Elizabeth & James’ Engagement Session at Hilton Head Island

Elizabeth & James’ perfect engagement session on Hilton Head Island was one of my favorite sessions that I’ve done as a Charleston wedding photographer in a long time! I used film and digital to capture photojournalistic images of this couple’s South Carolina session.

I met the couple on Hilton Head Island to capture their engagement session in a place that means so much to them – Elizabeth’s family have visited Hilton Head every summer for most of her life, and after introducing it to James, he quickly fell in love with the area as well. 

We began their session near the palmetto trees and mossy oaks near their rental home, and then walked together to the beach where the couple have enjoyed so many summer evenings. It’s truly so special to be invited into a space that’s so meaningful to the couple!

Elizabeth and James both expressed to me before their session that they were a little nervous because they haven’t had professional photos taken before, and are a little shy in front of the camera. The truth is, only a select few (I am not one of them either!) enjoy getting their picture taken. But you don’t have to in order to have the photos you’re dreaming of to document your wedding journey–that’s one of the points in my honed process that I pride myself on. My job as a wedding photographer is to make you feel relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera, to bring out the best things about your love, and to bottle up this season in your life for you to look back on in the years to come.

At first, they thought perhaps they’d only want a mini-session (30 minutes) as a way to have a quick photo for a save-the-date. But after our time at the first photo location, under the oak trees dripping with romantic Spanish moss, they decided they wanted to extend their session to a full hour to capture the beach as well. 

One of the core focuses of my work is that photography for your wedding journey, from start to finish, isn’t just for an Instagram photo or save-the-date. This is one of the biggest chapters in the story of your life–this is a season you’ll look back on 5, 10, 20 years from now and think “were we ever that young? Look how in love we were then–and how it’s grown!” I know this is certainly the case for my own photo memories. 

We have a huge gallery wall in our home that tells the story of our family, starting with our engagement session. My 3 year old daughter loves looking at those photos every day, and it really keeps each chapter of my life fresh and alive in my mind. I think somewhere in the digital age of social media, we lost focus on one of the most important purposes of photography: which is to preserve memory. Good photography goes beyond that–it preserves feeling, too.

When it comes to wedding photography, I begin with the end in mind. Each and every client who books with me receives my same process because it works and it’s effective–we get to know each other through a few points in the time leading up to your wedding day so that you’re relaxed, prepared, and comfortable enough to let me get an inside glimpse of your love and capture those emotional, documentary-style wedding photos that everyone dreams of. An engagement session is a huge part of that. As a destination wedding photographer, sometimes that truly isn’t possible, but when it is, I believe it truly helps in making your wedding day feel more like a celebration of your love and less like a photoshoot.

I love sending out an engagement moodboard and style guide to all my clients to help them prepare for their photography session. There are certain colors that can throw off the final edit of your photos, and it’s important to pair outfits together that complement each other (and don’t completely match!). The camera loves light, neutral colors like white and tan, as well as soft pastels like blue, pink, green, and lavender. These colors really help achieve a timeless, airy, ethereal edit to your photos–particularly when matching digital photos to film, like I do!

Hilton Head Island is truly a breathtaking place for photography, and there are some amazing wedding venues there as well. As a Charleston local, I adore our beaches here, but the ones at Hilton head are even more pristine and photography-friendly. When taking beach photos, timing the sunshine can be a bit tricky since there are no buildings or trees to break up harsh, direct lighting. To combat this, I recommend a sunrise session or using the 2 hours before sunset to get the best, most skin-flattering lighting. For Elizabeth and James, it had been a rainy day, but stopped to leave us with perfect, soft, partly-cloudy lighting.

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