Uncovering the Best Hometown Photo Spots

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An engagement-portrait session might seem like the time to just capture that one shot that will go on the magnets or postcards or whatever method you choose to tell folks to save the date. But you also could think of it as a sort-of a playdate with your photographer.

"I tell my clients that engagement photos are a time for us to get to know each other photographically," says Amanda Patrice, an Orange County, Calif.-based photographer. "We both learn what type of photos they like. I think on the wedding day they're able to loosen up a bit more. I always recommend an engagement session. There's nothing but benefits."

But it's not all prep for the wedding day. Patrice's philosophy: Engagement photos should stand up to the wedding photos. "They're a great way to show who they are right now in this time of their life," Patrice says. "I don't want them to get swept under the rug!"

Here are her tips for a great shoot:

Location, Location, Location

For a shoot, Patrice always encourages a few locations and a few clothes changes.

Big, expansive places like parks and fields are a great place to start, as they're relaxed, casual and allow the photographer to show off the atmosphere. One of Patrice's recent shoots with was a couple who had met over comic books, so part of their shoot entailed chilling out at the park with their favorite graphic novels.

One of Patrice's go-to spots is the Orange Circle area of Orange County, a historic area with lots of visually striking brick buildings. Structures are great, she says, because they simply give the couple something to lean on.

But Patrice recommends getting off the beaten path, too. "I actually really love shooting in a new place because it's more creative," she says.

Her all-time favorite shoot: Hopping in the car and driving down the freeway for an hour. Her and the couple ended up stopping at a concrete factory, where "props" like red pallets and concrete tubes lent their way to one-of-a-kind photos. "We drove until they found what they liked!" she says.

Poses and Props

"I always give people a little pep talk," she says. "I know they're not used to being in front of the camera. I'll tell them where to go and how to pose and where the light looks good. It's what they do in a photo that's going to make the photo special."

Props and other personal touches don't hurt, either. Like her comic-book couple, Destiny and Chris, folks often bring blankets and books, she says. Another recent session the couple showcased their love for LEGO.

Patrice's ultimate seal of approval for a great session: silence.

"If I'm quiet, they're doing something right. It gives them permission to chat with each other, dance around, loosen up; it doesn't have to be super formal and stiff.

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