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Engagement Session Details

Lesson 28 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

Engagement Session Details

Lesson 28 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

28. Engagement Session Details


Class Trailer

Day 1




Evolution of Susan's Style


Branding and Identity


Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned


Day 2


Introduction to Gear & Equipment


Lenses Part 1


Lenses Part 2




Day 3


Seeing the Scene


Seeing the Scene Q&A


Rhythm and Repetition


Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds


Rule of Odds and Double Exposures


Day 4


Intro to Business


Day 5


Financing Your Business


Day 6


Q&A Days 1-4


Day 7


Pricing Calculator


Day 8


Package Pricing


Day 9




Day 10


Vendor Relationships & Referrals


Day 11


Marketing w Social Media


Day 12


Booking the Client


Day 13


The Pricing Conversation


Day 14


Turn A Call Into a Meeting


Day 15


In Person Meeting


Day 16


Wedding Planning


Day 17


Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down


Day 18


Engagement Session Details


Day 19


Engagement Session On Location


Day 20


Wedding Details & Tips


Day 21


Detail Photos Reviewed


Day 22


Bridal Preparation


Day 23


Bridal Preparation Photo Review


Day 24


Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios


Day 25


Q&A Days 5-11


Day 26


First Look Demo


Day 27


First Look Examples


Day 28


Portraits of the Bride


Day 29


Portraits of the Bride and Groom


Family Portraits Demo


Family Formal Examples


Wedding Ceremony Demo


Day 30


Wedding Ceremony Examples


Different Traditions and Faiths


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples


Wedding Introductions


First Dance


Wedding Toasts


Parent Dances


Wedding Party


Reception Events


Nighttime Portraits


Nighttime Portraits with Found Light


Post Wedding Session Demo


Post Wedding Session Critique


Wedding Day Difficulties


Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure


Post Workflow - Culling Shots


Post Workflow - Outsourcing


Q&A Days 12-23


Post Workflow - Gear


Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing


Managing Your Studio


Post Wedding Marketing


Client Care


Pricing for Add-Ons


The Album Process


Balancing Your Business with Life


Post Wedding Problems


Parent Complaints


Unhappy Customers


Working with an Assistant


Assistant Q&A


Lighting with an Assistant


Q&A Days 24-30


Lesson Info

Engagement Session Details

What we have done so far, we've talked about setting up your business. We've talked about the legal and financial aspects of doing so we have talked about how to get your name out there, how to handle your money, how to set your prices and your packages from maximum profitability. We've talked about how to get those first clients in the door how to turn those e mails and phone calls into bookings, and then we've talked about the period of time between booking the wedding and shooting the wedding. How you need to handle that as faras maximum planning, taking care of your clients, managing their expectations and sending out a questionnaire so that you are prepared on the wedding day for everything that's coming your way. What we're going to talk to you about today is another thing that happens generally sometime between booking and shooting the actual wedding itself, which is the engagement session. So today is all about engagement sessions, and I'm glad you're here thank you for tuning ...

in. The first thing that I want to talk to you about is how the engagement sessions are priced. I do not include engagement sessions in all of my collections. I know a lot of photographers do aa lot of photographers really sell the engagement sessions to clients as a way for you to get to know them and them to get to know you and for them to be more comfortable in front of the camera on the wedding day. Now, in thirteen years of shooting weddings, I've noticed that sometimes it helps clients be more comfortable on the wedding day, but because the engagement session in the wedding day or so incredibly different, I haven't noticed enough of a need to do that session to make clients comfortable so that I need to build it into any of my packages or encourage all of my clients to do them. In fact, just between you guys and main engagement sessions are kind of one of my least favorite things to shoot their little awkward there. They're slightly portrait session e in nature and winning wedding day actually rolls around. The emotions are running high every the portrait session is kind of something that you're expecting on the wedding day, but not everybody takes off in the middle of the day to dress up really well in gala van, around a park or around the city, so the engagement session is sort of a slightly strange animal that I admittedly do kind of. I struggle with every time I'm faced with one trying to make my clients more comfortable trying to make myself more comfortable and so on and so forth the reason why my engagement session is six hundred fifty dollars a session is because most of the time when I'm shooting the session I have to travel into manhattan I live in brooklyn during the week I shoot a lot of engagement sessions in manhattan and to get to central park from where I live in brooklyn is an hour on the train so I take the train in for an hour and shoot the session for ninety minutes I take the train home for an hour I've lost three and a half to four hours of my day to a session I used to charge less but the amount of time that it was taking to get to shoot and get home from the session was really eating into all of the prophet that I was making from the session so I raise the price getting the price up to six hundred fifty dollars has done several things for me one it's kind of expensive it isn't just something that's just a couple hundred dollars and if you're kind of on the fence about it it's still pretty cheap so you're totally going to do it because it's just not that expensive at six hundred fifty dollars it has to be something that you really want to dio something that's really important to you something that's a true priority so raising that price on the engagement session is actually really helped me with the sessions themselves because the people that are booking them the sessions that I am shooting now are from people who legitimately really want to get the session done now speaking of the six hundred and fifty dollars session fee we have to talk about traveling now with your six hundred fifty dollars what that gets you is ninety minutes of photography in either new york and by new york I mean manhattan I mean brooklyn I'm talking about the burrows around new york I'm not talking about new york state but whether you want to shoot at brooklyn bridge park in brooklyn or whether you want to shoot at central park in manhattan that is covered under the blanket of new york six hundred fifty dollars also gets you an engagement session in philadelphia or just in the surrounding areas I live in both brooklyn and outside of philly so shooting an engagement session in philly is very easy for me on the weekends that I'm home out there anything else we have to look a travel fee if you want me to shoot your engagement session in the hamptons I have to add a travel fee on top of that because it's so far away that it just simply doesn't make any sense it's I will lose an entire day two shooting your engagement session in the hamptons if not a little bit more I don't have a flat travel fee for traveling for engagement sessions it's really dependent on where you want me to go partly it's also dependent on your wedding collection and what is in your wedding collection ifyou're spending fifteen thousand dollars on your wedding photography and you're having the shoot multiple events for you and give you multiple albums I'm going to be more willing to travel out somewhere and do your engagement session for you at a slightly reduced travel fee then if you've just booked collection three which is the bare bones basic collection there will be a more extensive travel fee to go farther away more often than not my travel fee is usually one hundred fifty dollars and that gets me a little further out that gets me into northern new jersey it gets me, you know, maybe closer to d c but a lot of that is really dependent on other things that I have. I might shoot an engagement session in washington, d c one of my best friends one of the founders of sidecar post the post production team that I worked with lives out near d c, so if I can schedule it on a time that I'm out visiting jennifer, you know maybe there won't be too heavy a travel fee but because going anywhere other than local takes so much time because I don't have the time to put into it there will be a travel fee if you want me to go any further than my local metro areas now what if you're having a destination wedding? What if you want to fly me out to do your engagement session in most of the times I won't be able to do that for you if you're getting married somewhere after getting married in california and you want to fly me out to california to do your engagement session that's going to be practically as expensive as the day rate for a wedding because I simply don't have time in my schedule to go out to california and shoot your engagement session now that's not saying that I'm not trying to take care of my clients and that's not saying that I am trying to abscond from any responsibility but there are only so many hours in the day and so many days in the week and so many weeks in the year that I can be working that I need to make sure that if I'm going to leave home and I'm going to do something away from home that it is at maximum profitability and going somewhere else to shoot an engagement session generally really doesn't that really doesn't happen so if you are getting married in california and I'm coming to shoot your wedding in california and you want an engagement session more often than not, I'm going to refer you to someone local who does work very similar to mine, who shoots in a style similar to mine and who I can trust to take care of you in a way that I would now another thing to bear in mind is even though I don't include engagement sessions in any of my any of my collections, I also don't allow clients to add it to the contract, and I know that might be counter to anything that anyone has ever told you, but I was finding oftentimes a client would put an engagement session in their collection, and then something would happen, and we wouldn't be able to shoot it, either they would be traveling too much for business, or they decided it wasn't really important to them or any of a million different reasons why it didn't happen, and I'm stuck with the six hundred fifty dollars line item in their contract that I either need to refund them are converted to something else, so I don't put it in contracts at all when a client books and engagement session, they pay for the session on the day of the session, and it is simply done when it's done so that's been a really great way to avoid any of the hassles of the engagement session being stuck in your contract, which I was kind of running up into before another thing to consider is whether or not you're going to include the files from the engagement session as the delivery ble of the session itself have two answers to that if you are a wedding client of mine, you do receive your engagement session files at the time of the engagement session. I understand that that means that kind of takes me out of the running of making your save the date or doing some prints for you, but I went back through many years of analyzing my business and type of business iran and the type of business I wanted to run and selling these things was not an efficient use of my time and I wasn't bringing in enough profit for those things to continue pushing them I my husband has great success with these things other studios that I know have great success with these things, but I don't. So instead of continuing to sell something that wasn't working for me, I raised the price of the session fee and I do include the files in that price they generally received them two to three weeks after the session and they can do whatever they'd like with them now if you've hired me to shoot your engagement session and you are not a wedding client of mine, you don't have a signed contract with my studio, you're going to have to pay for the release of your digital files including the files in the engagement session is a courtesy that I give to my existing wedding clients, but if you live somewhere else and you're coming to new york and you want me to shoot your engagement session for you, you're going to have to pay for the release of the files as well. Otherwise six hundred fifty dollars to go out, shoot your session and hand over your files is not a smart use of my time when I could be using that to care for my existing clients, so there is an additional release fee if you want your dvd of images and you're not an existing wedding client of mine, I proofed the images by putting them on zen folio the same way that I do with every single other thing that I shoot, they can download their files directly out of zen folio. I am not paid bison folio to tell you this, I use them because I love them and because the downloading process with them is extraordinarily easy on the client side of things. When you're looking at post session sales, I understand that I'm shooting myself in the foot with post in sales by including the files in the price of the session. If I ran a different type of studio if I ran a studio with an employee, if I ran a studio with the sales manager, if I had an actual office space where I could bring people in and have viewing parties and sell them things, I would, but I don't, and I don't want to get a studio just to sell things to people after engagement sessions. I don't want to do an engagement session for every single client I want to shoot, I want to get them the images and then let them do whatever they would like with the images that is just me that's just how I choose to do things if you do it differently, more power to you. Sometimes I wish I could, but opening a studio and doing post session sales and post wedding sales would really changed my life, and it would really change the way I run my business and that's just not something that at this point in time is something that I'm in any way interested in doing so talking about the logistics of an engagement session before we talk about actually shooting the session itself. First of all, they're scheduling, I am very clear with clients from the very get go in fact it's actually written on my price list engagement sessions are available at three or three thirty tuesday through thursday, with the occasional friday generally, I will not do them on monday's. Monday is usually a day where I'm traveling from philadelphia back to brooklyn, so I really don't have enough time to do a session it's also usually not a great day of the week for people there kind of stressed out about work on a monday night generally doesn't work out very well. Tuesdays through thursdays are fantastic if I'm in brooklyn, fridays are for philadelphia, friday's air, also for new york based clients. If I have a new york wedding the next day now you will get the inevitable hey, we can only do weekends. I'm really sorry like we work, we have a nine to five, we can't do an engagement session during the week in the early days, my response was okay, we could do it on a sunday or okay, we'll do it on a saturday before I shoot the wedding that I'm shooting on a saturday, or I would give up one of my rare, beautiful, precious days off to do an engagement session, and if you're new in business and that's what you want to do, do it. I'm not going to judge you for that it's it's far be it from me to tell you how to do things, you know, in your own life and with your own business, but I work every day during the week I shoot weddings on the weekends, I want time to spend with my family and I don't do them on the weekends, I tell my clients. The engagement sessions are available to safety thursday with the occasional friday. Well, we're only in town for the weekend. I'm so sorry I don't have any availability on the weekend for engagement sessions, but we're only here this weekend. You have a wedding this weekend, I'm sorry, I don't have any availability on the weekend for engagement sessions. It doesn't matter if I'm booked. It doesn't matter if I'm sitting there drinking coffee at home, it doesn't matter if I'm going to the movies. I'm not available to you on the weekend for your engagement session. That is something me personally that I feel very strongly about it's, not something that I'm willing to bend on, and it is one of the very few things that I'm willing to lose a wedding over. We will talk about managing your business and your life later on during this, but there was a period of time in my life where my business came before almost everything else, and it cost me very dearly in a lot of different regards. And so now the way I every structure in my business in a way that makes me happy also means that you don't get an engagement session on sunday and I am really sorry and I'm not trying to be disrespectful that doesn't mean I don't love you that doesn't mean I don't care about your business, that doesn't mean that I'm not going to do everything that I can to make beautiful images for you just not on a sunday I realized that got a little rantie but it's something that I do feel very passionate about his carving out time to spend with my family and that time is very precious to me time of day matters when you're scheduling scheduling and engagement session it is up to you to tell your clients what time of day is a good time for portrait you don't get that luxury on a wedding day, you don't get to tell them what time you want to be outside with them. You don't get to tell them what time the light will be the best but for an engagement session you do. I generally want start my session about an hour to an hour and a half before the sun sets bearing in mind in large cities bearing in mind in manhattan that before the sun sets doesn't necessarily mean when the sun set it means when the sun goes behind the buildings in the city because the second the sun goes behind the buildings I've lost my direct light so it is up to you to know what the light is like it's certain times to know what the light is like in the location you're going to shoot the session and to advise your clients correctly as to what time you need to start shooting. The other thing clients will ask is what do we do if it rains? Well if it rains we rescheduled hard stop in the game if it rains we reschedule I don't have a studio I don't have anywhere that we can shoot inside if it rains we cannot do your session I'm really, really sorry, but managing expectations I make sure that they know that from the very get go that if it's going to rain we're going to have to reschedule. If it's going to be very cloudy I will give them the option to reschedule hey guys, it's looks like kind of a mess out there today it's not going to rain but it doesn't look all that great are you open to trying this on another day or is today really important that we get it done today if it's not raining and it's not sunny, we're going to do it anyhow but I do want to give them the option to reschedule because a lot of what clients are looking for from me is bright, direct sunlight it's the way I work with light, and if I'm not doing my due diligence and telling them that I'm not going to be able to create those images for them without light, then I'm setting myself up to potentially disappoint them and I don't want to do that in any way, shape or form, so if it is cloudy, I do give them an out we reschedule, but if it rains, we have to reschedule no matter what. So when do I reschedule? I will reschedule anywhere up to three days beforehand if we know that the weather is going to be really, really terrible. I go ahead and just get a rescheduled day on the books sometimes if it looks like it's going to rain, they want to do the session if it's cloudy, but we can't if it rains, sometimes we have to make a decision on the day off, and I understand that that's a little difficult, especially if the client has done hair and makeup trials and they're doing their hair and they're doing their makeup for the session. It's a lot easier to cancel a few days before instead of cancelling on the day of so if we even think that there's going to be a problem with the weather. I'm always looking at the weather reports. I'm going to try to get in touch with them with enough time for us to do that rescheduling before it comes down kind of to the zero hour on it, so to speak. So what's the point of an engagement session anyhow? Like, why would you even want teo do this thing? Why would you want to dress up before your wedding and go cavorting parker on a city street or anything like that? To be perfectly honest engagement sessions or not? My favorite thing there there I've talked about this there little odd there, little awkward. I only spend ninety minutes with my client. You know, a lot of photographers do like these full day shoots or these the's storytelling lifestyle shoots but that's that's. Not really. How I view an engagement session that's not really how I kind of want to go about capturing it. However, it is a nice thing. Ah, lot of times this is the first time a couple has been photographed together professionally as a couple it's a nice thing to have. You have beautiful images of yourself on a day other than your wedding day, which most clients don't have before the actual engagement session. So to talk you through some of my previous clients and the photographs that they've had for their engagement session before I take you to blair in jeremy's actual engagement session and you get to see me shoot it. Yea, I want to talk about some previous clients and kind of give you an idea of what people have come to expect from me with their engagement sessions before you actually see me shoot one. So the first thing we're going for is camera wear portrait on the wedding day you know you're nice garden variety faces stapled together, opposing like you're going to prom, smiling directly at the camera camera aware photographs now what's the point of this, people will use them for newspaper announcements, they'll use them for wedding websites that they create, eat, they'll use them for save the date cards, they'll use them for displaying at their reception. Sometimes they'll put them out in an engagement party it's anything that I'm going to shoot at an engagement session? I am definitely going to make sure that at some point in time during the session that you were going to have a picture with your cheeks staple together and your eyelids practically level so that you have a nice picture of yourself smiling at the camera, so here are just a handful of examples of what that usually entails from me we've spoken about here we've spoken about vision and creativity you know how much I love my seventy two two hundred millimeter lens you know that it's my go to lin's four portrait especially for these camera where smiling at the camera photographs I'm always going to have my seventy two two hundred is close to two hundred millimeters as possible for the compression of the subject off of the background and for the beautiful compression on the faces of the subjects if you notice the images that do have the ex if data at the bottom of them you'll see that I'm shooting almost all of them is close to two hundred millimeters as possible and when you're looking for a picture with both faces perfectly in focus where you can see the bride and the groom even though they're on almost exactly the same plane a field I'm still going to go to four point five or five so that their votes they're they're both very sharp and very very very crisply in focus again f four there were practically dead on on the same plane of focus so that I knew that f four would work so that everybody's face I was going to be nice and sharp and clear f five you can see he's a little farther back on her head I went toe five said that they were both in focus we've talked about this already where a lot of photographers will confuse that blurry background as that I shot it at one point eight or one point too but that's not true what's giving you that kind of blurry background and these images here is the compression of the two hundred millimeters at two hundred millimeters so you'll see this kind of the same recurring theme two hundred millimeters hundred fifty millimeters same thing people smiling directly at the camera now you move on to another thing which is props and requests ah lot of photographers get really kind of up in arms when a client will suggest that they bring a prop to their engagement session bicycles, balloons, picnic baskets whatever our props my favorite thing in the world no are my clients more important than my ex aesthetic desire? Yes. If these people gina and a j want to bring a banner toehold in between them that has their wedding date on it because they want that for their save the date card am I happy to shoot that for them? Yes I am. I will never suggest that you bring props to your engagement session but if my clients do bring props to their engagement sessions I have absolutely no problems shooting it for them it does not offend me in any way whatsoever I have no issues with it whatsoever if they want to toss leaves in the air by all means do it if you want to bring your bicycle, do it if you want a picture of a hippo biting you in the butt because this location is important to you, I'm going to do it for you this is not about me this is about my clients and if they have trusted me with something like this and telling me what's important to them I feel that it's my responsibility to document it for them so I'm going to so some things to consider when you're looking at engagement sessions when you're in the midst of shooting them I wanna talk to you about working a scene photographing this engagement session in central park these incredible clients of mine for two thousand fourteen wanted to take a picture in this location so the very first thing I did was I put them at the top of the stairs and I shot the scene this is what they wanted this is the picture that they requested however that picture before was it seventy millimeters I didn't move the clients at all I went to two hundred millimeters and reframed where I wass I dropped down, I shot up a little bit changes the entire look of the scene in front of you then without moving them at all in the least bit still closer to two hundred millimeters I went with a vertical and then I'm sorry the image before is closer to seventy millimeters because you can see the relationship of foreground to background the image on the left seventy the images on the right. Two hundred millimeters. I have not moved my client at all. The only thing that I have done between these two images besides say, hey, guys, just look at each other for just a moment is to go out to two hundred millimeters and to drop down and to shoot up same scene, open back out to seventy millimeters again, changing the way you frame the scene can make the scene look completely differently. In every single one of these photographs, they have not moved where they were standing at all. I'm the one that changed. So I was able to make five or six completely different photographs from the exact scene without moving the clients at all. Working the scene, see a picture here where she jumped on his back. We're in the middle of the mall at central park, people everywhere, walking up and down in the image on the left, which we shot at seventy millimeters. You see her? You see him, you see a very clear relationship between the foreground and background. And you see all the people walking around in the background. All I had to dio zoom out of two hundred millimeters. Crouch down and start shooting up just a little bit and not even all the way down and maybe mid squat automatically changes the look of the image changes the foreground background relationship with your clients and their background and it minimizes the distraction of the people walking behind them now when I dropped down even further and changed my field of vision, all the people around them completely gone they haven't moved I haven't moved all I've done is get down further and shoot up, thus eliminating the incredibly distracting people wandering around in the background again two views of the same scene almost two hundred millimeters here with the image on the left without moving at all, I simply opened out to seventy millimeters so the lenses that you're choosing to use for these sessions that you're shooting we've talked about this multiple times, but if you're joining me for the very first time today I'm very passionate about lin selection my go to linz foran engagement session is the seventy two, two hundred because it is my favorite portrait lens it's very versatile for exactly what we're doing here two hundred millimeters if you take a look at the relationship between stephanie and pat and the wonderful water in the background here, it looks like it's right up upon them it look out looks like it's right behind them and then you open out to seventy millimeters nothing has changed this is the same photograph as before, just at a completely different focal length, so you can very clearly see that changing your focal length changes the entire look off the photographs. So again, we've talked about what you're looking for an engagement pictures in the very first thing I'm looking for his camera wear photographs, and to be perfectly honest, then the next thing I'm looking for us and just plain awesome pictures, this is the first time you're able to really show the artistic work that you khun due to the clients it's the first time that they see themselves in your work. So my goal is to show them just simply something beautiful, some beautiful light photographs of them interacting together, showing how much they like each other, working with linds compression, working with lighting, working with composition to give them the very first beautiful professional images that they will have together as a future family. So this is, you know, it's, a very important thing, and when I get slightly down on engagement sessions and I get kind of bored with them, I bear in mind that this is this is their first family photograph together before they're even married, so my goal is to simply create something beautiful for them to create some very natural, very simple, very easy photographs of the two of them together. And also, you have the added bonus of getting them comfortable in front of the camera for the very first time, seeing how they interact with each other, seeing how they are in front of the camera and learning. If there's anything that you can possibly do to put them a little bit more at ease in front of the camera.

Class Materials

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Quicksheet Inside Guide (one large PDF file)
Quicksheet Inside Guide (zip file of individual PDF pages)
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Ratings and Reviews

Misty Angel

oh Susan, you are AWESOME!! I am not a wedding photographer (despite dipping my toe in this intimidating pool for one of my dearest friends), I shoot all forms of portraits and love sports too! Your '30-Days' has been the single most influential and educational moments since I started my venture into photography in 2009! THANK YOU! Your honesty, directness, bluntness, humor and vulnerability makes these 30-Days the most worthwhile time spent away from actual shooting; while simultaneously is the most inspirational motivator to push you out there to practice these ideas/techniques! #SShostestwiththemostest You raise the bar in this industry, not just with wedding photographers, but with all genres of photography! I wanted this course to learn about shooting and thought, great... I'll get a little bit of the business side too... OMG! I got it ALL! I'm dying! What an awesome investment in myself, my business and in YOU! PLEASE keep doing what you are doing! I love your new Dynamic Range, I feel that it is a wonderful extension of the work you do with Creative Live! I watch you EVERY DAY, every morning... I know that I continue absorbing your wisdom through repetition! I don't want to be you, I want to rise to your level! So thank you for the inspiration, motivation and aspiration! Keep on being REAL, its what we love about you! We embrace your Chanel meets Alexander McQueen-ness! :) Thank you for stepping into this educational space and providing us with your lessons learned so we can avoid the negative-time investment making mistakes... we are drinking your virtual lemonade!! HA! Like the others, whatever wisdom you offer in this medium, I will be jumping at the opportunity to learn from you! THANK YOU!


All the positive reviews say it all. When Susan took on the challenge of teaching this course it must of looked like attempting to climb Mount Everest...and she accomplished just that. Susan is a detailed, well-organized photographer and this clearly comes out in her teaching. Using repetition, clear instructions, a logical and well laid out presentation, she answers most any question you might have when it comes to wedding photography. I felt like I was having a private consultation when watching the course. She is real, honest, tactful, funny, and a gift to the photography community. Finally, her photography is professional and inspiring. Thank you Susan for the tremendous amount of work that you put into making this an outstanding Creative Live course for us all.


Wow. What a super, comprehensive, entertaining, informative course. Well done. I've taking a lot of photography classes and this one is definitely top of the list. Susan Stripling was very well prepared (and great job by the CreativeLive Team too). Terrific course. Susan shared so much. Thank you! P.S. Love the CL boot camp courses.

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