10 tips for natural, non-awkward and real engagement photos

Ready to hear something crazy? Engagement sessions aren’t really even about the photos themselves. The photos are a bonus. Yup, I said it.

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So what the heck are they for, then?! And how do we get those candid and unposed moments to our engagement photos? Hint: READ ON…

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What are engagement photos really for?

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  1. Establishing a relationship between the 3 of us so you don’t have a stranger documenting the most intimate (and stressful!) days you’ve ever experienced.

    Why would you want to have the first time you meet the person you’ll spend the most time with on your wedding day other than your partner, be the afternoon of your wedding?

  2. Building trust… between the 3 of us but also for your immediate family to see photos we took together, to know my style and work in advance.

    Once they do, they will know they can relax on the wedding day and trust us to work our magic and be creative while also capturing everything important to them, as it happens.

  3. Enjoying a lighthearted night out together during the stress of wedding planning.

    An excuse to spend an hour outside together having fun with the person you love the most in this world during one of the most exciting times in your lives? Yeah, it could be a lot worse.

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As a wedding photographer who prioritizes real moments, natural expressions and genuine laughter, my goal whenever you’re in front of my camera is to allow you to feel comfortable enough to laugh, cry, smile, kiss, hold hands and embrace the way you would (and do!) when no one’s watching. If there’s anything I hear time and time again, it’s one of these statements:

  1. “We’re really awkward.”

  2. “My fiance doesn’t like having his/her picture taken.”

  3. “We don’t need engagement photos because we already have them / my friend / uncle / sister took them for us right after we got engaged…”

  4. “Where should we take them? We don’t live in Baltimore and don’t know any places that would be meaningful to us.”

  5. “What should we wear? We’re casual people and it’s not our style to get dressed up.”I’m excited to share this list of 10 tips with you so that taking engagement photos doesn’t have to be something you dread. Instead, it can and should be fun, memorable and refreshing. If you think of it as just another date night, wouldn’t you jump at the chance to do it?

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Without further ado, here are…

10 tips for achieving candid and non-awkard
engagement photos (in other words, cheesy and overly posed is not my style either)!

Read it, save it and share it… and then read it again right before we meet up. ;)

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  1. DO YOU. If you take nothing else from this list, stop putting pressure on yourselves to be models or pose a certain way. None of my clients are and NO ONE KNOWS WHAT TO DO WITH THEIR HANDS WHEN THEY START! I’ll worry about how you look in front of the camera and give you tips, direction and confidence as needed, as long as you worry about having fun with your boo.

  2. Wear what you feel best in and you will automatically feel less awkward. If your groom doesn’t go anywhere without wearing a hat, bring the hat (we’ll take it off for a few, I promise).

  3. Put your ‘fancy’ clothes on. I personally feel that we don’t have enough reasons to get dressed up these days (hellooo, people used to get dressed up to ride trains!), but refer to no. 1... fancy can mean whatever you want it to. Maybe it’s just red and cute heels or new and crisp, dark denim!

  4. Bring the champagne. Shake it up… magic! I don’t discriminate though and highly encourage all types of liquid courage to be enjoyed! ;)

  5. Don’t wear your Fitbit. Take off your ️Apple watch. Give me your keys (but just remind me I have them when we’re done)!

  6. Eat a snack before we start but save the meal for after. No one does well with a grumbly belly and dinner at your favorite spot will give you something to look forward to.

  7. Choose your location strategically. Think through the places you’re most comfortable in together and the things you like to do in your free time.

  8. Weave in your personality and story. Did you meet in college? College campuses are THE MOST photogenic. Do you brew your own beer? Let’s start at your fave brewery. Was your first date at a winery? Bring a bottle of that wine to enjoy. Do you run together? Let’s stroll the trails. Do you own a ️boat? Tell me when and where and I’m there.

  9. Don’t bring extras... as in parents/friends. Unless they’re coming to bring home your pup once we’re done with them, I like being your one and only third wheel. Adding others is when it can actually get awkward.

  10. Don’t rush the process. I’ve found one hour to be the sweet spot for getting comfortable and used to having a camera near you, having fun and having a bunch of conversations about anything and everything that will allow your wedding photos to be that much more natural and full of real emotion... because that’s the ultimate goal in the end, right?

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After reading all of this, 1. you deserve a sweet treat and a glass of wine and 2. I hope you’re looking forward to your engagement session! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll share my thoughts and answers ASAP!

sneak peeks | audrey + todd's intimate intercontinental dc wharf wedding

The first time I visited the Intercontinental Wharf in DC, I fell in love. Being a part of Audrey and Todd’s intimate wedding at this incredible waterfront location left me speechless and more in love... with venues that are exquisitely thoughtful in their design; full of clean lines and modern finishes, with couples that know exactly what they want and know how to bring out the best in each other and with #urpcouples that celebrate by playing 90s hip-hop at their reception all. night. long.

I could have photographed Audrey getting ready in the corner bridal suite ALL DAY. She had such gorgeous taste in her bridal details and they complimented the venue so well; gold, cream and the lightest hint of blush wedding spirit garden roses, cafe au lait dahlias and eucalyptus intertwined along the top of the flower framed chuppah and all throughout her incredible bouquet by B Floral Event Design.

Enjoy some of my favorite early favorites of Audrey + Todd’s Intercontinental DC Wharf Wedding from this weekend!!

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Their ketubah was made by Ink with Intent and was absolutely incredible! It was an intricate, minimalist fine art paper cut design made out of one sheet of laser cut paper. At this moment, one of Audrey’s good friends and witnesses to the ketubah signing with Rabbi Evan Krame of The Jewish Studio, made a joke about how she signs her name and the whole room erupted into laughter… it was such a fun way to officially mark the beginning of their marriage.

The talis shown forming the top of their chuppah, was used by Audrey’s parents when they got married and both of the couple’s parents have now been married over 30+ years…

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loved working with this talented professional team!

venue: Intercontinental Wharf DC
catering: Foremost Caterers
planning: Event Planning DC
florals: B Floral Event Design
DJ: Bryan George Music
wedding dress: Anne Barge
dress boutique: Love Couture Bridal
shoes: Badgley Mischka
rings: Boone & Sons
hair/makeup: Amie Decker Beauty
invitations: Minted
ketubah: Ink with Intent
officiant: Rabbi Evan Krame of The Jewish Studio

5 tips for a stress-free wedding day

No matter how intimate or lowkey your wedding day plans are, if you’re planning a party and celebration with family/friends from many different seasons of your life, it has the potential to be a stressful, whirlwind experience.

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After photographing weddings for the last 7 years, I’ve seen the day organized in so many different ways to learn what works best and what adds stress. In order to ensure your photos and your experience on the big day is the best it can possibly be, I’m happy to share the knowledge I’ve gained for your benefit.

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Here are five tips to reduce stress on your wedding day (in no particular order)!

BONUS: if you hire experienced professionals, even the wedding planning process will go more smoothly with these tips for a stress free wedding day in mind!

  1. be strategic about your ceremony start time since it will determine the flow of the rest of the day

If you plan it well, you can have beautiful portraits of the two of you together while you’re relaxed and excited, not feeling rushed and your hair and makeup is still fresh by choosing to see each other before the ceremony and take advantage of all the benefits of a first look. Not only is it quiet, uninterrupted time for just the two of you, but then you can enjoy the entire cocktail hour since you’ve paid for it and deserve to enjoy a drink and apps with your guests! We’ll also be able to focus on alllll the candid photos of you two (and your guests) since the formal portraits have been taken care of: WIN-WIN!

Also, if all of your formal portraits are done before cocktail hour, we can spend quality time in your reception space capturing all of those details (florals, place-settings, cake, escort cards) that will be untouched by guests and their stuff before they find their seats.

For all of our winter couples, please keep this in mind! It’s almost impossible to get gorgeous naturally lit photos of you after the ceremony (if you don’t do a first look beforehand) unless your ceremony starts super early in the day - which means an earlier wake up call and start time for hair/makeup, since the sun sets so early.

2. TRUST your photographer and the creative eye that comes with their experience

…and talk through your vision of the day to help you determine the right kind and amount of photography coverage you need!

Do you need 2 photographers?
Generally speaking, if you and your partner are going to be getting ready at 2 completely different locations, you’ll want 2 photographers otherwise moments may be missed while we’re with your other half.

If you have a large bridal party and/or guest list (120+), you’ll want 2 photographers so we can divide and conquer groomsmen/bridesmaid group portraits and then be sure once the reception begins, that one of us is able to focus on candid shots of guests mingling, reacting to speeches/toasts, dancing, etc. while the other is focused on YOU as a couple and the details you’ve spent so long dreaming of and planning for.

Will 8 hours be enough?
9 hours of coverage is the sweet spot for most couples, especially if your wedding takes place in a city where traffic, road closures, races, festivals can/will happen without advanced notice as we travel from the ceremony to reception!

Do you have a special exit planned for the end of the night? …sparklers, a getaway vehicle, petal toss, beach balls, confetti/streamers, glow sticks are all fun options!

Do you have 2-3 locations that we’ll need to travel to throughout the day? ie: getting ready at a hotel/airBnB/your childhood home, a church/beach/park ceremony then a reception at a different venue?

3. The venue coordinator is NOT the same as an experienced and professional event designer / wedding planner

Hire a professional event planner/coordinator who has your vision and best interests in mind, not the venue’s (and let that close family friend enjoy the day as a guest, despite how much she may enjoy helping you plan and is great at wrangling people)!

If they’ve worked at your venue it’s a bonus, but definitely not necessary. What is necessary is professionalism, good communication skills, and a knowledge of local vendors within the industry that can execute your vision or come through in an emergency. If a planner/coordinator is involved, you may not even know that something happened until you learn about it while on your honeymoon ;) but can you imagine how stressful it will be for you or your family members to troubleshoot if your DJ / officiant / caterer doesn’t show up on time? what if a groomsmen’s pants don’t match the rest of the group and/or 1 set is missing? what if boutonnieres are left at the hotel 45 minutes away? what if there’s a sudden flood / snowstorm? what if the shuttle gets lost and isn’t there on time to transport you, your wedding party and/or all of your guests?

Having a planner on your side means it’s THEIR job to worry and solve any and all of the above circumstances!

4. As much as possible, limit how often people are moving from one venue/site to another

This affects logistics like the amount of time your photographer/videographer are contracted for, extra costs for shuttles/transportation, clear communication to your guests to ensure no one gets lost or arrives late. Couples that choose one site for everything to take place from start to finish are always less stressed and have more time and mental / physical energy to enjoy the day… not to mention, you’ll have more photos of all the moments since your photographers won’t be spending precious time traveling from one place to another either!

5. Do the damn photos… as in, take advantage of and enjoy the time you spend on your engagement photos

I know I’m biased, but I have to say, no one I’ve worked with has ever regretted taking engagement photos. You can read the 6 main reasons why I recommend them HERE, but the reason I mention it as a way to make your wedding day less stressful is because there are so many emotions, thoughts, logistics and personalities coming together that day - the last thing you want to worry about is how to relax and be comfortable in front of the camera. No one should meet the person documenting one of the biggest days of their lives (hopefully it’s me!) for the first time, on their wedding day. In fact, my favorite photos happen when we have a relationship that feels like I’m a friend of yours who happens to show up with a fancy camera. ;) Let all the awkwardness work itself out during your engagement photos, not on your #bestdayever.

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Regardless of the flowers, dessert and music, at the end of the day, you’re marrying your soulmate and that is all there is to it. The next day you’ll wake up with a whole new adventure in front of you whether it’s a honeymoon, a new house, a new last name, a new family or simply knowing you’ll always have someone to snuggle next to on the couch while you watch Dateline on Friday nights, because you know, #dontwatchalone. ;)

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7 tips for taking better candid engagement photos

So, you said YES (or you asked someone if they’d say yes) and now you’re engaged! Once you’ve had a chance to pop multiple bottles and share the news with everyone, the first official act of your new status as an engaged couple may be to take your engagement photos… the most common concern I hear as a photographer is that you don’t take good photos together / hate having your photo taken / want candid moments together that don’t look posed or staged…

I get it! No one is naturally photogenic when told to “SMILE!”… seriously think about it. I’d rather ask people to lick noses since that elicits more of a genuine expression than asking you to smile on command ever will. ;)

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Here are 7 do’s and don’ts that hopefully help get you in the right mindset when it comes to taking photos together!

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Do feel confident.
Shop for a fun new outfit or go to an old classic you know you love the way you look in. Make an appointment to get pampered (meaning, scheduling a hair/makeup trial for the day of your engagement session can kill 2 birds with 1 stone!) if it’ll give you an extra boost of confidence. If not, just do you!!

Don’t worry about how you look.
That’s my job. I’ll tell you if something’s out of place and remind you to empty your pockets. ;) You don’t have to be models! The quality and range of emotion real couples have and want to celebrate together, is why I love what I do.

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Do think of our time together as a rehearsal for your wedding day.
Having casual and everyday photos of you both that aren’t phone selfies is wonderful and something I think more couples should absolutely have, but the main goal of our time together is to get to know each other. I want to feel like a good friend that happens to have a professional camera by the time you’re saying ‘I Do’… not some random person you can’t remember the name of who asks you to smile in my direction. I want to see how affectionate you naturally are together and learn what inside jokes you make that result in nose crinkling laughter and eyes smiling so brightly, it’s unmistakable that your love is unique and special.

Don’t worry if one of you is more enthusiastic about taking photos than the other.
Just being a good sport and going along with the crazy ideas your fiance has or the prompts that may be out of your comfort zone will encourage them to love you that much more for it… and if nothing else, will earn you a beer right after we’re done.

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Do hold hands.
Touch noses, faces, fingers, hips, hair, neck. Seriously, you’re getting married! You found your person!!

Don’t overthink it.
If thinking of it as a photoshoot makes you nervous, think of it as a date and pretend I’m not there!

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Do eat before (nothing good happens on an empty stomach) and drink during.
I’m a huge supporter of liquid courage in whatever form that takes! We can start at your favorite bar, break open champagne when we start or enjoy a fun cocktail halfway through... why not?

Don’t look at Pinterest poses.
The light, the location and your love are not the same as that super posed adorable couple who’s flowing hair took more time and setup to capture than it looks like. However, this leads right into my next tip…

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Do communicate if you have a strong vision for what you want.
I love it when couples not only choose a location with meaning but also have an idea of the kind of images they want out of their engagement photos. Are you an outgoing couple that want your photos to reflect a lot of movement and more candid action? Or are you most comfortable at home in a more private spot to allow you to be comfortable getting cuddly and close together while barefoot and quiet?

Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing this in the first place.
You met online… or at college… or at work… or at a bar during a night out with mutual friends. However the stars aligned, the fact is that they DID. Millions of tiny decisions, conversations and choices lead up to the moment you met and when you stop to think about it all, it’s pretty miraculous and deserves to be celebrated.

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Do bring your dog!
I’ve captured the fastest moving hyper little pup and the sassiest 100lb. Great Danes. I was a boxer mom, we have 2 kids and I have plenty of experience and tricks up my sleeve. Besides, slobbery wet kisses make for the best expressions!

Don’t choose a location you’re not comfortable in or familiar with.
Meaning and good vibes are everything. Your location should hold both... and if you can’t think of the perfect spot, I’m happy to share my favorites that may resonate with you!

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Do embrace your awkwardness.
At least for the first 10 minutes. It means you care and you’re doing it right... I promise. Remember your first date? Pretty sure those first 10 minutes were awkward too... and look how that ended up.

Don’t bring an audience.
Other than a friend or family member meeting us to help take the dog home if you bring yours, this is one situation that is best as a party of 3.

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sneak peeks | julie + joe's burgundy and rose gold main street ballroom wedding

“Everything with Joe just felt right from the very first day.” …shouldn’t all love stories start like this?!

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Being from the same hometown, growing up in the same church, attending rival high schools and having countless mutual connections in their small community in Carroll County, Julie + Joe were truly meant to find each other!

Their wedding day at Main Street Ballroom in Ellicott City was full of overwhelming emotion, radiant joy and the most beautiful rose gold details that complimented the industrial metals and stone foundation walls that make up this historic venue!! Julie was an incredible bride, glowing from the inside out and the way Joe looked at his beautiful bride made my heart explode! I couldn’t get enough of Julie’s gorgeous red hair swept up in her mom’s veil and alllllll the flowing soft tulle netting on her WToo by Watters wedding gown. Speaking of dresses, the mix-n-match styles of the girls’ colored floor length Birdy Grey bridesmaid dresses in pinot noir, had me swooning from the second I saw them!

For now, enjoy these sneak peeks and know much more is to come!

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Aren’t those scarves the perfect touch of subtle pattern and softness for a winter wedding?!

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Pure JOY.

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Hard to pick one, but the off the shoulder ruffled top of the Jane convertible Birdy Grey dresses might be my favorite!

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cheers, newlyweds!
xo,
Naomi


huge thanks to this rockstar team!

planning: Sara Reynolds Events
venue: Main Street Ballroom
rentals: Something Vintage Rentals
DJ: One Rock Studio
caterer: Eleven Courses
flowers: Blossom and Basket Boutique
beauty: In Style Salon
officiant: Rev. Kirsten Blom-Westbrook
dress: WToo by Watters
boutique: Betsy Robinson's Bridal Collection
bridesmaid dresses: Birdy Grey in Pinot Noir
ring: Smyth Jewelers
shoes: Betsey Johnson
tux: Generation Tux
videography: Clay Estes Productions
cake: Santoni's Marketplace & Catering
donuts: Maple Donuts
transportation: Lasting Impressions: Maryland & Pennsylvania Limo Services


sneak peeks | elizabeth + donald's winter wedding at the baltimore country club

Elizabeth and Donald’s winter wedding at the Baltimore Country Club had the most incredibly chic, elegant and beautiful meaningful elements making up their day - I’m overjoyed to share these early favorites with you!

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You need to peek at this exquisite December wedding that had:

  • Jayce the pug as their dog of honor in a bowtie

  • an ivory, burgundy and gold festive holiday color palette

  • a bouquet of burgundy peonies, white anemones, white calla lilies + eucalyptus

  • Elizabeth’s grandmother’s fur stole

  • confetti cannons raining on the dance floor

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And I also want to share a PSA that rain on your wedding does NOT mean disappointment and dreary photos - quite the opposite! With creative areas of cover, snuggling together to stay warm and clear umbrellas, it means we get to be more creative and you get the best luck… you know, because rain on your wedding day is good luck (coming from this husband and wife photography team that got married at a vineyard during a hurricane and still look back on it and laugh 10 years later)! ;)

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Congratulations again, lovebirds! ps: Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’ has always been one of my favorites to listen to this time of year and now memories of confetti swirling around as I hear it will always bring me back to your day!

xo,
Naomi

huge thanks to this talented team!


planning: Brian Scott
venue + catering: Baltimore Country Club
ceremony: The Church of the Redeemer, Baltimore
getting ready: Baltimore Marriott Waterfront
hair/makeup: Ariel Lewis
invitation + paper goods: mlc designs, llc
florist: Rutland Beard Florist
band: Bachelor Boys Band
shoes: Badgley Mischka
videographer: Black Tie Video
dress: Romona Keveza
boutique: Garnish Boutique
bridesmaid dresses: Lula Kate
bridesmaid dress boutique: Bella Bridesmaids
groomsmen attire: Tom James Company
transportation: Superior Tours and American Limousines, Inc.

6 reasons why you should do an engagement session!

6 reasons why you should do an engagement session!

I wanted to share my top 5 reasons why engagement sessions are so valuable... since after being in this industry for awhile, I've answered all of the questions below and you might be wondering the same thing!

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