into the park with their bicycle to cruise the many paths, enjoy the sun, and generally have a fantastic time riding their bike around and waving and honking the horn at curious onlookers.  Rebecca and John are one of those awesome couples who are game for anything, love getting out and about in the city together, and are always up for some fun.  As craft beer connoisseurs, lovers of the Toronto skyline, and tandem bike owners, I knew from our first meeting together at Soho House that we would be a great fit.

            I could go on and on about them, but am way too excited for you to take a scroll through and see some of the fun we had shooting with their tandem bike.  I will be photographing their wedding later this summer at a craft brewery, and cannot wait to experience this amazing day with them and share it with you!

xo
-c

Sophia & Terrence: A Summer Engagement Session on the Toronto Islands

Sophia and Terrence met at camp when they were teenagers, and have carried on the most beautiful long distance relationship between two different countries ever since. You can’t help but fall in love with these two when you meet them in person and see them interact!  I met them at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminals at the Toronto Harbourfront to fit in an engagement session while Sophia was visiting in Toronto.  We hopped on the ferry together and spent the afternoon exploring the Toronto islands, sipping coffee, walking with the sand between our toes, and enjoying some ice cream before Sophia boarded her plane back to Chicago.

            I had so much fun shooting with these two, and they have way too much fun hanging out together.  I can’t wait to share more photographs from their winter wedding in downtown Toronto right before Christmas last year!

xo
-c

Annie & Colin's at Home Engagement in The Beaches

I met Annie and Colin for a sunrise engagement session at their home in my favourite neighbourhood of Toronto, the Beaches.  We settled down at their kitchen table to enjoy a cup of coffee together to wake up and start out shoot on the right foot.  I was immediately smitten with them both.  Their home is filled with music and instruments, displaying Colin’s profession, and decorated with all things retro, folky, and funny, true to Annie’s unique style.  They have a large painted portrait of The Dude over their fireplace, next to a piano, across from a mid century modern sofa, where they sat sipping a second cup of coffee from some of Annie’s antique mugs.  I adore these guys.

            As the sun rose higher we headed out the front door for a short walk to the beach where we strolled the shoreline together, skipped stones, and sat on the breakwater soaking up the early morning sun.  Sunrise engagement sessions are always the best start to the day, and getting to work with these two made it even better.  Looking at them you can just tell that they are one another’s person, they just fit, and I absolutely can’t wait to share photographs from their beautiful, musical wedding on the waterfront later this past summer. 

xo
-c

Best of 2018 Engagements

From Toronto, to Muskoka, to New York, to the Rocky Mountains, engagement sessions are one of my favorite experiences with CFP. With almost every couple I photographed this past season booking an engagement shoot, life was busier than ever, but I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend some real time with so many couples. Engagement sessions are a pillar of my business, creating the chance to get to know each couple I work with, learn who they are and what they value together, and create a relationship so that I can walk into each wedding day as more than just their wedding photographer. I got to spend time enjoying drinks and meals at their favorite restaurants, rolling on the floor with their furry family members, cruising the sparkling lake waters together in their boats, and exploring so many new and wonderful places.

It was a challenge pulling together some of my favorite engagement session photographs from 2018, but looking back through it all made me so freeking excited for all the engagement adventures ahead this year!

Melody & Edmond's Elegant Engagement at Queen's University, Kingston

Melody & Edmond traveled from Hong Kong to meet me in Kingston where they first met, on the campus of Queen's University.  We explored their their old stomping grounds and favorite haunts around campus, including the library where they spent hour after hour sitting and studying across from each other, before heading into Kingston.  In town we explored the cutest cobbled streets, open squares lined with gorgeous parliament buildings and restaurants, and visited Melody's favorite buildings (I was amazed by how European Kingston can feel!).  We walked past the go-to restaurants of their university days and reminisced, before finishing our shoot together at the waterfront on Lake Ontario.  I love taking a walk down memory lane together with my clients during their engagement sessions, and it was an added treat to be guided around Kingston together with these two!

I can't wait for you to scroll through and see how sweet these two are together, and I guarantee you're going to fall in love with each of Melody's stunning custom dresses.  She even had some of her talented friends come along to do her hair, makeup, and floral crown during the shoot! 

Erica & Simon's Country Engagement Session

Erica and Simon hosted me at their property just outside of Toronto for their engagement session.  I knew we would get along well right away when they told me that they would like to include their big beautiful dog in the photographs.  We spent the afternoon lounging in their terracotta tiled sunroom that Erica has filled with plants, and walking the many trails and fields they explore together on long dog walks and hikes.  It was the most simple at-home engagement session, and so much fun to capture with such a wonderful and welcoming couple.  Engagement sessions get me so excited for the real wedding coming up soon!

Kate & Adrian's Sunrise Adventure Session in Tobermory

Kate and Adrian met me before dawn last July at our campsite in Tobermory for their Adventure Session, an idea I was testing out last summer to create fun, adventurous, and outdoorsy photography sessions.  I’m so lucky that I got these two amazing people to work with that morning, because they truly embodied what I was looking for in my ideal adventure session couple! 

Driving down the dirt logging road to our location I had scouted the day before, the car’s headlights illuminated a freshly fallen tree blocking the road.  Despite being beautifully dressed and prepared with hair curled and makeup on for the early morning session, they were more than game to hop out of the car and help me slowly heave the tree, inch by inch, across the road to clear enough space for the truck to squeeze by. 

We spent the next two hours traversing the beautiful Georgian Bay shoreline and taking photographs as the sun was coming up.  We hiked through beautiful rock formations, tested the water and deciding it was too cold, climbed rocky plateaus, and had a great time exploring such a beautiful natural area and taking photographs together while we were there. 

This idea was born from my combined passions for photography and spending time outdoors.   I love spending time with people while outside and being active, and would love to get more people outdoors to places they haven’t visited before, all while taking photographs of couples together in beautiful locations, looking natural, and feeling genuinely relaxed, happy, and free spirited together in front of the camera.

Last season’s trial adventure sessions were such a success that I will be offering scheduled adventure session dates throughout the year, available for anybody who is looking to have photographs taken while outdoors doing something they love.  I will be choosing different locations around Southern Ontario and planning a range of activities for people to take part in, from hiking, to camping, canoeing, to surfing, and anything else people are passionate about and want to do together! 

Keep your eyes peeled for announcements for adventure session dates throughout the year, and feel free to email me with suggestions or requests for activities and locations.  I hope to see some of you outside and in front of the lens with me one day soon!

Best Of Engagements 2017

Following last week's 'Best of Weddings 2017' post, I decided to put together a collection of my favorite engagement photographs from 2017.  Once again, I selected my single favorite photograph from every engagement session I photographed the past year. 

I typically choose photographs that have a backstory I love.  The moments that are spontaneous, that tell a story of who the couple really is, how they relax together, laugh together, and love each other.  Without having had the chance to get to know all these wonderful people the way I have, it might be difficult to understand some of these images, overall though you'll see laughter.  That's my favorite thing to photograph, and I will always strive to get couples laughing together throughout their engagement session. 

As always it was difficult to choose my favorites here, I hope you enjoy some of them though, and maybe pull out some inspiration for your own engagement session. :)

Thanks for looking!
xo
-c

8 Tips to Nail your Engagement Photos

Chances are, when you’re looking to hire a wedding photographer, you’ll also be deciding whether or not you want to have engagement photographs taken.  Aside from the obvious positives (you’ll have some nice new photographs for your guest book) and negatives (you/your fiancée hates having their photograph taken), one reason I advise couples to take advantage of the engagement session option is that it’s a great chance to spend some time getting to know your photographer.  As a wedding photographer I’ll likely be spending the full day with you on your wedding day, and am there throughout some of the most important, private, and intimate moments.  It’s important that everybody feel comfortable, and engagement sessions are a way to get to know who you are together, how you like to interact, what your sense of humour is like, and all the other little details that will help me do the best possible job on your actual wedding day.

After photographing countless engagement sessions, I can hopefully provide some tips and tricks to make the most of our time together and keep the session fun and pain-free! (I get t-rex arms when you try to take my photograph, anybody else?)

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1.    Pick an activity or location that’s comfortable to you.

The point of the engagement session is to spend some time getting to know each other, and capturing great photographs of you and your fiancée having fun together.  It’s basically a photographer date, and the images we create along the way should really resonate with who you are together at this point in your lives.  The activities you choose can be anything that you enjoy together, maybe this means starting the session off at your favourite Saturday morning café for lattes and croissants; or if a nice glass of wine is more your thing, let’s skip the coffee and head to the best wine bar in the neighbourhood where you had your first date together.  It can be as active as going surfing (any surfers out there looking for a wedding photographer?), or as quiet as making Sunday morning brunch together in your apartment and snuggling in with a book and your cats.  If you’re at all unsure about an activity or are having trouble coming up with ideas, feel free to ask your photographer for a quick engagement session brainstorm! 

2.    Get Creative

If you’re having trouble picturing your favourite activities together as ‘photo-shoot-worthy’, start making a list either together or with your photographer of ways you can jazz it up but still feel like you!  Perhaps nothing makes you happier than a Friday night movie or Netflix marathon; turn it into a drive-in movie date instead, complete with a sunset Frisbee game before the movie starts, a trip to the confectionary to load up on popcorn and twizzlers, and pyjamas and duvets in the back of your car with the hatch open.  Maybe Sunday brunch is your ritual but you’re not in love with the dark apartment you’re currently renting, let’s start the day with a trip to the farmers market to buy ingredients together, make an easy brunch on your biggest cutting board, and enjoy it out on your balcony or with candles lit around the table.  The goal is to tell the story of who you are, and everybody has a photo-worthy story. 

3.    Make it into a date.

Treat your engagement session like a date and put yourself into the mindset to relax, have fun, and feel more romantic than your average Tuesday.  Take the afternoon off together to do something fun before your engagement session, spend some time getting dressed up without the rush and stress of having to be somewhere quickly after work.  Maybe finish the evening off by making reservations for a later dinner post photo-shoot at that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try for ages.  Turning your shoot into an experience will make it something to look forward to, and something to remember as that great date night you actually made time to plan together.

4.     Dress to feel like yourself

‘What do I wear’ is one of the most common questions I'm asked before an engagement shoot.  There are so many options it’s hard to come up with an easy overall answer!  The best advice I can offer is to dress comfortably for yourself, while also keeping in mind your chosen engagement session activities.  If you’ve decided to go hiking in the fall, wear your favorite hiking outfit complete with big woolly sweaters and your well worn hiking boots with the red laces.  If cocktail hour at the classy bar downtown is your thing, maybe it’s a good chance to pull out that silky dress you bought for a Christmas party and haven’t worn yet.  If you’re at all unsure about a chosen outfit, pattern, or colour, you can always ask your photographer.  The final piece of outfit advice I can offer is to dress to the same level.  Try to style yourselves together as a couple, rather than picking your outfits separately and hoping they work together.  I don’t mean matching white turtlenecks 90’s style, but if you’re planning on dressing for a nice night out together, avoid the couple combo of high heels and hockey jerseys.  Unless that’s really your thing, you do you. 

5.    Let your photographer get to know you

Very few people come into their engagement sessions with hours of childhood modeling experience for the Sears catalogue in their back pocket, and having your photo taken together can be daunting.  It’s easiest to have something to do that you enjoy.  Talk, laugh, be weird when you’re feeling weird, high five if you’re high fivers, and throughout your session help your photographer get to know who you are as a couple.  If you’re set up to cuddle on the couch, but really you’re much more loving when making sarcastic jokes while sipping your coffee in separate chairs, then tell your photographer that you’re not really couch snugglers. This is a practice session for the wedding day, so if you never exchange forehead kisses, don’t let us take tonnes of forehead kissing photographs on your engagement session and wedding day, these will never be your favorite shots. 

6.    Don’t take it too seriously

Seriously.  We’ve already established that having your photo taken can feel awkward, so if you’re feeling weird then let it show!  Don’t be afraid to be silly, and trust that your photographer will capture the best photographs that represent you together.  If you think you’re trying to gaze lovingly at each other while the sun is setting, but are just barely stifling a laugh, let it out!  Snort if you have to.   Chances are you’ll appreciate the photo of you two howling with laughter together at your inside jokes more than any cinematic romantic sunset shot down the road anyways.  

7.    Make it seasonally appropriate

This might be a more location-specific suggestion, but make sure that the activity you’ve planned and the locations you’ve chosen fit well with the weather.  A little bit of rain never hurt anybody while taking photographs, but if you really want to wear that beautiful long dress you love, try to wait until it’s warm enough to wear it rather than dashing back and forth between putting your coat on to warm up.  If you’re keen on a winter engagement session, plan indoor breaks to warm up again so you don’t end up with a pink nose in all your photographs, wearing a miserable expression as you lose feeling in your fingers.  Remember, this is supposed to be fun!

8.    Communicate with your photographer

Keeping in touch with your photographer about your engagement session plans is key.  Ask for ideas if you’re having trouble thinking of something fun to do, talk about the best time of day to take photographs for what your planning, and toss ideas around to find the right outfits together.  It’s all about getting to know you, so the more conversations we get to have the better!  Also, keeping your photographer updated on the locations you want to visit is important to make sure you have the right permits, call ahead to make sure it’s okay to take photographs at that time of day, and generally make sure there are no unwanted photography surprises messing with your plans.