For the longest time now, I have stayed as far away from people photos as I can. Sure, I did the occasional favor for friends and family, but I managed to preclude myself entirely from the realm of nuptial portraiture. The thought of trying to pose two people so infatuated with each other that it would be difficult to tell them apart from fraternal twins conjoined at the lips was anything but appealing. I felt like I would be considerably more deft at herding cats (and I’m deathly allergic to cats, so that’s really saying something).

It’s also extremely intimidating to know that I, as the photographer, am responsible for producing photos that will be passed down from generation to generation. If the photos don’t turn out, I feel like I’d owe an apology to their entire progeny. I can see it now: “Your great grandparents had to endure a lot of hardships. Take their engagement photos for example. They were just too poor to hire a real photographer, so this is the crap they got.” It’s a far cry from the nature photography I’m used to doing. Rocks don’t care how the photo turns out. Rocks don’t kiss either.

So when my friend Drake asked if I would be willing to do engagement photos for him and his fiancee, Shayli, I had a brief panic attack before saying yes. After a lengthy battle between my corpus callosum and medulla oblongata, I decided to embrace the opportunity as a learning experience. After all, they were displaying an enormous amount of trust (or naivety) considering this was the very first time I have ever even attempted engagement photos.

Thankfully, my wife has a Pinterest account, so I had nothing to worry about. For months now, she had been making a collection of pins (if that’s the correct terminology) with some of her favorite engagement photo poses and advice for photographers. All of this was in preparation for the day that I would make the step from a hippy nature photographer to a photographer who does stuff that can actually be put on Pinterest.

And so, armed with a PDF of romantic poses that I never would have thought of on my own, we set off to visually capture Drake and Shayli’s love.

Honestly, Drake and Shayli made my job easy. Their clothing choices were so chromatically meshed that I could feel endorphins skipping around in the artistic part of my brain, they were incredibly photogenic, and Shayli brought her two little sisters to be my photography assistants (whose trust I abused by making them do ridiculous things with the light disk that were completely unnecessary).

The photos were taken at a couple different locations. Most of them were taken up Price Canyon not far from the turn-off to Manti. There is an old abandoned train depot there that I absolutely love. There is also a train tunnel not far from there that I have been wanting to take photos at for months. I just haven’t been able to find someone willing to walk all the way out there with me. The barn photos were taken at the old barn on Main Street in Mapleton, and the photos outside the library and auto shop were taken in Springville.

1,023 photos later, I felt like I had something to work with. Using Adobe Bridge, I narrowed it down to 93 “good” photos. I did extensive face retouching on 36 of those where their faces could be seen in detail, and ended up editing a total of 47 different photos. For each photo, I did a rich color version, a classic film hazy version, and a high-contrast black and white version.

So, despite being scared senseless at the beginning of this process, I think it turned out fairly well in the end. I had a great time with Drake and Shayli, and I learned that engagement photos aren’t nearly as bad as I imagined them to be. In fact, I would probably even consider doing them again in the future.

That being said, I’m pretty sure there’s a significant part of me that will always prefer to take a photo of a rock.