JESSE + MADISON :: Missoula Couples' Session

I’ll start by saying if you have dogs, PLEASE bring them to your session! Gimme allll the pups!

I’ve been lucky enough to get to know and photograph Madison + Jesse a few times over the last couple of years, starting with a mini session, then their wedding last fall, and now this perfect spring session for kicks and giggles (actually it was to make sure they had “family” photos featuring their sweet pups, Sophie and Scooter, who didn’t get to come to the wedding).

Madison + Jesse have been together a long time (they were high school sweethearts!). In fact, it was especially important to Madison that they get a few photos of Jesse and Scooter because they joke that Scooter is the only thing Jesse has had longer than Madison! Their sense of humor and they way they joke with each other is so refreshing and it’s so clear that they have the type of foundation that only time can build. These two are off to Texas to start a new adventure, so I’m SO glad we were able to squeeze in this sweet session while we were all in Missoula!


Guys, I spent last weekend in Salt Lake City learning from one of my favorite 'togs, Eden Strader. Before I tell you why the workshop was awesome, I feel compelled to tell you why Eden's work is awesome: I found her a year or so ago on IG and immediately noticed her work because it stood out so much in a sea of bridal and wedding photography that, while beautiful, looked very similar. Eden's work stood out to me because she embraced that harsh, midday light that so many avoid and just rocked it. Looking at her feed as a whole, I also loved the fact that, while her work is consistent in her ability and certain elements that she incorporates in all of her work (color!), there was so much variety in where and what she was shooting! It didn't feel like I was looking at a single wedding album: there were high fashion bridal shots in studios with bright backgrounds, super creative double exposures, some carefree outdoor portraits, and so much more. It made me feel infinitely better about the fact that my IG doesn't look like it's made up of a single wedding or occasion (nothing wrong with this approach - I actually HATED that I couldn't master it!). So! Her work spoke to me because it was different from everything else I was seeing, but still so beautifully done.

When Eden announced that she was hosting a workshop, I jumped at the opportunity to learn from her. And guys, this totally pushed me creatively. I've spent some time this winter expanding my studio work (because who wants to stay outside when its -127 degrees and blizzarding - not me), but I definitely wanted the chance to learn from someone who does it so. Damn. Well. As part of the workshop, Eden set up two different shoots: one couples' portrait session (this post) and one editorial bridal session (I'll share this one shortly). If you know me at all, you know I LOVE candid, natural interaction. True posing is way outside my wheelhouse and I didn't think I wanted any part of it, but I really loved the challenge of drawing out certain emotions with nothing to rely on, other than the couple themselves. No background, no space to tell them to run off into the sunset. Just two (okay, admittedly beautiful) people and a blank wall behind them. And I really love the way the shots turned out.

So friends, editorial/studio work may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I hope that you'll consider it when planning your engagement photos or simply for your next portrait session. It's completely different from so much of what's out there right now and I think it can produce some really beautiful results. Scroll on for some highlights!

Styling: Eden Strader // HMUA: Alexa Kait // Models: Andrew + Amanda Gaytan // Dress: Asos


Are you doing a first look? Why or why not? For most couples, there are two primary reasons why they choose not to do it: first, tradition; and second, the emotional reaction of seeing each other for the first time as the bride makes her way down the aisle.

If you've decided you don't want to do one, that's fine! It's your day, do it your way. But if you're on the fence, here's my two cents:

Regarding tradition, most of us have heard that it's bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the ceremony. This notion actually dates back to the tradition of arranged marriages. The reason the groom was not allowed to see the bride before the ceremony is because it was believed that, if he had the chance to see his bride, he would be more likely to call off the wedding. How romantic. The non-traditionalist in me says you and your soon-to-be spouse can probably come up with some better traditions of your own to incorporate into your day :)

As for the emotional reaction to seeing each other for the first time as you walk down the aisle, I totally get it. It should come as no surprise that I love a good, raw emotional reaction. And sometimes it happens and its wonderful! And sometimes, the reaction is internal and not much happens externally. Some people (like me!) are naturally more reserved in front of a crowd and they might not have that monumental external reaction for a dozen reasons that have nothing to do with how they actually feel about seeing their soon-to-be spouse for the first time. Bottom line: there's no way to predict how you and your partner will react, so if you're choosing not to do a first look because you want a certain photo of your honey shedding a tear or falling to his knees when he sees you, there's a chance it won't happen, regardless of whether you've already seen each other.

NOW! Here is why I think first looks are great:

First, if reaction is what you're going for, this is a much safer environment to get that reaction. Just the two of you, away from the crowd, away from phones and cameras (except for mine and I'll try to stay out of your way). Without the pressure of a crowd or a ceremony timeline, you have a few minutes to truly enjoy that first glimpse of each other. You'll likely be running high on emotions and the freedom to be able to touch each other, to hug, to wipe each other's tears, and to tell each other what you're thinking is invaluable. 

Relatedly, by setting aside 15-20 minutes before the ceremony for a first look, you have a chance to just enjoy a moment of quiet together before the day sweeps you away. For my fellow introverts, this moment of peace with your person can ground you and recharge your battery so that you can be ready to entertain!

Finally, as a matter of practicality, by doing a first look, you've made it possible to do all the group photos before the ceremony. This means everyone gets to head right to cocktail hour/the reception right after the ceremony! It also means you're not chasing people down for group photos when they're ready to party. It can be a big time-saver! Also, while I'll still pull you away for a few minutes at sunset for a couple more bride + groom portraits in that beautiful evening light, you're essentially free from photo obligations before the ceremony even starts! 

Ultimately, whether or not you decide to do a first look, your day will be beautiful. As always, feel free to throw my two cents right out the window and do exactly what you want to do!