Ever see gorgeous in-home engagement photos over on the Insta and wonder just how someone got two real, authentic, and completely in love humans to look so natural and carefree? You might even roll your eyes a little, ’cause you and your beau couldn’t possibly pull that off, right? We totally get it, but our pals at Nord & Mae and photographer Maria Hedengren would respectfully disagree. In fact, they’re here showing you just how to prep and style an intimate engagement shoot that isn’t one bit staged or posed, and looks like the coziest Sunday morning spent at home, just a little more polished and elevated. But since they’re the pros, why don’t we just let them explain? Take it away, friends…
You’ve probably seen lots of at-home couple shoots around, and if you love this idea as much as we do, but have no idea where to start, we’re here to help make it happen. When couples come to us to direct, curate and style a shoot for them, the most important part for us is personality. Even though we like a well-curated setting for the shoot, it’s important that it feels like home to the couple. If the couple isn’t comfortable in the environment, or they feel like the story just isn’t them—it will show in the finished images. But with an authentic story and a beautifully curated environment that will work in images while at the same time boasting with personal details, magic can happen!
We created the story, curated the environment and styled the session of Olivia and Eero for Maria Hedengren Photography earlier this year. We met them beforehand to get to know them better and to come up with the perfect story for their at-home shoot: The couple spends a slow Sunday morning at home, Olivia singing a few songs and playing guitar and dancing through the living room before waking up Eero. The couple gets dressed and enjoys some morning coffee, but most of all they spend the time snuggling and kissing—just as they would in real life. And that’s really the main secret on how to create the most beautifully authentic set of images: make it feel real for the couple. That raw emotion, that connection can be felt in every single frame.
1. Think about your story. Why do you want an at-home shoot? What does your perfect day together at home look like? Imagine you have a Sunday off, it’s raining outside and you have no other plans—how do you fill the day? Plan the story and actions of the shoot accordingly. If you like cooking or baking together, great! If you like to sleep in, have long cuddling sessions and breakfast in bed afterwards, this could be the perfect story for your shoot. If one of you likes to sleep in like Eero in our session while the other is an early bird like Olivia—make it part of your storyline! If you need it, get help creating your story. Sometimes what we do seems mundane in our own eyes. A creative director can help you create a storyline that feels authentic while looking great in photos.
2. Find the light. While coming up with your story, mind the light in your home. Find well-lit spots that have plenty of natural light. If you have a kitchenette without windows, ditch the kitchen story and focus on something else instead. Ask your photographer to come and have a look for the best lit spots beforehand if you’re uncertain—some photographers love moody single source lighting, others need a lot of natural light to create the perfect image.
3. Remove the clutter, not the personality. When we curate the environment, we first remove anything that will be a distraction in the images. This can be wall art, pillows, even pieces of furniture in a bright color or anything that really stands out from its environment in an obvious way. Next we’ll remove any clutter. Think about what you’d do if your mom came to visit and tidy up the place accordingly. But be very mindful not to leave the place looking sterile and empty. We love to leave a sweater hanging over a chair, keys on a side table, a stack of magazines next to the sofa. Make the space feel lived-in.
4. Make it cozy with soft furnishings + textiles. Unless you live in an art gallery, you probably want your at-home photos to have that cozy feel one couldn’t create anywhere else. Pillows, blankets, curtains and rugs are your friends! We always bring a big basket full of neutral blankets, linen fabrics and pillows to curate a shoot. Cover tables with flowing fabrics to soften up the place. Fill your bed or sofa with throw pillows, but unless you’re known for having them lined up perfectly at all times, don’t go for perfection. Toss them on and scrunch them up. Now it feels like home!
5. Get comfortable. Put on some comfy clothes. Go for slightly worn-out rather than something you just bought. Find your favorites, but pay a bit of attention that your outfits aren’t clashing. You don’t need to be twinning – but the style and colors should go together. There’s plenty of stylists out there that can help you put together some great outfits, if this task seems too hard to accomplish on your own. Once you’re dressed and ready for the shoot, get in the mood. Try to get into the mindset of being alone at home (pretend that you don’t have a photographer right at your nose) and find poses that feel natural to you. If your photographer puts you into positions that feel awkward, speak up. They can’t read your mind, so let them know if you feel uncomfortable—they’ll definitely appreciate it.
Olivia and Eero weren’t actually posed in a single frame. The photographer, Maria Hedengren, didn’t interfere in a single image, instead she felt the intimacy of each part of the story and captured it masterfully. If you’d like your shoot to feel just as authentic, you should definitely consider hiring a creative director that will do all of the above and more for you.
Thanks so much to Nord & Mae and Maria Hedengren for these at-home engagement shoot tips!
Photography: Maria Hedengren / Story, Creative Direction, & Styling: Nord & Mae