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.

urban-row-photo-sunset-harbor-engagement_0011.jpg
urban-row-photo-anthropologie-dress-beach-engagement_0018.jpg
urban-row-photo-anthropologie-dress-engagement_0017.jpg

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…

urban-row-photo-beach-dog-engagement_0016.jpg

What are engagement photos really for?

urban-row-photo-historic-estate-engagement_0003.jpg
urban-row-photo-butterbee-farm-engagement_0001.jpg
  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.

urban-row-photo-sandlot-engagement_0010.jpg
urban-row-photo-inverness-brewery-engagement_0008.jpg
urban-row-photo-bmore-licks-mural-engagement_0013.jpg
urban-row-photo-bmore-licks-engagement_0012.jpg

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?

urban-row-photo-cylburn-engagement_0004.jpg
urban-row-photo-garden-engagement_0005.jpg

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. ;)

urban-row-photo-sagamore-pendry-baltimore-engagement_0007.jpg
urban-row-photo-sagamore-pendry-engagement_0006.jpg
urban-row-photo-moody-romantic-brewery-engagement_0009.jpg
  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?

urban-row-photo-howard-county-horse-farm-engagement_0015.jpg

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!

katie + zach | a bmore licks + fells point engagement

When I first spoke to Katie and Zach, one word kept coming up in the conversation: relational. In all honesty, I’d never heard one of my couples use that word as often as they did. After learning how Zach proposed to Katie, hearing how they finish each other’s sentences, and watching them interact together as we started at Bmore Licks for their engagement session, I immediately got it…

urban-row-photo-patterson-park-engagement_0008.jpg
urban-row-photo-bmore-licks-engagement_0001.jpg
urban-row-photo-bmore-licks-engagement-photos_0007.jpg

Their upcoming wedding at Rosewood Farms is going to be quite the celebration - after you read more about these two lovebirds below, you’ll understand why!

urban-row-photo-waterfront-fells-point-engagement_0023.jpg
urban-row-photo-sunset-engagement-baltimore-waterfront_0031.jpg

4 reasons why these Fells Point / Patterson Park locations were so meaningful for Katie + Zach’s Baltimore engagement session:

  1. Ice cream with rainbow sprinkles (Katie’s favorite ice cream topping) was part of Zach’s proposal scavenger hunt which started and ended in Fells Point…

  2. Zach proposed to Katie on the same bench we ended at on Bond Street Pier in Fells Point

  3. It’s their favorite way to spend a Friday night: with a walk by the water, ice cream and cuddles. But Katie also added, “as long as … our two future golden retrievers are there”. (#urbanrowpup love at its best)

  4. This last fact has nothing to do with where we took their engagement photos, but has everything to do with how thoughtful Zach is. He designed and created the wooden ring box he presented to Katie WITH her Dad’s help since he is an incredible woodworker and it was something they could bond over and create together, leading up to the proposal.

urban-row-photo-baltimore-engagement-bmore-licks_0009.jpg
urban-row-photo-colorful-baltimore-mural-engagement_0010.jpg
urban-row-photo-bmore-licks-patterson-park_0003.jpg
urban-row-photo-ice-cream-engagement-session_0006.jpg
urban-row-photo-bmore-licks-engagement-session_0005.jpg
urban-row-photo-bmore-licks-mural_0002.jpg

Katie radiates joy and Zach described it perfectly: “When Katie smiles, she smiles so much that her eyes close shut.” I believe that they’re both incredibly relational as they highly value thoughtful, meaningful moments and gestures in their relationship and it’s apparent as soon as soon as you are around them.

urban-row-photo-candid-natural-engagement-photos_0022.jpg
urban-row-photo-engagement-photographer-baltimore_0035.jpg

In Zach’s words, how they met:

“We met early on in college at Johns Hopkins. Katie was the star point guard on the basketball team and I rode the bench on the football team (kidding, sort of). Needless to say, I definitely noticed Katie first. We were both a part of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at Hopkins, and I distinctly remember telling a buddy of mine “she’s my kind of girl”. I was drawn to Katie from the very first moment.

urban-row-photo-baltimore-engagement-bmore-licks_0011.jpg

One night while at dinner with FCA, Katie mentioned that she likes to bring a cupcake to friends for their birthdays. I jokingly (read: pleadingly) asked her if she would do the same for me. Katie, being the sweet, relational person that she is, agreed. She was pretty surprised to learn that my birthday was in fact the very next day! I think the fact that Katie actually brought me one the next day is more of a testament to the person she is than any interest she had in me at the time. Needless to say, I like to think it all started with a cupcake.

urban-row-photo-fells-point-engagement-photos_0014.jpg
urban-row-photo-classic-engagement-photos-baltimore_0041.jpg
urban-row-photo-baltimore-engagement-fells-point_0026.jpg

…during finals week, she let me meet up with her and walk her home from the library every night. I even surprised her with her own cupcake on her birthday. Finally, we went on a few more dates!”

urban-row-photo-baltimore-harbor-engagement_0024.jpg
urban-row-photo-candid-baltimore-engagement_0016.jpg
urban-row-photo-custom-wooden-ring-box_0018.jpg
urban-row-photo-baltimore-engagement-locations_0038.jpg
urban-row-photo-handmade-wooden-ring-box_0019.jpg
urban-row-photo-classic-baltimore-engagement-photos_0040.jpg
urban-row-photo-historic-fells-point-engagement_0013.jpg
urban-row-photo-domino-sugar-baltimore-engagement_0030.jpg

In Katie’s words, how the proposal unfolded:

“Zach made the decision at the end of his third year of medical school to take a year off so that we would be in the same class and would be eligible to apply for a couples match for residency. It was since we made that decision that I knew I wanted to marry this man and he later asked me to marry him in the most perfect proposal ever: a scavenger hunt to all of our favorite places in the city.

urban-row-photo-baltimore-waterfront-engagement_0017.jpg
urban-row-photo-fells-point-engagement_0012.jpg
urban-row-photo-how-to-take-natural-engagement-photos_0027.jpg
urban-row-photo-frederick-douglass-baltimore-engagement_0020.jpg
urban-row-photo-domino-sugar-engagement_0039.jpg

[By the end] I was so stinking excited that all I wanted to do was finally see Zach. I was then given the last clue that sent me back down to Fells Point, to a particular park bench overlooking the harbor that Zach and I have sat and talked at many times. Only tonight, our favorite park bench was decorated with jars of lights and looked even more perfect. It was there that Zach got down on one knee and asked me to marry him and with a great big smile on my face, I said “YES”. We had a few minutes to ourselves to just soak in the moment, walking around by the water before finding our hidden photographer who had captured the whole thing. After that, Zach and I went to a nearby bar where so many of our friends, as well as Zach’s family were gathered, many of whom had traveled many hours to celebrate with us. As Zach mentioned, I am a pretty relational person so it meant so much to me that Zach incorporated not only so many of my favorite things, but also so many of our favorite people in the proposal. All I can say is that he set the bar pretty high for himself for any future anniversary or celebration.”

urban-row-photo-maritime-park-fells-engagement_0021.jpg
urban-row-photo-pastel-baltimore-engagement_0029.jpg
urban-row-photo-romantic-timeless-engagement-fells-point_0033.jpg
urban-row-photo-engagement-session-fells-point_0032.jpg
urban-row-photo-romantic-baltimore-engagement_0037.jpg
urban-row-photo-baltimore-pier-engagement_0028.jpg
urban-row-photo-brick-alleys-baltimore-fells-point-engagement_0042.jpg

I have loved getting to know you both so far and admire how heartfelt your relationship is. I already have tissues ready and waiting for your wedding day because I know I’m going to be crying all the happy tears throughout the day as you become husband and wife and never have to say goodbye on a Sunday again… I can. not. wait. for your spring wedding at Rosewood Farms!!!

xo,
Naomi

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. ;)

urban-row-photo-dc-rainbow-love-mural-engagement-photographer_0013.jpg

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

urban-row-photo-clipper-mill-engagement-photos_0013.jpg
urban-row-photo-rye-street-baltimore-engagement-photographer_0015.jpg

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.

urban-row-photo-mt-vernon-engagement-photos_0015.jpg

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.

urban-row-photo-fells-point-engagement-photos_0011.jpg
urban-row-photo-patterson-park-engagement-photos_0002.jpg

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!

urban-row-photo-federal-hill-engagement-photos_0005.jpg
urban-row-photo-rye-street-baltimore-engagement-photographer_0014.jpg

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…

urban-row-photo-clipper-mill-engagement-photos_0012.jpg
urban-row-photo-candid-engagement-photos_0019.jpg

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.

urban-row-photo-dc-mural-engagement-photographer_0012.jpg
urban-row-photo-clipper-mill-engagement-photos_0014.jpg

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!

urban-row-photo-fells-point-engagement-photos-dog_0006.jpg
urban-row-photo-dog-engagement-photos_0007.jpg
urban-row-photo-pagoda-engagement-photos_0008.jpg

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.

urban-row-photo-candid-engagement-photos_0017.jpg
urban-row-photo-candid-engagement-photos_0020.jpg
urban-row-photo-fells-point-engagement-photos_0016.jpg