Carolina Bride

Hittin' the Road

Gone are the days of predictable engagement shoots with passionate gazes, clasped hands and contrived poses. Instead, couples demand pictures as expressive as their individuality. In response, photographers are finding inspiration in gritty backdrops, vibrant colors and even an occasional road trip.

"Engagement shoots are a true passion of mine," says photographer Kristin Vining. "My biggest love actually. If that involves creating a one-of-a-kind environment in another city, I'm here to make that happen."

Vining has technically made that happen a number of times, encouraging her clients to seek out possibilities in destinations like San Antonio, New Orleans and New York City. When asked what sparked the initial excursion, Vining explains, "Oftentimes I'll travel for a wedding, and I can help a client out from an expense standpoint when I shoot in volume. I'll shoot two or three couples during one trip - be it a combination of engagement, wedding or post-wedding sessions."

Lesson: When pricing photographers, don't hesitate to ask too many questions. You never know when you could strike a deal that will lead you to a dream destination.

So what are the tricks to a successful shoot on the road? Anything goes. During a trip to New York City for a Central Park wedding, Vining lined up three additional destination shoots including Shae and Brian, featured here. The pair were eager to take advantage of suggestions and shoot at the Coney Island boardwalk. "We knew we wanted something completely unexpected to match our fun personalities. Coney Island was just the ticket - colorful and zany. A little like us," describes Shae. "Whether you stage a shoot at the local Bojangles' because that's your favorite restaurant, or somewhere as dreamy as tranquil Anguilla, the photography should be reflective of who you both are," suggests Vining. "There's always a way to make it distinctively you, yet take it to the next level."

Taking it to that level often requires painstaking - but worthwhile - planning. Once the photographer is selected, couples should use their imaginations when prepping for the shoot. A brainstorming session to determine themes, overall direction and the setting will clarify the vision for the final product. And all ideas, whether big or small, are adaptable to suit a budget. "The last thing you want is to get to another city and realize your styling is all wrong, or it's not what you had initially envisioned. Rely on professionals to do the heavy lifting, so that you both can be in the moment," says Vining, who collaborates heavily with her clients and uses hair, makeup and wardrobe professionals to bring everything together.

Destination aside, this is an opportunity to get acclimated with your photographer before the big day and to capture your love story on film. Don't be afraid to make the most of it - even if it requires a plane ride.