Malibu Hills Engagement | Jackie + Nick

Malibu Hills Engagement

With all of the wonderful weather we’ve been experiencing in California recently, I headed out with Jackie and Nick for a Malibu Hills engagement session. Besides the fact that we virtually had the park all to ourselves, we lucked out with perfect weather and the most beautiful Springtime colors.

Originally from separate coasts, Jackie and Nick met a few years back in California and will be getting married later this year in New Jersey. Because of the location that we chose for their engagement session, Jackie and Nick leaned more towards the semi-casual side for their outfits which were perfectly balanced with one another. Jackie’s first look of the day was an all-white floor length dress with a slit up the leg. Nick donned a navy button up with khaki slacks and brown leather dress shoes. As the day turned into evening Jackie changed into a gorgeous floor-length floral dress with an open back while Nick sported a white button up.

The pair has such incredible natural chemistry with one another that I had to hardly do anything besides clicking the shutter. Rather than posing my couples as many people do, I prefer to direct them as if we were shooting a scene in a movie. As we explored the area together, chatting from one location to another, I would give them both little scenes to set out for me. This works perfectly to capture the genuine connection between my couples and so as to not make them feel awkward and worry about hand placement, body positioning etc.

Towards the end of our session, I took them to one of my favorite locations on the property—a giant oak tree that is more than 100 years old. I don’t normally shoot on black and white film during my sessions but I decided to do a little experimentation and try my hand at it. You can only improve if you take risks, right? I am thrilled that I did so because the images turned out freaking beautiful! It’s convinced me to shoot more black and white and take more chances with my work. We ended the session with celebratory high-fives and watched the sun set behind the mountains.

Lab | Richard Photo Lab
Film | Portra 160 // Fuji 400h // Ilford 3200

Topanga Canyon Engagement | Brittany & Ryan

Topanga Canyon Engagement | Brittany & Ryan

We started 2021 with a bang and met with Brittany and Ryan to capture their Topanga Canyon engagement shoot. We tossed ideas around to find something that fit their style as well as the vibe they were for. They rented a cabin for the weekend that doubled as a romantic getaway for Brittany’s birthday and our shoot location.

While the two prepared their outfits and unloaded their pup, Bentley, and I methodically walked the property looking for beautiful light. Brittany stepped out of the cabin, rocking an open-back white satin dress paired with white open-toe heels. Meanwhile, Ryan donned a cuffed-sleeved white button-up, navy trousers, and a pair of deep brown leather chukka boots.

The trick to capturing the natural moments and expressions of my couples is to just let them be themselves. Rather than posing them, I’ve found greater success in giving direction to evoke a certain look or mood. An example of this would be directing a scene in a movie. Giving them certain things to think about or the act they’re performing results in the most organic images. This could be as simple as walking hand-in-hand, leading one another down a path, or pulling each other in tight and whispering something into the other person’s ear that will make them smile.

We found a beautiful Bohemian-styled hammock that was tied between two trees. This made for a great first location and for the two to get comfy in front of the camera. The two have such palpable chemistry that getting them used to my camera took no time at all. Soon after we headed to our next location and kept chasing that beautiful, golden light.

Ending the Evening In Style

Ryan brought a surprise Vespa for the shoot that I knew would make for some stunning shots. We brought it to a hilltop for the last few minutes of sunlight.

This combination of sophisticated, timeless styles just can’t be beaten.

Now that’s what we call a proper exit!

Finally, Bentley got Mom and Dad back from the day’s activities and had them all to himself.

Photography | Alex W Photography

Film Lab | Richard Photo Lab

Dress | Park and Fifth

Santa Ynez Hills Engagement | Jennifer + Andrew

Santa Ynez Hills Engagement

Jen and Andrew braved the rain and wind with me last week to capture their beautiful Santa Ynez Hills engagement. It’s quite a rarity, but we’ve been experiencing consistent rainstorms throughout Southern California for the past few weeks. Fortunately, the skies cleared and the rain ceased just long enough for us to head up to the mountains.

I especially love this engagement session because Jen and Andrew wanted to include their three dogs in the photos. Couples are always encouraged to bring something special with them to our portrait session because it makes the photos that much more meaningful. I was overjoyed when they told me their pups would be tagging along!

We met in downtown Los Olivos and caravaned up to the mountains to visit one of my favorite lookout points. The last time I visited for a Santa Ynez Hills engagement, the area was enduring a heatwave and the landscape was golden. Thanks to all of the recent rain, we got to enjoy lush, green hills. As we photographed, we chatted about their wedding later this year at Switzer Farm with the talented team at Two Roads Event Co.

Andrew brought along a bottle of champagne so we could celebrate the end of a successful evening. The two toasted one another and ended the evening sipping on bubbly while watching the sunset.

Lab | Richard Photo Lab

Sunstone Villa Engagement in Santa Ynez| Melissa + Michael

Sunstone Villa Engagement in Santa Ynez

When Melissa and Michael told me they wanted their portraits taken somewhere private and in a beautiful outdoor location, I knew right away that a Sunstone Villa engagement session would be absolutely perfect for them.

The three of us first met last Summer at their friend’s destination wedding in Tuscany. We were seated next to each other during the rehearsal dinner and we hit it off immediately. We soon discovered that even though the groom lives in SF and the bride lives in Boston that the three of us live 10min from one another in Los Angeles. Talk about a small world!

Don’t let the Sunstone Villa fool you. Even though it’s located in California it looks like it belongs in the foothills of Italy. This is in part due to the original owners importing the architectural remains from buildings located in Marseille and Provence. The villa incorporates everything from French limestone, hand-formed roof tiles, and a fireplace from the Bordeaux region of France to pine beams from Queen Victoria’s lavender factory and a thousand-year-old limestone kitchen sink. It is truly a remarkable sight to behold and made for the most beautiful backdrop for the day’s engagement shoot.

As we chatted and chased the sunlight we slowly made our way around the property. We made sure to visit all of the corridors, nooks, and open spaces that Sunstone had to offer us. As the sun began to set we headed over to a pair of oak trees for some dusk romantics.

What made this Sunstone Villa engagement session so wonderful was the natural chemistry between Melissa and Michael. When you have a couple that naturally interacts so naturally (not to mention dresses well) making them look good is easy!

Melissa and Michael ended the session slow dancing together while watching the last few moments of sunset. The day was perfect and I can’t wait to see them later this year for their wedding!

Venue | Sunstone Winery

Lab | Richard Photo Lab

Tuscany Engagement Shoot | Lily + Steven

Tuscany Pre-Wedding Portraits

The day before Lily and Steven’s wedding in Italy we headed out to the Siena countryside for their Tuscany engagement shoot. While I researched different locations I wanted to find something that looked unequivocally Italian. Located not far from their wedding venue is the Abbey of San Galgano. I knew as soon as I saw it that this would be the perfect spot for Lily and Steven’s photos. Dating back to the 13th century, this gothic-styled monastery set the perfect backdrop for us to capture their portraits.

Upon stepping foot onto the grounds, we felt like we were transported back in time. There’s just something about classic architecture that brings joy and inspiration. Luckily for us, it was quite empty that day so we took our time exploring the property. We walked through the ancient halls and under the stone archways supported by the massive pillars. We imagined what it was like for the monks who lived and worked here so many hundreds of years ago. It was truly a humbling experience for us all.

Lily stunned in a green strapless dress and Steven donned a navy suit minus the tie for a truly relaxed European look. After exploring all of the areas inside of the abbey we headed to the backside where the sun was doing some truly magical things. In a field just beyond the abbey was a spotlight in the grass where the sun passed through an old broken window. Lily and Steven took a step into the beam and were enveloped in the most beautiful warm light.

After the sun dipped behind the abbey we headed back to our cars and were on our way to greet family and friends back at Conti Di San Bonifacio for their welcome dinner.

Santa Barbara Engagement | Joanna + Ryan

Santa Barbara Engagement

This dreamy Santa Barbara engagement session has everything I could hope for from working with a couple. I had the pleasure of photographing an incredibly fun (and ridiculously good-looking) pair of human beings that are head-over-heels in love with one another. We had the pleasure of traveling to one of my favorite Central Coast locations- the Santa Barbara sand dunes. From my first meeting with Joanna and Ryan, we hit it off immediately. I loved bouncing ideas off of one another for the most epic place we could travel to for their engagement session. As soon as they saw another session I had done earlier at a separate set of dunes they were sold.

It was cool and overcast on the day we met. The sun was hidden behind the clouds but we had the softest, most beautiful light to play with. The sand dunes were a 25-minute walk from the parking lot where we rendezvoused so as we headed over to our first location of the day we chatted about their wedding plans, favorite recipes they cook for one another, and all of their upcoming travels.

Joanna & Ryan’s outfits were wonderfully classy and timeless. Joanna rocked a stunning white off-the-shoulder dress white beautiful gold adornments on the arm and Ryan looked like he walked straight out of a movie with his button-down white shirt and Hollywood quality hair. Upon arriving at the dunes we were greeted with a seemingly endless rolling landscape that we had entirely to ourselves. The wind was calm and you could hear the seagulls off in the distance. It was pure magic. As we ran around the dunes together I captured endless amounts of kisses, sweet embraces, and full-on belly laughs. They just made it too easy for me!

We ended the session with a brisk romp in the Pacific and then headed back to our cars before we lost the last bit of daylight. I had the absolute best time with these two at their Santa Barbara engagement at the sand dunes and I can’t wait for their wedding later this year.