Engagement Shoot 101: How to Ace Your Engagement Photo Shoot

In case you missed the big reveal on Insta this week, I’M ENGAGED!

Engagement Proposal Photo Shoot Ideas
Engagement Photography Tips
Engagement Photo Shoot LA
LA Engagement Photo Shoot

It happened awhile ago, but we didn’t do any social media about it for the first few weeks. I’m still not going to go crazy posting about being engaged and planning a wedding, but of course will share some of the highlights. Especially when it comes to picking a dress! But for now I want to give you guys a few tips on one of my areas of expertise - photo shoots! Since I’ve been in fashion marketing in my day job and have been a blogger for years, I have a lot of experience planning them and being in front of the camera. Stay tuned for everything you need to know to nail your engagement session!

Engagement Shoot Photography Tips

Choosing the Right Photographer for The Engagement Photo Shoot

The first and most important decision you need to make is who is going to do the shoot! A lot of wedding photographers offer an engagement session as part of their package for wedding day coverage. If you are doing both your engagement shoot and wedding in the same city, and you already have a clear idea of the style you want for your wedding then a bundle is great! It will help you save money and ensure a consistent look and feel for your engagement and wedding photography.

SInce we live in LA but aren’t getting married here that wasn’t an option for us. We ended up using a photographer that I had previously worked with on blog content instead. I liked that it was someone I knew and already had a relationship with, however since she didn’t specialize in engagements, we ended up having some challenges. Initially I thought photographers may just overcharge for engagement photos because everything when it comes to weddings has elevated prices. But it really is a challenge shooting a couple and making sure there are plenty of images where both people look great. We actually had to redo our engagement shoot because the first round of photos really didn’t have that many shots that were flattering to us both! Second time was a charm and we were both way happier with the final content.

One of my friends who is getting married decided to just have one of the bridesmaids take the pics on her personal camera. It is definitely a feasible option, especially if you know someone who has a geat camera and you want to save money. Plus it makes it more fun and natural, just like you and your fiance hanging out with friends.

If you decide to go the pro route, I suggest working with someone that does have experience with engagements, weddings, or even family portraits. Anything that can show they are well versed in shooting groups of people, not just individuals. And allow yourself an hour to an hour and a half session, maybe even 2 hours if you are both new to being on camera!

What to Wear for Your Engagement Shoot

The second most important decision is what to wear for your engagement shoot! You and your fiance need to decide if you want a relaxed easy going vibe, or something more formal. We decided to go a little more dressy since that was reflective of both our styles and the tone we wanted to set for our wedding. Just make sure you will feel comfortable in whatever you are wearing and that the fit is flattering. While you don’t need to be matchy matchy (unless that is your preference) at least be sure your looks make sense together! You can’t be in a formal dress and him in shorts and t-shirt! Or if he wants to wear a suit instead of a casual look, then you need to step your game up so the images tell a consistent story. And if you are wearing heels definitely bring a pair of flats! You might find yourself walking around a bit looking for the perfect location, so you may want to have a pair of flats handy if you need to change shoes.

Start planning your looks a few weeks before the shoot, and give yourself time in case you run into shipping delays, fit issues or need to get things altered. And don’t forget to accessorize! I love the dresses I wore, but felt like the added accessories really brought the looks home. I also recommend keeping your makeup more classic. Now is not the time to try any crazy new trends!

Establish a Shot List and Share with Your Photographer

It’s pretty common to create a shot list for creative campaigns and weddings, so having one for your engagement shoot will only make things run smoother. This lets your photographer know every image you expect to be delivered so you won’t feel like things are missing at the end. Think about images that are important for you to have as memories, and also what you need from a practical standpoint. If you are doing a wedding website, check if there are recomended dimensions for the imagery and any other technical info the photographer would need. Since I don’t post my fiance on social media, I wanted to good selection of solo shots or ones where his face wasn’t visible. Think about what is important to you and use the below sample shot list for reference!

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Choosing a Location for Your Engagement Shoot

The location is the final factor, and just as important! Think about the kind of scenery you want and the story you want to tell. Maybe it’s a place that has significance for you as a couple, but it can also just be somewhere you think looks pretty and will work logistically speaking. We knew that we wanted something with an LA vibe, but not on the beach since we would be wearing formalwear. We originally tried to do Malibu for sunset, but the images didn’t work out. We ended up reshooting in Beverly Hills and the iconic palm tree scenery was just perfect. Wherever you decide to shoot, make sure you consider how traffic will be in the area and plan accordingly! I typically do most of my shoots early in the morning, when light is softer and streets are less crowded.

Also, have your photographer check any permit requirements that may be in place. A lot of places we thought about shooting required permits and threatened fines, and that is the last thing you want to deal with on an engagement shoot!

Hope these tips help! Pin this for future reference and if you want to see what I wore in our engagement shoot, shop the looks below!

Why I Stopped Working with Photographers

What’s the main tool every blogger needs - photos obviously! In order to create content and maintain your schedule you need a reliable way to get photos for your blog and social media posts. I’ve been blogging for about 3 years now and over the past year I have seriously reduced my reliance on professional photographers to generate content. In this post I outline all the reasons why my content strategy shifted, the pros and cons of working with a professional photographer, and how I maintain my content. Keep scrolling, and check out the photos chosen for this post. They are some of my favorites that I created and edited on my own!

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Portrait Photography Tips
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I decided to reduce how much I work with professional photographers for several reasons, but it really all boiled down to one thing - wanting to have more control over my content. I looked at the influencers I admire most, like Asiyami Gold, Mossonyi, Tezza, and Tina from Of Leather and Lace. One thing they all have in common is they are all content creators. Even when they are not taking the photo, they have full creative control over every element of the photo and the final editing process. If you can’t create content without having a pro photographer at your disposal, your creative will always be limited.

Plus the only way to truly maintain a consistent aesthetic is to be in control of all of your visuals. For example, below is a side by side of my feed now, vs in a month when I created and edited all my own images, without using any professional photographers.

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The left is all original work, shot mostly with friends or other blogger girls and edited by me for consistency. And on the right is my most recent look. As you can see, things got a little disjointed! I worked with a few different street style photographers for pictures in between shows, then peppered in some original work for a sponsored project, and then pics from my trip to LA. I’m hoping to get my look back on track in the next few weeks, so will be going back to more of my own work.

The only way to really keep a consistent look and work with a pro is if you always use the same one. Plenty of influencers have a photographer on retainer, which can get expensive! If it’s not in the budget and an Insta-Hubby isn’t an option, take it into your own hands by working with friends or other bloggers in the same situation.

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Creating your own content becomes especially important when you begin doing more brand work. Negotiating sponsored posts with brands can mean they also want rights to use the photos, which technically the photographer would have the copyright to. If you want to truly own your photos and be able to license them to brand partners, you need to either have your photographer sign off on that, or you need to own that content!

I anticipate this year I will create about 65% of my content on my own - enlisting a pro really only on travel when my friends pics may not cut it, or when the wardrobe/location calls for one. And even then I plan on being super vigilant about color, lighting, editing, etc to make sure the my visuals stay consistent no matter who is taking the final shot.

If you are a blogger let me know how you handle getting pictures, and if you plan on taking more content creation into your own hands. And for those who want to take the DIY approach, check out my post on mastering the self-portrait!

content creation tips for bloggers
Working with Blogger Photographers

How to Beat the Instagram Algorithm in 2019!

Pink Tulle Dress

Ever since Instagram implemented the algorithm, there have been countless posts about how to beat it. From quick and easy hacks to complicated, time consuming strategies, everyone is trying to find a way to beat Instagram at its own game. As an influencer, part of your success depends on your reach and the engagement you get on your posts so performance is critical. I’m far from an Instagram expert, but I have learned a few things on my journey as a microinfluencer, so I’m sharing some of my tips for how I’ve managed to maintain my account, get decent engagement, and keep the algorithm from making me crazy!

Pink Tulle Dress
NYC Photo Shoot Locations
Fashion Photo Shoot Styling

Focus on Instagram Engagement

Engagement is everything! You can’t control who sees your posts anymore, and you definitely can’t control who likes or comments on them. Since this post focuses only on things you can control, when I speak of engagement I mean how you are active and engaging on the platform. You can’t just post once a day, disappear, then expect your account to get traction. I spend about an hour a day on Instagram, engaging with new accounts and people that follow me. Yes, I go through my followers list and like, comment, watch and Insta-story or something to let my followers know I pay attention to them! If you are engaging with their accounts they are also more likely to see your posts in their feed and engage on yours!

Create Compelling, High Quality Content

There are so many influencers and brands posting on Instagram these days it’s impossible to stand out if your content isn’t up to par. Focus on creating content that is in line with your aesthetic, is eye-catching enough to make someone pause on your pic not just scroll past, and has an interesting caption. I admit I am not the best at captioning! I typically schedule my images so the visual flow makes sense, but I don’t caption in advance so I usually end up posting on the fly. I’m challenging myself to work on better captions because I firmly believe they help with boosting engagement and beating the Instagram algorithm.

Collaborate with Other Bloggers in Your Niche

Collaborating with other influencers isn’t just for fun! It can help organically expose you to a new audience and help you create new types of content that engage and excite your followers! I had a blast shooting with some of the Exclusively Social babes around NYFW and I hope to do more partnerships with other bloggers to have fun and help each other grow!

Have Fun and Remember Why You Started

I started my influencer journey to have a creative outlet when my corporate job felt stifling. It became my personal passion project, a place for me to challenge my creativity, make new connections, and post about things that excited and inspired me. So whether I’m posting from far-flung destination or frolicking in a tulle dress in a Brooklyn studio that rivals a Victorian mansion, this is my place to create what I want. Think about what you want, and how you can find other people that want to see what you create!

Instagram can always change their algorithm, and probably has by the time you read this post! By remembering the things that motivate you, inspire you, and challenge you as an influencer will make the journey all worthwhile.

Tips to Beat the Algorithm

Let me know how you are surviving Instagram and your life as an influencer!

Selfie-Queen! How to Step Up Your Photography Game

You may have noticed something about my pics from my recent Spain trip. I was alone in most shots. Even though I was travelling in Mallorca with a few friends, neither of them were big on photos and I knew that neither of them would be down to play insta-wife for the week! Obviously, I still wanted great travel photos, but I didn't want to be the annoying brat and constantly pester my friends. And sometimes when you want something done you've got to do it yourself! So I came prepared to do a lot of my own photos to make sure I had content I would be happy with. If you have an upcoming trip coming up and you want to guarantee you'll get the photos you want, check out my tips below!


1. Pack the right goods!

I'm a huge fan of my tripod! It's lightweight and highly portable, but unfolds to a full 50 inches! I was nervous about it fitting in my suitcase since I only took a carry-on, but it wedged in perfectly and added basically no weight. I also shoot on a Canon G7X, which is compact but takes great photos and videos. The flip-up screen also comes in really handy when you are trying to take self-portraits, so you can see yourself in the screen at different angles. And when I'm shooting a lot of looks in the city, I often carry around a portable pop-up tent. I didn't travel with one of these, but a blogger friend of mine does so she can shoot extra looks when she is out and about and there are no public bathrooms to change in. 

2. Be Safe

Since you have to set-up your tripod and camera then run into the shot, you want to make sure you are shooting somewhere that you and your stuff will be safe. I took a lot of my photos around our resort, so it was restricted just to guests and staff. I would never pop-it out on a busy, main street where someone could grab it and run off! 

Poolside Summer Mornings

3. Get Up Earlier

If you want scenic pictures without a lot of people in the background, you have to start early in the morning. I started shooting these pool pics around 8am, so I could have it completely empty. As you can imagine, having a bunch of families and kids splashing around would have ruined the shot! It's also nicer to shoot when no one is watching you, especially if you can be a little shy or self-conscious. People will definitely look at you like you are either crazy or completely self-absorbed, but don't let them bring you down! 

Travel Self-Portrait

4. Have Fun and Get Creative

When you are in control of your shot, you can take more time and get more creative than your friends would if they were snapping you quickly. You can play with different lighting and angles, try shooting close-up and from a distance like in the photo above, and get the exact scenery and angles that you want in the shot. After all, it's your photo so have fun with it! 

Let me know your ideas on getting good travel pics, and check out more of my pics from the trip on Instagram, @malikahkelly! 


Get Camera Ready! Photo Shoot tips for New Bloggers

Image by Julius July

Image by Julius July

Spring is almost here! Creating content is soooo much harder in winter, especially trying to shoot street style looks in the cold.  Some of you have seen my behind the scenes insta-stories, and seen the kind of freezing, icy, snowy conditions I've shot in! As  blogger you are constantly in front of the camera so it's crucial to get the most out of your photo shoot session. Here are a few of my tips for killing it at your shoots. If you are a new blogger or just looking for some tips to slay a shoot with a pro, this list is for you! And for this post I'm using a few of my favorite images, more on my Instagram story

Image by Milli Stephania

Image by Milli Stephania

Control Your Image

I'm a blogger, not a model. That distinction means that decisions made on a shoot (location, styling, makeup, how I pose) are pretty much mine.  Even when you are working with a brand, they've hired you because they like your organic content and style, so you have creative freedom. So don't feel pressure to do anything, wear anything, or try anything that you have doubts about. You want to make sure you feel 100% confident on camera. Style your hair in a way you know you will like, and don't try any new trends or makeup that you are on the fence about. If you have any kind of doubt or insecurity about your look it will show on camera and you won't be happy with the end results.

Image by Jack Soltysik

Image by Jack Soltysik

Be Prepared

I do a seasonal mood board that helps give me general direction and inspiration for my upcoming shoots, and helps me keep the feed cohesive. It also is a helpful reminder of what content themes I may need to fit in - trends, upcoming holidays, events, etc. Spending a little bit of time to get organized before a shoot will help make sure you get the content you want. And if you are shooting multiple looks in 1 session, make sure you have undergarments that go with each look! You don't want to forget you need a strapless bra or change pants and see a ton of VPL! 

Spring Fashion and Beauty Ideas

Practice Makes Perfect

If you have never had a professional shoot before, you may want to spend some time practicing before you get in front of a pro! I shoot myself using my tripod sometimes, and it would def come in handy to get a feel for your best angles on camera. Even better if you can do a fitting/styleout the day before a shoot and actually practice how you want each shot in each outfit to look.

Image by John Hibionada

Image by John Hibionada

Plan in Advance

As a blogger you are always under pressure to keep creating new content, but you have to make sure you are managing your timelines and expectations. Most photographers aren't going to give you photos back the day after your shoot, so save yourself the stress by planning a few days in advance. I try to give them at least a week or 2 to turnaround photos, even more during peak times like engagement/wedding season when photographers tend to get busier. 

Image by Eddie Woods

Image by Eddie Woods

Have fun!

Let's be real, it can be stressful and time consuming, but getting dressed up and having amazing photos taken is a ton of fun! Loosen up, smile and enjoy it! 

If you are a camera ready pro feel free to weigh in with your tips as well! And photographers, anything else you'd like to share about prepping for a shoot? 

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Photo-Shoot Fresh! How I Get Camera Ready for a Blog Shoot

Image by Wini Lao

Image by Wini Lao

Say cheese!

One of the biggest parts of blogging is spending so much time in front of the camera. I do at least 2 shoots a month to have plenty of content in rotation, so I had to nail a routine to stay camera ready. Here are my tips for staying productive and ready to slay any shoot! 

Prep starts the night before

I usually shoot on either Saturday or Sunday mornings, so the night before is when the process really starts. I love at home manicures so I make sure I get my nails together, and always do a face mask. My favorite of late is the Hydroxatone Deep Moisture Sheet Mask. They are inexpensive but get your face glowing, which is essential every day, but especially when you are going to be on camera. I also occasionally use a white strip to keep my smile popping, and I pull all my looks and accessories out for easy packing. 

Steam, Organize & Pack

Depending on the season and how many l looks I have, I pack either a shopping or garment bag or a carry-on suitcase. I've been using the suitcase more now because Fall/Winter looks are bulkier and I don't want to kill my back.  Look 1 is always the one that is likely to get more wrinkled if I put it in a suitcase or bag, and the others I pack, usually in order of which one will be next. 

Be ready to change on the move

You guys know I love my portable pop-up tent! It's also easier to change Fall looks on the go since you can layer leggings and a tank under your top or bottom so you aren't getting fully disrobed on the street.  I also like to keep tissues around to change lipstick and hair accessories in case I want to go from hair down to back or up.  A little bit of variety is key!

Fellow bloggers, let me know your tips for slaying all your shoots!