How to prepare for your engagement session

So you’ve never had professional photos done before and you’re kind of freaking out for your engagement session. If you’re worried about being embarrassed in public, how your fiancé will react, or just flat out afraid of being awkward in front of the camera, I’m sharing a few tips on how to prepare for your photoshoot.

Finding a location

Some things I like to suggest when choosing a location for your engagement photos is to brainstorm several places that have a significance in your relationship. Is there a favorite park you guys always go to? A brewery? Where did you first meet? Where was your first date? Do you have a cute home together? Do you both love ice cream, hiking, and your dog? I love the challenge of making strange places look beautiful, so even if you feel it’s odd, I definitely want to hear your ideas so I can help tell your story.

Finding a time

The time of your session will most likely depend on what season you are looking to have your engagement photos. I like to suggest at least booking 3-6 months before your wedding day. If you are planning on using these photos for save the dates then I would encourage these photos to be done even before then. I tend to shoot sunrise or sunset golden hour engagement sessions because the light works really well with my style of photography. Consider when the sun rises and sets for your time of the year. Please also keep in mind that many photographers are busy during the weekends, well, because they are photographing weddings of course!

Figuring out an outfit

Try not to be too matchy when it comes to your outfit choice. Find outfits that compliment each other rather than look exactly the same. Solid neutral colors tend to photograph the best in my opinion and try to be cautious with choosing something with a lot of patterns. Consider the weather when choosing your outfit and please make sure you are comfortable!

Day of preparation

Show up on time so we can make sure we get as much use of the sunlight as possible. Schedule a lot of getting ready time too so there is no stress as you’re walking out that door. You can even plan a little date night after to make the most of getting all dressed up together!

Sometimes I will suggest for you two to have a drink together beforehand to loosen up. I love capturing those silly candid photos where your TRUE selves come out, and it definitely helps after you have some liquid courage/giggles in you. I have several other techniques to help with this to make sure you both are comfortable so we can get those cute effortless moments. You do not need to be a pro at this so you can relax and let me work my magic!

My Favorite Ohio Wedding Venues

Okay, so quickly after creating this list of my favorite Ohio Wedding Venues, I realized I had a lot. I guess this is awesome because I discovered Ohio has a pretty legit wedding venue selection to choose from. As you may notice here soon, I favor outdoor wedding venues. With my style and love for the outdoors, it’s a no brainer that I like to soak up some sun and get natural light for all of your wedding photos. I know, I know, many of you may be rolling your eyes and are afraid to pick an outdoor venue, because, well, it’s freaking Ohio. The weather is as bipolar as you can possible get but this risk is, (in my opinion) totally worth it! Many of these outdoor focused venues have a solid backup option in case of inclement weather and trust me when I say those clear umbrellas can make for some super cute portrait props! Below you will see some of my all time favorite Ohio wedding venues I’ve shot at, as well as a few that are on my bucket list.

Oak Grove - Columbus, Ohio

Get married in a greenhouse, yes please! This truly unique venue located right outside of Columbus is one of my all time favorites. With ALL of the natural light, the newly built reception building, on site getting ready locations, and a perfect tree-line for sunset photos, you will not be disappointed.

Oak Grove - Ohio Wedding Venue
Oak Grove - Ohio Wedding Venue
Oak Grove - Ohio Wedding Venue
Oak Grove - Ohio Wedding Venue
Oak Grove Columbus Wedding Venue

The Monastery Event Center - Cincinnati, Ohio

With only being in Cincinnati for 6 months, I have not experienced many Cincinnati wedding venues yet, but I’ve had my eye on this spot for awhile. I had the chance to second shoot here with Kailey Marie Photography and it really is as beautiful as I thought it would be. This renovated church is a jaw dropper and you will immediately fall in love with it as soon as you walk in. This venue is tucked into the adorable town of Mt. Adams which has perfect side streets that make for a beautiful backdrop.

The Monastery Ohio Wedding Venue
The Monastery Ohio Wedding Venue
The Monastery Cincinnati Ohio

Warwick Farm - Mt. Vernon, Ohio

What I love about this venue is how big it is. This allows for so many different options when it comes to the ceremony and reception setup. There are two different on-site getting ready locations as well as a beautiful reception space open to the outdoors! There are a million different places to take photos here and you can even take a quick trip in the Gator out to the the open field with the sheep and llamas! (Highly suggest doing this!)

Warwick Farms Ohio Wedding Venue
Warwick Farms Ohio Wedding Venue
Warwick Farms - Ohio wedding Venue
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Warwick Farms Ohio wedding venue

Jorgensen Farms - Columbus, Ohio

Back on this list is the other Jorgensen Farms location which is their Historic Barn. Another gorgeous outdoor venue with fantastic indoor options! There is so much color and life at this Farm and there is a lot of space for all of your guest to have a great time! With outdoor games and the open barn feel, this is definitely a spot for all you summer lovers.

Jorgensen Farms Ohio Wedding Venue
Jorgensen Farms Ohio Wedding Venue
Jorgensen Farms Ohio Wedding Venue
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The Grand Barn at the Mohicans -Knox County, Ohio

Didn’t I tell you I love the outdoors? This Treehouse wedding venue will give you all of the outdoorsy feels. Another great spot with on-site getting ready rooms and lots of wooded area for photos!

The Grand Barn Mohicans
Grand Barn Mohicans Wedding Venue
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The Club at Corazon -Dublin, Ohio

Italy vibes in Ohio, say what?! The Club at Corazon is another unique location that will make you and your guests feel like you are celebrating in Italy. The club has beautiful views, vineyards, relaxing water fountains, and those gorgeous pillars out front.

The Club at Corazon Ohio Wedding Venue
The Club at Corazon Ohio Wedding Venue
The Club at Corazon Ohio Wedding Venue
The Club at Corazon Ohio Wedding Venue
The Club at Corazon Ohio wedding venue

Ohio Statehouse - Columbus, Ohio

Although I have not actually shot a wedding ceremony here, I have done many pre-wedding portraits at the Ohio Statehouse. With many different rooms to select from and covered outdoor areas, (perfect for a first look) the Ohio Statehouse creates a classy and elegant look that I love!

ohio statehouse wedding venue
Ohio Statehouse Ohio Wedding Venue

These are some of my favorite venues I have photographed over the past few years in Ohio and there are many more I have on my bucket list.

My bucket list includes Juniper (Columbus), Franklin Park Conservatory (Columbus), Hotel Covington (Cincinnati area), The Columbus Zoo, Ault Park (Cincinnati) and basically all of the Cincinnati wedding venues so I can get a feel for my new home!

Exceptional Wedding Series

Since I am so focused on creating a unique wedding experience for each of my couples and pride myself on sharing their personalities in my photos, I thought I would start something new this year. After each wedding I want to share something specific that stood out to me from the day which I thought was special and unique to the couple.

I’m starting the series off with a great one from my first 2019 couple, Ali & Luke. After three years in the industry and working over 50 weddings, I have never seen this before and really loved the idea! Ali & Luke had these adorable Mr. & Mrs. aprons, (Amazon link below) which they put on right before dinner. They went behind the buffet tables and began serving their guests their food. I loved this idea so much, so I asked them a little more about why they chose to do this.

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What inspired you to decide to serve the food to your guests at your wedding?

“The whole focus on our wedding, we wanted to be different. We planned for the marriage and the kind of wife/husband we wanted to be (counseling, praying, conversations, reading books) more than we planned for the wedding day, because that’s what it’s about right? Not to say, the wedding day isn’t important because making vows for life with someone is a big deal, but in our current “selfie” and social media “highlight reel” culture you can really get consumed with super high standards of the “perfect day,” large budgets, and lots of time and stress, then at the end of the day, it doesn’t really have any benefit to the marriage, for you or your spouse.

During our engagement, we talked a lot about showing grace to each other and serving each other as husband and wife. Even when you don’t want to. Rather than being worried about what the other is doing or most likely NOT doing, but loving the other well in how they need it. It’s the picture of how Jesus loves us... we are undeserving and flawed, yet He is devoted to us.

We were thrilled to exemplify that idea of servanthood. We didn’t want our wedding day to be just about us and whatever we wanted without concern of our guests. Just like how we would treat guests in our home, we serve and make our guests comfortable. How we love each other as husband and wife, is humbling oneself for the sake of the other: servanthood.”

- Ali Barhorst - Bride

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Love this idea? Find Mr. & Mrs. Aprons on Amazon here! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. PS, did you know you can create an Amazon Wedding Registry? I think that sounds amazing and is just flat out brilliant! Check out the banner to learn more!

Reasons why to do a first look on your wedding day

Ohio wedding photographer

Just another person over here trying to convince you to do a first look at your wedding. First off, I want to share that I never want to pressure my couples into choosing this option. I believe this is completely your decision and you and your fiancé should decide this together. For me, I am obviously biased because I’m a photographer, and I know a first look allows for more photos opportunities. I love photo opportunities, but I also know not all of my couples will choose this option, and that completely is OKAY! I just want to share some of the main reasons why I do love them so much.

To my surprise, it is usually the groom who is not interested in doing a first look for their wedding. I thought about this for a little bit and then came to the realization, DUH, because of the pressure we put on them to have this huge reaction when they first seen their bride. Not all men will cry when they first see their fiancé in her white dress. If it is not their personality to cry, then that is completely fine and this should be understood. But in reality, grooms will have LESS pressure to have a big reaction for their first look than during the actual wedding ceremony, because the entire wedding guest list will not be there watching. It is a shared moment between you two and just you two alone. If you think about it, you really don’t have much alone time with your spouse on the day of your wedding. Sharing this moment together can be so special and a time for you guys to really soak it in together. Everything is flying by at this point and there is no better place to be than to slow it down in the arms of the one you love most.

Another huge reason why I love when my couples choose to do a first look is because of the timeline of the wedding day. When there is a first look scheduled before the ceremony, this allows for more time for portraits and for photos with the full bridal party. If this important to you, then you might want to really consider doing a first look. Typically when there is no first look, the bridal party is split and one photographer will do photos of the bridesmaids while the other photographer will do photos of the groomsman. In this case, the only time to do the full bridal party photos is after the ceremony. Usually, there is not much of a gap between the end of the ceremony and the start of the reception. If there is no first look that means we have to do family photos, full bridal party photos, and all of your portraits during this short time. By this point you may be completely checked out and just want to get the party started with your friends and family. This is why taking portraits before the ceremony always seems to be way less stressful for everyone.

There is also more of a middle of the road option where couples choose to have a first moment rather than a first look. This can be holding hands on either side of a door, a corner of a building, or even a tree. I have had couples pray together during this moment, read each others letters, and just share this special quiet time together before the ceremony.

There are definitely couples who still wish to take the more traditional route and I am COMPLETELY fine with this! I still love a good mix of wedding day experiences and I love when couples are passionate about their choice. These are just a few of my top reasons to organize a first look based upon my time as a wedding photographer.

Should your dog be at your wedding?

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Everyone who has a dog can probably say their pup is like family to them. So why not have them at your wedding day?! As much as I’m sure everyone would love to have their dog attend their wedding, there are some obvious logistics to sort out. I am going to help go over several things to consider when deciding whether or not to have your pupper at your wedding.

PS I am biased and my answer is always, “yes”.

Will the pup be in the wedding or just show up for photos?

Some couples feel their pupper should walk down the aisle and actually be a part of the wedding as a ring bearer or flower girl, while others think it may be best to just take a couple of quick photos.

Who will bring the pup to the wedding and bring them home?

Do you have a designated person to be in charge of the pup throughout the day? This person should not be in the bridal party so they would not have to miss any of the important festivities or photos. A date of someone in the bridal party might be a good option or even a cousin or family friend.

Will the pup behave or will they jump all over your fancy clothes?

A big question is always deciding how well behaved the pup will be at the wedding. Will they be super excited to see you and jump all over your fancy clothes, and do you even care if this happens? Lint rollers are always a life saver and if you have a dog I’m assuming you already have one on you at all times.

Will there be any special attire for the pup?

This is always my favorite part. I’ve seen adorable custom made suits fitted for dogs and even a classic bow tie or flower crown for the lady pups are a nice touch.

Should I bring my dog to my engagement session?

As you would probably imagine, it is a lot easier to manage a pup at an engagement session. Typically, if you have a friend to bring along to the session, they can watch the dog and even take the pup home after we’ve taken some good photos. I’ve had couples who will be in a more casual outfit while taking photos with the pup and then change into a nicer outfit when the pup leaves.

Below are some of my favorites of the pups I’ve had the lovely opportunity to work with over the past few years! (I’m missing some photos from older galleries and I’m really sad about it.)

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Save the Date websites you will love

As a wedding photographer, a very popular question I am asked is where to find trendy sites to make save the dates. There are so many amazing options out there and I want to go over a few of my favorites and share what I love most about them. These 4 sites stick out from the crowd and show great quality without breaking the bank.

Artifact uprising - First up is a site more for the modern and simplistic couples. They have absolutely perfected the minimalistic designs and have gorgeous foiled-stamp options. The save the dates are also made with 100% recycled paper. Artifact uprising has wonderful wedding invitation options as well, and by quickly browsing the site, you can see how many different photo gifts they have. You can do almost everything with this company which is why I love them so much.

Minted - By priding themselves on the personal touch of each design, Minted has a very large selection of trendy options to choose from. They offer free samples kits, free wedding websites, and free guest addressing. You have many options when working with them including foil-pressed, letter-pressed, and magnet save the dates. They also have a very large selection for wedding invitations, wedding menus, and every other wedding day paper need you can possibly think of.

Paper Culture - A great eco friendly option. Paper Culture is recognized by the EPA as a Top 10 Climate Leader, and are certified as a Green Business. They plant a tree with every order, use 100% recycled paper, and really shine as one of the top eco friendly options for prints.

Paperless Post - Go digital! Save paper completely by sending your save the dates and invitations online. The Paperless Post has pre-made designs and custom design options for your digital cards. They also have sophisticated tracking so you are able to see who has opened, who has RSVP’d, and you can even send a nudge to those who have not yet responded.