Fairhope Wedding Photographer & Educator | Ellison Smith Creative- Formerly Goodie & Smith Weddings



choosing the perfect time, location,
outfit & more!

Engagement Session at Knoll Park in Fairhope, AL



I am so excited to be working with you and can’t wait for our time together during your engagement session! It’s normal to be a little nervous about your session. I always tell people that I still get nervous before having my photos taken – and I do this for a living!

I am a big fan of engagement sessions for a few reasons. First, they allow you to get comfortable in front of the camera. It takes time for most couples to warm up to being photographed and understand how I pose. Timelines can be pretty tight on weddings days and 15 minutes may be all we have for portraits – which is why we’ve found that wedding day portraits turn out so much better when couples do engagement sessions ahead of time.

Second, you can showcase your personalities in a more casual setting that is significant to the two of you (and even include pets!). While they’re great for save-the-dates, I’ve taken engagement photos anywhere from 18 months in advance to a few days before the wedding.

There is a lot to think about when it comes to planning a session and since I get asked some of the same things over and over again, I thought it would be the most beneficial if I put together a guide that walks you through everything you need to know.

I’ll cover what to wear, whether to bring pets & how to manage them, location ideas and more!

– Jessica

Downtown Fairhope, Al Christmas Engagement Session


The Guys

I get it. Having your picture taken for 1-2 hours might not be in your top-10 favorite things to do during your downtime. And at first you might feel sort of awkward being in front of the camera. But we think you’ll find that by the end of the session, it’s a lot easier than you thought, and you even had a little fun. I look forward to it because it’s a great opportunity for us all to hang out a bit before the wedding day.


Is there a "good" time to take photos?

Engagement sessions can take place anywhere from immediately following a proposal to just a few days before the wedding. I’ve found that there isn’t a “good” or “bad” time to take your photos. I normally plan sessions based on a particular “look” a couple has in mind, spring flowers for example, or based on schedules. 

Sessions typically last about an hour and when we can— we love to begin sessions about one to two hours before sunset. I prefer to shoot when the sun is lower in the sky to avoid harsh shadows and bright sun patches. But, the ideal time really depends on the location you choose. The first two hours after sunrise is also an ideal time to shoot.

I schedule sessions during what I believe will be the best light of the day – which means that it’s super important to be on time. If you’re late to an evening session, we could run out of light before we’ve finished shooting and if your session takes place in the morning, the sun gets more harsh as it rises. 

Downtown Fairhope, Al Christmas Engagement Session


While I shoot most engagement sessions between March and late November, sessions can take place all year. Most G and S couples choose a season based on the location where they want to shoot. 

A few things to keep in mind during each season: 


If your wedding is local, save the dates should be sent between 6 and 8 months before the wedding. For a destination wedding, you’ll want to send them out 8 to 10 months before the wedding. 

If you’re hoping to use your engagement photos for your save the dates, I recommend scheduling your session at least two months before you plan to send out your save-the-dates. Between inclement weather, editing, designing your save-the-dates and printing, two months is generally a safe amount of time to make sure your images and cards are ready. 

Bride and Groom walking down the pier at their Grand Hotel Engagement Session



I love it when couples choose a location that is special or sentimental to them in some way . If you  can’t think of anywhere specific to shoot, wI can help you decide on a location. As long as the light is great, we can shoot anywhere. I have shot at farms, college campuses, downtown areas (Fairhope and Daphne are our favorite), and even coffee shops! I am serious! Do not shy away from unique ideas! The more creative the better.


Downtown Fairhope
The Grand Hotel in Fairhope
Spring Hill College
Bragg Mitchell Mansion
The Pillars



Downtown Mobile
Downtown Pensacola
Downtown Fairhope
Downtown Daphne

fun and unique

Little Point Clear
At home lifestyle session
Mr. Genes Beans in Fairhope
The Fort Container Park in Spanish Fort
Baldwin County Fair


Historic Malbis Nursery
Izenstone in Spanish Fort
Blakeley State Park
Tree & Flower Farms
Mobile Botanical Gardens
Bellingrath in Mobile


Cooking class
Coffee Shops
Sailing / Boating

the above locations are all beautiful but I also love exploring meaningful locations with our couples!

Vulvan park engagement session in Birmingham, AL

Destination Engagement Sessions

While I take most of our engagement sessions in the Mobile and Baldwin County area, 
I’ve photographed sessions everywhere from New Orleans to Tuscaloosa, AL to 30A, Florida. If you have a location in mind that is significant to the two of you, let me know because if our schedules align, I might be able to take your engagement photos outside of my normal area. 

Travel fees may apply depending on the location and our availability.

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Engagement Session at Orange Street in Fairhope, AL


Our dogs are a huge part of our families, which is why I love when couples choose to incorporate pets into their session. Keep in mind that bringing a pet along often means that we’ll need to choose a pet friendly location. 

I recommend planning for your pet to be at the first part of your session and then either dropping them off or having a friend take them home. I won’t use the pet in every single photo, so it’s also nice to have a friend available to hold him or her in between shots. 

If you’re going to bring a pet, I recommend exercising your pet before the session and bringing your pets favorite toy or treats! Depending on your pet’s fur type, it might also be a good idea to groom them before the shoot and bring a lint brush!



When picking outfits I recommend keeping in mind the word “compliment” rather than “match.” It can also be a great idea to choose “color-families,” such as pastels or jewel tones.  And don’t be afraid to be BOLD!  Most Patterns are actually ok…. however, graphics are not favorable for portraits.  If you’re wearing a pattern, make sure it’s not overwhelming and distracting. I love accessories as well! Statement necklaces, scarves, cute shoes and classic watches are great ways to add detail to outfits.  Last, Empty your pockets! Literally.  You don’t want to have key chains or phones showing through your pockets. (This is for the guys especially!).

Inclement Weather

what to do if it rains

I’ll check in the week of your engagement session to confirm the time & location we’re meeting and the weather. We know it takes a lot of time to get ready for an engagement session and it’s the worst to get dressed up and drive out to your session only to have it rain. Let me know what works best for the two of you – but if the weather looks like it won’t be great, We typically try to make the call at least 12 hours in advance. If we need to reschedule, I will offer my next available dates within 2 weeks of your original date. 

Engagement Ring in Fairhope, Alabama

Ring Cleaning

When I can, I always try to take a photo of your ring during your engagement session – so it’s a good idea to have it cleaned or clean it yourself before your shoot! To clean at home, soak your ring in warm water with dishwashing soap for 20 to 40 minutes. Then gently brush the stone with a soft toothbrush, rinse and repeat if needed.


champagne is always a good idea


If you’re planning to bring props to your engagement session, I recommend including them only if they’re meaningful to you. Shots of drinking coffee at a local coffee shop would be cute if that’s where you met; however, a trying to fly a kite together when it’s not a part of your relationship may come off as contrived. And, champagne is always welcome.

Fairhope Alabama Engagement Session on the Pier
An Engaged Couple under a live oak at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama photographed by Goodie and Smith Weddings


"What do I do with my hands"?

When it comes to posing for your engagement session, you don’t need to worry about a thing! I’ll guide you through the entire process beginning with “poses” that are super easy and natural. If I tell you to do something that feels a little funny, it’s probably because I know it’s going to make the two of you laugh – and that’s the photo I am actually looking for. I want you to feel as relaxed as possible and enjoy your time together!

Date Night

If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t get dressed up all that often. Which means that the day of your engagement session is the perfect occasion for a date night (or brunch if your session is in the morning!) 

The engagement session is another part of celebrating your love and heading off to dinner is a great way to end the session!

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When to Expect Your Images

As soon as possible after your session is complete, I will begin the editing process. Unless there is a holiday closure, you can expect to receive your engagement photos between 2 and 3 weeks after your session.  While you wait, be on the look out for a few sneak peeks on Facebook and Instagram. 

Orange Beach Alabama Beach Engagment Session


I know that this guide is long and hopefully it covers everything you need to know to prep for your engagement session! However if there is something I missed, or you need a recommendation feel free to email.