Engagement photos do more than simply announce a couple’s upcoming nuptials. Instead, they can truly capture a couple’s essence. When couples are truly connecting with one another, and when they have fun with the photographer and the process, lovely photos are sure to follow. Here, we chat with three local photographers who share how to get the best engagement photos possible. 

Eye of the Beholder

Kristen Soileau, Owner, Kristen Soileau—Wedding + Lifestyle Photography

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Kristen Soileau booked her first wedding in 2012, and, after she graduated college in 2014, she went full-time into her wedding and family photography business. This local photographer, whose photos pack a serious punch, hasn’t looked back. The part that she loves the most is getting to know her clients. “I love showing up to a session or a home not knowing what to expect but knowing I’ll walk away having learned another story and shared a fun time together,” she says.

Soileau has a degree in design and a love for people, both of which she says factor into her style of photography. She also loves finding inspiring places to shoot around the city. “I love the textures and colors of New Orleans,” she says. “Once the couple is in front of the camera, I engage with them when necessary by asking them questions and hearing their story. Other times, I just stay quiet and let their love unfold without interruption. I base my energy and approach on the couple.”

Indeed, Soileau’s clients most often say that her images reflect real emotion. “I also get told, ‘You made us look so cool,’” she says. “A couple should hire me if they want images that show their dynamic and personality, and they’re willing to step out of tradition.”

Soileau’s process is straightforward, yet fun, and always customized to each client. A few weeks prior to the photo shoot, she touches base with her clients to plan out specific locations and outfits. “I always encourage wearing an outfit that is comfortable and represents you,” she says. “My favorite is when clients show up in their favorite sneakers and date outfit. I try to make the shoot as much of a date as possible. We choose a spot that is specific and special to the couple. I’ve had engagement sessions at record stores, a favorite bar and even a basketball court.”

Her best advice is for couples to look at a potential photographer’s reviews and also to ask for full-sized galleries. “Don’t just book someone based on their shiny Instagram moments,” she says. “Then, just relax. Engagements are so low key. Worst case scenario, just redo them if you hate them. It’s not like a wedding day that can’t be recreated. Pick a photographer you vibe with and trust. That’s most important.” kristensoileau.com

Eye of the Beholder

Quinton Charles, Owner, Quinton Charles Photography

After Quinton Charles purchased a camera to make music videos — a venture that didn’t go quite as planned — he decided to start doing senior sessions to pay for his expensive equipment. “One thing led to another, and now it’s my passion,” he says. “The stories told and moments with couples are my favorite. Every couple has a story, and I love documenting it in a timeless fashion.”

Charles has now been photographing couples for more than 10 years. His approach is to always create exciting photo sessions that elicit emotion. “Couples often say they don’t feel like they were taking photos,” he says. “The sessions are packed with moment-driven fun and emotions that get couples to connect with each other. The goal is always for a wonderful time. A perfect engagement session consists of love, fun and real moments. If that happens — and it always does — then beautiful photos will follow.”

He describes his photographic style as timeless and moment-based. He also uses moody, earthy tones to give his photos some grounding. “The end result of my photos is to last a lifetime; meaning I don’t focus on trendy edits, gimmicky poses and fabricated moments,” he says. “Instead, the photos will still be impactful 50 years from now.”

The best advice he can offer is for couples to wear something comfortable that they can easily move in, and to be prepared to have fun during their session. “Couples should also look for a photographer they can connect with, along with an interest in their creativity and work.” quintoncharles.com

Eye of the Beholder

Hunter and Desiree Ryland, Owners, The Rylands Photo Co.

Hunter and Desiree Ryland, a local husband-and-wife duo, are not only partners in life, but also in business. In addition to offering wedding photography, the couple also has a photo booth company (HD Photobooth Co.), and a combo photography studio/art gallery Uptown on Magazine Street. “We are one big collaboration,” Desiree says. “We live and breathe these things, and we are constantly able to get better together. It shows in our work and in the way we interact with our couples.”

Sure enough, Hunter and Desiree enjoy capturing their couples during what is such an important time in their lives. They go to great lengths to understand their clients to the point where they become friends. “We want to get to the point of who they are,” Desiree says. “We want to pick up on natural stances or ways that they move so that we are able to incorporate that into their images. We aim to refine what is in front of us and then elevate it. One of our secrets is that Hunter is mainly talking, jokingdirecting, while I’m photographing. This allows me to capture authentic laughter and moments that the couple doesn’t even necessarily know are being captured.”

When hiring a photographer, Desiree says to look for consistency in their work and to go with your gut. She also says to trust the photographer’s process. “It’s such a major part of the way the images turn out,” she says. “Coordinating your outfits to complement one another is also important. You don’t want to match, but looking at everything as a whole is helpful. Having your hair and makeup professionally done also is important. Perfect engagement photos are ones that truly reflect the couple. We want them to see the images and say, ‘Wow, these are so us — the best version of us.” therylandsstudio.com