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. ;)


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


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.


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.


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!


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…


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.


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!


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.


sparkle, shine, macro filters... oh my!

At first I thought this post would mainly be helpful for fellow photographers... but really, the lessons learned are for anyone with the desire to use what they have and can afford at the time, to better their craft! :) Can you tell I'm a glass half full kinda gal? urbanrowphoto-macrofilter_0014

I've recently added a new lens to my gear collection and I'm SO excited for it! It's an 85mm and an incredible portrait lens... however, it's not what I originally thought I'd be able to buy anytime soon. I've always had my eye on a 100mm lens to allow me to take those dreamy closeup shots of jewelry, food, flowers and all things larger-than-life beautiful.

New gear is what gets my creative juices flowing, but it's also what keeps me up at night since it's so pricey! I constantly second guess myself when it comes to making smart business investments (any fellow small business owners struggle with the same anxiety?).




When I met Ines at the Summer's End Workshop (see even more from that amazing experience here and here!!!), she shared an unbelievable tip with me... if you can't afford to take the 100mm lens plunge now, try macro filters that cost a fraction of the cost of a macro lens. Excuse me, WHATTT. I've heard of these filters, but had never had the chance to try them out in a setting like this. She not only let me try hers, but shared a bunch of veteran tips on how they work (a centrally placed subject is best!), how you need to shift your camera juuuuuust so, to hit that sweet spot of incredible crispness and which filter is best for which subject type.



Consider me SOLD!!! I needed to snag these fabulous filters right away (thank you Amazon Prime!). Over the last few months I've used them for numerous detail shots and am happy to say, they're life changing. Well, maybe that's a bit extreme, but honestly, after a bit of practice and getting the hang of the nuances, I think this addition to my arsenal was money well spent if for no other reason than to allow me to save up for the 85mm AND still get those wow shots of your super sparkly jewelry and sexy wedding day heels! ;)







PS - these STUNNING Rachel Mulherin pieces below were from my recent sugar and spice inspired styled shoot at Butterbee Farm... I CAN. NOT. WAIT. to share more with y'all! Have you ever seen jewelry like this!? Unique, custom, handmade geode stones that appear to be dipped in gold and dangling from your ears. HELLOOOOO gorgeous!!! Statement pieces like this are all you and your bridesmaids need to add that extra bit of glam and sophistication. Seriously, I could find a reason / outfit to wear them all. #lifegoals





Here's wishing you loads of fun playing with whatever new gear is on your holiday wish list... and if you can make it work for you AND your budget, more power to you. Rock on, friends!








Oh, and speaking of rocks, the ice blue gemstone you see in the background of some of these shots, came from my new favorite local shop, Love That. They recently opened in Belvedere Square and have SO MANY one of a kind finds... need a housewarming present for your coworker? Check! A sweet little baby present for your neighbor? Check! A prosecco scented candle for yourself (I had no idea that was even a thing!)? Yes, please! You definitely need to add them to your #shoplocal efforts on upcoming Small Business Saturday!!!

Stay tuned... I'll be sharing more macro images using these filters from my recent photoshoot at Bond Street Social next week! Small creative bites made for sharing - you might want to get those thanksgiving pants out and ready! ;)




keri + patrick | wyman park dell + baltimore museum of art | baltimore engagement session

Last Fall, Keri and I connected through a friend of a friend, as a result of a styled shoot I did with In A Bow Event Design! I can't say it enough (wait a minute, now I sound like my dad...), but it really is all about who you know. So glad I know the right people! ;) Keri and Patrick met playing trivia on opposing teams, one night at the Otto Bar just south of the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus. They both have a penchant for making the other laugh; their smiles and compassionate nature are quick to put you at ease while in their presence.

They used to walk their dog in Wyman Park and love the quiet, tucked away nature of it. I did too! As we were shooting, I kept wanting to sit down and have a picnic among the big trees, dappled sun and low rock walls.





I just love the expressions Keri makes while in Patrick's arms. And you know how I have a thing for curly hair... us curly hair girls need to stick together! ;)


This might be my favorite photo of our session... the golden light peeking through the trees, the flowers spotted throughout the grass and an adorable couple in love!



How cute are they?! Not to mention the fact that we were in a garden oasis somewhere with perfect weather. Our session occurred right after a few days of strong, rainy weather and I think Mother Nature was showing off as much greenery and lushness as she could muster!



See? Lush garden oasis, for real. :)


After strolling the garden, we walked over to the Newsletter Office, right at the base of the sculpture garden. It's the sweetest little stone building, accessible by a tiny, narrow wooden walkway... perfect for a fun-loving couple! ;)


So, let's take a quick timeout and mention the fact that the original plan had us exploring the sculpture garden just behind this building... it was open when we first arrived to location scout, I got all excited for it and then an hour later, CLOSED. Bummer!!! But, instead we explored the surrounding gates and ivy-covered walls of the BMA. I'm pretty happy with how these came out!






And I have to end on this image, another one of my favorites. Talk about classic romance... Keri + Patrick, we had a blast exploring the area together and can't wait for your August wedding!



sara + jake | tide point | baltimore engagement session

I knew from the first time we met at the Daily Grind in Fells Point, that Sara and Jake were an incredible couple and would be so much fun to get to know. As soon as Sara mentioned they just bought their first house near Patterson Park and wanted photos that tell the story of the start of their relationship together in Baltimore while living an urban lifestyle, I couldn't stop smiling - their story is so similar to mine! While celebrating Sara's mom's 60th birthday, Jake told Sara they should take their dogs, "Rizzo and Natty for a swim off the end of the pier..." With flowers and champagne setup , Jake knew how to not only surprise Sara but involve the entire family in celebrating their love. A homecooked shrimp scampi dinner was waiting for them after she said yes. :)

Your warmth is contagious and I love how genuinely happy you make each other. Congratulations again, Sara and Jake! So excited for your wedding this September (which happens to be a very meaningful date - the same September day that Sara's parents and sister were both married)! Isn't that just the sweetest tradition?!

















sarah + will | patapsco state park | baltimore engagement session

I love meeting new couples as much as I love discovering new places to photograph. Oh, and I love dog people. Sarah and Will's engagement session encompassed all of that, so it was pretty much the best thing ever.

In November, they travelled all the way up from North Carolina to have their photographs taken in advance of their upcoming wedding (in 2 weeks!). The wedding will be at Quiet Waters Park, right on the water near Annapolis. We agreed on Patapsco State Park for their engagement shoot since a wooded area with access to water was their ideal location and Sarah's family used to go this specific park all the time while growing up...win win!

More often than not, the couples I photograph aren't used to being in front of the camera and are a bit nervous. I don't blame them - I remember when Anthony and I had our engagement photos taken...it's nervewracking...where do I put my hands? does this pose make my neck look weird (since I tend to contort my neck for some odd reason in every photograph, thinking I look better but in reality looking so silly!)? did I just blink? does my smile look forced since I've had to smile almost consecutively for the last 23 minutes? Anyway, I can tell you that Sarah and Will are incredibly photogenic and needed barely any coaching from me other than where to stand for the best light. This was definitely one of my favorite engagement sessions to date and they are complete model material, wouldn't you agree?! :) Seriously, watching them warmed my heart; they are completely adorable and their love is so genuinely sweet.

I just love how they look at each other with such admiration and pure joy.

This is a perfect example of why I highly encourage all couples to get in front of the camera before their big day: it allows you to become confident while we photograph you from a variety of different angles and it allows us to learn what poses work best to capture you naturally and in the moment. And, most importantly it's a fun way to document your love in an informal, casual setting!

How gorgeous and memorable is her engagement ring?!

May 30 will be here SO soon and we can not wait to photograph your wedding! You're going to be a stunning couple and your day promises to be nothing short of amazing amongst all of your family and friends with a backdrop of water and woods!