It's engagement session time. If you're sitting stressing out over what colors to wear, what rules to follow, and making sure your fiance's smile doesn't look awkward like it always does in your iphone selfies together then read ahead. This is the official guide of not only what to do, but perhaps more importantly what not to worry about on your engagement photo day. My advice : read this whole session with a cup of coffee, or better yet wine, and relax. This entire process is supposed to be fun remember? That being said - here's my 8 tips for making your engagement session awesome.


BE CLOSE // Abbey + Grant

1. BE CLOSE : Expect for our entire shoot to be in one general area. Whether we were on a road, in a field, at the barn, or in a little ally on the old side of town it isn't the location that makes your shoot unique. It isn't the light, or the way I press the button. It isn't even whether or not I can pose you a million different ways that all looked like a perfect pinterest board. What makes your engagement shoot fun, intimate, exciting, unique and ultimately very true to you two as a couple is whether or not you're willing to be truly close. I start every shoot with the simple statement - "don't over think it." I say it at EVERY shoot. The shocking thing is that I'm serious here - DON'T OVER THINK IT! These are pictures of you two as a couple, in love. The place to start - act in love!


BE ACTIVE // Courtney + Scott

2. BE ACTIVE : We hear all the time from couples that they are hiring us because we have so many "poses". Seriously - that's a common sentence. My response is always the same - we try to do as little "posing" as possible. What makes a GREAT photo isn't the fact that I can tell you where to put your hands or how to hold your chin (cue senior photo memory slideshow). What makes a truly beautiful engagement shot is for you to feel free to have fun and just hang out! That being said there's a few rules yes, (keep your back arched, keep your eyes either into each other or low, keep your hands busy, keep your feet deliberate, bla bla bla) but in reality even though I give you a million little rules to cloud up your mind on a shoot the goal is simple. Give you things to HELP you look good, and the flexibility to look natural together! END RESULT? Clever, creative poses that don't look like poses! (And that I didn't have to somehow place you in.) Don't fill your head up with poses you like or photos you want us to copy. Instead, cuddle up and watch a movie together. Chances are what you're doing on the couch is a lot more photogenic than having him hang from a tree while you jump to kiss him (or any other pinterest trend that nearly broke the internet).


BE STYLISH // Sydney + Clinton

3. BE STYLISH : Probably the place every couple starts for their shoot is what they're going to wear. TOTALLY BACKWARDS. What matters first is where are you going to shoot? What do you want this shoot to look like? THEN you can put together outfits that feel good in that place and a time. That doesn't mean you need to match your backgrounds. I LOVE to put a nice suit and a pretty dress in a junk yard. Contrast is a good thing. BUT having an outfit that is perfectly trendy, perfectly RIGHT NOW, gives me a chance to take photos that are equally right now. True fact : "timeless" engagement photos don't exist. The fun in making fun of your parent's photos together is that some day your kids will do the same thing to you. It's ok to date your engagement photos! Don't stress about your colors, or patterns, or what some grumpy old photographer told your family at their last photoshoot on the beach while you were all wearing blue jeans white shirts and no shoes. Don't consult google for hours and try to mimic the outfits you see when you search for "cutest engagement photos ever". Instead take the chance to run out together to a boutique and find yourself something new that you feel super confident in! Once you find the perfect little summer dress, (or whatever), style him too! What makes the styling of ANY engagement shoot is the groom. (WHAT?!?!) No seriously, a sharp dressed guy pulls the look together. Check out your guy with an objective eye. Don't be harsh with him, but keep in mind that fit is more important than anything.  Don't send him out into the world in a bro-tank or an XXL Ralph Lauren Polo but give him a chance to stud up a bit. Hint : Esquire Magazine sets the bar that we all secretly try and reach.


BE HAPPY // Rachel + Christian

4. BE HAPPY : The greatest photos aren't when I count to three. You don't need to spend hours in a mirror practicing the perfect smile! Shocking right? Instead have a glass of wine before your shoot, or just take a few hours before your shoot to grab lunch and hang out! The less stressed you are about how you look the more capable you are to FEEL. My least favorite thing I hear photographers tell their clients is to "laugh". The fake laugh is the back pocket trick of a photographer who isn't engaged in their sessions WITH their clients. Instead what matters to us is catching the REAL emotion that's happening on the shoot. Occasionally that means I have a running commentary during the entire shoot. Sometimes I bite my tongue until the right time to say something that will get them going. Regardless what ties together a GREAT shoot is a couple who's up for some fun together. True statement, one of the most photogenic emotions is "awkward". If you're nervous, you'll look anxious and if you're anxious you'll look flirty. If you look flirty, we've all just won.


BE WILLING // Brantly + Allen

5. BE WILLING : To get into the right field with the right light and the right background we may have to walk around the side of a falling down barn and about 40 yards into grass that just keeps getting taller. If you've spent much time in Arkansas that means you know that knee high grass in the summer brings with it some allergies, some unfriendly little bugs, and who knows what else. How then do you get beautiful shots in pretty fields with great light? You suck it up. You walk in soggy grass in 4 inch pumps. You shiver a bit in the spring and sweat a bit in the summer. After you live through it - you get great photos! Remember that any photographer that does this full time is very used to helping you through these obstacles. I can't tell you how many brides I've carried through fields, how many shoes I've put on, how many dresses I've carried, and how many bottles of ice water I've sprinted back to the car 1/2 mile away to grab. Even though this is our job, nothing spoils it more than a couple who wants the perfect product but isn't willing. SO - make it fun! Laugh about the walk, make him give you a piggy back, or just relax and enjoy a shoot that ideally comes around once in a lifetime!


BE CUTE // Rose + Nam

6. BE CUTE : We've all seen those engagement photos that make us jealous. I can remember a wedding I shot in spring on a day that was no more than 35 degrees. It was horribly cold outside and just after the ceremony we ran out of the church to start a couple session that simply needed to not take very long because of the cold. I asked Alison to jump into Billy's arms - no directions, no plan, not even a 1.2.3. and the result was completely vulnerable and perfectly gorgeous. She jumped, arched her back, kicked her dress up in the air, and kissed Billy like he had just swept her completely off her feet. Romantic didn't even begin to describe it. I know that unless you've practiced the "Dirty dancing" lift in your living room alone you're not likely to be able to pull something off perfectly the first time. But if you don't try something cute for cute's sake - you may miss out. The trick is simple "hey {you're hame here} get in super close to him. I'm going to have you jump up and hold on. Ok {groom} catch her and kiss her and make it look awesome. GO!" This isn't about what THAT shot looks like. You may bump him on the way up, nock him over and land on top of him laughing. Guess what, that shot is probably better anyway.


BACK HIM UP // Megan + Delyn

7. BACK HIM UP:  What I mean here isn't just that you should let him have some lime light. What I mean is that most grooms act like they don't care about photos. Most grooms also act like they don't have an opinion about a lot of the wedding planning. BUT most grooms would totally change their tone about a lot of that if they knew that it mattered! SO do yourself a huge favor and involve him! Expect for him to look on google for about 5 minutes, find something super cheesy, and want it. BUT believe me when I say I'll do it for him so that he knows that his ideas matter! That's not exactly all I'm talking about here though. Picture yourself with a groom who's willing to just stand alone. I don't think I've ever had a groom who would tell me "no" if I asked him to stand in front a bit. BUT it takes a guy with some confidence to stand there and really look good. He may not think he's a very photogenic guy, but he's your guy. He's a stud in your mind, but honestly he may be pretty nervous to have kind of confidence. The secret here is you. Give him a reason to have some fun and a reason to appreciate the whole process. COMPLIMENT each other! HELP each other pose and help each other relax! Even if you normally heckle each other pretty hard, this is an opportunity to have some fun as a team.


BE HAPPY (AGAIN) // Haley + Hayden

8. BE HAPPY : I KNOW I KNOW that was number 4! This isn't about being happy with each other, it's about being happy with your pictures! Just a few years ago before the invention of Pinterest and Photoshop couples would have been thrilled to get 5 or 6 great shots of them together! Now we're in a race to give you 40,50,100 engagement photos all with different ideas and concepts at a million locations with 3 or 4 outfits. Keep in mind what these shots are for! A few great shots of you together to remember this part of your life is SO much more important than a 300 photo album on facebook that nobody except for your closest friends will actually look ALL the way through! SO - jump in with your photographer and help make as many great shots as you can and then just be really excited that you have them! In this day and age you should be able to EXPECT great photos from a pro photographer. But what's different now isn't just the quality of the photo, it's the experience of getting the photos taken! Soak up a day in the sun together having fun taking pictures and making those memories. Then when you get the photos try to love them for what they are, not critic every inch of yourself. 


Engagement photos are one of my favorite parts of our job. I love getting out and just having fun and love how different these shots can be from couple to couple! If you're one of our couples you know that I try not to give you too many pointers before hand. Just where to meet me and what all to bring! But regardless of whether you're photographer coaches every detail, or let's you make it your own these tips should get you started. Bottom line - "DON'T OVER THINK IT." Just have fun with it!