Put Your Best Face Forward

Put Your Best Face Forward | Listen to the pros to snap top shots at portrait sessions

The site of countless movie, magazine, and catalog shoots, Charleston’s storied backdrops beg for photo sessions. And what better excuse to hit the cobblestones and beaches than for pre-wedding photos? Whether it’s to snap a proposal, announcement portrait, or engagement session, area photographers have ideas aplenty for you to score the best images during these special bookings, which can factor into how your wedding photos turn out. “Pre-wedding sessions are great practice for the real day,” says photographer Leigh Webber. “So even if you’re nervous going into an engagement session, just remember how much easier it will make your wedding day in regards to being in front of the camera.” Fellow Holy City shutterbug Evan Laettner agrees. “By the end of a session, the couple and I really know each other,” says Evan. “And the more comfortable you feel with your photographer, the more real your images will be.”


For these shots, we recruited readers Anna Fuller and Keir Sittloh. The pair first dated as students at USC in Columbia, South Carolina, and are on their way to an engagement any day now. Here they modeled with signage, props, sheep, and more for Leigh as she taught a class of wedding photographers to snap winning images of real-life couples. Photos like these can be used as save-the-dates, in reception décor, and in wedding albums.Check them out and read on for more  tips from a roundtable of top Charleston photographers.


Catch the “Yes!”
Plan ahead with time of day and location, says Tim Zielenbach, who recently shot a proposal on the beach where the couple was horseback riding. He and the groom picked a spot the day prior, and Tim laid in wait in the dunes until the couple rode into sight and the groom popped the question.
Send your photographer a photo of you and your sweetheart, says Leigh Webber, so they can easily spot you. Also, she says, text what you’re wearing the day of, plus when you’re five minutes away so your photographer can hide.

Snap the formal portrait
Go Sunday best with your hair, makeup, and clothes. “I call these the ‘Mom’ shots,” laughs Evan Laettner.
Book an additional 30 minutes with your photographer for candid shots, says Leigh Webber, since you’re already gussied up.
Warm up to the Big Day
Practice with an engagement session, and your wedding photos will be more relaxed, natural, candid, and “you,” agree Leigh and Evan.
Plan on these sessions lasting at least two hours and anticipate them starting at about $300.
Pick locations that have meaning to you; you’ll relate to the space and cherish the photos more.  
Bring a change of clothes. Ideally start dressy and then go for casual, says Evan.
Include your pet, agree Evan and Leigh. Pets, they say, are one of the easiest ways to drop the self-consciousness and score spontaneous images.
Try a prop that will loosen you up. After pets, picnics work great.
Skip the posing and don’t mimic someone else’s shoot. Just find beautiful light and do what feels natural, says Evan. “The key,” he says, “is to have fun…you can’t Photoshop joy!”
Leave the entourage at home. “There’s nothing more nerve-wracking for couples than performing for family (and me) during their engagement session,” says Leigh.
Enlist a stylist to coordinate your look. After the photo session, head out on the town, says Leigh, and later, wear the clothes for your shower or rehearsal dinner.
Roll with the weather. If it’s sunny, try a beach date or head out on a boat for the breezes. In the winter, pile on layers and get ready for snuggle shots.
Make a photo album of the images to use as a sign-in book, suggests Tim.  
Spread the news. Post your engagement and wedding announcements here on www.CharlestonWeddingsMag.com.

Vendor List:

Attire: M. Dumas & Sons (www.mdumasandsons.com); LulaKate (www.lulakate.com)

Florist: Tiger Lily Weddings, www.tigerlilyweddings.com

Hair and makeup: Wedding Hair by Charlotte, www.weddinghairbycharlotte.com

Location: Middleton Place, www.middletonplace.org

Photographer: Leigh Webber Photography, www.ltwebber.com

Picnic: Caviar & Bananas, www.caviarandbananas.com

Ring: Croghan’s Jewel Box, www.croghansjewelbox.com

Signage: Studio R, www.studio-r-design.com

Stylist: Lindsey Nowak