A Session Break Down
Behind the Scenes of a Winter Engagement
One of my favorite parts about each session is picking out the perfect location! Once booked, I research potential destinations based our discussions and your overall vision. Of course, I love the outdoors for sessions; any opportunity that connects us to the Earth is fine by me. However, sometimes your vision won't always align with the local nature options surrounding us. When you work with me, that will never be an issue, so when Milind and Robyn mentioned McCall, Idaho for their engagement session I knew we had to do it!
With the session in the evening, my fiance David, and I had the whole afternoon to explore.
We started by scoping out the beautiful Ponderosa State Park, the location for this session. It's one of Idaho's finest state parks with tall trees, the Cascade Lake, and cabins for rent. For a small fee of $5 per person, David and I were also able to snowshoe around the trails towards the back of the park. McCall receives heaps of snow throughout the year, requiring you to wear cross country skis or snowshoes while on trails during the winter. After we explored the park, we got a quick bite to eat at Stax. If you're ever visiting, you should definitely try to stop by! They're a local soup and sandwich shop and they are delicious. I highly recommend the crab melt, but if you're not a seafood person, they have plenty of options!
Once we satisfied our hunger, we headed back to the park to finish preparing for Milind and Robyn's session! We learned which areas had solid and packed snow, where the light was headed, and how to safely arrive at each spot. Right from the get go, these two were ready to embrace the cold and make some magic! Over the course of the evening, we had laughs and snow fights and captured some amazing portraits.
Naturally, by the end of the night, we were all hungry after traipsing through the snow, so we finished out the evening with dinner at Salmon River Brewery. If you're planning to eat here on a weekend, I'd suggest making a reservation to avoid the wait times. Or you can be a social butterfly like Milind and snag us a table with some strangers. 😆 It was a fantastic day which resulted in some of my favorite images to date. I hope seeing behind the scenes gives you some insight into what your session could be! Also, huge thank you to David, who was able to tag along and take these fabulous behind the scenes images you're about to view!
McCall is about two hours away from Boise, so if we were going to drive all that way for a beautiful location, I was determined to showcase it. We started off the session by sliding down a small hill onto the frozen Lake Cascade. The view from the lake was gorgeous with the horizon line covered in frosty trees. The air was brisk and the sun was soft; sunset was just around the corner. As with any winter session, I was nervous the cold would cause runny noses and numb hands. It did, but it ended up being completely worth it! Robyn and Milind came ready for adventure and ready to bear the winter air. Getting professional pictures taken can be a nerve wracking experience, but warming up (in this case both mentally and physically) can make you more comfortable which will allow for more authentic interactions!
Here are two of my favorite images that came from warming up on the lake! Both of these images rely on centering the couple, which isn't always the most interesting composition, but it's one that I love and actually consider to be fairly versatile. Of these images, one is a wide angle that incorporates the environment and the other is a cropped body that shows emotion and closeness. The first was taken at a standing level and the second was from down below. While these portraits both center Milind and Robyn, they utilize poses and angles to take a common composition and create unique and individual pieces. No matter what the session is, you can always find me running around, testing angles, and giving guidance!
Although the snow was stunning this day, it was also cold and deep. Every other step we took caused us to sink into the snow, making top down angles a bit tricky! Luckily, my favorite shots from the day were photographed with Robyn and Milind laying on the ground. Since I couldn't reliably stand on the snow with both feet, I had to find ways to utilize fun and flattering angles. Sitting or laying on the ground is a necessary part of all my sessions, so I am forever grateful for people who don't mind getting a little dirty!
I adore this triplex of images, from Robyn running her fingers through his beard to Milind threatening to lick her. Not only do images like these allow people to experience the moment without having been there, but they give you beautiful memories you can relive as many times as you please. Years down the line, you can look back at your portraits and remember how you rolled through the snow, laughing at each other's silliness, and how you loved every minute. Just like with this triplex, I strive to bring out personalities so that you always remember what life was like when the portrait was taken.
Once we finally had enough of trying to balance on deep snow, we moved to some solid ground (yay)! The move allowed us to focus on more active prompts and poses, like the classic lift and twirl. While this particular behind the scenes doesn't featuring an active pose, it does provide a great example of what a scene looks like from the outside compared to what I create with my camera. I love behind the scenes like this because helps visualize what the pose was or how the the environment looked compared to just seeing the final image.
Rather than providing you with images where the only difference is a facial expression, I like to make sure your gallery contains portraits with unique poses, angles, and compositions. Though sometimes I come across images like the two above that are similar in many ways, but create such different feelings that I just have to include both! In this case, the left image tells a story and captures the moment Milind drew on Robyn's cheek with his nose, while the second emphasizes her expression as the focus. I love this prompt because it gives the drawer a chance to be creative and make their partner laugh! Meanwhile the guesser always has the best reaction to the sweet or more likely provocative drawing. 😂
Not only do I love bringing personalities into portraits, I also love including passions! Robyn and Milind are both dancers, so naturally we had to include their moves in this session. Photographing dancers is a blast because they're natural performers and usually have some choreography memorized. Plus watching people dance is one of my favorite things! 😍 Although dancing is an easy interest to incorporate, I also enjoy the challenge of finding creative ways to utilize all types of passions from mountain biking to singing to videogames. Whatever you love will for sure make it into your session!
Milind and Robyn are incredible dancers, skilled in a variety of styles! The dance style featured in the images above is Lindy Hop, "the granddaddy of all swing dances with a blend of African and European dance influences that is both uniquely American." I started with a standard shot to get the full picture before moving around them, replicating the dynamism of the dance. Just like how each step has purpose and works to create a beautiful dance, each image shows off an individual moment while coming together to illustrate the whole story.
If you're interested in Swing Dancing, check out Swing Out Adventures! They host various activities throughout the month, including lessons and dance nights. Robyn is one of the incredible instructors, so you'd even have a chance to learn from one of the best. David and I attended one of the lessons and let me tell you, if you like versatile dances with counted steps that are both challenging and fun, then you have got to try Lindy Hop!
Before and Afters
Along with detailing the behind the scenes of this session, I wanted to share some before and afters! I absolutely love before and afters because they show artistic editing styles and are just generally fun to see. While prompts and poses during a session create the composition and overall feel of the image, the way I edit my portraits helps define the look and mood.
My editing workflow starts in Lightroom where I apply my style or preset before adjusting basic settings like exposure and white balance. Some photographers like to stick to either Lightroom or Photoshop, but I tend to use both. After fine tuning the general settings of an image (shadows, highlights, hue values, etc.), I take it into Photoshop to clean it up! Most of the time this consists of removing what I find to be distracting items as well as touching up skin and bringing back in some of the highlights that were muted in Lightroom.
With each image, I emphasize emotion and earthiness by adjusting the white balance to either showcase or create warmth. Colors become less vibrant while maintaining saturation to develop a muted palette that complements the surrounding environment. Although my overall style takes a more moody approach, I strive to keep the look believable and lifelike. I find deeper tones and contrast preserve the essence of the moment while establishing a romantic atmosphere. After all, I want my photography to make you feel something! Whether that be a particular image causing an emotion within you or it reminding you of your own special moment, I want my work to make you feel.
Now that I've generally explained my editing process, be sure to check out these before and afters and tell me what you think about the changes! 😁
If you find yourself with any questions after learning about my session breakdown or before and afters, feel free to comment them below or send me a message. You can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot me a DM through Instagram or Facebook. Also, let me know if this article sparked your interest in a session of your own! Even if it's just an inkling of an idea, we can put our brilliant minds together and see what evolves! ✨