I am of the belief that an engagement session should always do more than simply show off the ring. Rather, I want to teach couples how to recreate your love story in your engagement shoot. So in today’s blog post, let’s take a magical journey through Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. This is where Heather and Steven met in elementary school long before they tied the knot. Their engagement session was a true walk down memory lane – all the way to the altar.
Meet Heather and Steven
As always, let’s first meet our couple, Heather and Steven. Yes, these two definitely did ‘meet cute’ in elementary school, of all places. Here’s the story, straight from the couple: ‘Heather and Steven first met in 5th grade at Lutheran Elementary School (LES). Though Steven was a kind-hearted boy, he was also a bit rambunctious. So it would be many years, after they were already adults, before he and Heather were to become a couple.’
Heather and Steven met again at a LES reunion in the spring of 2015. Heather learned that Steven had grown into an intelligent and interesting young man, and had also become quite handsome! He also maintained just the right amount of rambunctiousness from his youth, enough to make her laugh. Though there were definitely sparks upon their reunion, it would be a few more months before they met up yet again.
Steven and Heather started talking again on a group text with some other LES classmates later that summer. Steven then invited Heather and her friends to a karaoke night event at The Leif bar. After watching Heather’s great rendition of Stevie Wonder at karaoke, Steven knew he had to ask her out to dinner.
So how about the proposal? ‘Fast forward to December 2021, when Steven suggested an outing to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for their special holiday light show event. Heather had no idea Steven was going to propose, and so invited her parents along with her friend Alicia. While the proposal was a total surprise, Heather was delighted to say yes once Steven got down on one knee in front of the light show.’
Heather and Steven’s Bay Ridge Engagement Shoot
Their engagement session could only take place in Bay Ridge, the location of both Heather and Steven’s current home and where their love story began. The idea behind the shoot was to reenact their life in Brooklyn, starting with photos in front of Lutheran Elementary School. From there we would visit their favorite bar – Kitty Kiernan’s – and eventually end up in John Paul Jones Park. This waterfront park is meaningful to them both. Heather is a huge fan of the Verrazano Bridge. (Trust me, all New Yorkers have a favorite bridge.) In addition, John Paul Jones Park is traditionally where wedding portraits have been taken for Bay Ridge residents since the dawn of time. their session was held on a weekday, so we avoided any crowds. and while it was fairly cloudy on the day of their shoot, scheduling during golden hour meant that we had the best light available for the day.
A quick note about the photos at Lutheran Elementary School. We were taking photos outside, when a teacher walked through the front doors and approached us. I was worried because we had not gotten permission ahead of time, but this is Brooklyn and I need not have been worried. The teacher welcomed us inside and Heather and Steven even had the chance to meet with a former teacher of theirs. We ended up taking fantastic photos; all in the space of about 15 minutes before the school closed for the day. As such, I would be remiss if I did not give a huge shout out to the teachers and staff at Lutheran Elementary School who made these great photos possible!
How To Recreate Your Love Story In Your Engagement Shoot – Where to Go
So, let’s say you want to take the same walk down memory lane as Heather and Steven did. How do you tell a story in your portrait session? Here are my tips.
Visit your old haunts. For Heather and Steven, there were very specific locations that meant a lot to them as a couple. These were places in Brooklyn that they visited all the time together and where they had witnessed milestones, both as a couple and with their families. For our Bay Ridge engagement portrait session, we visited four locations in total.
You certainly don’t have to visit this many locations, but don’t feel stuck in one spot. My engagement sessions are based on time, so as long as you account for enough time to get from point A to point B, then you can certainly go to multiple locations. I normally recommend only two locations, but in the case of Heather and Steven, all four spots were one block away from each other.
A word of caution about taking photos in private businesses. In general, you cannot take photos in a private business – be it a restaurant, coffee shop, or retail establishment – without the express permission of the proprietor. For Heather and Steven’s shoot inside Kitty Kiernan’s, we got permission from the bar owner ahead of time. Most businesses simply do not want to annoy other patrons, nor do they want their photos winding up in advertisements somewhere. If there is a specific restaurant or business that means a lot to you as a couple, just ask the business owner if you might be able to take a few photos. You may have to schedule your session at a time when the business is not busy or you may have to pay a photo permit fee.
Recreate your first date. Another of my clients, Miriam and Chaim, recreated their first date from start to finish during their Greenwich Village engagement portrait session. We started in front of The Up and Up bar where Miriam picked up Chaim, walked down MacDougal Street to the restaurant where they had dinner, and then took a few photos inside with the permission of the restaurant owner. We ended the shoot with photos in nearby Washington Square Park, and then meandered our way over to the Hudson River waterfront for a few photos at sunset. It was a lovely date, and a lovely photo shoot.
How To Recreate Your Love Story In Your Engagement Shoot – What to Do
Get your old clothes out of the closet. Let’s say you met at a costume party many years ago. How much fun would it be to re-create that look from top to toe? I’ve had clients recreate their cosplay outfits, and I am dying to photograph an equally courageous and creative couple again.
Get active. Photo shoots shouldn’t be about standing stiff and smiling for the camera. No matter who I’m photographing, be it a bride- and groom-to-be or a family, I always try to inject some energy and activity into my portrait sessions. The same should happen with your engagement shoot. Do you have an activity you like to do together? Be it cooking, a sport, or simply a walk through the park – these are all activities that look great in front of the camera. And for an example of a great cooking date / photo shoot, check out these images from Ariel and Jeremiah’s Red Hook engagement photo shoot.
So those are my quick words of wisdom on how to recreate your love story in your engagement shoot. Enjoy the images, and I’ll have more photo adventures for you next week!
Are you getting married soon and want to schedule an engagement portrait? Drop me a line and let’s discuss your photography needs.
If you would like to view more images from my engagement portrait portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com