Hi everyone! I’m THRILLED to finally be sharing with you one of my favorite photo sessions to date, an Indian Bridal Styled Shoot – my dear friend Anita is leaving for graduate school soon at IU Bloomington, and she has been working so hard to chase her dreams to become a bilingual speech pathologist that this seemed like a fun reward for all that studying! Ever since I have known her, she has always had such an appreciation of Indian culture – we definitely have to make an India trip at some point, and this shoot was definitely a dream come true!
If you saw my last few blog posts, you have already seen a sneak preview of her incredible henna, courtesy of JessiKay Henna, and stunning makeup by Lindsey Joy Sweeney of Sweet Southern Beauty! These are two truly talented boss babes and this shoot would not have been the same without their artwork.
If you’ve never attended an Indian wedding before, they are SO FUN and unique! Everyone, including the bride, wears vivid colors, and attire will vary from North to South. I have only attended one Indian wedding, and it was by far one of my favorites – there are many beautiful parts to the ceremony, the colors are rich, and the food is SPICY!
Bridal henna covering the hands, palms, and forearms, as well as the feet and ankles, is typical, and can take several hours to apply – this happens at the Mehendi party!
The bridal attire seen here consists of a choli (green blouse) with a lehenga (long skirt) and a drape (duppatta). Of course, you can’t skip the beautiful jewelry, including headpiece and beautiful bangles!
For the styled portraits, first we went to St. James Court, where there is an incredible house with a beautifully adorned front porch that gave me some serious Indian temple vibes!
The water by the fountain made for a magical backdrop!
Next, we headed to the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork, where the blue of Anita’s outfit contrasted beautifully with the rich greens of the tall grass.
As it got closer to sunset, we enjoyed the beautiful pinks of the sunset for a few more stunning shots!
If you’ve kept reading this long, I hope you have enjoyed this gallery as much as I did. I’d love to know which ones were your favorites in the comments, and I can’t wait to share more creative projects with you in the future!
Lindsey Joy Sweeney is a HMUA (hair/make up artist) who will make you look as beautiful and confident as you are on the inside! She stopped by to help out with Anita’s makeup for our Indian Bridal Styled Shoot (keep scrolling for henna pics!) and we were BLOWN AWAY! We requested a bold eye, natural look for the base, and a bold lip to compliment the eyes.
While we got started, we chatted about Lindsey’s business (Sweet Southern Beauty): first, Lindsey is available for beautiful transformations by appointment, including during the day and weekends for bridal looks. She is fast and skilled at what she does, and I highly recommend her!
Next, we gossiped about some of the viral makeover challenges – one of my recent favorites is the 90s Makeover Tutorial (click here if you want to laugh your a$$ off!). I cringe as I think back to these trends, the “cool phrases” we used to say, but TBH love my decade!
As for now, apparently magnetic eyelashes are a thing, which I had no idea existed! Although we went with a traditional fake lash for this shoot, it’s on Lindsey’s list for things to try. She mostly avoids the viral makeup challenges because they can be a little ridiculous, in her opinion, but she’s definitely got you covered with the latest looks.
Also goals: Lindsey’s makeup stash! If you book with her, rest assured she has got you COVERED when it comes to a variety of products to choose from, although we trusted her judgment for selecting colors since she already knew our concept.
We had a lot of fun with Lindsey and Anita was so shocked when she saw the final look! Enjoy a few snapshots of the finished makeover as well as the Indian Bridal Styled Shoot Anita participated in (coming to a future blog post soon!!!)
Um, can you say DROP DEAD GORGEOUS?!?!?
For our styled shoot, we were outside (in July) in the early evening and it was HOT AF, and later that night we went out and Anita’s makeup was FLAWLESS, not affected by the sweating or heat several hours after application! This is a MUST for brides who need to look fire for their entire wedding day.
So basically, stop reading this and book your appointment with Sweet Southern Beauty because she is a QUEEN and she will make sure you (and your makeup) are SET and ready to dance, sweat, get married, or just straight up look beautiful for whatever the occasion might be.
Thanks for reading and join me next Thursday with more dreamy photos like the one above from our Indian Bridal Styled Shoot!
You see them at festivals, concerts, and maybe you’ve even been lucky enough to attend an Indian wedding and participate in the Mehendi Party: henna artists do incredible artwork that you get to enjoy seeing for up to several weeks, before fading away and revealing a fresh canvas for their next design. But have you ever gotten to actually hang out with a henna artist??
When I was looking to book a henna artist for an upcoming styled shoot (stay tuned!), I quickly found that JessiKay is THE one to know, the Kat Von D of henna, if you will, recommended by just about everyone. She is so down to earth and I learned SO MUCH about this line of work that I never would have known if I just went to Forecastle and got a small design on my hand.
First and foremost, JessiKay is a badass business babe! She’s had help along the way, but what started out as a gifted henna kit from an aunt ended up becoming a full-time career for her, one that allows her the flexibility of choosing which events she wants to do, like traveling to attend and work amazing music festivals, even going to faraway places like Mexico and find out that her art was recognized by some of the big names in the henna art industry. But she wants beginner artists to know that this type of success doesn’t happen overnight – she showed me a side by side of her first year doing henna, compared to each successive year, and the growth was unbelievable! She also invested in herself, attending workshops to learn different techniques, doing a lot of DIY education online, and finding a community of other artists to help her grow in her art.
Just a few years later, she now makes her own design books that other henna artists can purchase and use for their own events. Another interesting story she told me was about her signature style – to the average Johanna (aka me), traditional henna designs may seem very similar to one another, or at least feature similar patterns. I was so wrong! There are so many distinctive combinations of patterns, shading, symmetry that have to be mastered and applied to create the designs, and each artist has a unique way of doing things. She has, unfortunately, had the misfortune of having people trying to pass off her designs as their own on social media. It can be so difficult to copyright and protect original ideas now, especially when a picture gets shared and reshared and you lose the original post.
JessiKay’s trademark is her diamond – you’ll see it on all her henna designs, as well as in the books she sells where the designs are all her own. This is how she protects her designs, but she is also happy to let other artists use her designs, as long as they don’t steal her trademark or try to pass it off as their own. She also does lessons and classes for people who want to learn how to do henna!
JessiKay also knows her product. Have you ever bought henna online? I have. Or thought about what’s in the henna being used on you at festivals? I had not. JessiKay told me the risks of purchased henna kits and how, first of all, they contain preservatives that many people could be allergic to, or develop an allergy to over time (so, maybe not the first time you get henna done, but the fourth or fifth time it could). Additionally, the henna could be clumpy if you buy it at a store, leading to frustration and a splotchy design. She encourages people getting henna done to know what is in the product being applied to their skin, and she also advocates for henna artists to make their own product (or buy hers, made fresh to order!). She learned to make her own henna and says it is so smooth, easy to use, and gives her the confidence of knowing that no one will have a reaction to it.
The henna circuit in Louisville is not very big, but JessiKay says the other artists usually try not to step on each others’ toes and value #communityovercompetition. She says if one of them is thinking about working Flea Off Market, they will make sure no one else is booked for that week, and others return the favor. There is definitely enough work to go around, and since JessiKay travels often for her work, she sees no need to be cutthroat with anyone.
Here are some more things you never thought to ask a henna artist, but things I’m sure JessiKay would want you to know:
GOOD HENNA TAKES TIME
If you’ve gotten henna at a festival, chances are you’ve gotten a small, quick design that took under 10 minutes and cost maybe $10. Obviously, an artist can’t sit there all day with a line and work on one huge, intricate design for you. But REAL, traditional henna (we’re talking Indian wedding bridal henna) can take up to 4 hours to complete! If you’ve ever seen this type of design, which includes the palms, hands, forearms, feet, and ankles, you will be amazed that it ONLY took 4 hours. JessiKay says the longest continuous time she’s done henna (including bridal + bridal party) is 8 hours, and she has worked events that are 10 hours as well.
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
JessiKay has been training and practicing her art for many years, so when you inquire for prices, don’t expect it to be a $10 design for a bridal look. If you end up paying less than $75/hr., the quality you get will probably be inferior. If this is a wedding, think about the following things:
Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life
It will be photographed and shared
The henna will also be on your skin for several weeks – do you want a poorly done design on your skin for that long?
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T ASK FOR A DISCOUNT
This ties in to the previous point, and one that also would be nice for people to consider when working with other self-employed vendors, like photographers, florists, HMUA, planners, etc.: You would never ask a wedding venue for a discount, and it’s literally just a space they’re providing. However, when it comes to other small businesses that involve actual time, service, care for the customer, coordinating, editing, arranging, staying-still-for-4-hours to do your symmetrical and perfect henna without messing up, people expect a discount. If it’s not in your budget, then you may want to reconsider if you really NEED the service; if the answer is yes, then ask if you can set up a payment plan, but please remember that many businesses like these are run by real people who have real bills to pay and this is their livelihood. People asking for discounts is probably due to a lack of knowledge about how much services cost, so it can be helpful to research and see what median prices are for the service in your area to avoid making an awkward impression by asking someone if they can charge next to nothing for several hours of work.
Conclusion: Whether you see JessiKay at a festival, at a party or wedding, or see her signature diamond online, know you’ve chosen the best and that your hands are in the best hands.
If you caught *my blog post* or Instagram story last week, you know it was packed full of goodies like a checklist to help plan a destination elopement, some inspiration on different types of landscapes for elopements, and an AMAZING, limited time special for 2020 elopements with Frames & Letters Photography!
Couples who *book* their 2019 or 2020 destination elopement photography package with my by 10/31/19 will have ALL. PHOTOGRAPHER. FEES. WAIVED! That’s right – you basically just cover my travel and Airbnb/accommodation to get to and from the location and no extra cost for the photography part of it!
This could be less than $500 for FULL SERVICE PHOTOGRAPHY!!!
Before you book, I want to share some of my favorite destinations with you, and while some people have already been lusting after a specific landscape, maybe others are not quite decided yet – that’s where I come in! I’ll break it down by destination type and then give you a U.S. and international recommendation! ALL of the international ones are places I’ve been, and I would LOVE to send you my past itineraries because, tbh I’ve got the travel bug and I take at least one international trip a year!
Beach elopements are so classic, and since it’s very easy to associate the beach with relaxation and romance, I can see why they’re popular! Before and after the ceremony, you can literally just plop yourself on the beach, enjoy some coconut water and take in the sunrise or sunset together while the breeze blows through your hair.
In the U.S. (kind of): Vieques, Puerto Rico
A quick flight from Miami and no passport required, you’ll feel like a million bucks on an affordable budget! There are two smaller islands off the east coast of Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques. Culebra is continually ranked one of the best beaches worldwide, but the ferry line for Vieques is much shorter and there is more infrastructure on the island.
Scuba dive with sea turtles, kayak at night over Bioluminescent Bay, awe at the wild horses and moped around the island to find many intimate spots. There are plenty of beaches to choose from, whether on mainland or the smaller islands, and that combined with the sabor (flavor) and rich food and culture make Puerto Rico my pick for a beach elopement in the U.S.
International: Baja California Sur, Mexico
Baja California Sur is infamous for “Cabo”, aka Cabo San Lucas. Marcelo and I went last fall and it was BREATHTAKING! We went in October, which was technically off-season, so we had entire beaches all to ourselves.
Our favorite spot, and one I would recommend for an international beach elopement: Playa Balandra in La Paz. Do a day tour with La Paz Vip Tours, where you will snorkel in crystal clear water with seals, see some blue-footed boobies, and if you’re lucky, swim with whale sharks!!!
Playa Balandra is typically the lunch spot, and we also went back for sunset. The view is so spectacular that we didn’t want to leave, and enjoyed a romantic view with fewer than 10 people with us.
Adventurous couples who love to hike, be secluded and be totally surrounded by giant pines, evergreens, or sequoias are drawn to the lush greens of the forest.
In the U.S.: Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
It’s no secret that the PNW region RULES with its lush forests and smooth waterfalls. Columbia River Gorge is filled with beautiful spots like this, so if you like hiking, being connected with nature, and walking through misty trees, this one’s for you!
Photo credit: Pinterest
BONUS local recommendation!!!
If you live in Kentucky and want the feeling of a destination elopement in the forest, but want to have a “real” wedding with as many guests as you’d like, you HAVE to visit *EVENTS AT HEMLOCK SPRINGS* near the Red River Gorge. It’s got a bridal and groomsmen suite, an apartment loft for the bride and groom, wooded ceremony site and full service reception hall with catering and so much more! I did a *styled shoot*there and the owners are SO friendly and created this place after having their own wedding there. How sweet!
International: Valle del Cocora, Colombia
This nature preserve in Antioquia, Colombia, boasts some of the world’s tallest palm trees that stare down at you like gentle giants. You can hike or ride horseback to take advantage of its views, even rent a lovely cabin and wake up to the sounds of this peaceful, tropical valley around you.
Warm desert colors, cacti, the place where sand meets sky, endless landscape, little chance of rain – what more could you ask for? Modern, hip couples escape to the desert for beautiful ceremonies in the desert.
In the U.S.: White Sands, New Mexico
I didn’t know this place existed until a few years ago, and since then I have been DYING to go! Imagine nothing but beautiful light surrounding you as you exchange vows, walk into the endless desert together, and watch the colorful sunrise and sunset from here. The best part, you can find very cheap flights nearby thanks to airlines like Allegiant and Frontier, and since it’s a national park, entrance is also very affordable!
Any wedding colors would look stunning across this backdrop.
Photo credit: @danitheexplorer
International: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
So, technically salt flats and not a desert, BUT you will find cacti here!!! The Salar de Uyuni tour (which I have done twice) take you by Jeep on a journey through this seemingly desolate, but naturally rich area. While typically dry, if you get there in rainy season, it seems you are standing on a glassy lake with beautiful reflections from the miles of open mountains. Everyone always comes back with cool pictures like this (spot me second from the left!) 🙂
Another favorite of couples who are down for a hike, the mountain is a perfect spot to revel in nature’s majesty and secure a breathtaking backdrop for your vows.
In the U.S.: Yosemite National Park, California
Another destination where dreams come true, this has to be one of my TOP favorite places I see elopement pictures from! This expansive park has endless possibilities when it comes to elopement locations, and I’m more than ready for a long hike if it means you get beautiful images like this one from @thefoxesphotography
International: Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
MY FAVORITE PLACE! Torres del Paine has 2 – 4 day hikes and has such a unique landscape, including glaciers, crystal clear glacial lakes, a rock beach, and views snowy peaks. With several camping and “glamping” options available, you will enjoy seeing a rare gem nestled in the south of Chile.
Not for the faint of heart, a wintry destination is a VERY unique place to elope – I’m picturing a (faux) fur wrap or a bright, colorful hood for the bride and some (faux) leather boots for the groom. Plus, if you can time this right at a location that has Northern (or Southern) lights, what a view!
In the U.S.: Alaska
It may seem a world away, but you’re sure to have a unique elopement if you journey here!
I’m thinking a Husky-driven sleigh to the elopement site, beautiful white snow and tall evergreens in the background, and maybe sightings of bears if we get lucky!
Photo credit: Andagies
International: Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Rumored to have inspired the Disney Castle, this stunning work of architectural art looks most magical in the wintertime! This picture is not mine, but when I went they were repairing the bridge that has this vantage point. Wouldn’t this be a dreamy elopement site??? We can enjoy some delicious German pastries and hot glüwein afterwards!
Who’s got a serious case of the travel bug now??? I know I do! All in all, no matter what spot you pick for your destination elopement, without a doubt it will be a journey to remember. If you are interested and want to get started with planning your destination elopement, or for booking, send your inquiries to email@example.com 🙂 Remember, only pay my travel fees and Airbnb if you book your elopement by 10/31/19!
Although all weddings are sacred in their own way, destination elopements allow the couple to explore (or perhaps revisit) someplace that calls to them for a particular reason, a place that will forever be marked to them as special. Read on for some helpful planning tips, an elopement checklist, and some travel inspo for your special day!
It allows couples to be present and to be enveloped in something greater than themselves, focusing on their vows and the beauty around them.
Weddings can also be incredibly stressful and costly, and many couples are now opting for destination elopements because it gives them a trip to look forward to without the excess of wedding hoopla like getting a wedding and reception venue, DJ, bartenders, caterers, favors, flowers, invitations, cake, AND asking bridesmaids and groomsmen to pay several hundred dollars for their wedding attire.
Intimate elopements allow the couple to splurge or save as they wish, enjoy a celebration that is 100% for them, and invite a select few important people to witness an exclusive event.
Why hire an elopement photographer?
Travel photography is how I got my start, and to be able to fuse my appreciation of outdoor beauty with the love celebrated by two people is truly an honor. When you get married, it is SO important to be fully present and soak in every precious moment of what you are participating in, without having to worry if someone got a clear picture for you to look back at later.
If close friends are in attendance, it is also a luxury for them to be able to remember every aspect of the experience, without the pressure of possibly messing up your photos, accidentally deleting them, or not pressing record when they thought they were! Take all the pressure off of everyone with an iPhone and leave it to a professional whose job it is to make YOU look great! Ensure that these moments are captured through a professional eye, professionally edited, and transformed into albums or prints that are literal works of art afterwards. A destination elopement is something you invest your time and money in to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and in order to remember this experience, be 100% sure that you will have images you will remember forever.
Planning your elopement: Have a clear vision in mind
What vision do you have for your elopement? Creating a Pinterest board or Instagram collection can help you to plan your elopement ceremony and give your photographer a sense of what style you are looking for.
If you love a desert feel, check out my blog post about my FAVORITE Moroccan cities from last week!
20 Question Elopement Checklist
Be sure you have researched all aspects of your elopement spot before booking travel plans. If you are eloping at a location you have visited, you may already know a lot about the accommodations and weather, but if you’re going somewhere new, make sure you research thoroughly in order to avoid inclement weather, tourist seasons, or forgetting important details like wedding permits for national parks.
Here is a series of questions to help with your preparation:
What kind of destination appeals to me and my partner? Beach, mountain, desert, tundra, forest, urban?
What is the best way to access my elopement location?
Are there any required permits or fees for getting married at this location?
Is there a limit on guests allowed at this location?
Will we/guests need passports to get to this location?
Is there cell service at my elopement site for last minute needs or emergencies?
When is high season for tourism?
What is the weather typically like in the season and time of day we plan to elope?
How will the weather complement our color palette/ artistic vision of our ceremony?
When is sunset?
Are accommodations available on site or close by? Enough for guests?
How will couple/officiant/guests arrive to elopement site conveniently?
Will there be a day-of coordinator or someone in charge of details?
What items will need to be brought to the site?
Until what time will we be allowed at the elopement site?
How will we ensure the privacy of our ceremony from outside visitors to the location?
How much travel time should be allocated to get to the elopement site the day of?
Will we be able to do a rehearsal the day before?
Where will the reception/after party be located? Do we want pictures there?
What picture(s) will be THE most important to you?
I hope this post was helpful for those of you planning a destination elopement soon! Check back next week for a special post with my favorite domestic and international picks for your destination elopement! For more details on my elopement photography package, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply fill out the contact form below.
P.S. Since you read this ENTIRE post, enjoy a SPECIAL OFFER for 2020 destination elopements!
Couples who book their 2020 Destination Elopements by October 1, 2019 will have all my photography fees WAIVED, and will only be responsible for covering photographer travel fees + accommodations to and from the elopement site. Please contact email@example.com for more details.
It’s almost summer, which has me thinking about upcoming travels and reminiscing about my trip to Morocco and Spain last year! Many of you know me as a portrait photographer, but travel photography is really how I started as a hobby, and I try to go somewhere new every year (I’ve been to 16 countries in the last 10 years)!
If you’ve never been to Morocco, I HIGHLY recommend it because it’s an amazing cultural experience, the history, architecture, food, shopping, and music is incredible.
Originally, I planned to take a ferry from Algeciras, Spain over to Tangier, visit the magical blue city of Chefchaouen and head to Fez. However, flight delays proved to be disruptive and long story short, I ended up spending time in Casablanca, Meknes, and Fes, with zero regrets!!! Scroll on for more about what makes each of these cities so breathtaking!!!
Casablanca: the coastal city
Casablanca was an extremely modern destination, with a whole sector on the coast that had restaurants (with the most delicious ceviche) and beachfront chairs and shops.
Probably the best thing to see, though, is the Hassan II Mosque. It’s relatively new (completed in 1993), and it is the largest mosque in Africa, 5th largest in the world! It’s right on the water, so you always feel a fantastic breeze. You can people watch as Moroccan families and visitors fly kites, socialize, and enter to worship there. The magnificent columns, giant door, and interior will take your breath away. You can tour the mosque, but you will have to remove your shoes first! It is not required for women to wear head coverings, but I would recommend it out of respect.
The call to prayer was also so interesting here, as men carried their rugs out and swarmed their place of worship, sitting outside in the hot sun for prayer if necessary.
Meknes: the historic tour
In Meknes, I hired a guide named Abdul, who was fluent in Arabic, English, French, Italian, and some Spanish, much like many Moroccans! He led me through old Moroccan schools with a special type of door where women on the inside could see out, but the person on the other side could not see back in; onto rooftops, through the medina with all the aromatic spices and mint carts, even to the royal palace and stables. It was an unexpected, but beautiful, stop on the trip.
It was here I saw the outside of the King’s Palace, which is in every major city in Morocco, as well as strolling through a very lush private golf course with some adorable kittens. The palace is hidden from view, and drones are prohibited in Morocco, so I’m not sure many people actually have seen the palaces!
The Medina is, in my opinion, one of the most magical places in any Moroccan city. Here, you can find just about anything you want to buy – haute couture, custom made bridal gowns, spices, shoes, argan oil, rugs, fruits and vegetables, nuts, or any type of food. Shopaholics could spend some serious time here!
Fes: World Music Festival
Last stop in Morocco was Fes, which also has a beautiful palace door like all of the main cities do. Did you know it’s illegal to take a picture of the king’s guard? Fes is known for the palace door, the royal blue gate, as well as its medina. You might get lost walking through this windy labyrinth if you’re not careful, but thankfully Google Maps is pretty reliable here. You can find anything you want to buy here, like rugs, spices, argon oil, a bridal dress (custom made), and leather goods.
There also happened to be a music festival the night I arrived, which I could enjoy from the rooftop of my amazing Airbnb! My host was a Spanish woman who married a Moroccan and had since moved to Fes to start their family. She gave me a lot of insight into Moroccan culture, which is probably the most liberal in the Arabic speaking world. Women’s outfits would range from complete head to toe covering, to young girls wearing shorts and tank tops. They also have a lot of religious diversity and freedoms there as well. My host was also SO hospitable and made a full, traditional Moroccan breakfast for me the next morning!
My top two favorite things in Morocco was a dish called Bastille and Moroccan mint tea. The mint tea is full and sweet, perfect for relaxing on a Moroccan rooftop after a long day’s walk. Bastille is a mix of chicken, egg, parsley, and onion (among other spices) baked inside puff pastry, topped with confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon. It sounds very random but was the best meal I ever had.
Thanks so much for reading, I’ll definitely be having wanderlust the next few weeks, so look back for more travel posts!!!
Johanna Elise | Frames & Letters Photography | Louisville, KY
Planning a trip to Morocco? Looking for an elopement photographer? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions!
My mom is ALWAYS asking for more pictures!!! Once she became a grandma, and then a grandma X2, X3, X4, and X5, she couldn’t get enough! Although I’m not a mom just yet (unless you count cats and plants), every time I visit my nieces and nephews they grow SO MUCH! Life goes by like THAT, and I just love looking back at our family photos to remember how small and precious they were!
This Mother’s Day, whether you are a mother or looking for something to give to your own mom, why not give her an experience to remember?
Recreate an old family photo
For older children, recreate a childhood family photo! This ends up being so FUN, most people probably have hilarious photos they can mimic with their siblings and give as a gift to Mom.
Start new traditions
For young families, it’s never too late to start a new tradition! Get your pictures taken with the family and go out for ice cream afterwards as a special treat. This combines creating memories with some sweet moments together as a family, I can’t think of anything better!
Pick a “theme” for your family photos: Kids will especially love this one! Dress up as characters from your favorite movie/show, pick a color scheme or even a decade! Each year you can recreate a new theme – this would definitely be a cool one to look back on.
Join me for the Mother’s Day Mini Sessions April 21st at Cherokee Park! We’ll have a blast taking family pictures and you will receive a gallery viewing to select and receive your prints by Mother’s Day! Check out my Facebook page (Frames and Letters) for details on how to win a FREE SESSION and other prizes!