Forget about beginner's luck-the couples who nail their engagement photo shoots do so because they're comfortable in settings they know and adore.
You want to take engagement photos-images of you and your betrothed in love and having fun before you enter the next chapter of your lives together. That's great! Only problem? You probably haven't been in front of the camera during a professional photo shoot since your last year of high school.
To ease the tension, photographer Kimberly Potterf often meets couples at their favorite coffee shop or restaurant before the engagement shoot even begins.
"As the session continues, I notice the couple relaxing more, and their expressions become more natural," she says. "They become less aware of me and more in the moment with each other. Throw in beautiful light, and that's where the photographic magic happens. What I want people to take away from the photos are the emotions they felt."
Choosing a place to take your photographs can be as personal as choosing your mate, but trust your photographer's input on when and where to shoot. They're professionals for a reason.
"I find early morning to be great for city shots, as you don't have quite the crowds and are less likely to have a random stranger photo-bombing your favorite image of the two of you walking through the street hand in hand," Potterf adds. "There is a peacefulness to the morning as well, similar to the last hour before sunset."
Bottom line for a successful shoot? As soon as you hear that click, loosen up, have fun and feel the love. Following are favorite engagement-shoot locations of recent brides and photographers alike.Couples' Favorite Shots
Jackie and Chris Goodrich
Married: Aug. 24, 2013
Photographer: Kimberly Potterf Photography
Favorite engagement-shoot locale: German Village, in Schiller Park and on Third Street
"We enjoyed the quaint style and privacy of the neighborhood and the beautiful brick sidewalks," Jackie says. "We loved this series because we were able to include our dogs in some of the photos with us. The photos portrayed us in a natural setting and the genuine happiness we felt was really captured in the photos."
Advice for future brides: "Choose a spot that is special to both the bride and groom. Wherever you feel the most comfortable is where the best pictures will be taken."
Krista and Brian Horrocks
Married: Sept. 7, 2013
Photographer: Hillary Ferguson Photography
Favorite engagement-shoot locale: 94th Aero Squadron
"The atmosphere provided by the exterior of the restaurant was the perfect backdrop for our 1940s-themed engagement photos," Krista says. "We were able to shoot at multiple locations around the building and utilize some great lawn-art pieces they have, including an airplane, a rusted-out Jeep, a wagon and the side of a 'bombed out' building."
Advice for future brides: "Think outside the box. We chose a 1940s-themed shoot because we love history and the classic style of the era. It also allowed us to incorporate a vintage style without dedicating our entire wedding to that theme."
Nicole and Chad Parrish
Married: Aug. 3, 2013
Photographer: Marie White Photography
Favorite engagement shoot locale: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Grandview and Goodale Park
"Jeni's is definitely our favorite thing about this city," Nicole says. "One of our first dates was a run through Goodale Park at night. We continue to run together, and Chad proposed to me after we finished the Chicago Marathon."
Advice for future brides: "Have fun. Our first few pictures were a little awkward because we weren't used to having somebody document our every move. Once we got used to it, though, we had so much fun revisiting our favorite spots. Getting engagement pictures definitely helped our wedding pictures turn out better."
Christina and Carmelo Abelita
Married: Sept. 1, 2013
Photographer: Lambert Photographs
Favorite engagement shoot locale: A barn in Dublin
"The spot was simple but romantic," Christina says. "We wanted the focus to be on the two of us and not the background. It photographed very well. Our dogs are our kids, and it meant a lot to the two of us to have both our dogs involved in our engagement photos. It was perfect to have professional photos of all of us. We were able to use these later for our Christmas card."
Advice for future brides: "I would tell all future brides to bring multiple outfits to change into. This way, you have more looks and photos to choose from."Photographers' Favorite Spots
Ben Barnes Photography
Favorite spot for engagement shoots: The Iuka Ravine near Ohio State University
"It is dense with both natural and urban settings, so I can cover a lot of ground, stylistically, without having to drive from one location to another," Barnes says. "It's quiet and private and not full of obvious Columbus landmarks. That seems to foster a more relaxed, creative atmosphere than other urban areas of town and, consequently, a more original and natural-looking final product."
Best time to shoot there: October
Advice for brides: "Wear what you are most comfortable in, but get the opinions of people you trust. Be fashionable but be yourself. You'll be looking at these photos for decades. Color-wise, try to complement rather than coordinate."
Amy Rebecca Photography
Favorite spot for engagement shoots: On a family property, like a farm or in the woods
"One of my favorite sessions was done on the family farm and included walking through a wheat field in the late afternoon sun, crawling into a grain silo for a very nontraditional shot and ending the evening with a dusty dirt road in the sunset," she says. "It was one of those shoots when everything was perfect. This works so well for the couple since they are comfortable; it's 'their' place. It also provides them with images that contribute to their family history."
Best time to shoot there: Early evening
Advice for brides: "I would suggest soft colors that blend well together, and remember that if one person wears a print, that person will stand out more in the photos."
Dawn K. Moyer Photography
Favorite spot for engagement shoots: Inniswood Metro Gardens
Best time to shoot there: Early morning or late afternoon
Advice for brides: "I have the bride wear more makeup than usual. The camera sees everything," she says. "Also, look out for park rangers. They always yell at me … I like to push the envelope."