Charleston Engagement Portrait Tips

I can’t recommend booking an engagement session with your wedding photographer enough. It’s an excellent opportunity to get to know your photographer, who you will be spending a ton of time with on your wedding day. 

I love walking couples around finding inspiring backdrops for photos and chatting about their backgrounds and relationship. We also talk about their wedding day plans, and I learn so much about what aspects of their wedding day they are most excited about. Oh yeah, we also get some great photos!

Engaged couple kissing at the College of Charleston

A Downtown Setting

The biggest tip I can give you is mornings rule! Whether you are planning your engagement season in Downton Charleston or another city, the best time of day is always first thing in the morning. The streets are clear of pedestrians and cars. You will have a clean backdrop for your portraits without tourist or delivery drivers walking through the background. There will be fewer cars on the street; how romantic is it to kiss in the middle of a charming, sunlit and empty street! It is even better with a little privacy. So mornings are ideal especially so on Saturdays and Sundays. When the majority of people are sleeping in or enjoying a leisurely morning at home. 

Engaged couple walking in the French Quarter, Chalreston, SC

The Beach

I’m a beach girl through, and through so naturally this is one of my favorite locations for an engagement session. The biggest tip here is to plan around the sun. The lighting is softer, more colorful and most importantly flattering at sunrise and sunset. If you are both morning people sunrise is a great option. Usually, it is less windy in the mornings so your hair will look it’s best and depending on the time of year you will avoid the crowds. Random beachgoers in bathing suits are not as prevalent early in the morning. If your not morning people don’t fret, there are several beach locations around Charleston that are secluded I can suggest. 

Couple running on Folly Beach
Engaged couple on Folly Beach

A Park or Plantation

FWI most parks and outdoor venues in the Charleston area charge a fee to use the property for an engagement session unless your ceremony will be on site. The property coordinators usually like a few weeks notice and often require that you photograph your engagement portraits on a weekday or first thing in the morning on the weekends to avoid running into an actual bride and groom or another wedding party on the property. With a park or plantation setting, there is more flexibility on lighting. The trees provide shade and even lighting for several hours but usually within two or three hours of sunset or sunrise is ideal light. That's when you see the sunlight spill through oak trees or dapple the background of a couple embracing.

Engaged couple kissing at the College of Chalreston

Make it Personal

Engagement portraits are all about documenting a time in your life when you are coming together as a new family. What is unique about your relationship? Do you like to go sailing together, do you both fish, do you love to eat tacos or ice cream? Is there a fun, unique setting that can be incorporated into your engagement portraits that will make them uniquely yours? If you have a dog that means the world to you and your fiancé bring them along. You can ask a friend to pick up or take your dog for a walk halfway through the portraits so you can get a few with and without your furry friend. Finally, outfit changes are welcome. Bring on the fashion! 

engagement portrait historic Charleston

Candid Wedding Photographer

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What is a candid wedding photographer you might ask? My background is in photojournalism. I graduated from the College of Charleston with a BA in Mass Media. I worked for a daily newspaper for two years as a staff photographer before I opened Captured by Kate Photography LLC on Archdale Street in Downton Charleston, SC in 2004. Yes, I have been at it a long time, and I still love every wedding because they are filled with emotion and action (as well as fashion and design, but that's a bit off subject).

I also freelance for national newspapers. The New York Times is one of my biggest clients. I have been their Charleston stringer for 12 years.

Here are a few recent articles I photographed. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/29/business/a-vibrant-turnaround-for-a-neglected-charleston-neighborhood.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/03/style/tile-mosaic-design.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/25/jobs/garden-gun-magazine-office-design.html

I also have a marketing and editorial website www.katethorntonphotography.com

Back to candid wedding photography, I do direct you a bit. For couple shots before or after the wedding, I will put you in an ideal backdrop and ask you to hang out. I might also suggest you hold hands, walk along a scenic path, stop and kiss, wrap your arms around each other and talk. Yes, you will need a little prompting. But I’m also looking for the in-between, true moments when the wind takes the veil, or the groom is holding the brides' bouquet while she fluffs her dress. 

Group and family photos are not candid, but they do have sweet moments to look out for: the ring-bearer being silly, the grandmother congratulating the couple. I do speak up and direct the family photos quite a bit. The goal is to get them done as swiftly as possible. Think large groups. Smaller groups like the brides family or the bride and each of the bridesmaids can be photographed before the ceremony. 

The most important thing about candid photos is, they are timeless. You are going to enjoy looking at them for generations, and they will tell the real personalities of your family and friends. 

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Planning an Outdoor Charleston Wedding

An outdoor wedding at a Charleston plantation or the beach can be a magical and romantic night for you and your guests. No matter what type of Charleston, South Carolina venue you have picked out, these are the 7 tips to keep in mind so that your wedding will be truly unforgettable.

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1. Talk with Your Wedding Vendors
Discuss the outdoor setting with each of your wedding vendors. The most experienced wedding professionals in the industry know how to advise you on proper equipment, scheduling out the day-of timeline and may offer insight on coming up with a great backup weather plan as well. 
Especially important, make sure to talk with either the photographer you've booked about what the sun will be like during your ceremony. Facing one direction vs. another may mean having harsh shadows across your face, terrible sun flare, or squinty eyes in a vast majority if not all of your pictures. Taking the time to consult a photographer that knows your venue will drastically improve your photos!
Also, don't forget to consider the time of the day that you plan to start the ceremony. If you're wanting family photos and couple photos after your ceremony, make sure that you're ceremony isn't going to be too late for that time of year. For example, if your wedding is in late October, the sun sets in Charleston, SC at 6:30, having you're 20-minute ceremony at 6pm means you probably won't get any good outdoor shots afterward.

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2. Look for Shade
This is especially important for outdoor weddings during peak summer months. Shaded areas with a decent amount of tree cover will allow your guests to feel comfortable during the ceremony and reception. Plus, the shade will keep harsh sunlight from creating unflattering shadows and squinty eyes in all your photos.

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3. Have a Backup Plan
No matter what time of year you'll be celebrating your wedding, there's always a chance that nature may not cooperate. If you're planning an outdoor wedding, have a rain plan in place. A great secondary choice to stay outside may be a tent or a cover porch.

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4. Dress Accordingly
If you're planning a fall or winter wedding but love tea-length or strapless dresses, you may want to consider other options or provide pashminas or mink shawls. The same is true for summer: avoid long-sleeved dresses and heavy materials. Charleston humidity is no joke. 

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5. Offer Pre-Ceremony Refreshments
An essential for an outdoor wedding is serving plenty of water at drinking stations. Set up a few refreshment tables and make sure these are easily accessible (not directly next to the bar) so guests have a few places they can go to stay hydrated. In addition to water, ice-cold beverages like lemonade or iced tea are perfect summer drinks. If you want to add a twist of fun, serve a signature cocktail. 

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6. Prepare for Glare
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to throw on a hat and sunglasses when the sun gets strong. It will be a long, hot day, so make sure you keep powder on hand for touching up your makeup to prevent extra shine in your photos. Remember, photographs will be taken of you continuously throughout the day, so you want to stay prepared. 

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7. Keep the Bugs Away
If your venue allows, you may consider having a professional company come and spray the area the day beforehand to keep any pests at bay. As another option, keeping individual containers of bug spray on hand at the venue may also be a smart idea. If your ceremony is near the marsh be sure to check the tides, bugs are more prevalent at low tide. 

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Sources:
Bride Box
Jeff and Michele Photo