I once overheard a woman angrily talking with her friends about her son’s wedding photographer wanting to do an engagement session and how she believed that it was “just one more place for them to gouge us!” Needless to say it took a lot of self control to not correct this woman with the much more probable reasons they wanted to do an engagement session… and inform her that her bitching was ruining my self-care manicure. But it got me thinking about the reasons that I encourage my couples to take advantage of my complimentary engagement sessions and how to put that into words that even a penny-pincher would agree with.
I’d like to use my session with Robin & Russ as my example…
These two have been together for over 5 years and their wedding is actually this weekend! All the same I asked them to meet me for a mini engagement session at a nearby natural area at every photographer’s favorite time – golden hour (the hour before sunset). Robin & Russ didn’t neeeeed engagement portraits; they wouldn’t be used to announce their intentions, for save-the-date cards, a wedding website, invitations, or for wedding day decor. <<< Which are all very common and great reasons to do an engagement session by the way. Instead this session was more tactical, this was our opportunity to work together before the wedding and give all of us a chance to experience how each other worked.
Examples of questions that I would like answers to before the big day: What are their bad photo habits? Do they tilt their heads a lot? Can they give me a natural smile? How do they interact with each other? Are they blinkers? Is there anything they’re self-conscious about? Do they know how to ignore the camera? How much direction do they need? Is their chemistry visual or verbal?
Examples of seeds I want to plant in my couple’s brain before the big day: Chin down and forward. Thumbs in pockets. Dropping the hip to the back. Level out the head. V shape. Walking sloooooowly. Hold your bouquet low. Ignore the camera. Laugh to smile.
Robin is the magic behind Desert Rose Bridal Styling and I can’t wait to see how gorgeous their wedding turns out!!!
When you’ve booked a wedding in September, but the couple lives in Oakland, you take any opportunity you can to get together.
Such was the case with Alison and Austin. On one of their final wedding planning visits to Bend we met up for a morning engagement session out in the desert with a beautiful view of the Three Sisters. While they both have Oregon roots they managed to find each other in San Fransisco…
I had a friend my freshman year of college who ended up being Austin’s roommate years down the line. The friend visited San Fransisco and got all his friends together, so Austin and I met that evening, but we were both involved with other people. It wasn’t until 6 months later that Austin sent out a message to everyone about a bar night. I had just gotten off of the swing shift, so I stopped by after midnight when everyone was gone, except Austin. So we hung out then and started dating…
…We’d been dating since 2012, but had only lived in the same city for 7 months. I’d moved across the bay for a PhD (Physics), and Austin eventually moved to Boston for a 2-year MBA. After he graduated, he moved back to California, and we were soon pretty sure that this was meant to be. We decided to announce our engagement in front of my family, over the holiday season. So the day before we went […] and found me a tiny ring and we told only family over a champagne toast!
They are sweet, funny, waaaaaay smarter than me, and I am so excited for their wedding at Five Pine Lodge this fall!!!
This has been one of the wettest years on record for the Pacific Northwest. Yep, it’s been soggy out there.
But that never stops an Oregonian couple from getting out there for a set of romantic adventure portraits… we’re a hearty bunch.
Hannah + Nathan have known each other since they were little and in the the Heart of the Valley Children’s Choir together. They also attended the same high school, but didn’t start dating until Nathan returned from a study abroad year in Europe. It was immediately a long distance relationship as Hannah headed off to college at Western Washington in Bellingham. Upon graduation Hannah returned to Corvallis, and even though it was still long distance the distance was shorter. Let’s hear about the proposal…
On a weekend when I came up to Portland, Nathan suggested we go out to lunch at Pine State Biscuits. So delicious! Afterward, we went to Forest Park for a short hike. We go on hikes all the time, so I had no idea we was about to propose! When we got back to the clearing where we started, we sat on a picnic bench to talk for a bit. We were reminiscing about our relationship when he pulled out a ring box and got down on one knee!!! I said yes, of course. That evening, he took me to a fancy dinner fundraiser for his choir, so it was a really fun and special day.
We decided to use their engagement location – Forest Park – for their portraits because it reflects their interests of hiking and being outdoors. It was soggy and getting colder by the minute, but that just prompts more hugging and snuggling so that works for me. They were absolute troopers and even ventured out onto a mossy fallen log! I’m so excited to photograph their wedding this summer in Portland and wish them a very musical future. 🙂
When you meet a couple as adventurous as Stacey + Mo you obviously have to go on a snowy adventure engagement session with their pup Georgia.
We headed out to Edison Snow Park near Mt. Bachelor after more than two months of serious snow fall. Even though most folks in the Central Oregon were over the snow by the new year, we were ready for more fun, post-holing, and snowball fights. We even found an igloo!!! The sun was shining, but you could see the snow clouds that encased Mt Bachelor and occasionally sent a flurry of snow our way. Georgia was having lots of fun running around and having snowballs thrown for her, but she couldn’t understand why we would stop for several minutes at a time for some lovey dovey photos. “Come on guys! There’s more snow up the trail!!!”
Before heading back for lunch we warmed up on the gate of the truck with some hot tea. …woulda been the 40oz of hot chocolate that I brought, but Mo + Stacey were on a no sugar cleanse. Which sounds like the saddest type of cleanse on the planet, but hey whatever you need to do to feel tip-top is good by me.
I can’t wait for their wedding this July on the McKenzie River …with silent disco. Yes, this is happening.
What a fun way to explore a little of Mt Bachelor’s summer side!
I first met Jess in Corvallis after she relocated to the area and joined a ladies business group that I was in. She joined with her own small business, JessBFit, which as you might guess from the name is focused on fitness training …but Jess isn’t your average fitness trainer. Jess believes that physical activity should never be used as punishment – drop and give me 20! – but that instead it should be considered a reward for dedication and hard work. Through play, natural movement, and exploring the outdoors she guides others to their goals of physical freedom. I met Aaron on a training hike up Marys Peak in the Oregon Coast Range and could instantly see how they complimented each other.
Fast forward a few years we moved to Bend and discover that Jess and Aaron had also been pondering moving to Bend! Hooray!!! A few short months later and we’re riding up the lift at Mt. Bachelor trying to not get run-over by mountain bikers as we cross the trails to find epic views of the Cascades. This was also my first opportunity to see the softer side of their relationship with lots of snuggles in between playful bouts and piggy-back rides.
I can’t even begin to say what a blessing it’s been to have these two in Central Oregon. They are community focused and have been monumentally helpful while we prepared for John’s recent foot rebuild. I hope that the four of us can have some snowy adventures this winter and summit some mountains next summer!!!
A photographer always starts getting extra excited for the wedding when they have a super adventure time engagement session…
It was so much fun working with Ally, Patrick, and their fur-baby Benji, around Tumalo Creek and Shevlin Park on a perfect sunny day in late June. We originally planned to go to Tumalo Falls, but when I got there to scout locations a little early it was totes cray with all the people there to look at the falls and take pictures. Pro-Tip: When utilized popular tourist locations go on a weekday. We decided that privacy and a more natural look would work better for us and went down stream to a small rock beach. On our way back to the main road we saw this huge bolder; I inquired about their climbing skills. With a little bit of effort both Ally and Patrick were looking down at me from a solid 10-12 feed up!
After our more rugged adventures we took it down a notch with some nice poses and cuddling around Shevlin Park. Patrick’s sisters were on Benji duty and what a blessing they were, since Benji let me know several times how he felt about me being closer to his mom and dad than he was. lol!
What’s the deal with engagement sessions?
First a story: Once, while getting a manicure, I over-heard a very disgruntled woman talking to her friends about how ridiculous engagement portraits were and how obviously the photographer was just gouging them (parents of the bride) for more money. She was really upset and it literally took all of my self control not to say anything to her. I knew that no matter how calmly, eloquently, or excitedly I explained the many benefits of having an engagement session that she would hold to her opinion. So instead I sat there, letting my hands soak in pretty smelling water, and really reflected on why I love engagement sessions so much. I encourage all of my couples to also book an engagement session with me when we first sit down over coffee or skype to talk about their wedding photography. Some couples already know that they want one, while others need a bit more convincing. …recall that I said encourage, not force, not demand, not guilt trip.
Here are the reasons that I encourage all of my couples to book an engagement portrait session:
- It gives me an opportunity to learn how you respond to the camera before your wedding day. Believe it or not people can get weird the second a camera comes out. Known as “camera awareness” and my mortal enemy, the concept is pretty straight-forward in that people can become awkward when they anticipate being photographed. An engagement session helps us break down that awareness so that you can get into the moment with your special person. It’s also really helpful for me to see how you naturally interact with each other, how you smile, if you’re a blinker, or maybe you have some bad selfie habits. These are all things that I really should know before one of the most important photographed days of your lives together.
- Learning vocabulary. An engagement session is measurably more casual than our portrait time on your wedding day. This makes it a great opportunity to learn some vocabulary and posing basics so that things can go more smoothly when we’re more pressed for time and everyone is full of wedding adrenaline. V-shape, turtle, compress, and “give me your chin” are concepts that I want to sit in your brain and turn into natural muscle memory.
- It’s an opportunity for you to give me feedback. Many couples have never had professional portraits taken before so they really aren’t sure what they want or how they work best with a photographer. All the pinterest boards in the world aren’t as good as actually experiencing something; this holds true for portrait photography. Too much direction, not enough direction; more candids, more formals, you see where I’m going. Again, this is feedback and expectations that we want communicated before your wedding.
- They’re fun! …and useful. An engagement session is your opportunity to tell your friends, family, and guests all about yourselves as a couple. Where you live, where you met, where you got engaged, what you like to do together, how you get all googly-eyed and silly when they look at you, express your style and interests, and maybe show off the fur babies. I tell my couples to think of these sessions as a date for three… you’re going on a date and I’m there to be your visual voice. Engagement sessions also offer visual variety and an important time stamp to mark the season and changes that will occur over the course of your engagement. Thinking about using a photo for your save the dates? Boom! Want to string up photos of the two of you, that aren’t just selfies, at your wedding reception? Bam! Gramma been wanting a portrait of her favorite grandbaby and bae? Done!
- Establishing trust and confidence.There’s one thing that makes any given portrait look a million times better… confidence. Unfortunately we live in a really critical culture where everyone is a hot mess for the internet to poke at your insecurities. 🙁 I’m going to do everything in my natural super powers to make you look your very best. Posing, lighting, helping choose outfits, etc I want you to feel great while you’re having your portraits taken and I want you to trust that I have my eyes on everything. I have a very light hand in my post-processing, I’d much rather fix something in person than in photoshop. Pro-tip: It’s software, not magic. I had an engagement session last summer that turned out beeeeeautifully! I found out later that they whole time the bride-to-be was reminding herself that her BFF’s engagement and wedding photography that I did the year before turned out great and to trust me. “She knows what she’s doing, she knows what she’s doing…” because lemme tell ya sometimes the things we need to do to make something look great, don’t feel great. 3D humans vs. 2D photography. Of course she looooooved her portraits and now she knows from her own experiences that she can fully trust me and she will look beautifully confident on her wedding day!
Awesome couple? Check.
Perfect view of Three Sisters Mountains? Check.
Lovable pair of Boxer dogs? Check.
I had a brilliant session with Heather and Tyler a couple weekends ago to get them warmed up for their wedding next month. I’m just going to let the photos do the talking on this one. Enjoy!
It was soooo hot.
Literally it was 99 degrees in Portland that day with a fair amount of humidity and we all felt like we were not so slowly dying.
That being said Katie + Zach (especially Zach) were absolute troopers through our afternoon engagement session in Portland. We started out time together at the Stumptown Coffee shop downtown. It has these big west-ish facing windows that let in tons of natural light, with historic brick walls, a window people-watching bar, and air conditioning. It wasn’t at all difficult to get these two love birds to cuddle over their respective cups of iced coffee.
Zach and Katie grew up in our mutual hometown of Corvallis (GO BEAVS!), even lived less than 5 minutes apart, and enjoyed the same parks & rec programs during the summer. …but Katie went to a private school while Zach was stuck in the trenches of public school. They finally met, through a mutual friend, in 2010 after they graduated and have been together ever since. Fast forward to last February and Zach had gotten them a romantic weekend in Cannon Beach for a Christmas gift. He wanted to “enjoy the beach with snacks and a bottle of 2010 wine” but Oregon does what she wants and it poured all weekend 🙁 “Let’s go look at Haystack Rock…” he would say hoping that the weather would cooperate. It did not. Finally they had dinner reservations on Saturday night; even though Katie was starting to get an idea of what was going on here, she went along with it until she felt the box in his coat pocket. Panic! They both played it off cool until Zach officially asked the next morning, it was still raining, and Katie replied with an enthusiastic, “Of course!!!”
Back to our extremely warm engagement session…
After coffee we briefly wondered around downtown then headed to the Washington Park rose garden. It was in full bloom and also full of tourists. Nobody seemed to mind or even notice us, except for a few cheers when I had them kiss on the big terraced stairs. Katie showed me all their wedding colors in the different roses in the experimental garden. I love how she loved all the textures and saw the subtle differences in pinks and whites. We worked until we could no longer tolerate the heat and desperately wanted to get back in the car with AC.
As I mentioned in a FB sneak peek post, Zach’s Dad (Todd) was my very first photography teacher. I remember when Zach was just a little dude with his younger brother at the grocery store. It is such a privilege to capture his love for Katie and their upcoming wedding. I once beat Todd in a photography competition and I look forward to blowing his mind yet again. haha!
The end of May was …turbulent. The weather was swinging randomly between wonderful sunny days and torrential downpours.
I met Mida + Phillip at Willamette Park in Corvallis, hoping that we would get mostly dry weather for our morning session. It was still wet on the ground from previous rains, but we really lucked out and only got sprinkled on a little bit towards the end of our time together. M+P are sooooo cute together; Phillip has a warm sense of humor and likes to sneak in for kisses. Mida is a ball of smiles and laughter. She was a good sport when Phillip lifted her leg, as if he were going to pick her up, but accidentally just flashed me instead. Lol! We wondered the south end of the park, using trees for cover, shade, and texture. We said hello to lots of other folks using the park and path with their fur babies.
I love it when I meet a bride & groom that I have multiple connections to; it just makes the whole process feel more like a celebration and less like work. Not to say that I’m not celebrating all of my couples, but there is definitely a work element to photographing what is undeniably a very very important day in a couples’ life together. Phillip, Mida, and I have lots of people in common, but I had only met Mida once at another wedding. Phillip is one of the co-founders of Nectar Creek Mead and I’ll admit that I’m really looking forward to some yummy honey wine at their wedding in August at Lumos Winery in Kings Valley.