Originally written Septemeber 30, 2022

When I passed through the gate at the top of the gravel drive leading to The Little Chapel at Haven Ridge on the north side of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Meadows of tall grass, a shimmering lake, and a breathtaking 16th century-inspired stone chapel straight out of the Scottish Highlands, right in the middle of the city. The sun was a bit high for an evening session, but had begun its descent just over the trees lining the meadow behind the chapel. I sat in my car for a minute to take inventory of the gear I had brought with me, and said a little prayer that went something like “Lord, keep your hand over my mouth so I don’t nervously word vomit on these professionals I’m about to work with.”

For photographers, styled shoots are an integral part of growing a business. We use them to network with other professionals within our niche, practice poses or prompts, or test out new gear. They are especially helpful for new photographers looking to gain experience, or for established photographers who want to branch into a new specialty. While I love working with families and seniors, I have big dreams of photographing weddings, and I was so excited to snag a spot for this local shoot!

I took a quick sip of water before heading up to the chapel, where Megan (Megan Allred Photography, LLC) and Rheanna (Magnolia Lace Photography) were chatting. The chapel doors were unlocked and I took a peek inside. Stained glass cathedral windows lined the perimeter of the 600 square foot room, floor unfinished, and great oak trusses loomed overhead. At the front of the chapel, a large stained glass window depicting Jesus with an outstretched hand reads “THE LORD TURN HIS FACE TOWARD YOU AND GIVE YOU PEACE; MAY HIS FAVOR BE UPON YOU AND A THOUSAND GENERATIONS, YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR CHILDREN, AND THEIR CHILDREN, AND THEIR CHILDREN. AMEN.”*** I briefly imagined an intimate wedding ceremony beneath that window, and turned to step outside as the rest of our crew arrived.

Megan, Rheanna, and I followed the gravel path down to the pond to join our fourth photographer, Kyla (Kyla Costa Photography), and Megan of enVision Events, who was adding the final touches to our set up— a white rowboat lined with blankets and velvety pillows, adorned with pink and white florals and surrounded by lanterns and candles. Perfect for a romantic end-of-summer shoot! Mollie Bradford— the Bradford family owns the property— stopped by to welcome us, and our model couple, Marvin and Averi arrived shortly after.

Marvin and Averi are the definition of young love. When considering models for a styled shoot, it is crucial to find a pair of people that have chemistry and aren’t afraid to be close, otherwise the final images might look stiff or awkward. As a recently married couple, Marvin and Averi had no qualms about cuddling in front of strangers with cameras! They took direction well and easily settled into whatever pose we guided them to, although I admit that some of my favorite images were completely candid. Marvin tenderly held his wife as she smiled up at him, stars in her eyes. Just the sweetest!

I spent much of the time listening to the more established professionals working around me, taking in as much information as I could, and overshooting of course. More than once I stared open mouthed at the back of my camera in awe of the raw image I had just captured. From the styling to the sun setting behind our beautiful couple, every aspect of this shoot was perfection, and I was so grateful to be a part of it.

Venue: The Little Chapel at Haven Ridge

Details/Florals: enVision Events

Dress: Harper Jewel Boutique

Models: Averi and Marvin Castaneda

***This window, I learned, was sketched by local artist, Patti Sheets, from Germanton, NC!