Going extra for engagement photos


October 18, 2022

by Sharon Smith

Everyone loves a good engagement story — and photos to match. Gone are the days of posed engagement photos in the newspaper society section. Couples want to share the big news on their social media feeds, and photos help tell the story. Here’s how two local photographers help make engagement photos a more memorable experience.

Photograph by Crystal Cofie Photography

The traveling couple

Photographer Crystal Cofie noticed right after the pandemic, a lot of couples chose to celebrate their engagements with big trips, either to a special place or a new location. “They travel all the time. They travel as couples, just dating, with their friends. They see something and they want the experience — and to share something amazing on their Instagram,” Cofie says. With that in mind, she offers destination engagement photography packages. When clients choose the travel engagement experience, Cofie says they usually opt for a wedding closer to home. 

Cofie talks to couples about the vibe they want and typically recommends places that she’s researched and scouted. She’s also open to trying new destinations. She prefers a lead time of a few months to organize a West Coast or international travel shoot, or a few weeks for a more regional trip. She’s traveled abroad to London and kept it stateside by going to cities like Savannah, Ga., or Albuquerque, N.M. 

Cofie recently followed Reuben and Alysha to Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami for a destination engagement shoot with a wow factor. She helped the couple choose several scenic backgrounds and wardrobe changes for an extensive gallery of photographs they’ll always treasure and enjoy sharing.

Planning the perfect surprise

Alex Souder and his wife, Mallory, are known for their cityscape photography at Alexander South NC. Their wedding and engagement portfolio also includes several surprise proposal shoots. Souder recently documented Joe’s proposal to Nicole at The Duke Mansion (pictured), which included the couple’s dog, Augie, who wore a special “Will you marry me?” dog collar. 

Souder says they need three to six weeks to create a photography plan for a surprise proposal shoot, which includes a site inspection so they can figure out where to hide without sacrificing the best angles.

“With every groom we have a plan A, B and C. You never know what will happen on the day of,” Souder says. “Everything went according to plan for Joe,” he says, adding that it’s always a delicate balance in getting the details right without being too overwhelming. “The hardest part is getting the grooms to follow the plan. There’s so much nerves and anxiety built up for them. I even put markers on where they can stand,” Souder says.

As for Nicole, she was completely taken by surprise and felt Joe nailed her dream proposal. “He definitely tricked me into thinking we were just taking our pup to the garden at The Duke Mansion before heading to meet some friends. I was blown away when I saw the rose petals and photographers pop out of the bushes!” Souder was a helpful guide through the process, Joe says. “It means a lot to us to have those photos to look back on,” he says.

Local favorites

Want more engagement photo ideas? Here’s our local list of venues and locales to start your planning for the perfect engagement photo with your photographer.

Uptown: The upscale metropolitan feel of the city makes for a dramatic backdrop while adding a chic personal taste of home. With dozens of historic buildings, beautiful architecture and urban parks with scenic views, there are plenty of sites to choose from. Pro tip: For a bird’s eye view of the city’s soaring towers, head to the top of a nearby parking garage or a rooftop bar for a quick photo session.

North Corner Haven: Just across the state line in Lancaster, S.C., North Corner Haven is a rustic dream, with gorgeous photo shoot opportunities around every, well, corner. The 600-acre family farm boasts a hardwood forest, pastures, ponds and a farmhouse and event barn. If you’re planning on holding your wedding at North Corner Haven, a complimentary engagement photo session is included. All other photo shoots are booked by appointment and based on an hourly rate.

The Duke Mansion: Just 2 miles from center city, the historic bed-and-breakfast’s nearly 5 acres of beautiful gardens and grounds is the perfect backdrop for a romantic engagement shoot. Booking fills up quickly, so inquire about sitting fees and hours at least a month in advance.

Jetton Park: A half-hour drive from the center city, this oasis in Cornelius offers 104 acres of prime scenic spots overlooking Lake Norman. With nature trails, public beaches, gazebos and more, the possibilities are endless. Head to the beach at sunset for jaw-dropping colorful photos with perfect lighting.

Camp North End: Located near the NoDa neighborhood, the former Ford Motor assembly plant built in 1924 now boasts 76 acres of mixed-use
space, including offices, retail, restaurants, breweries and an artsy, edgy backdrop for engagement sessions. Popular spots include under the water tower, by the food stalls with a skyline view and in front of one of the dozens of colorful murals around the property.

Find more wedding inspiration at Weddings by SouthPark.


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