Calluna Tips

All About Engagement Photos: Three Reasons Why You Should Take Them plus advice from a wedding photographer

Tuesday, September 22

Wedding photography is unarguably one of the most important parts of your planning and vendor selection – the photography that captures this day you’ve dreamt about and prepared for, giving space to the living moments, the planned and unplanned, the gathering of your closest in celebration of your union. Simply put – it’s magic. One thing that we don’t talk about often, though, is engagement photography and the special nature and importance of this intimate session.

While you may be quick to write this off as an unnecessary (and maybe even frivolous) addition to your to-do list, we urge you to take beat and consider the positives. There are so many good things that come from the engagement shoot. To name a few of our favorites:

  • You’re getting to know your photographer. The will be the vendor that you will spend the most time with on your wedding day (yes! Even more than your wedding planner) and it’s important to build a rapport with that person. Quality time together before the wedding will help break down any awkward barriers so the time your photographer greets you on your wedding day, you’ll be so happy to see a friendly familiar face.
  • You’re getting to know your fiance.  We know – you already know this person – you’re engaged for goodness sake! But, unless you’ve taken formal portraits before, this might be new territory. It’s not abnormal to feel a little awkward, clunky or nervous in front of a camera. With all attention on the two of you, a low-stakes, low-stress engagement session gives you space to get comfortable in front of the camera in the company of your partner. Break the ice with some jokes, pop a bottle of bubbly, do an activity like a hike or walk your dog to bring some normalcy into the shots. Before you know it, you’ll be comfortable and confident and can bring that experience and energy to your wedding day, so you both know what to expect.
  • Those photos are dual purpose: You’ll be getting beautiful photos of the two of you – use them! Save the dates, holiday cards, home gallery wall, an album turned wedding guest book… the options are limitless. It will be so special to have professional photographs of you and your new family both in a formal (wedding) and informal (engagement) way to enjoy for years to come.

These are just our thoughts as wedding planners – but we wanted to talk to the real pros. We sat down with photographer Ashley Sawtelle and Calluna Bride Rachel to get each of their thoughts on the matter. Ashley will be photographing Rachel + Connor’s wedding at Devil’s Thumb Ranch next July and we couldn’t be more excited for this partnership. In part one of this blog we’ll explore Ashley’s thoughts. Stay tuned for part two where we chat with Rachel!


How should I prepare for my photo session? Engagement sessions are a great way to work together prior to the wedding day so couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and with their photographer. Preparing for your engagement session will allow for a seamless session that yields amazing photographs that illustrates the love you two share. Connect with your photographer to discuss session details such as location, wardrobe and best time of day. With my work I really love the time right before sunset into the twilight hour. It brings soft, beautiful light and adds a magical quality to the experience and ultimately, the photograph.

Where are we taking these photos? I first ask my clients what location speaks to them. Many of my clients are from around the country so it often becomes a destination location. It might be their family’s property where they got engaged or a special outdoor location where they took their first vacation together. Having a special location in mind connects the couple to place and brings another layer of emotion into the photograph. Once we have a location that feels right for the couple we consult on attire and the best time of day to shoot.

What should I wear? Some clients enjoy a more laid back look, while others decide that a more fashion forward approach is what represents them. Subtle and neutral palettes work best for illuminating your face. I also love fabrics that filter light and float in the breeze – this adds another beautiful layer to an image. This also doesn’t mean to run away from color or patterns, ultimately you want to wear pieces that you feel great in. These sessions are also a great time to work with other vendors such as your make up artists and hair stylists.

When should we schedule our session? If you are using images for your save the dates, schedule the session around 10 months before your wedding date to allow for processing time.


Why are engagement sessions important? As a photographer, I see a difference in the wedding day portraits when the couple has a portrait session prior to their big day. There is an ease and confidence present in the couples and how they interact in front of the camera.  The wedding day is a breeze and I see the couple relax, instead of being worried about being in front of a camera for the first time. It also allows me the opportunity to study the engagement session images and fine tune how I work with the couple the next time. It’s a great benefit for all and you receive amazing photographs during this special time.

It has been an honor for Ashley to photograph destination weddings in stunning locales with the industry’s most sought after creative teams. She is committed to documenting moments of spontaneous love, thoughtful details and the celebratory energy of a wedding weekend delivering a collection of photographs that is both natural and elegant. Her work has been featured in Town & Country, BRIDES, Martha Stewart Weddings, InStyle, The Denver Post, and many more.

All photos by Ashley Sawtelle

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