How to Select a Location for Your Engagement Photos


September 12, 2018

The Location

of our session will help define the mood of your photographs

We all have to set our expectations from time to time. If you’ve been fantasizing after photos of the beaches in Hawaii and you live in Virginia, matching the aesthetic isn’t going to be ideal, but that doesn’t mean you should give up all hope on a dreamy location!

As a photographer, I’m always looking to help my clients find a location, especially for those who are traveling in and don’t know the area. But time and time again I’ve been shown that my clients are honestly SO awesome choosing their own locations. If you’re on the hunt for a spot for your own photographs and feeling a little lost, I have some general guidelines.. Here are 8 tips to keep in mind when looking for your engagement session location.


The goal of an engagement session is to get to know your photographer, to learn prompts from each other that help you fall into place on the wedding day, and to personify what your love looks like.

Think about what works for you as a couple. It doesn’t have to be a conceptual art project, but maybe something you’re drawn to. Coffee lovers? Find a coffee shop that has tall windows on two sides of the building for you to cuddle near. Homebodies? Consider an in-home session showing you cooking a meal together. A shared love of hiking? Set out for an epic sunset hike. Maybe even pack a picnic for the end.

Christy & Josh Golden Engagement Session


Technically, the Earth does, but that’s not the point!

This probably is no surprise, but the thing about glowy, beautiful sunset photos is that they happen at sunset. If you went to a location and were in awe of the glory of a sherbet colored sky, picking that location and showing up with your photographer at 2 p.m. isn’t going to do the place you found much justice.

I live on the east coast and I would say 90% of my sessions are at sunset. The blue ridge mountain shine beautifully in that golden sun. But not every location is right for a sunset session. If you go on a hike and see the glorious light, notice if it is at sunrise or sunset. Where is the sun actually hitting the side of the mountain? Keep in mind, if you’ve selected two locations that require travel between them, the commute time means you may have to start a bit earlier than golden hour and miss a chunk of it to travel between the two places.

The cool thing about engagement sessions is that they’re pretty flexible. it’s really just about showing up when you’re supposed to!

Mary & Cody’s Woodland Engagement Session


A beach session with a business suit is as out of place as a flowing lace dress and a floral crown in front of a Starbucks.

If what you want to show is an autumnal, outdoors session, aim for a time at the end of the peak of foliage. Head into a forest with fall colors, maybe some plaid, boots and jackets. Looking for something romantic and warm? Consider a flowing dress that allows for a lot of movement. Aim for a location that may have a bit of wind, like a beach or a field. If all you own are Victorian dresses, consider time traveling to the late 1800s and bring a customized churn to make your own butter. Honestly, I would LOVE to not only see someone successfully make butter (I have only half successfully done it myself…in a jar), but would also love to showcase your style! Just don’t ask me to wear a corset. I’m not able to give up my ability to breath freely!


Want a bunch of tourists in the background? Shoot in any park in a city on a warm afternoon!

A packed outdoor market with tons of people can make for neat movement and atmosphere in the photos, but “photobombers” wandering into your photos may not be what you have in mind. While there may be a beach you have in mind, keep in mind that other people also like beaches. It’s important to be mindful of areas that have heavy traffic on the weekends and some locations, like a cute row of stores, ice cream, and coffee shops, may be packed in the afternoon on a weekend. Our job as photographers is to assure you it’s normal, wait it out, and time the photos appropriately, but if this doesn’t sound like your scene, I totally get it.

This is a reason why getting out into nature can be such a huge bonus! State parks typically have sunrise to sunset hours to boot. Some places like Morven Park can be super quiet, especially during the week. Keep in mind that some state parks are wide, expansive and you may not see anyone the entire time you’re exploring. Other parks have a singular draw; like a waterfall, a specific view, or other attraction where visitors will congregate and potentially be taking selfies in the background of your photos. Flexibility is key!

And just a note! One place that’s probably not busy that you’re already familiar with is your home (which, bonus, says a lot about the two of you, too!). It can be a great place for relaxed portraits and it requires little to no location scouting at all.


If you’ve had to get a permit to shoot at your dream location see if it’s movable to another day in case of rain. AND ask your photographer what their policy is!

Ask yourself what you feel comfortable with, too. If your photographer sticks with the date regardless and you need an indoor back up plan, look up photo policies at local museums, find a coffee shop or library. Or if your photographer says “let’s grab some umbrellas and wellies and do this thing” that could be perfect, too, even if it means putting the glittery dress away and bringing out some brightly colored cardigans or socks to make colors pop on an otherwise soft lit, cool toned day.


When scouting your location, be aware of the effort it takes to get a location and be aware that this could mean walking miles up a mountain or standing precariously like a baby goat.

A wonderful tip that I have to remind myself of on a regular basis! If you found a spot you loved because you hiked up a mountain with hiking boots and pants to keep briers from skinning your legs, know that repeating this feat in heels is probably not going to work. If your dream is wearing heels for your session, you probably don’t want to plan any hike for your engagement session, even if the views are amazing.


And then… you’ll just be standing on a lawn.

This one sounds like common sense, right? Except this is a lesson that, though preventable, can be not so enjoyable if you have awesomely dressed clients and a beautiful, dead lawn of a location. Usually there are tufts of wheat and trees and you can make nearly ANYTHING work work without issue, but a golden field of yore may not be your ideal. Fields aren’t around all year round! They’re planted and harvested 2 or 3 times a year so if you’ve found a field you love along the way, do a quick visit a few days before your session to make sure cutting hasn’t occurred!

Preparing for Your Engagement Session


Life is hard and photos should be fun. Amen.

Wedding blogs are a great source of inspiration for folks planning their wedding day because it’s an ever-updated planning check list for this huge event that goes beyond anything you may have planned before. An event where all of your closest family and friends and plus ones come together to celebrate your love and commitment while they drink, eat, and admire your centerpiece decisions. Wedding blogs can be helpful to help guide you when you’re feeling lost in that way.

For some people.

For others, it’s an overwhelming source of unrelatable weddings adding to a never ending to-do list where you fall down a copper-utensil and pompom decorated rabbit hole of frustration wondering “do I really have to do all these things” while secretly wishing you could elope. So, I will say this. It’s your wedding. It’s your session. If you feel like you really want to incorporate props into a session because they speak to you, do it. If you want to shoot around your home, make it so.

Happy location scouting!


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