Brittnee and Skyler met in the manner that those of us who grew up in neighboring rural communities often do – while living in the same town but attending different high schools, they had known of each other in a vague sense, but didn’t end up officially meeting until college, when they both attended Western Illinois University. Photographing them during their engagement session was as effortless as it gets – not only do they have a natural chemistry, but they’re also a blast to be around.
As all three of us were laughing about something during their session, Brittnee said, “I always sort of thought people were faking it in those engagement photos where they’re laughing, but now I realize it’s actually real.” I laughed in response and realized that most people probably do think that – and why wouldn’t they? The basic premise of an engagement session – getting dressed up in cute outfits and going out to some random location where you would never actually spend time canoodling with your significant other while a person photographs you – is not necessarily the kind of situation that would expectedly generate real laughs and emotions.
But there’s this thing that often happens while I’m photographing a couple in these types of sessions – once they get past the initial awkwardness of looking into each other’s eyes intently, and stop worrying about whether their arm looks weird or their hair is losing its curl – they get comfortable. They allow their limbs to fall where they subconsciously would when it’s just the two of them, and they start to really look at one another, and they nestle into the intimacy: their own, particular kind, because it’s become quite clear to me after all these years of photographing couples that intimacy looks different on everyone.
As they stood in their final pose at the end of our session, I announced that we were done, after shooting what I had expected to be my last frame. Brittnee brought her hands together to cheer in excitement, while Skyler continued to leave his arms wrapped around her from that final pose. He held it there for a bit – they briefly stayed all wrapped up despite our session’s end, comfortably nestled. I snapped one more before they let go, and as we walked toward our cars, Skyler said, with a surprised tone, “I actually had fun”, and I knew he meant it.