Why Should I do Engagement Photos? // Portland, Oregon // PNW // Natalie Kysar Photography

Posted in: Engagement Sessions, Portland Photoshoot Location Ideas, Tuesday Tips, Wedding Wednesday

Engagement sessions? And why should you listen to me?

I am Natalie, a PNW wedding photographer who has shot over 75 weddings! Based between Portland and Seattle, I shoot mostly in Portland, but all over the PNW and even across the country.

I have shot weddings with and without a pre-wedding shoot, or engagement session.

Let me tell you, if your wedding photographer offers them complimentary with any wedding collection, it is for a good reason. And most significantly, we don’t like having to make our clients un-comfortable if we can easily avoid it!

Engagement sessions are one of the best ways, for us photographers, to ensure you do not feel awkward in front of the camera. A lot of my couples tell me “we want someone to tell us what to do” or “we’ve never had photos done before” or “my spouse-to-be hates photos”. This immediately tells me they need an engagement session.

I consider the engagement session an essential part of my wedding collections, as well as my customer experience! A lot of my PNW couples have agreed with me.

A quick engagement session planning tip: if you can, schedule your makeup and hair trial day for the same day as your engagement session! This is really good for making any adjustments before the big day and see just how good it looks on a professional camera. Just like this wedding here. At their engagement session, Kristen and Max came from Seattle straight from the Hair and Makeup Artist Trial run. So it was a great test run for her to adjust a few things prior to the wedding day. View her engagement session look below and her final look, at this Seattle Fine Art Wedding Photography post.

Mary's Peak Engagement Session // Portland, Oregon // Kristen and Max // Natalie Kysar Photography
Mary’s Peak Engagement Session // Portland, Oregon // Kristen and Max // Natalie Kysar Photography
Mary's Peak Engagement Session // Portland, Oregon // Kristen and Max // Natalie Kysar Photography
Mary’s Peak Engagement Session // Portland, Oregon // Kristen and Max // Natalie Kysar Photography

We get to build a connection, get to know each other and create some magical photos!

Engagement Photos in Vancouver, Washington // The Cove // Natalie Kysar Photography // Rina and Tim

Think about this for a second: It is your wedding day.

You are in your getting ready space, it’s chaotic and loud.

The door opens and this person with a big bag comes in. You’ve never met them before, and are not sure who they are and what they are doing in the room. So even if they are friendly and communicative, you aren’t comfortable with them.

Fast forward to your wedding portraits with your spouse-to-be. With all the wedding day chaos, your nerves, feeling uncomfortable in front of the camera, and suddenly in-secure with your wedding dress choices. “Did I make the wrong choice? How will my arms look in the photos? How will I know what to do?” These thoughts are running through your head and not helping the situation.

Lake Sacajawea, Longview Washington Engagement Session // Natalie Kysar Photography // Jordan and Matthew
Engagement Session Longview, Washington // Lake Sacajawea // Natalie Kysar Photography // Jordan and Matthew

Now forget everything I just said and think about the feeling you felt imagining it.

Set that aside and picture this next scene.

Again it is your wedding day. You are in a getting ready space that isn’t crazy chaotic because you knew what to expect and planned accordingly. You anticipated the chaos.

Now you have your photographer come into the room. You recognize their warm smile and calming presence from the engagement session earlier this year. You have no questions regarding who they are, or how you will look in photos.

At your portraits with your spouse-to-be you feel confident and excited, and maybe some butterflies. You look amazing and you are reassured constantly by your photographer and she leads you through each pose, and tells you exactly what to do.

Engagement Photos in Seattle | Adriane & Jacob | Mt. Rainier National Park
Engagement Photos in Seattle | Adriane & Jacob | Mt. Rainier National Park

Now, how did that story make you feel? Much better, right? Typically more small meetings help with that too, like consult or timeline Zoom calls etc. But nothing beats an in-person meeting, especially a fun one like an engagement session!

You will get to know your wedding photographer’s personality, as well as their shooting style.

Engagement Photos in Vancouver, Washington // Billy and Ashlyn // Natalie Kysar Photography // Portland, Oregon

Thinking about your wedding day, you will spend a significant time with your photographer(s) and if you don’t click personality-wise that may pose a problem on the big day.

Thinking about your wedding photographer’s shooting style is very important! Some photographers don’t give their clients any direction and shoot everything as it naturally unfolds. The problem with that style is most clients aren’t comfortable in front of the camera and it ends up being anything but “natural”. Then on the other end of the shooting style scale, you will feel like every piece of you is being changed and moved in ways you will never naturally stand or sit! I strive to fall right in the middle with my shooting style. Lots of guidance and a few adjustments here and there to add to the photo, but never leaving you guessing or feeling awkward! If there are a few poses where you feel awkward, I encourage you to laugh and have fun! THAT is the photo you are going to love, the one just after the “pose” while you aren’t even thinking about the camera.

The Benson Hotel // Portland Oregon // Natalie Kysar Photography // Luxury Hotels in Portland
Engagement Photos in Portland, Oregon // The Benson Hotel // Sizzle Pie // Natalie Kysar Photography // Luxury Hotels in Portland

Of course, each wedding is going to be different and most will be slightly chaotic. But the feeling of un-comfortable and the feeling of re-assured, are much different and it will show in your photos!

Even just having a short session with your photographer before the wedding, (or even booking your wedding with them) can help so much with your feeling on photos.

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Engagement Session // Natalie Kysar Photography
Engagement Photos in Portland, Oregon // Madeline and Spencer

I must strongly recommend using the same photographer for your wedding day. When you do an engagement session, it helps build your relationship with that photographer. So if it’s different photographers from Portland that have different shooting styles, the point is moot.

At your engagement session, you get a chance to have some beautiful relaxed photos, without the pressure of the wedding day.

If it was my engagement session, I would plan a few different outfits to get a feel for how different styles look on my body.

Couple with arm around each other in dressy outfits for their engagement photos in Portland.
Engagement Photos in Vancouver, Washington // Negar and Merhdad

Personally, my favorite engagement sessions have 2 outfits. A dressy-casual outfit and a fancier one. This does not mean a crazy expensive dress or tux! Something in your closet already will probably work great. Less is more when it comes to the outfits. A simple neutral dress is going to look a lot nicer in your engagement photos, than a huge still awkward dress you feel uncomfortable in. I can really appreciate bold fashion choices and awesome colors. But for photos of you and your babe, I recommend you leave the focus where you want it! On the love you share.

The Benson Hotel // Portland Oregon // Natalie Kysar Photography // Luxury Hotels in Portland
Engagement Photos in Portland, Oregon // The Benson Hotel // Natalie Kysar Photography
The Benson Hotel // Portland Oregon // Natalie Kysar Photography // Luxury Hotels in Portland
Engagement Photos in Portland, Oregon // The Benson Hotel // Natalie Kysar Photography

Like this session at The Benson Hotel in Portland, they are the best outfit changes! Each one was a reflection of them as a couple and they all looked amazing.

If you are one of my fashionista/stylish brides, this doesn’t mean you can’t show off your style! Your photos should be a reflection of you. Fine art weddings are very stunning/stylish and I would never say to remove your beautiful creative flair.

So while muted or neutrals might look best in photos, you do YOU!

While your wedding day is different from your engagement session in many ways, your confidence in yourself and your photographer will hopefully be the same.

Here are some more reasons you need an engagement session:

-You get to spend a date-night together! Since you are already looking amazing go out together after your engagement photos!

-It can be a reminder of why you chose each other and the love you have for each other

-You will get photos from a special time in your relationship, being engaged!

-Stunning photos you can use for all the wedding-related things (i.e. social media, wedding guestbook, bridal shower, wedding announcements/invites, etc!)

-A special memory for just you two

-Something to look back on down the road to remember how you felt when you first fell in love!

-Learning all your favorite angles, and becoming posing PROs!

-More control over the weather and the day than your wedding day! (hello sunset glow!)

-A special bonding moment away from wedding planning stress and your phones!

-You get to enjoy at least one sunrise/sunset together prior to the wedding!

Portland, Oregon has some of my favorite engagement session locations and I can’t wait to have another full blog post to share some of those with you!

Here are a few more engagement session blogs for you to check out:






  1. […] Spending time together with my couples before the wedding is so important. Getting to know you all helps me see what style of shooting works best for you and your story! Check out more here if you are wondering… “Why Should I do Engagement Photos?“ […]

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Natalie Kysar Photography | ©️2020

Based in the Pacific Northwest


As Seen in The Knot Magazine