What is an engagement session?


You know when you talk with friends about their jobs and they use words specific to their job? Sometimes it sounds like another language… And I bet when you got engaged a lot of people started throwing around terms you’ve never heard of before too. To alleviate confusion, let’s dive into and explain one of the most popular terms – engagement session.

So what *is* an engagement session??

An “engagement [photo] session” is a time where you and your future spouse have photos taken to celebrate this special season. If it’s less confusing to you, call it an engagement photo session. But out there (online and in person), most people just call this pre-wedding portrait taking simply an engagement session.

Often an engagement session is the first time many couples have ever take professional photos. So why should you invest to have photos taken during this time? Keep reading to find out!

This couple walk the trails of the Big Island during their adventurous engagement session.

Why should I have an engagement session?

On the practical side, scheduling an engagement session is a great way to get comfortable in front of the camera. Being in front of the camera can be nerve wracking! I honestly feel the same way when I have my own photos taken. However, the last thing you want is to feel awkward about being in photos when you’re also experiencing all the wedding day feels. So lots of couples choose to use the engagement session as a time to get out their ‘being-on-camera’ jitters.

An engagement session is also a great opportunity to meet and work with your photographer before your elopement day! Your photographer is going to be with you your whole wedding. They might possibly be one of the only vendors you’ve even hired! Feeling comfortable with that person and like they are a friend will instantly make you feel at ease. That connection with your photographer is important because you being comfortable lets them create photos authentic to your relationship. So developing your friendship prior to your elopement at an engagement session is a great way to make sure you feel totally relaxed.

On the sentimental side, photos from an engagement session are a great way to remember this special season. While your marriage will last for years to come, the time you’re engaged is comparatively short. Many couples like to look back on these photos to remember this fleeting time.

What’s the difference between an ‘engagement session’ and an ‘adventure session’?

Unlike ‘engagement session’ where most folks agree on the definition, ‘adventure session’ is a newer and more subjective term. For me, an ‘adventure session’ is an intentionally planned, experience-based photo session that usually happens in a great outdoors location. Examples could include, but are definitely not limited to, a 4×4 ride into the desert to watch the sunset, jumping off the dock into the lake and swimming, or exploring a new place together on a trip. For these two, we explored a trail through a rainforest on the Big Island of Hawaii!

Here’s where it’s confusing. An adventure session could 100% be an engagement session. You want photos of you tubing down the river together to celebrate your engagement – bam! engagement & adventure session.

But you could have an adventure session and be celebrating an anniversary, a new car, a new family member, a special trip/vacation, your honeymoon, etc. You see how it’s a more loose definition? Basically an adventure session is any time you’re intentionally getting outdoors, having a fun experience, and having some photos created.

Do you offer engagement sessions?

Yes! I’d love to create some beautiful memories of this season with you both. As most of you here are the kind of folks who are down to get outdoors for your engagement session, I only use the term ‘adventure session’ on my website. So for engagements, anniversaries, any reason you’d like fun photos of you guys outdoors in your element, check out info here on adventure sessions with me!

We’re ready to book! Where do we start?

I’m so stoked! Next, start by filling out the contact form here. We’ll schedule a video call so we can meet each other and hear all about the plans or ideas you have for your engagement/adventure photos. Or if you need ideas check out my travel page that has tons of inspiration for locations! From there, we’ll schedule your session, plan out any details, and then do the dang thing!

Want to visit the Big Island of Hawaii for this too?! I couldn’t recommend it more. There are pristine white sand beaches, epic black sand beaches, and I’ve even heard of a green sand beach! Hawaii Volcanos National Park is a stunning and constantly changing area – many of the volcanoes are still currently erupting. The opportunities for recreation are endless too. From snorkeling, to hiking, to surfing, to even skiing, you can do it all on the Big Island! And learning about and being immersed in the native culture of the Islands is so beautiful and interesting.

  1. Sam K says:

    Engagement sessions are the PERFECT way to not only capture memories of a precious time, but get used to being in front of the camera before the wedding! Beautiful photos Clarissa 🙂

  2. Naomi Levit says:

    What a beautiful explanation of engagement sessions! The big island is such a breathtaking location for these photos.

  3. Dakotah says:

    Wow! Love the colors/edit of this Big Island engagement session. Such a helpful blog topic as well!

  4. Leo says:

    Such a useful guide to engagement sessions and Hawaii looks like the perfect place for it!

  5. Andrea Brandt says:

    Beautiful photos! Engagement sessions are overlooked sometimes, but I think it’s a great way to celebrate your love story!

  6. So much great information for couples thinking about getting an engagement session!

  7. This is such a gorgeous engagement session! The light is incredible and you really captured them in a way that pops! So beautiful!

  8. Kat says:

    I love this place and you captured great candids of them to boot!

  9. Marta says:

    Wow a Hawaii engagement session, so beautiful! I love all the points you made here about engagement sessions.

  10. Ann Marie says:

    This locations is gorgeous!! Also such great info that I know is very helpful for couples who are new to this stage of life and/or hiring a photographer. I realized semi recently that I take this info for granted when a couple mentioned, well they already proposed/got engaged so no they don’t need an engagement session…. Definitely a great topic to cover! 🙂

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