6 Secrets For EPIC Wedding & Engagement Portraits

I don’t consider myself an expert anything in life, except being a smart ass. However, I’ve been shooting weddings and portraits long enough to have an Epic Photo Formula. Every photographer has a ‘tool kit’ that they use to work their magic, I’m going to share a few of mine.

In the age of Pinterest and Instagram, photo inspiration is EVERYWHERE. It’s so easy to save and bookmark a few photos that you’d like to replicate but it’s not as easy as copying a pose. I’m going to walk you through a few secrets that you may or may not know to help you get the photos you’re dreaming of!

Krista & Nate were probably less than thrilled when I asked to drag them out in the freezing cold in the middle of their reception. But, when I saw that it was DUMPING snow, I knew it would make for an epic night photo. It’s safe to say this is now one of their favorites from the whole day.

1. Trust Your Photographer

You may be rolling your eyes right now but this is easily the biggest ingredient to the Epic Photo Formula. When I tell clients that I want to meet them at sunrise in the freezing cold, or meet them at a semi-sketchy location, it’s all worth for the photos. I’ve taken wedding portraits in front of crusty walls, below freezing temperatures, and even in the rain and it’s been worth it EVERY TIME. Trust your photographer when they suggest something or what time they want you to arrive. I assure you, we don’t enjoy getting up at the butt crack of dawn, but if it means epic photos, we’ll do anything. Trust us. ;)

I asked Jordan + Taylor to bring shoes that they didn’t mind getting dirty. We walked about .25 miles in the mud to find this little nook of the creek. It was 40° and we were all freezing but they trusted me and look how adorable this turned out!

2. Timing

The ‘ol saying “timing is everything” isn’t just a saying, it’s LIFE. There are two parts to “Timing” your perfect photo session.

1) The time of your photo shoot truly does matter in the look of the photos. If you aren’t dead set on a golden hour glow, any time of day is beautiful. However all of the dreamy wedding and engagement photos you see that truly make you go “wow” are most often at sunrise or sunset. It’s a coveted time of day and during the peak photo seasons, a golden hour session slot is worth… well, gold. When wanting that warm sunny glow in your photos, you can make it happen at either sunrise or sunset. However, this look is achieved one hour before sunset OR one hour after sunrise. There are a few exceptions such as shooting with an open horizon (such as a beach or huge field where there’s nothing blocking the horizon line. Then, you’ll want to shoot a little closer to the actual sunset time. When you’re shooting with mountains in the background, you’re golden hour will be a little earlier than an hour because you have the mountains to account for! It’s an exact science which goes back to #1, trust us when we give you a time & location!

2) The second half to timing your perfect photo session is how long it lasts. This is especially true for wedding days. If you only give me 15-30 minutes on a wedding day, your photos are likely to differ than if you’ve given me an hour. I work endlessly with clients and planners to ensure that your portrait time is not only timed well throughout the day but also long enough to ensure that I can work my magic and you can remain stress free and not rushed to get them done. After all, these are your WEDDING portraits, ya know, the ones your family will hang on the walls and you show your future children. Kind of a big deal ;)

Emmy & Pat wanted sunset photos but the reception ran behind a little bit so we almost missed it! The venue owners took us up to the peak of a nearby hill so that we could catch what little sun we had before it disappeared behind the horizon. This wasn’t the original location but I knew that we had just MINUTES of this golden sunlight so we quickly hopped out and snapped as many as we could. While they look calm and collected in this photo, we were sprinting and screaming just seconds before to chase this light!

3. Chase The Light

I’m always picking the best light over the location. As I hit on in the last section, sunlight is the SECOND BIGGEST ingredient in the Epic Photo Formula. Without magical light, a photo may look flat. If you’ve ever been on a shoot with me, you’ve probably seen me choose a scene with good light versus a beautiful view. It all comes down to where that sun is peeking through. Every single time I’m on a shoot, someone suggests “hey, why don’t we shoot here?” but what you may not know is the light isn’t ideal but instead, let’s go over here and shoot! It usually takes a bit for my clients to understand that I’m ‘chasing the light’ but once I show them previews on the back of my camera, that’s when it clicks. You just have to trust us. Noticing a theme here?

Okay, obviously anywhere near the Santa Monica Pier is going to be an epic photo location but we hit the jackpot on timing and light here. The ocean mist combined with the sun rays from golden hour combined to create this magical fairytale lighting situation that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to replicate it. However, this is a great example of the Epic Photo Formula working it’s magic in FULL!!!

4. Location

The location of your photo shoot is another piece of the Epic Photo Formula. It’s common sense that a backdrop of Yosemite is going to create a pretty epic photo. However, we don’t always have access to those kinds of location. If you want a backdrop of sweeping mountain views, tell me/your photographer! We can always use our resources to scout locations within a reasonable drive. I personally am always down for an adventure, so even if it requires a hike, a drive, whatever, let’s do it.

Sometimes I’ll suggest an off-beat location and I can almost hear my clients thinking “is she insane?” but TRUST ME. If I’ve suggested a weird location, it’s because I’ve seen something in that spot that others may not but I’ll always have your best interest in mind.

You guys, you don’t even want to know how we got to this location. I shutter at the thought. Thankfully I was with professionals but I know for a fact my little Hyundai would have NEVER made it up this mountain. Kara + Landon picked this spot because it was close to where Landon grew up and when they told me about it, it sounded pretty. But when we got there, I had completely underestimated the scenery, it was beautiful! We hit these fields at just the right time and I even made them kill a few minutes while we waited for the sun to set justtttt right.

5. Get Comfortable

Nothing is worse than a stiff or awkward couple on camera — proof? Jon and I. We are the ABSOLUTE WORST at having our photos taken and it definitely shows when we take photos together. Some couples (like us) are just inherently uncomfortable posing and that’s totally okay! However, there are definitely ways to loosen up beforehand! Get silly in the car on the way to your shoot. Have a karaoke session in the car, tell jokes, practice your “model faces” in the mirror together, etc. My personal favorite way to loosen up? Drinks. Lots of ‘em. (Please don’t drive after drinking of course.) My sessions are never ever serious and I promise that “posing” isn’t as hard or nerve-racking as you think, in fact, most clients say that it was fun! *gasp!*

Dear Men, listen. I know you hate photos. I know you hate getting mushy and gushy in photos but it’s only for a little whileeee - Alicia & Matt were amazing troopers all day but when they told me about the fireworks for their exit, I knew we had to make it special. I asked Matt to pause at the end and to just hold his bride and they didn’t disappoint in getting all cuddly in front of EVERY SINGLE GUEST at their wedding. I don’t think it hurt that this was at the end of the reception and both bride + groom had a few drinks in their system. When it doubt, drink it out!

6. Outfits

While this one isn’t nearly as important as the others listed, I wanted to still mention it because it can play a role in the Epic Photo Formula. If you’re really trying to get that “wow” factor in your photos, look for outfits with movement. A flowy chiffon skirt or dress will play in the wind and create ‘movement’ in the photos. Look for colors that compliment your scenery too. If you’re shooting in the woods, look for colors like pinks, yellows, blues, and oranges. If you’re shooting at the beach, look for greens, pinks, oranges, and purple. If a color exists in your location (green grass, brown trees, yellow sand, blue water) then pick a color that contrasts for an extra “wow” factor!

This was taken a while ago but it always stands out in my portfolio no matter how many years pass. Angie’s dress is exactly what “movement” I was talking about! The wind picked up the fabric and it lead to an epic result. Angie & Dustin gave me over an hour for portraits and were totally down to try whatever I wanted. They got ready extra early and we hit the parkway. I found this little spot on the side of the road and we parked my car in the gutter and ran over to this fence post. The rest, as they say, is history!