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choosing the perfect time, location, outfit & More!
A NOTE ABOUT THIS GUIDE
I'm so excited to be working with you, and I can't wait for our time together during your engagement session! It's normal to be a little nervous about your session. I always tell people that I still get nervous before having my photo taken - and I do this for a living!
I'm a big fan of engagement sessions for a few reasons. First, they allow you to get comfortable in front of the camera. It takes time for most couples to warm up to being photographed and understand how we pose. Timelines can be pretty tight on wedding days, and 20 minutes may be all we have for portraits - which is why I've found that wedding day portraits turn out so much more natural and fun when couples do engagement sessions ahead of time.
Second, you can showcase your personalities in a more casual setting that is significant to the two of you (and even include pets!). While they're great for save-the-dates, I've taken engagement photos anywhere from 18 months in advance to a few days before the wedding.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to planning a session, and since I get asked the same things over and over again, I thought it would be the most beneficial if I put together a guide that walks you through everything you need to know.
I'll cover what to wear, whether to bring pets & how to manage them, location ideas and more!
- Tayler enerle
Engagement sessions can be planned anywhere from immediately following a proposal to just a few days before the wedding. I've found that there isn't a "good" or "bad" timeframe to schedule photos. However, there are two specific times of day that will give you the best light.
Sessions typically last about an hour and a half, and when we can— I love to begin sessions about two hours before sunset. I prefer to shoot when the sun is lower in the sky to avoid harsh shadows and bright sun patches. While sunset is a favorite, the first two hours after sunrise is also an ideal time to shoot.
I schedule sessions during this time to give you that gorgeous "golden hour" glow and the best light possible. In the evening, the light gets softer and prettier the closer you are to sunset. The fifteen-twenty minutes at dusk can also be lovely. In the morning, it is the same. The sun is most beautiful right before and after sunrise and an hour or two following. The sun gets harsher as it rises.
The Central Coast's mild weather allows us to photograph sessions all year round. Without any harsh seasons, we don't have nearly as many limitations as we would elsewhere.
A few things to keep in mind during each season:
If you’re planning to take your engagement photos during the winter, keep in mind that if your session takes place in the evening, we could begin shooting as early as 2:30 pm to catch the sunset. We recommend dressing in layers so that in between photos, you can warm up. While the weather is mostly mild here, it can be windy and a bit chilly at the beach or in areas of the county like Paso Robles. Make sure you bring a little extra makeup, a hairbrush, and tissues in case your nose begins running.
Rolling green hills and wildflowers
Spring can be extra beautiful here on the Central Coast. Prepare for a lot more greenery in your background if you choose a location other than the beach. Spring is an excellent time of year to take photos, although it can also be quite windy. Touch up makeup, a hairbrush, and a tissue in case your nose gets runny is a good idea for Spring as well.
walks on the beach
Summer can be a great time to do a session. Most of the vineyards are green and beautiful in the summer. Keep in mind that, in the northern part of the county, it can be quite hot. At times, when it is crazy hot in Paso, it can be a lot cooler or even foggy at the beach.
Because of the later sunset, sessions sometimes begin as late as 6 pm. If you’re taking your engagement photos during the summer, we recommend bringing extra makeup and a hairbrush, etc. to help make sure you stay fresh throughout your session.
Golden fields and snuggling close
Fall is one of the prettiest times of the year on the Central Coast, and because of the perfect weather, my schedule typically books up quickly! While the green hills are gone, they leave pretty golden and brown fields in their wake. These fields can have a romantic feel. Although the weather seems to be more favorable here in the Fall, it doesn't hurt to bring extra makeup, and a hairbrush to help you stay fresh throughout the session.
If your wedding is local, it is recommended to send "save the dates" between 6 and 8 months before the wedding. For a destination wedding, it is often recommended to send them out 6 to 10 months before the wedding.
If you're hoping to use your engagement photos for your save the dates, we recommend scheduling your session at least two months before you plan to send out your save-the-dates. Between inclement weather, editing, designing your save-the-dates and printing, two months is generally a safe amount of time to make sure your images and cards are ready.
Our pet is huge part of our family, which is why I love when couples choose to incorporate pets into their session. Keep in mind that bringing a pet along often means that we’ll need to choose a pet-friendly location. There are some state parks in the area that do not allow pets.
I recommend planning for your pet to be at the first part of your session and then either dropping them off or having a friend take them home. We won’t use your pet in every single photo, so it’s also nice to have a friend available to hold him or her in between shots.
If you’re going to bring a pet, I recommend exercising your pet before the session and bringing your pet's favorite toy or treats! Depending on your pet’s fur type, it might also be a good idea to groom them before the shoot.
TIPS FOR LOOKING YOUR BEST
My biggest suggestion for clothing is to wear something that makes you feel good.
When picking outfits, I recommend keeping in mind the word "complement" rather than "match." For example, if one partner is wearing a blue and pink pastel plaid shirt, the other partner may want to choose a soft blue palate. It can also be a great idea to choose "color-families," such as pastels or jewel tones. Neutral, earth or jewel-tone clothing makes for a natural and timeless look that suits outdoor photos well.
Generally, couples pick two outfits for an engagement session: this can be two casual outfits, or a casual and a formal outfit. It all depends on the location as well as what you feel most comfortable in. It may not make sense to be in an extremely formal outfit with heels on at the beach. Having two distinct outfits helps give you more variety from our session.
I recommend saving your favorite outfit for later in the session when couples usually feel more comfortable in front of the camera. And don't forget to bring a few accessories! Statement necklaces, cute shoes, and classic watches are great ways to add detail to outfits.
In most situations, I would suggest refraining from wearing any clothing with wording, logos, neon colors, or overly distracting patterns.
Engagement sessions are the perfect time for a hair and makeup trial! Professionally done hair & makeup last longer than typical hair & makeup. They also tend to hold up better for humidity and wind.
I think it’s so important that you look and feel your best for your engagement photos - and if you’re planning to do a hair & makeup trial anyways, the engagement session is a great time to test how your hair & makeup look on camera.
There will probably be times during your session when I'm shooting your hands holding or the engagement ring on your hand - which means it’s a good idea to clean up your nails before your session (this applies to the guys too!).
While most of my engagement sessions are taken in SLO county, I've photographed sessions everywhere from Monterey to Manhattan. If you have a location in mind that is significant to the two of you, let me know, and we may be able to schedule a destination session.
Travel fees may apply depending on location and availability.
what to do if it rains
While the weather here on the Central Coast is typically mild, there are situations when it may rain, have powerful winds or dense fog. It is hard to predict these weather conditions.
I'll check in the week of your engagement session to confirm the time & location we are meeting and the weather. I know it takes a lot of time to get ready for an engagement session, and it's the worst to get dressed up and drive out to your session only to have it rain. Let me know what works best for the two of you - but if the weather looks like it won't be great, I typically try to make the call at least 8 hours in advance. I am always willing to reschedule if you feel more comfortable with that. We can't control the weather, so I try to be as flexible as possible. I never want you to feel trapped on a certain date with poor weather.
San Luis Obispo County
There are so many beautiful locations to do engagement sessions in San Luis Obispo county.
We have everything from different types of beaches, vineyards, fields, trees; you name it!
Here are a few of my favorites below, click on the links to view sessions at those locations.
The locations below are all beautiful but i also love exploring meaningful locations to you as well!
View session on blog
Oaks Reserve and Montana De Oro
View session on blog
Oaks Reserve and Perfumo Canyon
VIEW SESSION ON BLOG
Oaks Reserve and Morro Rock
Due to the shade from trees, the Oaks reserve is best about 1-2 hours before sunset, making it ideal for a first location.
VIEW SESSION ON BLOG
San Simeon Beach and Bluff trail
San Simeon has both the beach and a beautiful tree lined trail along the bluff. Due to the time consuming nature of this location, it is best if we plan for this to be our only location.
VIEW SESSION ON BLOG
Oaks Reserve and Los Osos Sand Dunes
The walk to this location is time consuming. if you want a separate first location, I suggest sweet springs or the oaks reserve which are also in Los Osos. This way we are maximizing our time with less travel.
VIEW SESSION ON BLOG
Oaks Reserve and Perfumo Cayon
Due to the open nature of perfumo canyon this location is best as your second location at sunset
VIEW SESSION ON BLOG
The Bay in Los Osos, California
This spot is best in the winter at sunset
It’s a good idea to have your ring cleaned or clean it yourself before your shoot!
To clean at home, soak your ring in warm water with dishwashing soap for 20 minutes.
Then gently brush the stone with a soft toothbrush, rinse and repeat if needed.
Wine is always a good idea
If you’re planning to bring props to your engagement session, I recommend including them only if they’re meaningful to you. Shots of drinking coffee at a local coffee shop would be cute if that’s where you met; however, trying to fly a kite together when it’s not a part of your relationship may come off as contrived.
When it comes to posing for your engagement session, you don’t need to worry about a thing! I’ll guide you through the entire process beginning with “poses” that are super easy and natural. If I tell you to do something that feels a little funny, it’s probably because I know it’s going to make the two of you laugh - and that’s the photo I'm actually looking for. I try to direct more than "pose".
Throughout your session, I’ll keep an eye on your hair, makeup and outfits to make sure things stay in place. I want you to feel as relaxed as possible and enjoy your time together!
Engagement session galleries are delivered within two weeks from the session date.
All galleries include:
Full resolution download link of all the best images
All images are fully color-corrected & print ready
Print and social media release with the options to buy prints and albums.
I know that this guide is long, and hopefully, it covers everything you need to know to prep for your engagement session! However, if there is something I missed or you need a recommendation, feel free to email.