Top 6 reasons to do an Engagement Shoot

Many of my couples find themselves asking, “Should we do an Engagement Shoot?” and the majority of them elect to.

Buckingham Fountain Engagement Photo

Here are the top 6 reasons to do an Engagement Shoot:

#1- An engagement shoot is like a practice/trial run for your wedding day.  It’s a great time to trial hair and make-up so you can see how your look will photograph as well.  That way, you can make any minor adjustments, prior to your wedding day.

#2- An engagement shoot allows you to see how I direct from behind the camera.

#3- An engagement shoot allows me to see what you’re like in front of the camera.  If you’re nervous, it gives us a chance to practice and for me to see what I can do to put you at ease.

#4- An engagement shoot will give me an idea of how little or much instruction you’ll need to fall into natural postures and poses.  If you’re a natural, fabulous, but if not, I can help you feel more comfortable by coaching you.  I want natural, comfortable you to shine through in your images!

#5- An engagement shoot is awesome because you can use the images for your engagement announcement, save the dates, wedding guest book, wedding website, and thank you cards.

#6- An engagement shoot is awesome because it allows you to document a place that is significant to you as a couple.

Some ideas for your shoot:

  • Where you got engaged
  • Where you spend a lot of time together as a couple (wine bars, parks, etc)
  • Doing something you enjoy together such as reading, playing a game, looking at travel magazines, picnic-ing, having a coffee together, or having a glass of wine at your favorite restaurant

You can check out some of my favorite Chicago locations for engagement sessions here or view some of my favorite engagement photos here.

Why Do a First Look

Cafe Brauer Wedding- First Look Photo

My stomach churned as I sat in the vault of St. Hugo’s Wedding Chapel.  How could I possibly be SO excited to marry my best friend, but still have a stomach full of knots?  My palms were clammy and the anxiety of walking down the aisle crept up on me.  I NEVER thought I would be nervous about being the center of attention!  Luckily I had my best friend Jackie there to make me laugh so I started to forget how nervous I was.  But, dang!  That aisle was LONG!  I kept thinking I would catch a heel on the runner and end up straight on my back.  Only I had both parents, one on each arm, to carry me through…Like they always have.  It really was the best day, and now I have an amazing husband of my own.  But…

If I could change one thing about my wedding (other than my brother-in-law’s horrific speech…lol), we would have chosen to do a first look.  Now I was HELL BENT on not seeing Jon before walking down the aisle, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have taken the advice of my now educated, photographer self.

I was so nervous and emotional that day I actually think seeing Jon beforehand would have calmed me right down, allowing me to enjoy my walk down the aisle.  All that anticipation almost killed me ;)

Many couples are now opting for a first look and now that you’ve heard my story as a bride, I’d love to share a list of reasons to do a “First Look” from a photographer’s perspective.

Why Do a First Look?

  • It allows for more time and less rushing for portraits
  • It is a quiet and intimate moment for you and your partner, unscripted
  • Seeing the person you love WILL help calm any nerves
  • It allows for some true raw emotion that can be beautifully captured
  • Seeing each other before the ceremony allows you to get ALL formal and bridal party pictures done BEFORE you tie the knot so you can spend the rest of the day having fun with your loved ones

To see some wedding images of a couple who elected to have a first look, click here.

What to expect from your wedding photographer

Your wedding day may be full of unknowns, but one thing you should never have to wonder about is what to expect from your wedding photographer.

Holy Name Cathedral Wedding

It is vital that my clients trust me and always know where we’re at in the photography process so we remain on the same page.  I thought it would be helpful if I created a list of what to expect from me on your wedding day.  Hopefully this post will promote transparency, and if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

I will

  • Arrive at the bride’s preparation location early
  • Get set up and start snapping away
  • Capture the finishing touches of hair and makeup and document the bride getting into her wedding dress and the groomsmen making their final preparations.
  • Coordinate and facilitate the “First Look”- A “first meeting” for the bride and groom where they see each other before the ceremony.  This is usually done somewhere near the preparation or ceremony site.
  • Let you have your time together- just the two of you, while we document in the background
  • Photograph your couple’s shoot…I may direct you towards natural poses if necessary to achieve an authentic, romantic, and relaxed environment
  • Have the bridal party meet up with us so I can photograph you with them
  • Have your immediate and extended families arrive and we’ll do formal portraits-the selected point person will help me gather all important people to do this quickly, efficiently, and painlessly as possible
  • Congratulate you both because you’re done with any formal photos!!  It’s time to just enjoy the moments as I fade into the background to document the rest of the day.
  • Leave the preparations/portrait site to set up for the ceremony site.  Here I set up any equipment needed during the ceremony. I will take a last look around and find where the light is coming from to best document the ceremony.  At this time you should have a quick refreshment and take 15 minutes of quiet time with just the two of you; you’ll want to regroup before all the excitement begins!
  • Cover the Ceremony and Reception so you can just enjoy yourself and shake your booty on the dance floor!
  • Arrive at the reception site and begin photographing candid shots of cocktail reception.  If there are any additional formal photographs desired we will take this time to finish them in plenty of time for the reception.
  • Enter the dining room before the guests arrive to photograph the cake and floral decor. I also take this time to set up room lights and spotlights if I find they are needed.  Right before the guests arrive we touch base with the catering manager or wedding coordinator to see if there were any last minute changes to the reception schedule.
  • Document the reception candidly as it unfolds, including the first dances, toasts, dancing, and cake cutting. But don’t worry; I am always available for any photo request you may have throughout the evening.  Just ask!
  • Be sure my second shooter and I are communicating well so we can capitalize on having double coverage, getting a variety of different shots.
  • At the end of the night, I will pack my equipment and prepare for my departure. But first, I will check with you to make sure there aren’t any further photos you would like, or an overtime request.
  • Bid you farewell after we snap a photo of us all together!  We’re practically BFFs by now :)

Was this rundown helpful?  Still have questions?  Feel free to send me a note and ask away!

My Photographic Philosophy

When trying to decide if a particular wedding photographer is right for you, it’s important to know what their shooting philosophy is, and if it aligns with your vision for your wedding photography.  Knowing this information will help you narrow down your choices when making the decision of who your wedding photographer will be.  Knowing you’re on the same page with your wedding photographer in this manner will also improve your chances of LOVING your wedding photos, which you should!!

Lincoln Park Wedding Photo

That being said, I’d like to share my photographic philosophy.  I take an editorial to photojournalistic approach to weddings.

Unobtrusively capturing the moments as the day unfolds is key in providing authentic images, but also giving a little guidance when needed so your best self shines through in your wedding images.

I’ve learned that the love you share, the friendship you’ve built and nourished, and the supportive family and friends who have helped shape the individuals you’ve become are the things that matter most.

My goal is to highlight the relationships and people who are important to you, so looking back at your wedding images will make you smile at the moments frozen in time.

It is also my intention is to create timeless images that capture the true raw emotion from your wedding day while documenting everything in between.

Ultimately, my aim is to provide you with a seamless client experience and a beautiful heirloom album that you and your families will enjoy for generations.

If you like what you’ve read so far, head over to my Reviews page to see what past clients have said.  You may also wish to sign up to receive my newsletter and wedding planning tips.  You can do this in the sidebar to the right.


The Wedding Day Timeline

Cafe Brauer Wedding

When trying to decide how much photography coverage you’ll need for your marriage celebration, it’s important to take the wedding day timeline into account.  Weddings come in all different shapes and sizes and the same is true for your timeline.  Your timeline will be unique to your personal celebration depending on when and where the main events are taking place.  The last thing you want to be is stressed about having enough time for taking photos on your wedding day so I make it a priority to be instrumental in the creation of the timeline for your celebration.

It’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution and allow for extra time when constructing your wedding day timeline.  Something always happens if you’re not prepared, but if you are, it will be smooth sailing!  The following are guidelines for amount of time needed to photograph each portion of your day successfully.  As I said, every wedding is different but these guidelines will at least give you a starting point for constructing your wedding day timeline.

  • Getting Ready: 60+ Minutes
  • First Look and Couple’s Portraits: 60-90 Minutes.  I personally like to have at least an hour so if we finish early, you can throw back some bubbly!
  • Bridal Party: 30-45 Minutes.  This will be largely dependent on how many people are in your bridal party, and if you want individual photos with each attendant.
  • Family Formals: 30-45 Minutes.  I recommend between 7-12 groupings but the time spent will be determined by the list you provide on your wedding day questionnaire.
  • Ceremony: 15-75 Minutes depending on the type of ceremony you choose.  Cocktail Hour/Detail Shots Captured after the Ceremony: 60-90 Minutes.  I enter the dining room before the guests arrive to photograph the cake and floral decor.  I also take this time to set up room lights and spotlights if we find they are needed. Right before the guests arrive we touch base with the catering manager or wedding coordinator to see if there were any last minute changes to the reception schedule.
  • Reception/Dance Coverage: 45-120 Minutes.  The grand entrance, first dances, speeches, and cake cutting typically take 45 minutes so it really just depends on how you space these things out at the reception and how much coverage you want of dancing.  After about 4-5 songs, the pictures can become quite redundant because the same people usually dance all night.

Are you in the process of planning your wedding day timeline?  Drop me a line and let me know how I can help!  You may also be interested in checking out some of the publications my work have been featured in here.

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