the engagement session guide



The engagement session is such a special session for my brides + grooms to be…and for me! I whole heartedly encourage each of my couples to take advantage of their complimentary engagement session for a number of reasons. First, it’s a great way for us to spend two full hours getting to know one another, which makes for a much more comfortable wedding day experience. Some of my couples say they aren’t photogenic or “hate” having photos taken (ahem, grooms!). My goal is to prove to you that you are a natural. And that it can be fun too! Secondly, the engagement session allows me the opportunity to see what poses, style and movements will look best for you as a couple. This makes for a seamless experience on the wedding day to capture those key moments of you as the new Mr. and Mrs. And finally, you will only be a finance for a short time! Let’s celebrate that title and this brief time in your life with some beautiful images to last a lifetime!

I’ve created this engagement session guide to help you get the most out of your photos. By the time you’ve read through this, you’ll feel more than ready and prepared for your session! Then I’ll take care of the rest! Your only job is to be yourself, laugh a lot and let me create photos you’ll love forever.

Little Compton Summer Engagement Photos


I photograph almost all engagement sessions using natural light, so time of day is important! I begin all portrait sessions approximately two hours before the scheduled sunset during “the golden hour,” when the light is the dreamiest. Remembering, the sun sets much earlier during the colder months of the year and much later during the warmer months, so make sure to factor that in when choosing your engagement session date. Sometimes my couples choose a date based on a preferred season, time of year that will be different from their wedding day, or a date that reflects their chosen location.  To get the most out of your session, please plan a buffer when getting ready so you can arrive a few minutes early to your session. I’m only able to shoot when natural light is still in the sky, so I’ll want to take advantage of every minute we have together before the sun goes down!

Engagement Photos on Ocean Drive in Newport, Rhode Island with Maria Burton Photography


Selecting your engagement session location can be a tough decision. I’m here to make it easier! Typically my couples choose two locations that are within 5-10 minute drive of one another. Or if you’d like to keep it simple, one location is great!

In selecting your locations, first think about what locations might hold meaning for you and your fiance. First date location, a local vacation spot, a favorite coffee shop, the place you got engaged, or your home? If nothing comes to mind, I have a number of locations to recommend in the Rhode Island area!


Cliff Walk | Ocean Drive | Castle Hill Lighthouse | Fort Adams | 2nd or 3rd beaches | Goat Island Lighthouse + Docks | Rovensky Park | Bannisters Wharf/Town | Jamestown | Beavertail State Park


Sweet Berry Farm | Prescott Farm | Bristol Town (red/white/blue streets) | Herreshoff Museum | Colt State Park | Bike Path + Waterfront | Weetamo Woods | Fogland Beach | Little Compton


Providence (city, cafes, canals) | RI State House | Roger Williams Park | Narragansett beaches


Favorite coffee shop | your house! | Cape Cod beaches | your boat (canoe, paddleboard/surfboard, sailboat)! | unique library/bookstore | hiking | vineyard + wine tasting | Christmas tree farm | Pumpkin Patch | Skiing

Fall Engagement Photo Session in Tiverton, RI with Maria Burton Photography



And onto the best props and how to style your engagement images for that editorial look! I suggest bringing a little extra something with you (if you’re into it) for the shoot! A freshly-picked bouquet for you to hold, a picnic basket, classic car, cute blanket or hat, champagne to toast, your pups (they can join us for half the session!), big balloons, chalkboard, or confetti.

Whether it’s larger items like classic cars, or smaller ones like blankets or hats, even incorporating just one extra styled item, could be a fun way to make your session more unique.

Fall Engagement Photo Session on Prudence Island in Rhode Island with Maria Burton Photography


Two outfits or one? Most of my brides who choose two outfits will bring one “wow” dress, and then another sun dress or jeans + cute top for a more casual “us on a date” feel. Many brides feel like they want something cozier, too, so they’ll wear a sweater and jeans paired with some booties and a scarf – especially for fall sessions. The options are endless!

Remember, though, you don’t have to bring two looks if it’s too stressful or you’d rather just stick to one fabulous look. Just one outfit that you love will be so much better than one outfit you love paired with another you’re not very excited about. Just remember that we will be moving around a lot, so being able to easily move around is key! 

When coordinating your look with your fiance, choose your attire first. Try to avoid bold or conflicting patterns. It’s great to wear neutrals and then add a pop of color to each of your outfits or your accessories. You should each aim to wear a different dominant color, but stay within a similar color palette family.

Engagement Photos in Boston Public Gardens with Maria Burton Photography


Professional hair and makeup is on the top of most of our brides’ checklists because it looks amazing and removes the stress of getting ready on your own. Whether it’s lash extensions or blown-out hair, professional hair and makeup will give you an extra boost of confidence in front of the camera. It’s also a great opportunity to set up a trial for our hair + makeup for the wedding day!

Also, I will always try to get a shot of the ring on its own and on your hand during your engagement session. Your ring will be center stage, so give yourself permission to get it cleaned and your nails done, too! To make your ring really sparkle in photos, have it professionally cleaned by your jeweler (they will clean it for free!) or clean it on your own before your session!

Just Remember…

I hope all this information was helpful in preparing for your engagement session! I created this guide to help make your engagement session experience something you’ll look back fondly on for years and years to come. It should be stress free and “painless”! At the end of the day, the location you choose and the outfits you select won’t matter nearly as much as the memories you make together. Creating genuine, timeless, bright images will be a result of you both having fun in the process:)


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