For quite some time now, we have preached unique engagement sessions. We’ve have done podcasts,
blogs, and posts screaming UNIQUE ENGAGEMENT SESSION! And to that end, we have had the pleasure
of photographing quite a few unique sessions in a variety of spaces. BUT we have NEVER had the
experience we are here now to share…
Cliff Notes to Awesomeness:
Step 1: Pictures with fur babies. And a ukulele.
Step 2: Pictures in the rainforest.
Step 3: Pictures with PENGUINS.
Ok, now let’s expound on quite possibly one of the most unique combination of engagement session
locations we’ve ever shot. To begin, we will go back to the planning process. When we first spoke with
Sasha and Sean about their perfect engagement session, they started with their backgrounds. They met
while Sasha was working at and Sean was volunteering at the penguin exhibit at Moody Gardens in
Galveston, Texas. They said, “so it’d be awesome to take some with the penguins.” Our response, “um
yeah, we should do that” (insert giddy schoolkid geeking out about chilling and shooting with real
The more we got into the planning process, the more and more excited we got. This friends, is why you
have open and honest communication with your photographer. And exactly why you should put your
hobbies, interests, and ideas out there, no matter how unique and different they seem.
So planning… logistics are KEY! We knew that we couldn’t have an epic engagement session in these
amazing locations without some guidelines. Luckily, our couple knew the management team at Moody
Gardens, so we started there. We got the timing for the penguins first (still in shock we got to hang with
penguins), since we knew this was our ultimate goal. Given the fact that the shoot with the penguins
was on the same property as the rainforest, we went to that management team next.
Moving on, the rainforest. Both Sasha and Sean are nature people. And Sean works in the rainforest at
Moody Gardens. Talk about a perfect combo for an epic engagement session. Assuming the logistics and
timing worked out, this was the perfect setup with the perfect couple to have the perfect engagement
What are the rules for shooting at a famed (and busy) tourist destination on Galveston Island? During
normal times, probably just the usual. However, during a global pandemic… it’s a whole new ballgame.
Masks were a given, but social distancing at a tourist attraction is tricky. Luckily, we were photographing
clients who knew folks in high places. This meant that we got into the rainforest prior to opening. The
only downside was the restriction that we had to be done shooting and our couple masked back up prior
to customers coming in. Other then that, we got to hang out with parrots, monkeys and birds for an
To end the planning process, we knew how important Sasha and Sean’s spice girls were to them. And by
spice girls, we mean Cinnamon and Cayenne, their dogs. We knew we needed to get those fur babies into
a part of the session. It was just a slight matter of logistics, which with willing clients and willing
photographers you just make it happen.
Through it all, the only concern we had (well there was a second one but more on that later) was gear
related. Going from the humidity of shooting outside with the dogs, to the car, to the intense humidity
of the rainforest, to the 40-degree weather with the penguins… that’s a lot to ask of camera gear. Our
answer: factoring in an extra 10 minutes at each location so that our gear could acclimate to it’s new
Now, let’s go back to the penguins. And our second concern. How do you contain your excitement when
you are literally IN a penguin exhibit doing what you love?! You don’t. You let it shine loud and proud
and act like a giddy schoolkid! Let us set the stage.
We are in the “holding room” to let our gear acclimate and get ready for the final stage of an already
epic engagement session. When Sasha said “let’s start with Houston. He’s a King penguin,” we said,
“ok sure.” A minute later, in walks the penguin whisperer with Houston, who is roughly the size of our
3-year-old daughter and absolutely beautiful. He is standing tall and walking in with a swagger. Literally, the
dude had swagger. We take some posed pictures, he flexes and sings a few times, we pet him
(ahhhhhhh!) and off he goes.
Next up in the holding room, we are chatting about the king penguin when we hear… them. I don’t
know if you know this, but penguins can be LOUD. It sounded like an excited class of kindergarteners
about to burst into the room. Instead, in walk 2 of the cutest Macaroni penguins you’ll ever see. They
were torn between playing with Sasha and Sean and posing for pictures, so they did both.
Now, we probably would’ve been pumped with everything we had already taken, but as we said before
you have to do epic when epic is due. As our aquatic friends join up with the rest of
their colony, right behind them are two animal lovers and 2 photographers about to live out
a dream. Sasha and Sean got busy feeding these guys, and we got busy shooting. And while one of us
got cuddles and some lovely attention from the cutest Gentoo penguin ever, the other got his tushy pecked at and toes nibbled on
every time he bent down for a picture. The penguin whisperer made sure nothing drastic happened, but
it (for one of us at least) made for an even more memorable engagement session.
So what is the moral of this story, TALK TO YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER! We will get just as excited as you
guys to make your dream engagement session happen. As photographers, we can produce fantastic
shots in a variety of places, but when you start bringing the ukulele and the rainforest and the penguins
into the conversation, it’s game on let’s go. Unique wedding ideas amp us up. They amp the
client up to get dream pictures. So, GO BIG OR GO HOME. No idea is too big, no thought is too small.