Pete and Nicole’s engagement session was exactly what it needed to be: a practice run through of what could be expected on their wedding day. I’ve written about engagement sessions before (see here) and why you should have one before your wedding day, even if you don’t “need” the photos. Pete and Nicole didn’t need their engagement session; they actually didn’t book with me until May of 2018 and their wedding is this upcoming September. By the time they had booked me for their wedding day, they already sent out their save the dates. Most couples use their engagement photos for their save the dates, but I still offered it to them as a practice session for their wedding day photos. It also gives me the opportunity to know what they know: are they familiar with any poses, have they ever been photographed before, or is this going to be a completely new experience? I’m glad that we got through a couple of hiccups during this engagement session that will be avoided on their wedding day. I was also able to have come conversations with Nicole and Pete about certain poses and styles that they wanted on their wedding day.

The first time we had scheduled this engagement session, there was a torrential downpour. We rescheduled for a couple of weeks later, and we got some pretty humid weather, but Pete and Nicole were great sports and took me up on my offer of a new location that would include a lot of walking. I’ve had my eye on Waubonsie Lake for a while; it’s a path that I’m very familiar with since it’s one of my running haunts during marathon training season. I knew that I wanted to take photos by the bridges, by the dam, and in the more heavily wooded area of the lake. I’ve always noticed spots that I’ve thought would be great photo spots, but I was surprised at so many new places that caught my attention during the session.

One spot in particular that caught me by surprise was this massive Weeping Willow. Weeping Willows should catch my attention; after all, they are my wife’s favorite tree. I love the depths that the leaves provide for these images and just the size of this tree. This is definitely a spot that I will be back to with other couples.

Here are a couple of other favorites from Nicole and Pete’s engagement session. I’m excited to photograph their wedding at The City Gate Grille and Hotel Arista in Naperville, IL this upcoming September.

I’ve done a handful of photo shoots in Chicago, and one of the best things about this city is that not one of them looks them same. There are so many different spots to take photos and so many incredible backdrops that each photo shoot in the city is really incredibly unique.

Tyler came my way through one of my teaching colleagues and friends. After several years of dating, Tyler had decided that 2018 was the year when him and his girlfriend were finally getting engaged. He had shared this with my colleague, and she connected us on capturing this special day.

I met up with Tyler on that cold Chicago morning, and we scouted out the best spot at the very end of the pier by the Adler Planetarium. The cafe that they have there was a lifesaver because Tyler had a scavenger hunt for Katrina to complete before her final destination was the planetarium. After the location had been set, we waited. I gave Tyler a couple of pointers, I shared some of the mistakes when I proposed to my wife (make sure you place the ring on her left hand, your right), told him how to position her and where I would be taking photos from, and we waited.

Thank God for Snapchat. It helped keep Tyler’s anxiety in check about the whole situation. He was supposed to receive text updates, but he was able to keep up through a Snapchat story instead. Once they were at the final stop, we waited outside for the moment of the day.To say the least, it was a success! She said “Yes!” Take at look at their special moment. This is an engagement I will never forget. 

At the request of the couple, I’ve been holding on to these gems for quite some time. Finally, their wedding day came, and they gave me the okay to post these once they were married. This was such a fun day in Chicago. Both the couple and I had done our research on locations that we wanted to photograph, and we were off to start photographing. We started at the courthouse where they obtained their marriage licence, and we walked down Clark to the Chicago Board of Trade building. We knew that we wanted that as the background for some of the photos, and we were in for some fun with cars driving by honking their horns and congratulating the couple.

From there, we hopped in a taxi and requested to go the Kinzie bridge. Our taxi driver, possibly feeling somewhat creative himself, took us to the array of bridges on Wacker. We spent most of our time on those bridges capturing the beauty of couple and the architecture of the city. We started on the N Orleans bridge and walked walked underneath the bridges along the river as well to get a different perspective of the city eventually making our way to the Lake Street bridge. There are so many hidden gems in Chicago that I love discovering every time I photograph down there. 

One of my favorite shots came on the Lake street bridge. In a quick traffic break, we ran out there and captured this moment. The construction crews were holding up traffic, so we had some extra time on there. I just love how the L frames this picture.  After the bridges, we made our way to Millennium Park to capture some of the new, cool architecture in Chicago. I felt a bit like a tourist with my camera in hand capturing all of the architecture in the city, but it is such a beautiful city that continues to amaze me.
Finally we ended up at the iconic Chicago Theater marquee. There’s nothing that says Chicago like a literal marquee that says Chicago.

I’ve never really thought about this idea that clients need to prepare for a photo shoot. I do have a couple of reminders that I tell clients when I meet them, but I never thought to be more extensive about the tips that I give them before their shoot. I was listening to a podcast where they were describing the best things to do in a shoot, and when they stated that clients need to be prepared for a shoot, I thought “Why hadn’t I thought of that before?” I’ve never really needed to prepare anyone for a photography shoot beforehand, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to prepare someone or for them to have some pointers before they are in front of a camera.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind during your session. The most important is that you should enjoy your photography session. You will remember the sessions totally differently than a photographer will, and you will also have a bias of your pictures based on how your session went. Someone can look at a beautiful portrait of you and your fiance and think it is the most beloved picture they have ever seen, yet you may have a different idea about the photo because you had a bad experience during the photo shoot. It is difficult to separate the emotion from the moment in time. I’m going to be talking mostly about engagement sessions because I believe that they are extremely important to have prior to a wedding day (check out my post about that), but some of these tips can also apply to your wedding day.

You should be relaxed during your engagement session. It should be fun. Think of your engagement session as your chance to get to know me as a photographer and a person, but on the flip side, it is also my chance to get to know you as a model. It’s helpful to have that fun, no pressure, engagement session before your wedding so you get a sense of what it’s like to be in front of the camera.

Here are some tips to be totally prepared for an engagement session:

  1. Outfits: Usually, couples will have two outfits for an engagement session, a casual one to start and a dressier one to finish. When planning these outfits, think about coordinating your outfit instead of matching. Matching can look tacky, especially if similar patterns or designs are on the clothing. Think about wearing colors that are in similar families. Ladies, big jewelry (besides your ring of course), scarves, bold colors, and stand out shoes look great in this sessions. Have fun with your outfit, but make sure that you look and feel comfortable.
  2. Preparing the Groom: In my own experience and having had my engagement photos taken, I can say that it is usually the bride’s idea to have these photos done. Most grooms don’t go on Pinterest and pick out favorite poses or coordinate outfits, but if they do, more power to them! Let your groom know what style of photography they are in for. Maybe show him a couple of your favorite poses before the session. I think that some grooms are aware that they will be asked to nuzzle their fiance, but there are others that think they will only be smiling into the camera and that the entire session will be maybe 15 minutes. Help him know what to expect by showing him some of your favorite poses.
  3. It might be awkward at first…and that’s perfectly okay! I don’t expect any client to be a pro at modeling, and it usually is better if you’ve never modeled because I can position you how I want you to look. Out of all of the weddings and engagement sessions that I’ve photographed, only one had been a model, and that was a brief stint. I usually tell couples that it might take a good 15-20 minutes to warm up to the camera, and that is totally reasonable. That’s why engagement sessions are at least an hour long because I want you to relax and enjoy the session. Don’t be nervous, and don’t worry if you’ve never been photographed and are worried about looking natural as you stand with your fiance in the middle of a prairie and look off into the beautiful horizon as the sun’s golden light gleans on your faces…most people haven’t.
  4. Timing and Location are Everything With natural light photographers, being on time is one of the most important parts of your shoot. Thankfully, I’ve never had a client be late to a session. Actually, most of them arrive early while I’m re-reviewing their information. If your shoot was scheduled 2 hours after sunrise or 2 hours before sunset, that’s because that is the best timing for natural lighting, and you won’t be squinting because the sun is too strong. I totally get it that some events like accidents or traffic are out of your control, but always try to be on time. When choosing a location, I love it when clients pick a place that means something special to them. It rekindles some of the pure emotion attached to those locations. If that isn’t possible, then we can create a new, memorable location. The pictures below show some of the beauty of natural lighting, but they also show the possibilities of set lights for a shoot.
  5. Hair, Makeup, and Ring Cleaner: Much like how an engagement session is a trial run for your wedding day, if you are getting your hair and makeup done for your wedding, you might want to try a trial run for your hair and makeup for your engagement shoot. If you don’t want to do that for your engagement shoot, apply a big more eye makeup than usual to really make your eyes pop. I will be taking at least one ring shot (after all, don’t you want to show it off?). You might want to get it cleaned before the session so that it really shines.
  6. For the people that want “natural shots” or “candids”: I’ve never had a client tell me, “I want all of my pictures to look posed,” yet I pose couples and clients in all of my photo shoots because a photo shoot without direction is very confusing and awkward. Don’t be totally against posing for a picture. A lot of candids happen when you are placed in a pose. Rarely will an experienced photographer tell you to stand in a certain spot, both look at the camera, and say cheese! There is a combination of the bride looking at the groom, the groom looking at the photographer, looking at each other, talking to each other, kissing, and thousands of other poses that will produce the candid, natural look that everyone is after. Follow all of the previous steps on this post to get ready for your experience and let the photographer worry about getting the “in the moment” shots. I say this tongue in cheek and with a smile on my face, but don’t worry about the photographer and, more importantly, don’t look at the photographer unless you are directed to do so. During your wedding day, you might notice the photographer stand behind a crowd of people and point the camera at you. It might be unnatural at first, but keep doing what you are doing. It’s your wedding day! Enjoy it! Be with others and have a blast, and let the photographer capture those memories. Personally, I’ll wave at the couple to direct them that I want them to look at me for this particular photo.

Hopefully these are some helpful tips for your session. Even if you are skipping the engagement session and only getting wedding pictures done, some of these tips can still apply to your wedding day. I think engagement sessions are so important that I offer them as a part of the wedding package. I like to think of them as your wedding deposit.

Happy New Year! It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything new on here; it’s actually been since November. Whoops. With the holiday season, I lose track of time in order to keep up with personal ventures and blog posts. As my Christmas break is winding down to an end, I found some time to update you all on the most recent engagement that was captured. 

A friend of mine had asked me to photograph his upcoming engagement after reading a previous blog post. This one was a bit of a challenge because of the time of year. With this taking place in December, I was short on daylight. He planned on proposing around 5pm, which is already in the dark in December. Doug, my friend, had taken this into account and friends and family helped him set up a tressle earlier in the day. The Christmas lights and candles in the background were also a nice touch that he had people set up as well.

The prep work for this event was quite a bit. There were a couple of detailed video messages of how to get to the location, some of which included Doug driving a truck down a path that I’m not sure he was allowed to drive down. Doug treated Caitlin to a wonderful day in downtown Geneva. There were Snapchat updates all day on their wonderful dates, but Caitlin had no idea what would transpire in the evening. Doug even organized and reserved the backroom of a restaurant for friends to take part in the surprise filled day.

I worked with a videographer, who happened to be Doug’s roommate, to capture this special moment. While the videographer was capturing everything from the front, I snuck around back and was able to capture everything with a nice rim light effect. This was a bit a challenge because of the darkness, and I didn’t want my photos to come out too grainy. In the end, I realized that a photo taken in focus with a bit of grain is better than a photo that wasn’t taken. There was definitely some editing that had to happen in after these were taken.

After the proposal, in which she of course said yes, we had ourselves a mini photo shoot with friends and family joining in on the surprise. We went to the “right side” of the light for a different look on the photos.

Once again, Geneva, IL was the spot for this beautiful capture, and the location of the entire day for Doug and Caitlin. These photos were taken on Island Park, which is in the downtown Geneva area and has a beautiful walkway, bridge, and open area that is great for photoshoots.

michals-1To the people that know them, Joey and Savannah go together like peanut butter and jelly. They’ve been together for 5 years, and I think the pressure has been on Joey for a bit for when he was going to “finally” ask the question.

The pressure is understandable. My wife and I dated for just over 6 years before I “finally” popped the question and was able to produce a ring. I fielded questions from others about when I propose to my wife for years before I actually was able to produce what I thought would be the perfect ring for the love of my life. That’s often the issue with young love: being able to produce a ring. The love is indescribable, unquenchable, and unquestionable, and when there is a love present like that, the ring, setting, and idea has to be perfect. This is a once in a lifetime moment that shouldn’t succumb to pressure or be forced on to the groom-to-be.

Joey’s set up was perfect: he told Savannah that a colleague of his wanted to expand his photography portfolio and was looking for models to photograph. Not entirely a lie. Joey and I teach high school English at the same school, and I’m always looking to photograph new people. He set this up as a 5 year anniversary shoot. She had created a sign, and to my knowledge, was going along with the idea of an anniversary shoot.


When we got to the highly anticipated spot, Joey finally popped the question. michals-33



What followed afterward was a slue of emotions, which I was enthused to capture. Once the question had been asked, and she said “yes” of course, we had an actual engagement shoot to that needed to happen.



In the day and age where asking someone to prom is being dubbed “promposals,” asking someone to spend the rest of their life with you has to be big too. Make sure it is a moment that can be cherished forever because it was captured.


One of the best aspects of being a photographer is getting to see your clients grow. Watching newborns grow up and document their first steps is beautiful, but watching a family grow can be inspirational. I’m always very humbled and honored when couples take a chance on me to document their weddings, especially for the couples early in my photography career. The Brownings were one of the first couples that trusted me with taking their wedding photos.

Even though they are family, there was no obligation to having me take their engagement photos, then their wedding photos, and then their family photos once they started growing. There are plenty of other photographers that they could have used, but there must have been something in my style that they liked in order to keep using me to document their memories. I almost cringe when I look back at some of the photos I’ve taken early in my career. The quality obviously isn’t as great; I wasn’t rocking a full frame camera with prime lenses at the time. But some of the ideas that I still use are present in my early photos. I’ve obviously grown as a photographer, and the quality of photos that I take are better as well.
14566The Browning Wedding The Browning Weddingfamily (3)

Nostalgia at its finest.

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This past spring, I decided to run the Chicago Marathon for the third time. My wife gave me the idea that I should run for a charity from now on so that the training that I do not only benefits my health, but it can benefit someone else. I honor of my cousin’s baby, I decided to join Team UPS for DownS. The United Parent Support for Down Syndrome is an organization that offers “support, education, and encouragement for parents, families and others who love and care about persons with Down syndrome” ( My wife works with adults with developmental disabilities, so this community has always been near and dear to us. I’m still fundraising even though the race is in a week, and I have already reached my fundraising goal, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t help out. Help support this wonderful organization by clicking here.

My cousin, Sandy, has been blogging about her experiences of motherhood, both with her firstborn son, her second-born daughter, and the challenges and blessings of raising a child who has Down syndrome. If you ever want to read about her beautiful perspective on life, need a word of encouragement, or need a reality check on your own life, check out what she has to say here:

Along with all of the emotions, questions, and stir craziness of wedding planning, newly engaged couples have a decision to make before they make their official announcement: do we take engagement pictures? Engagement Photo 3

Many couples elect to take their own engagement pictures either through a family friend that is offering it as a favor, setting up a tripod, or taking a picture with a cell phone since some phones can take good sized images. The images may turn out great, but the experience of being photographed is completely missing. Even if Save the Dates are not something that you envisioned or budgeted for, you don’t want to miss out on the experience of having your picture taken. Engagement photos have the ability document the excitement, the bliss, and the love that is to come. Your engagement is a new beginning to a lifelong journey, and the emotions felt and displayed early on in the engagement can be different than what is displayed on your wedding day.

Engagement Photo 4

I like to think of engagement pictures as a tryout for the wedding photographer. When my wife and I got engaged, we were pretty certain on who we wanted to take our wedding pictures, but we wanted to take engagement photos to be certain that we liked the photographer’s style. Our photographer made us feel comfortable, and we knew exactly what to expect on our wedding day.Engagement Photo 2

When I’m working with couples on their engagement shoots, there is a visible tension that dissipates throughout the shoot. Couples, both the guy and the girl, become more comfortable with the camera being pointed at them as the session continues. What may start as a very stiff, unnatural, and uncomfortable session often ends with natural, candid photos that couples love and cherish.

Engagement Photo 6I’m glad my wife and I elected to do professional engagement pictures. There are so many emotions that are present on your wedding day that could possibly be hidden behind the uncomfortableness of being in front of a camera.Engagement Photo 1

For those that don’t like having their picture taken, why wait until your wedding day to see what it feels like to have a camera pointed at you all day? Get the jitters out of the way and do yourselves a favor while you are planning a wedding: go through a professional engagement photo shoot. Many photographers will often throw in a free engagement session if you sign with them for your wedding; I know at least I do.

Engagement Photo