Preparing for Your Photo Session: 5 Tips for Couples Photoshoots

September 17, 2021

Whether you’re getting engagement photos, anniversary photos, or just fun couples photos taken, photo sessions can be stressful. Especially if you’ve never had photos done together before – but even if you have, the planning can be a lot of work.

My husband Mike and I just had our yearly anniversary photos taken, and it was abundantly clear how stressful planning for a photo session is.

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As a photographer, I’m usually on the other side – so I kind of forget that my clients probably deal with this stress as well!

This is why I wanted to put a resource together with my top 5 tips to help you plan a smooth & enjoyable session. Couples sessions are meant to be fun & a time for you to relax with your partner, not an overwhelming time of stress and worrying. Let’s get into the tips!

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1. Start your planning early

It’s best to book your session & start planning as ahead of time as possible. This way, you don’t end up stressed at the last minute, trying to get time off of work, ordering new clothes that won’t get to you on time, etc. Avoid that stress at all costs!

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Plan for the vibes you want

Think through what type of vibes you’re going for during your session.

Are you celebrating your 5th anniversary and want to make it a super fun, celebratory session? Bring a #5 balloon, some champagne, and colorful outfits.

Or maybe you’ve been together 2 years and have gone through a lot since you got married: your session can be a time for you two to reconnect, enjoy each other’s presence, and reflect.

Figure out what kind of memories and feelings you want these photos to bring out, and plan accordingly with your photographer.

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Plan your trip

I always, always recommend taking at least an entire day off of work for your session, if you can. That way, you won’t have to rush home from work to do your makeup. Instead, you can enjoy the day together, and finish the day off with your session.

And if you have a little more time available to you, make a trip out of it! Book your session and along with it, a few nights in an Airbnb. This will give you a mini getaway together – time to enjoy each other’s company, spend time together, explore the location you’ll be at (e.g. Mount Rainier National Park), and truly be intentional about your session. I promise it makes for a much more memorable experience than just doing your session on a normal evening right after a stressful day at work!

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Create your timeline

If you’ll be driving a decent distance to your session, or will be making a multi-day trip out of it, create your timeline ahead of time.

Plan out the driving time, your meals, where you’ll stay, etc. Doing this all in advance will make the weeks/days leading up to the session much more relaxed!

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2. Put together your looks

Choose your outfits & accessories

The last thing we want to happen is that days before your session, you realize you don’t have an outfit you love. So you rush to the mall, or to Amazon’s 2-day shipping, only to find yourself stressed AF.

Planning your outfits & accessories ahead of time will save you all that worry!

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I’ve got a whole separate post on my Top 3 Tips for Your PNW Adventure Photoshoot Outfits, but I’ll go through a few great tips real quick:

  • Keep it simple: don’t overthink your looks! You don’t need to match, and you don’t need to wear crazy patterns in order to stand out in your photos.
  • Earth tones for the win: pick outfit colors that go well against the background of our location. For example, if we’ll be shooting in a forest, avoid wearing deep greens – that way you won’t blend in with the background.
  • Above all else, be comfortable & confident: wear outfits that allow you to move around freely, and that also allow you to feel like your best self. We don’t want you worrying about how you look during the entire session!

Need some outfit inspo for your photo session? Pinterest is always my go-to!

engagement session

Decide on other vendors to hire (hair, makeup, etc.)

If you’re not confident in your hair or makeup skills, you can totally hire a hairstylist and/or makeup artist to help you out! Do this ahead of time, too, so that you know you’ll be taken care of when the day comes.

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3. Make a packing list + a day-of list

Sample session packing list

I highly recommend bringing some sort of bag or backpack with you to carry these items in! 

  • Snacks
  • Drinks (in reusable bottles!)
  • Bug spray – if we’ll be in the mountains/forests/etc.
  • Extra hair supplies + makeup: bobbi pins, hairbands, hairbrush, lipstick, etc.
  • 1-2 extra sets of outfits – just in case we run into any mud/messy situations
  • Appropriate shoes – don’t wear heels if we’ll be hiking through the mountains!
    • Tip: if you want to wear cute shoes, but will be hiking or walking through nature to get to our location, wear outdoor shoes & bring a change of cuter shoes along with you.
  • Umbrellas – because hey, it’s the PNW
  • Extra accessories
  • Multiple pieces of clothing – bring layers, extra undershirts, a variety to choose from
  • Jackets if you’ll need them
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Things to remember on the day-of

  • Fill up your gas tank
  • Download offline maps (Google Maps + trail maps) of our location
  • Your outfits + accessories
  • Fully charge your phone
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4. Prepare for any scenario

If you have crazy high expectations for your session, and your mind is set on every aspect of the photo session, you’ll probably end up disappointed.

It’s important to be prepared to be flexible and adapt to whatever scenario we may come across: bad weather (rain, snow, ice, wind), unexpected road or trail closures, etc.

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Part of why I love elopements and adventure sessions is that I’m great at going with the flow. So I really encourage my couples to be that way for their session, too! Because we don’t want you to be disappointed if everything doesn’t go quite as planned – let’s embrace it instead.

For more good stuff on this topic, check out my article about Dealing with Inclement Weather at Your Session or Elopement!

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5. Get mentally prepared

And finally, this one isn’t really a tangible task you can do, but it’s an important one: you need to get mentally prepared. Think about it: if you schedule your session on an evening before a big workday, you’re going to be stressed the whole time.

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Instead of focusing on each other, you’ll be worrying about your big presentation, or life stresses & anxiety will get in the way of you being able to fully enjoy your photo session.

This is why it’s important to get in the right headspace before your photo session. If you make a trip out of it, you can sleep in the morning-of, go get coffee, spend time together, and get mentally prepared to explore and experience a location together.

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Plan a date night for after your photo session, so that you have another thing to look forward to. 

Turn your phones off during the photo session, so you can be fully present.

Be intentional about your photo session! It’ll give you a time where you can focus on each other in a way you may not get to in normal life. Remember that y’all love each other and that this is a time where you can just relax. Enjoy this quality time together before heading back into your normal lives!

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Need some adventure session inspiration before you book your own? Check out the blog posts below!

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