Let's start with a cute and funny story :: featuring Ally and Gabe :: Just because. 
It's the weekend. I come to church Sunday morning after their session, and...run into Gabe. His jaw kinda drops, he never expected to see me there since frankly I had never mentioned that I too go to Substance LOL ;). Totally unintentionally this little fact became a really well kept secret. See, he didn't know that after our initial meet-up at the oh so lovely Vicinity Coffee, I (like a total creeper) looked them up on Facebook. That's how I figured out that we have both been a part of Substance - they currently on an internship, me and David (my husband) for about 12 years now, almost since the very humble beginnings. I was going to mention this fun fact when we met up at the engagement session, but we were so in the moment and having fun that I completely spaced it. So, when he saw me waltzing in on Sunday morning and we ran into each other, it was a "SURPRISE!!!!! Your wedding photographer goes to the same church as you!" kind of moment. LOL! His face expression --- PRICELESS!!!! Wish I had my camera!!! :) 



Now that we got you all amused, moving on to the actual Tips on maximizing your and your beau's session.I get a TON of questions about what the wear, what not to wear, how to not look like dorks, etc. If these questions are rolling in your mind as well, this one is for you! I'll try to go semi-chronologically, in the order I usually get asked. Ready? It will be a hoot!


LOCATION - Where should we go??? - Pick something near and dear to your heart, is my suggestion. Figure out what you're into. Urban/Industrial? That will yield some more editorial type of shots. Simple backgrounds, neutral colors, frankly what's not to love. Nature/Park perhaps? This one will be more intimate, surrounded by plants, grasses, trees, often golden lens flair, etc. If you don't want an audience or a busy backgrounds pick something a bit less in the heart of the action - ex. Rice Park in St. Paul though pretty, can be surrounded with cars, strangers, homeless people, garbage cans, and so on. Still, to each his own. If you don't mind or care (about the possible distractions in the background) and love the city vibe, let's go for it, BUT if you prefer a more private setting for a more intimate feel, let's go frolic in nature. For Ally and Gabe Lebanon Hills was a park with special meaning - a place of many sweet moments, and good times, so they really felt at home there. That's kind of the goal - pick something either super pretty or something you're comfortable with. I'm made of suggestions if you need one, just let me know which side of the cities you're looking to stick with.


GO WITH THE FLOW - Don't get super attached to a single wall or background, or a tree (this one goes to weddings as well). Trust me to pick the right location based on the light at the time we're shooting, and what strikes me in the moment. The spot in Ally + Gabe's engagement session was picked literally on a whim! I first told them to meet me in a specific location, but when I spotted this gorgeous grassy hill on my drive in, I just had to start there! So, we met up in a different spot, and frankly it was the way I haven't seen or experienced the Lebanon Hills Regional Park before, despite having shot there a few times. When creativity strikes, just follow my lead. You won't regret it. I promise! 

WHAT TO WEAR - Above all wear something that you can move in, feel good in, and don't have to constantly adjust - that's just asking for stiff, uncomfortable poses. Wear something you can sit or roll in the grass in, run, and have fun in. Whatever feels right in the moment, make sure your attire won't hinder any flirtation interactions. If you're not the roll in the grass kinda couple, no worries, we'll find your own groove. You bring the mood, and I'll tune in and amplify. 


"Play = Interaction = Reactions = Unexpected Bursts of Laughter =
= Alluring Smiles = Flirting = Good Times =
= Amazing Photos. "

STYLE + ACCESSORIES - Personally, I'm in love with anything spunky and full of character - cold shoulder tops, off shoulders tops, hats of any sort - floppy, slouchy, etc., fingerless gloves, flowy (solid colored or flowery) dresses, strappy sandals, lace up anything, buttons, lace trim or a lace back... You get the idea - I love details, textures, amazing tattoos, and anything that makes you, you, and gives us something to be playful with. Very simple outfits - ex. jeans + a solid black crewneck sweater sometimes can be fun, but there really isn't anything to play with, and Play = Interaction = Reactions = Unexpected Bursts of Laughter = Alluring Smiles = Flirting = Good Times = Amazing Photos. 

COLORS - Currently I'm obsessed with powder toned-down pinks like Ally and Hali (from Hali and Brian's Taylors Falls story) wore*. Anything rust brown I'm basically coo coo over!! It really doesn't matter the color, though, just make sure it's something you love and that's well coordinated with the rest of the feel + works with some fun interaction-inducing accessories, and you'll look awesome! Personally, neutrals and layering are my jam, with gold accents, and that's what I'd recommend, but to each his own. If you want to wear a fire orange red maxi dress, go for it! Just make sure that whatever the pop of color or pattern is, it's the focus, and everything else works together in harmony with it. 
On a what-not-to-wear note, stay away from anything that messes with your skin tone. Example: If you have some acne or redness in your skin, skip red / pink outfits, go for neutrals like shades of grey and beige instead.  
* FYI - At the time of writing this (April 2017) Express Factory Outlets is basically full to the brim of this gorgeous powdery blush pink - everything from dresses to cute tops. 

HOW MANY OUTFITS? - I generally say "one, but". The 'but' stands for accessories, and things you can throw on or change into quickly and on the go (so in effect it could be another outfit). If you layer, it's much easier to pop another shirt (or a cute jacket) on in a jiffy. A head to toe ensemble change basically keeps us from adventurously exploring, and ties us to your vehicle. I prefer to focus on getting you two comfortable, interacting and loosened up than showcasing various attires. Also, keep in mind that I want to 'capture the in-between', which might be the way you scramble over some rocks, with him gentlemanly giving you a hand, or carrying you down, in which case I am carrying all your stuff + carrying all my stuff. So, let's maybe minimize the amount of 'stuff' we're lugging along, but you are welcome to bring a variation to quickly throw on. 

PROPS ANYONE? - Accessories in a large way serve as props, because they are something to adjust, move, and tease with. That's why I love those fun little ways to create movement just by choosing a bit more spunky of an outfit or some quick-change outfit variations (example: different shoes + throw on a cute jacket). Blankets are generally great as well, because you can wrap in them, sit on them, dance / wrestle with them, etc. Just bring something that doesn't cover you with lint the moment you come within 2 feet of it. Please and thank you. Sitting in the grass simply rocks. Hot chocolate in cute mugs or bubbly can also create some super sweetly candid photos, just remember - as mentioned above - I'm carrying all your stuff for most of the session, so either pack it in something you don't mind showing in pictures (a cute, vintage picnic basket you can help carry?), and/or pack lightly. 

MAKEUP - Getting your makeup professionally done is not a deal breaker, but I'd actually say go for it. Either that, or put a bit more effort into getting prettied up. For one, it will make you feel like a million bucks, for two it will make you look like a million bucks, so there really isn't a downside. If you're out of a product, places like MAC or Sephora will do a quick version of a makeover for you for free. Do be nice and buy something, though, those girls love makeovers but they get scored on their sales, so they'll be more helpful and spend more time with you if they know you have a purchase in mind. If you're going DaVinci on your own face, look up some YouTube tips for a smokey glamorous eye, and accentuate a bit more than you normally would for your daily makeup. It photographs better. 



COME READY TO... Play, Dance, Flirt, Kiss, Hug, Snuggle, and show all kinds of affection towards each other. We will start with easy stuff that will get the excitement going and melt the jitters away (for both of us, since I get nervous too). Like a total dork, I bring a little portable speaker with me and blast some tunes. Music, I find, sets the tone and creates a hangout-type atmosphere, much like hosting a fine meal with great background tracks - it makes the conversation flow, it makes things feel less awkward. I refuse to go anywhere without a soundtrack. 

HOW NOT TO LOOK LIKE A DORK, I get asked all the time - Deep breaths buttercup!!! I might know a few tricks to get you to look a bit better than in Grandma Marge's iPad snap. When you show up, try to bring the real you, bring the mood, be ready to move, groove, and play (oh wait, you've heard that one before?? Cool!) If you really want a practical tip - here's the best one I have - don't freeze or hold your breath, don't hold your reactions, and - you have two hands, and a few other limbs - go ahead, use them! :) Don't worry!! I'll be there to make some suggestions, I might adjust a thing or two if I want some different variation, so there's nothing to memorize. Let's create some imperfect (and yet maybe just perfect) moments together. THAT is not just what feels most natural, but it also is what photographs best. 

RESIST THE URGE TO BICKER - Yep, I said it. In YOUR hands you hold the key to awesome times and great photos. Remember, I'll be capturing your interaction, so keep it positive.
Girls - here's a little tip (file under marriage advice as well) -- Whether it's the way he smiles, or the way he spontaneously hugs you squishing your boobs accidentally. In those moments when things aren't as picture perfect as you imagined, don't sweat it!!!! This isn't film era, I've got plenty of memory cards! Adjust, laugh it off, move on, try to enjoy his attempts at being charming, even if not quite Titanic the movie perfect. He'll be much more eager to play if he doesn't feel like you're scoring his every move. Being in front of the camera can be somewhat nerve-wrecking, so have tons of grace for each other.
Guys - As to not pick on your significant other exclusively, there are some tips for you as well. Guys can sometimes get stuck on "What do you want me to do?", and "I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing" ---- RELAX. As long as you're up for anything, and use those hands, and lips, and manly arms of yours you'll do fine. You know her, you know what quirky things get a laugh out of her. You know what makes you two tick. You know how you love to hold her hand when you walk. Try not to question yourself or dwell on any gesture that doesn't come across just right. Laugh it off, move on, goof off, have fun. You've got this! 


Guess what, it's OK to fumble sometimes. Fumbling can be cute and endearing, as long as you are amused by it and laugh it off. As I mentioned - move, play, breathe, be in the moment, let go, take things in, be your quirky self, and use your beautiful body to express your unique connection. There's no right way or wrong way, and some of the instructions I give are a bit vague on purpose, because I want to see your interpretation of it. Oops, I just divulged a secret. Well, now you know - sometimes I try to trick you, so not every photo I take look identical for every couple ;) 

I think that just about covers it. I hope this is helpful, and puts you at ease, if just a bit. 
If you come up with another plaguing question, let me know, and I'll think of something witty to add in ;) --- Hope you've enjoyed the read! --- Ester

PS. Aren't these two the cutest???!!! - ALLY + GABE brought it!!!