How to Make Your Engagement Photos Personal

How to Make it Personal: Planning Your Engagement Session

In case you haven’t heard, I live for engagement sessions! Not only are they a great way to get to know my clients better before the wedding, it’s an awesome opportunity to translate their story and personalities into a collection of photographs. Over the last few years, I’ve been perfecting my preparation process to create truly personal photographs for my clients. Today, I’m sharing some pieces of that process with you!

Find a Focus

Before planning engagement sessions with my clients, I like to ask a few questions to create a focus for their shoot. This is especially helpful to my clients who want their engagement photos to feel personal.

A few examples of these questions:

  • Where do you feel most at home?
  • What stories would you like to tell in your photos?
  • What parts of your personalities would you like to shine through?

For example: I’m currently planning Annie and Ryan’s engagement session for this spring. After asking them some of the above questions, this is what I heard back from them:

“Our favorite part of our life together is doing the everyday things. Finding that awesome-ness in the everyday life around us. I think it would be cool to capture that in our photos. As one location, we love the idea of being at a cute bar or restaurant. Ryan was the bartender at my favorite tiny local spot in Manhattan and that is how we met. We would love to tell that story in our pictures.”

Annie added “Ryan served in the United States Coast Guard for 8 years and is from Florida. Needless to say, he loves the water. I would love to reflect that in some of the pictures as well – whether that be on the River, Lake, or whatever! He feels most at home on the water.”

Location, Location, Location

After hearing back from Annie and Ryan, I started researching locations that would incorporate the elements of their story and personalities. To give the first half of their session a more “lifestyle” feel, we are planning to start the session at an adorable West Loop bar & diner that’s just as photogenic inside as it is outside. The couple will stage a mini date together, complete with food, drinks and flowers. Because Ryan feels most at home on the water, we will be spending time along Lake Michigan for the second half of their session. Setting the stage with these locations is going to help create a story within the photo shoot and allow them to interact with each other more naturally to let their personalities shine. Bonus: In between locations, we will be stopping by their newly purchased home for a few photos in their neighborhood. What better place to “feel at home” in your photos than going to your actual home, right?

What to Wear

After selecting the locations, the next step is to plan for wardrobe! I try to give my clients a few starter suggestions, in terms of what will work well for colors and style in the locations we selected. Continuing to use Annie and Ryan as an example: we’re using the color palette of the restaurant as a starting point for their wardrobe planning. We want to make sure each picture flows visually, so their outfits will compliment the tones of the decor. For the second half, we’ll be lakeside around sunset time, and will be seeing lots of soft blues, pinks, and purples in the sky. Because of this, I’m suggesting a more subdued color palette with a touch of romance for their final outfit.

Hair & Makeup

Leave your hair and makeup to the professionals! They will know how to make all of your features pop the best for camera. Knowing that your hair and makeup look flawless, you’ll be able to relax more easily, enjoy the shoot, and focus on creating special moments together with your fiance. Read more professional makeup benefits from our girl Joanna B Artistry.


I work with my clients to create a relaxed timeline for their pictures. Nothing should feel rushed or hurried. You want to be able to enjoy the time together and have fun! That being said, it is SO important to arrive to your session on time.

When you are scheduling hair and makeup appointments, add some extra time in between the end of your appointment and the start of the shoot. The last thing you want is to be running late and feeling frazzled for the start of your photos.

I schedule all of my photo sessions around either sunrise or sunset. The light is gorgeous at these times of day and looks picture-perfect in photographs. Lighting is that extra special element that’s going to bring your entire session together.

In summary, Locations that tell a story + coordinated outfits + flawless hair & makeup + that sunset glow = the perfect recipe for a personal engagement session.


Have a question?

Reach out to Ashley today and let's start planning the perfect photography experience for your wedding, boudoir or portrait session.

Email: ashley@artistrieco.com