How to prepare yourself to an engagement session in New York


Susan and Paul’s engagement in DUMBO (Brooklyn Bridge park)


Today we’re going to talk about how to get yourself prepared to get the BEST results of your engagement session.
Aaand, since we are from New York – we can tell you about some really awesome places which will help you with that.

Want to hear more?

If you do not have an engagement session scheduled and are still wondering WHY do you need an engagement session – check out our article HERE (coming soon).

But first things first.
So you have an engagement session scheduled with a photographer of your dreams, and the day is almost there and you are (obviously) nervous about a ton of things like how good you will show on the photos, and how to tell your photographer about ‘your best side’ and the dreadful ‘I am not photogenic’ thought and what not!

You did your homework (of course!), you have spent hours digging Pinterest for awesome engagement session photos and poses you like. You have even sent your favorites to your photographer mentioning that this is exactly what you want!

Now let’s stop for a second.
What is this session about? It is about YOU two. It’s about how you feel about each other, feel each other and anything about TWO of YOU.
It is not about people whose pictures you’ve seen on Pinterest, it is only about YOU.


When planning the session first of all think about where you want to have it.
Sure, you can ask your photographer for suggestions and they will have awesome locations to suggest.
But before that think of places that have some kind of emotional value for YOU.

Maybe it is the place you got actually got engaged at? Is it the place you first met each other at? Perhaps your first or most memorable date was there. Or, maybe there’s a place you two just LOVE to go to and it makes total sense to go there since it’s so important part of you lives.
It’s possible there’s such a location outside of the city, far away, but it does not hurt to ask your photographer if they would travel, there might be a travel charge but then it might well worth it.

If you do not have such a location go ahead and ask your photographer for some awesome locations and they will totally suggest you some great ones!

Time of the session is crucial for the session to be a success.
There are two hours during the day when the light is best, and the are called ‘golden hours’. The exact explanation can be found here –

In short though – those are two hours when light is great, the sun is not up there to create sharp shadows, mess with your eyes and make you squint or got forbid show some sweat.

First golden hour of the day would be really early in the morning, first hour after the sunrise, around 6am, so you probably would skip that (although it is best time you can get with New York landmarks when no tourists are around, imagine Brooklyn Bridge or Central Park WITHOUT tourists!

Second golden hour would be the last hour of the day before the sunset. Since afterwards it will get dark fast you want (ideally) to plan your session to be one hour or half an hour BEFORE the golden hour and you’re all set.

If you cannot plan for those two best time-slots remember this, the farther you are from noon – the better, since it is the worst time of the day for outdoor photography of any kind (and it applies to your wedding day as well).

Another thing to remember – the sun is NOT your friend for your session. Ideal day is a cloudy day, so don’t be said if your wedding day is supposed to be cloudy, it’s a blessing.

Almost every couple we meet has the same fear – ‘How good can we look in the pictures?’.
After all most us are NOT professional models, right?

That makes many-many people dig into Pinterest like crazy, then send pictures they love to their photographers saying ‘Hey, this is what we want for our engagement session / wedding portraits.’

There are couple of issues with that.

First, ask yourself, do you REALLY want the same thing as hundreds of couple before you, or you want to get memories and photographs which will be unique and about YOU? I already know the answer. Everyone wants to be unique.

Then, when you have hired your photographer, did you look at how their engagement sessions look like? You did, I know!
Then relax, tell you photographer about your hesitations and they will make sure that you look the best on your photos. If you feel like you don’t trust your photographer with this task – you have hired the wrong person.

Finally, every seasoned good photographer has their own style and asking to copy something that does not fit their style would be like asking for mojito in an upscale New York speakeasy, asking for Bud Light in a craft beer garden or like asking for grits and biscuit in an upscale NYC restaurant.
Your photographer has their style, and you love it, because you have hired them for that. So let them do what they do best – give you the amazing images you deserve. Do not send your photographer images you have collected somewhere else unless they are from your photographer’s portfolio.

What to wear:
You want to look your best, but you also want to feel comfortable.
Try your outfits in advance and make sure you like how you look in them. Do ask another person for a second opinion.
If you’re going for a casual look, make sure your outfit is fresh, washed and pressed and your footwear looks clean.
If you’re going for a fancy look, make sure that what you wear is really comfy for you.
If you wear new Jimmies or Loubes and it’s painful believe me, you will see how painful it was on your pictures. And always have a pair of flats with you for when you’re walking between the locations.

General guideline – do not wear outfits too contrast one from another, for example – try to avoid having one of you in white and another one in black. While it’s not a problem if you did schedule a session for a good time of the day, it will be a big problem if it is sunny.

If you like accessories, definitely use them. Hats, shades, scarves – anything goes.

Got pets?
Bring your pets with you! They will be a wonderful addition to your session!
Do remember to bring a friend who will help you taking care of your dog or lizard while you’re taking pictures without it.

Don’t get sunburned or over-tanned
Best if you stay in shade for a week before your shoot, sure it’s possible to edit your faces not to resemble lobsters, but it will not look natural either 🙂

Get hair and make-up done
Not only you will look awesome, you will also FEEL awesome and that is crazy important!
It might be a good time to have your make-up and hair trials.
Do your nails. It concerns guys too. You will not be happy to get a close-up of your hands with bitten nails.

What if it is supposed to rain (or no, not this one!)
Well, that happens and is completely out of our control, but if planned right you will be all good.
So, if it rains you can change your session location to Grand Central which is an amazing place to have a session in general, or to Chelsea Market, which is cool, trendy, funky and full of small different locations which will make your session special.
There’s also a Met Museum and New York Public Library which are stunning, but beware, you can go there only if you’re dressed casually and you cannot wear a white dress (this will make them suspect you’re trying to pull a wedding shoot and they will ask you to leave).
Unfortunately there’s no other locations suitable for indoor shoots where everyone can go and shoot for free.

If you are dressed casually and it’s not really a rain but a drizzle you can still shoot and have great pictures!
Your photographer should have professional equipment which will not prevent them from shooting while it’s drizzling.

So what other alternatives do you have if it rains?
Well, you can talk to owners of your favorite cafe, bar or restaurant and many times they will allow you to shoot inside.
If you are definitely against indoor shoot, have a rain-date scheduled or simply be prepared to re-schedule if it rains. (This is a good reason to NOT schedule your session close to your wedding date, so you will have the time to re-schedule your session).

Get a drink (or two) before the session (if you drink)
Not only you can enjoy you some fancy NYC cocktail, you will also loosen up a bit which will help you with feeling confident during the session.

Be on time
Remember that being late will most certainly make your session shorter, your photographer might have other things planned after your session.

Plan your day to be just about two of you
You can also treat yourself and make it a date-day, have a nice brunch, go to a spa, and after the session have a fancy dinner, you’re in New York City after all!

Tell your photographer about things you do not like
An example: Some couples are very passionate and some are very reserved. We see a lot of photographers who would ask the couple to kiss again and again or do things which people normally don’t do like chasing one another or jump, what not… If your photographer does not ask how you prefer the session to go, don’t be shy and tell them about things which you prefer not to happen, it will prevent you feeling awkward during the session in case the photographer pulls something like that.

Finally – enjoy your session, have fun, think about the other person and not about the outcome
And you will get awesome result!

And here are some of the places we love where you can go for drinks, relaxation and a nice meal!

Brunch: Stone Park Cafe – best brunch place in the whole world, not kidding.
Sarabeth’s Tribeca – fancy great brunch, a lot of choices, known for their signature Bloody Mary.

Spa: Mandarin Oriental spa – greatest spa experience you can get in the city.

Drinks: Bourgeois Pig
Death and Company
Employees Only
Clover Club

Dinner: Buttermilk Channel – our favorite place for dinners, there’s nothing like it, be prepared to wait unless you come at the opening time.
Dos Caminos – some awesome Mexican experience!
Petit Oven – small culinary haven owned by two amazing ladies. Definitely worths the ride to Brooklyn. Once you come once you will keep on going back. Make sure to reserve a table in advance.

Thanks for reading our article.
Do LET US KNOW what you think and how else we can help YOU.

If you like it, please share it with the fellow brides and grooms 🙂

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Julian Ribinik Wedding Photography

330 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

(212) 256-1646