Amanda and Ben's Hygge-inspired Winter Engagement Session

I’ve known Amanda since the first day of ninth grade. I adore her, and her partner Ben, as people and as a couple and I was over the moon when they got engaged. I didn’t photograph their wedding this past July since I attended as a friend and guest (and cried all the tiny, happy tears.) So I was so thankful that Amanda and Ben chose to do an engagement session with me.

One of the things that’s truly special about working with couples I already know well is that I’m able to take an intentional moment to chat with the partners about what they love about their relationship. I get this sweet window into the things they cherish and value about each other, their relationship dynamics and how they want to remember this season of their life together - things that we might not normally discuss in the course of an everyday friendship.

When we were planning their January engagement session, I talked with Amanda and Ben about my two major approaches to planning an engagement session:

  1. A more portrait-style session where we would choose a beautiful or significant location and spend time walking around, being happy and capturing sweet moments together. With portrait-style sessions, while my goal is still to capture your authentic relationship dynamics in a natural way, I offer a bit more direction and posing guidance to create the individual photos.

  2. A more lifestyle session where we would choose an activity that’s part of daily life, something real to them as a couple and I would document their moment as it unfolds. While I’ll still guide the session, lifestyle sessions tend to be less about posing and more about me fading into the background.

Ben was very drawn to the idea of a lifestyle session to document he and Amanda cooking together. Food is a huge part of their life and Ben wanted to make sure they celebrated that with these photos. The couple also has a full rich life together with so many interests and communities and Amanda wanted to make sure that they also had some photos that felt a bit more global, that didn’t pinhole them into a single aspect of their life.

So we planned a session that would embrace a little of everything.

Since it was winter (and cold!) we decided that planning the portrait part of the session indoors was a good idea and decided to use my lovely natural-light studio space. Usually I use my studio to photograph empowering boudoir sessions but it’s a wonderful resource for anyone that plans a session with me.

The portrait part of the session was hygge-inspired. If you’re not familiar with the Scandinavian concept of hygge (pronounced hue-guh) it’s often translated as the art of creating intimacy; a commitment to creating cozy, special moments in order to bring brightness and warmth to the long, cold, dark northern winters. In their lives together, Amanda and Ben have embraced this mentality, challenging each other to find and cherish these special moments in our seemingly-endless Minnesota winters. So they brought hygge to my studio with tons of candles and cozy blankets and sweaters.

Serendipitously, as we were arriving at the studio space it started snowing. I couldn’t resist these big perfect, happy, giant snowflakes and so I asked Amanda and Ben if they’d be up for a little walk; it was such a wonderful and unexpected way to start the session.

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Then, we stepped into the studio to warm up and start the portrait portion of Amanda and Ben’s session. I love these photos of them, they’re warm and cozy and comfy.

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 This moment of Amanda’s super-happy laugh as she snuggled up with Ben was the best, exactly how you want your dear friend to look celebrating her engagement.

This moment of Amanda’s super-happy laugh as she snuggled up with Ben was the best, exactly how you want your dear friend to look celebrating her engagement.

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After a few more cozy, laughter-filled photos, we went back to Amanda’s house so I could document them making a meal together. Cooking breakfast sandwiches from scratch had become a really special ritual for Amanda and Ben, from mixing up perfect biscuits to adding microgreens they grew together in Ben’s indoor garden, and they fell into this sweet, easy rhythm in these photos.

One of the challenges I always enjoy with lifestyle photos is that I often have to work with lighting that might not be considered ideal. In Amanda’s kitchen, there's a bit of natural light from a nearby window, but most of the illumination comes from the overhead ceiling lights. And, if you’ve ever wondered why the outdoor photos you taken just seem to look better than indoor ones, it’s because many indoor bulbs create light that’s a little bit green or a little bit orange, which isn’t always the most flattering on skin. With the kitchen lighting, I had the option of adding light (with something like the flashes I use to photograph wedding dance floors) or using my camera, strategic posing and some editing magic to make the most of the available light.

I chose the latter, it was important for me that the couple felt really natural and comfy in their space and it’s hard to do that with a flash in your kitchen corner. I made sure to pose them and choose angles to maximize the light hitting their faces and adjusted the settings in my camera to emphasize the available light as much as I could.

The resulting photos have a warmer, film-grain look than my outdoor images, and I love how it enhances the cozy feeling and the photos are just what the couple envisioned, natural, whimsical and so them.

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Amanda and Ben, I am so grateful that I was able to spend this winter day with you both. Thank you for giving me an authentic window into your beautiful relationship. I loved celebrating alongside you as a buddy at your wedding this summer, and I’ll honestly always treasure that we got to do this session together. So much love to you both!

P.S. Thank you for making me an amazing breakfast sandwich too! It was delicious.

Alyssa L-K