The Key to Crazy Awesome Engagement Sessions

POSTED IN : Shooting & Workflow

Some people ask why we love engagement sessions so much, and the answer is simple:


The engagement session is the perfect excuse to hang out with our clients, get to know a LOT about them, and allow them to get used to being photographed by us. These are big advantages in crafting a comfortable, smooth, positive experience for our couples.

But what is the key to crafting an amazing experience for your couples during every single engagement session?

If you’re shooting more than ten weddings every year, then it can be difficult to help each couple feel unique and appreciated.

You’d be surprised at what the key to a great engagement session really is.

It’s not the location or the clothes or the backgrounds.

It’s not even your technical abilities with your camera.

The key to a great engagement session is trust.

The location and clothes and backgrounds are all factors that help to build that trust and confidence in your couples so that they will fall even more in love with what you do.

So how can we build that trust during the session?

Here’s some crazy simple tips we have learned over the years that help us to maximize these shoots and craft a relationship of trust with every couple.

1. Take Them Out to Dinner

Our goal with every wedding that we photograph is to show up on the wedding day like we are old friends that just happen to have fancy cameras.

While everyone doesn’t have to become best friends with their clients, just remember that the more comfortable your couples are with you as a person, the more they will open up in front of the camera and enjoy the experience

A good experience = happy client = more referrals.

So take some time to hang out either before or after the engagement session.

For example, we take all of our couples out to dinner at the end of their engagement session, and we use it as an opportunity to connect with them as a couple.

We try not to talk about the wedding (unless it naturally comes up).

Instead, we like to talk about their likes, interests, and hobbies. We like to ask deeper questions about how they met, what they love about each other, and what they’re most excited for with marriage.

The goal of dinner is for our couple to walk away feeling like they just had a meaningful conversation, and spending time with them on an individual basis communicates that we are invested in the client relationship and invested in the most important day of their lives which builds trust, confidence, and excitement.

2. Give Plenty of Direction

Most of us are photographing the love stories of everyday people who have never been in front of a professional photographer before.

The more direction you give, the more confident your couples will feel in front of you.

Even the cutest, most outgoing couple has no idea what they’re doing in front of a camera, but they will thrive under direction from you, the photographer.

Stay upbeat, tell them when they are looking fantastic, and get excited when the images are turning out amazing.

Start by being specific in your direction, telling them where to put their hands, where to look with their eyes, how to hold their head, etc.

Eventually they will learn how to be fabulous in front of the camera, and you can give less and less direction as the session moves on.

3. Send Tips & Guidelines Ahead of Time

As I mentioned, most couples have never been in front of a professional photographer and have no idea what to wear or how to look, so this is the perfect opportunity for you to craft the kinds of engagements sessions you ideally want to shoot.

For example, we love shoes, so we ask our brides to wear cute shoes during the session, and every one of our girls shows up in a pair of smokin’ hot heels!

Even our guys love to get in on the action and they wear their favorite pair of shoes.

So think about what you want to photograph and infuse that into your guidelines.

Want to photograph creative people? Ask your couples to think outside of the box with their clothing.

Want timeless, elegant photos? Ask them if they would like to get in a dress and suit.

Remember that you are the expert for every shoot, and brides love getting permission to be creative!

The more you can answer their questions up front and give them expert advice, the more they will trust you as a creative professional.

4. Have Them Bring a Meaningful Prop

One of the tips that we give our couples is to bring a prop that is either fun or significant to their relationship – bikes, hats, skateboards, surfboards, their dogs, or even their cars!

This brings an element of spontaneity, creativity, and originality to the shoot which makes the session all the more fun for us and memorable for the couple!

The more you care about their story, the safer they will feel to be themselves.

5. Choose Locations That Are Significant

Much the same as the prop, we like to shoot at locations that are significant to the couple in order to tell a more complete picture of their love story – their new house, the spot where he proposed, the place where they met, a hobby they enjoy together.

Remember that the engagement pictures are about capturing who they are at an incredibly special time in their lives.

At the same time, make sure that you are inspired by the chosen location so that the images reflect your personal style and creativity.

Make the location a collaborative effort between you and their relationship. This will help them feel known and not like just another shoot.

So in your next shoot, discover some new ways to develop a strong bond of trust with your couples.

You don’t have to be super close and emotional with each other if that’s not your style, you just have to help them feel comfortable, safe, and ok in front of your camera.

Remember that each couple that you photograph has chosen you over the countless other photographers in the industry, so be authentic with your personality.

The more authentic and honest you are in front of your couple, the more authentic and honest they will be in front of the camera!




We teach photographers to build life-giving businesses that they absolutely love.

About Us

We're Jeff & Erin

We’re Jeff and Erin Youngren – and it’s our mission to help you thrive not just as a wedding photographer, but as a business owner. It’s time to set aside the stress and comparison of a hustle mindset, and build a life-giving business instead.

We met in college, got married, and started corporate jobs before we discovered (and fell in love with) wedding photography. But like many creative entrepreneurs, we were booking anything we could, strapped to our laptops and living dangerously close to burnout.

So we dug in and learned how to build a thriving business that supports our dream life – instead of a joyless business that runs a stressed-out life.

Today, we photograph only 10 Dreamie weddings per year, but we also run two other wedding brands plus a commercial studio in San Diego, CA. And we do it by only working the hours that fit into our life. The other hours? We spend those living a joyful life raising our two beautiful sons, James and Samuel.


Jeff and Erin

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