Planning a styled elopement shoot was not a project that I specifically sought out but looking back I am so glad that it happened!
It all started when I saw a fellow local photographer, Abigael from Abigael Kim Photography, post in a local Facebook group about wanting more practice behind the camera, as well to get some additional photos in her wedding dress. I almost immediately commented on her post, being new to Orange County and seeing this as an awesome way to get some more portfolio shots at the stunning locations that Southern California has to offer.
What started out as just meeting up at a local beach turned into something bigger and better! I thought to myself-hey go big or go home! Let’s do this right-get flowers, a veil, maybe even hair & makeup too!! We roped in Abigael’s husband, Henry, so we could do bridal as well as couples portraits. Abigael wanted photos on the beach since their wedding ceremony had been at Long Beach, and we quickly found that Salt Creek Beach Park in Dana Point was a good location as it was less crowded than other beaches and not too far away! Within a week, I was able to find a florist as well as a veil designer to donate their beautiful goods in return for photos. Abigael was able to hunt down a makeup artist, and our team was set! It wasn’t as big of an affair as other shoots I’ve been to, but it was definitely a great starting point.
My crazy self-woke up at 4:30 in the morning the day of the shoot to make sure everything was ready for the afternoon festivities! At 7:45 am sharp, I hit surprisingly little traffic as I drove to downtown LA to pick up the luxurious veil from Julie at Julie Harris Designs. Her studio was beautiful and quaint, with a stunning pool garden view! Julie picked out a flowing light blue veil that ended up being a perfect match with Abigael’s dress-a match made in heaven I would say!
With the veil in tow, I made the quick drive over to Venice beach to pick up my lovely assistant for the day, Nehalem! Nehalem and I were interns together the following summer in Irvine, and we both now work for that same company! We bonded over our love of getting steps and taking walking breaks, and I was thrilled when she was just as excited as I was to help with the shoot!
After Venice Beach, we met up with Tiffany from Sweet Tea Floral to pick up the bouquet and hairpiece she had made for us. With no floral expertise myself, I simply sent Tiffany pictures of the dress and veil and let her do her magic. And my goodness she nailed it!! I The white and green tones, with flowing white & silver ribbons to match, complimented Abigael’s unique white and blue dress so well.
With all our goodies, Nehalem and I headed back to my apartment to finish the final prep! Around 3 PM, the party really started! Allen, our lovely makeup artist, began working his magic on Abigael and Henry, and we all joked and laughed like we had been friends for years. While joking around, I also managed to snag the couples beautiful Korean rings and get some detail shots with their rings, Abigael’s necklace, an invitation suite, and Tiffany’s floral hairpiece!
After the short 15-minute drive to the beach, we magically found 2 side by side parking spots, and after about a 10-minute walk to the end of the beach-we had our stunning backdrop and began shooting! I was a little stressed in the moment (mostly because the un-expected wind forced us to improvise to make the veil work), but once we got into a groove everything went really well.
Overall, I am so grateful that this opportunity came together!! I made some cool photography and wedding vendor friends along the way, and I learned so much all in one day!
Photographers: If you’re thinking about hosting a styled shoot, I would say it’s easier than you think! My best advice would be to start small with an elopement or small-scale shoot, or go all out if you have the time to devote to it! I used that powerful tool called social media to reach out to vendors that I admired and spent less time than I anticipated working out the details. The process looked like this for me:
My biggest take-away from the planning process is to trust your vendors! I didn’t have a beautifully coordinated mood board or inspiration pics, but I sent the vendors the dress we were working with and the beach vibes we were going for and let them work their magic. I am a big believer in letting the experts bring their craft to life, and this methodology brought together a beautiful finished product!
-Jacqueline, may 2021
"I walked away from my session wanting to put her in my pocket to boost my self esteem all day long because she just made me feel like the most beautiful person in the room.
"Working with Alaina was effortless"
-Brooke, July 2021
"The second I met her, I felt like I had known her forever, which made it a million times easier to just be ourselves in front of the camera.
"Her personality made it for me."
- Tracie, October 2021 bride
Alaina is spunky and fun and full of great ideas. She made my fiance and I feel so comfortable during our engagement session. We loved all the candid photos she caught of us
"She had us laughing the whole time"