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You can get absolutely stunning and gorgeous images just about anywhere with a good photographer you trust. But if you want epic engagement photos that will leave you breathless every time you look at them for years to come, consider traveling to a destination. Sure, it’s a bit more complicated than just hopping in the car for ten minutes and driving to a local park, but I’ve never had anyone ever regret it. I’ve photographed hundreds upon hundreds of engagement sessions at this point! It’s worth the extra effort to have images you love.

Narrow down your options. 

If you already know you want epic images, but don’t have an exact location in mind yet, the first step is to figure out your vibe. Pull up Pinterest and search ‘engagement photos’. What type of locations do you see that pull you in? What style of images are you repining? Is there consistency in how they look?

Consider warm tones versus cool tones. While tones can vary photographer to photographer, edit to edit, there are locations that have more cool and warm tones to them. For example, the ocean is typically more cooler toned: blue sky, blue water, harsh sun, lots of tropical plants. While reds, oranges, and yellows can be found in desert scenes. Do you gravitate to one over the other? Ask yourself these questions to start narrowing down your options.

Outfit Choices. 

Is there a specific outfit you have already that you love and want to wear? Will it flow well with the environment you are envisioning? Will it clash? If you have an outfit but not a location picked, try to imagine the outfit in a similar landscape to it’s shape and color. Colors determine so much: how we feel, how we appear, and where we look. You want to stand out enough from your environment that you don’t completely fade into the background, but don’t pop out so much that the image doesn’t appear cohesive.  This being said, remember the most important aspect of clothing choice is you being comfortable and confident!

Notice how Brooke chose to wear a soft pink dress. She brought both dresses, but I wanted to photograph the blue one first and save the pink for sunset, so that we had similar hues working together to create one, cohesive image (unplanned, but the pink dress matched some pink flowers we discovered in the field!).

Look into National Parks

There are some amazing positives and unfortunate draw-backs from shooting in national parks. Here’s a pros and cons list.

Cons

Rules and permits: a lot of national parks are beginning to require permits because of disrespectful photographers, people, and tourists do not properly take care of the land they use (always leave a location better than you left it!). Permits can sometimes be complicated to get and can take a while to process, so there isn’t an easy way to obtain one for a last minute session. There are typically fees involved with these permits on top of fees to get into the park. National parks are under heavy surveillance, so it’s not something I advice to ignore. Not all national parks require them, so if you’re on a budget, there are still beautiful options available to you! If you plan ahead, permits don’t have to scare you!
Costs: there are costs for permits and also entrance fees to get into parks. Fortunately, I have an annual national park pass, so if we are in one vehicle, I can get us in for free. Most national parks have fees, so it’s important to research how much and expect to pay it before arriving. Pro-tip: carrying some emergency cash is never a bad idea! It’s easy to find the entrance fees on the national parks website–it can, has, and probably will change.
Crowds and parking: Along with those entrance fees comes long wait times, depending on the seasons. You’ll need to budget that wait time into your day so we don’t run late to the session. Usually I like to photograph at sunset, so I don’t run into problems like this, but crowds are always a nuisance.

Pros

Incredible landscapes: I mean… they are national parks for a reason. You’re going to find extremely unique and phenomenal scenes you can’t really find anywhere else. If this is what you’re looking for, national parks may be for you.
Utility: With national parks come people, but that has its positives. You’ll typically find an arrangement of utilities near every national park. There will almost always be hotels available, gas stations nearby, bathrooms a plenty, parking stalls, and food options. There’s comfort in knowing you’ll have what you need at your fingertips!
Preserved locations: our tax dollars go to national parks to keep the land maintained and beautiful, making my job a bit easier! They are usually well-taken care of which means we can focus on getting amazing imagery throughout the entire park.
An unforgettable adventure: and this is what it’s all about, right? Getting photos on an unforgettable adventure with your favorite person. With all travel and adventure sessions, I like to make it more of an experience than just an engagement session. Whether it is simply a day trip or a full week vacation, it will be a memory you’ll have captured for the rest of your lives.

Technically, this session was taken right outside of Yellowstone National Park. If you want to avoid National Parks, there are options for you. Keep reading!

Do some research.

If you want a gorgeous location but don’t want to deal with national parks, you have an amazing tool at your fingertips at all times: Google. Do some research!

These are some random examples I find myself looking up when I want to find cool locations.

-pretty hiking trails in [state/country]
-scenic drives around [location]
-pretty views I can drive to
-beautiful locations outside of national parks

Explore!

My favorite piece of advice is to simply get outside and make some memories exploring the world. Some of the best adventures in life start by simply walking outside your front door. Go location scouting! Take a full day, some picnic supplies, and wander around with your significant other. Nothing is stopping you from finding treasure–you just have to persistently look for it. That’s what these two did! They actually explore a lot–and have so much fun doing it!

As always: ask me!

I’m here to help you every step of the way. Whether you book a full wedding day package or an adventure session, I’m here to help you every step of the way. I have done a lot of these now and am so happy to be a resource to you as you begin considering options and planning your session. Whether it’s questions about permits, outfits, weather, location recommendations, and more, don’t hesitate to ask.

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