Capturing Intimate Moments: Personalized Engagement, Small Event, and Wedding Photography

Intimate moment of bride and groom sharing their first dance

Welcome to my corner of the photography world, where love, joy, and heartfelt connections come to life. I am thrilled to offer my photography services for your engagement, small event, and wedding coverage. Through my lens, I strive to create timeless memories by capturing intimate moments of you and your loved ones.

Unveiling the Intimate Moments of Small Events

Man on one knee proposing to woman during surprise engagement photography session

In a world filled with grandiose celebrations, there is something truly magical about intimate gatherings and small events. Whether it’s an intimate wedding, a cozy engagement, or a surprise celebration, these occasions hold a unique charm. I firmly believe that we should treasure these intimate moments just as much as we do their larger counterparts. That’s why I have chosen to specialize in capturing the beauty of these smaller-scale events.

A Personalized Approach to Photography

Bride smiling at groom during intimate small wedding photographed by Erika Rigger

My photography philosophy revolves around the idea of creating a personal and comfortable experience for every client. Moreover, I understand the weight of your special day and the value that lies in discovering a photographer whose style aligns with your unique vision. By integrating these key elements, my goal is to ensure a seamless and tailored journey, capturing unfiltered moments that resonate deeply with your heart and soul.

Couple on beach smiling during intimate engagement session

Just as I do in my family sessions, I encourage a relaxed atmosphere during engagements and small events. This allows you to be fully present in the joyous occasion. This approach enables me to capture genuine emotions, candid interactions, and the unscripted moments that make your event truly unique.

The Perks of Lifestyle Photography

Happy couple smiling during engagement photography session

Lifestyle photography is the heart and soul of my work. Instead of orchestrating stiff poses, I document the true essence of your event. By blending into the background, I become an observer, capturing the organic moments that unfold naturally. In essence, lifestyle photography encapsulates the spirit of your small event, forming a story that reflects the depth of your love, connection, and shared experiences. Consequently, these unfiltered images serve as an eternal keepsake, enabling you to joyfully relive and cherish those precious memories for years to come.

Celebrating Unfiltered Joy

Unfiltered picture of bride and groom laughing as he dips her

One of the greatest perks of engagement and small wedding photography is the ability to celebrate unfiltered joy. By focusing on the genuine emotions and candid interactions, I ensure that your photos represent your unique story.

A bride and groom during a small beach wedding ceremony

Every smile, tear, and laughter becomes a piece of art, filled with heartfelt sentiment. Through my lens, I aim to freeze the purest expressions of love, capturing intimate moments that make your event truly extraordinary.

Bride and bridesmaid during intimate small wedding

If you are seeking personalized photography for your engagement, small event, or wedding, I would be honored to be a part of your special day. Contact me and let’s embark on this journey together, where we create memories that you will cherish for a lifetime.

Be sure to check out my Instagram for updates, as well as sales events & the ins and outs of my sessions.

7 Tips for a Stress-Free Picture Day

Stress-free family smiling and walking along the beach

When it comes to family picture day, a lot of stress is typically associated with days leading up to the session. I’m here to help you relax and be prepared all at the same time. Here are 7 tips for a stress-free picture day:

Plan Ahead for a Stress-Free Session

Find the outfits you want everyone to wear a month in advance and set them aside somewhere safe. Try them on a week ahead of time to ensure everything still fits comfortably and that you didn’t miss any stains or holes that you couldn’t see until they were being worn. Simple preparations will help you avoid stress the day of.

Get Organized

As soon as your family changes out of their photo attire, make sure it is clean and pressed to be ready for the big day. Set the clothes together (sorted by person) and place them somewhere free from harm and dirt. Remind everyone that these are picture clothes and not to be worn until picture day. This will help to be sure that no articles of clothing go missing. Don’t forget about shoes, jewelry, belts, and other accessories.

Conversation is Key to be Stress-Free

Kids smiling at camera during family photography session

About three to four days prior to your family session, start talking with your partner and kids about the session and what will happen and how they should behave. If you plan to use a bribe, now is a good time to set that in place. Continue to talk to your children daily to prepare them for the session. Your children will feel if you are anxious, so it’s better to help them avoid stress as well.

Behind the Scenes Necessities

Two days prior to the session, pack a bag of everything you will need on picture day – snacks, props, bribery, etc. and put it somewhere you can grab it and go. Be sure to include wipes in case things get messy, an extra hairbrush, and other “emergency” items, such as bobby pins and a backup lipstick.

Snacks are your Friend

On the day of the session, make sure everyone is well fed, but not overfed. We don’t want sick little tummies from overeating, but we don’t want anyone getting “hangry” (angry because they are so hungry) either. Refrain from dressing your family in their photo clothes until after they have eaten and brushed their teeth. This will prevent spills and other messy accidents.

Avoid the Mess, Avoid Stress

Avoid any colored drinks for young children the day of the session until after we are finished. Nothing screams “stress” like a Kool-Aid spill. Also, get them to wear a bib or drop cloth if they drink anything on the way to the session to save their shirts from wet spots or stains. This will keep the trip and the pre-session to-dos stress-free.

Relax and Enjoy

Happy family on beach with parents kissing

Once you get to the session, try to relax. If you have set a bribe, please let me know so I can use that throughout the session if the children get restless. Trust your photographer – know that I will take care of things and will deliver amazing photos of your family.

Remember, your photos are going to turn out great; I am here to make sure of that. But keep these 7 tips for a stress-free picture day in the back of your mind. Peace of mind is important, for your sake (and mine, lol).

If you’re ready to update those family photos, reach out or book now! I can’t wait to get started creating memories with you and your family.

Mastering Manual Mode: 5 Essential Tips for Beginner Photographers

Mom holding baby in the air in front of sunset, photographed in manual mode

Welcome to the world of manual mode photography! As a beginner photographer, learning to shoot in manual mode can unlock endless creative possibilities and give you greater control over your images. If you’re ready to start mastering manual mode, I am providing you with five essential tips to help you excel and capture stunning photographs.

Understand the Exposure Triangle

To begin, let’s demystify the exposure triangle. It consists of three important settings: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Aperture controls the amount of light entering the camera, shutter speed determines how long the camera’s shutter stays open, and ISO adjusts the camera’s sensitivity to light. By understanding how these settings work together, you can achieve the perfect exposure for your images. Click here to download my exposure triangle graphic to further visualize how the three points work together.

Master Shutter Speed for Capturing Motion in Manual Mode

Photo of kids running circles around parents illustrating the use of shutter speed to capture motion blur

One exciting aspect of manual mode photography is the ability to capture motion. Shutter speed plays a crucial role in freezing action or creating motion blur. A fast shutter speed freezes moving subjects, while a slow shutter speed introduces a sense of motion. Experiment with different shutter speeds to capture dynamic shots that convey movement in a visually appealing way.

Utilize Autofocus for Sharp Shots

Dad holding son in the air photographed from below

Autofocus is a valuable tool for beginners, helping you achieve sharp focus quickly and accurately. Take advantage of your camera’s autofocus modes, such as single-point AF or continuous AF, to track moving subjects. Remember to select the focus point carefully and use focus lock when necessary. Practicing with autofocus will improve your ability to capture sharp and well-focused images.

Shoot in RAW Format for best Manual Results

When shooting in manual mode, it’s best to capture images in RAW format. RAW files contain more information, giving you greater flexibility during the editing process. They allow you to adjust exposure, white balance, and other settings with minimal loss in image quality. Explore user-friendly RAW processing software to unleash the full potential of your photographs during post-processing.

Practice, Experiment, and Learn

Couple in front of sun flare shot in manual mode during photography session

The key to mastering manual mode is practice, experimentation, and continuous learning. Take your camera wherever you go and practice using manual mode in various lighting conditions and with different subjects. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; they provide valuable lessons for improvement. Develop your own unique style by exploring different settings, angles, and compositions. The more you practice and experiment, the better you’ll become as a photographer.

Congratulations on taking the first step toward mastering manual mode photography! By understanding the exposure triangle, mastering shutter speed for capturing motion, utilizing autofocus effectively, shooting in RAW format, and embracing a spirit of practice and experimentation, you’re well on your way to capturing incredible images. So grab your camera, step out into the world, and let your creativity soar as you dive into the exciting world of manual mode photography.

I will be covering these basics in-depth and SO much more in my upcoming online course and mentoring program! Click here for more info, and be sure to check out my Instagram for all of the latest updates.

5 Steps to Finding Your Personal Photography Style

Children running on beach in the personal photography style of Erika Rigger

First, let’s get one thing straight: there is no one in the entire world that sees what you see, the way you see it. You are unique and THAT is your point of differentiation in whatever you do. You do it in a way that only you can.  In these days of social media overload it is easy to slip into comparison when looking at others’ “ideal” work. Not only is social media a highlight reel for individuals, it also can be for businesses. I went through the wringer figuring out how to thrive in my photography business and make it truly give me the freedom to earn a living on my own terms. But when I’d look through social media it looked as if every photographer out there was finding their personal photography style, except me. 

Photography has been part of my life since my father gave me an Olympus digital camera in 1994. This was just prior to my first backpacking trip around Europe. While there I played with the camera, not even knowing what all the buttons and knobs on it did. I just aimed to capture whatever I saw that moved me in some way. It was pure love. Sharing the beauty and rawness of life has been what I gravitate to when choosing what to shoot and edit. I was new to it and I felt limitless and like a source of never ending creativity!

A few years ago I decided I wanted to feel like that again. I decided to embark on a journey of taking control over my personal photography style and finding myself in my craft again. Here’s a few steps I took to find my personal style:

Decide what is beautiful to you.

Dad holding sun playing in sand during photography session

One of the first things I did was go through my entire portfolio. Yes, all the way back to 2015 when I began. I looked through all of my images and picked out the ones that spoke to me. I didn’t have to have a reason, I just wanted to choose the images that moved me in someway. What I soon came to realize was that there was a very prevalent theme throughout all of my images, even the ones from the very beginning, when I still was learning how to edit and color-correct. So this wasn’t about editing, this was more about what I captured. I realized that light, of course, was very important. Whether it’s rim light, Golden Hour light, bright sun, or low light, each type of light adds a different mood to an image.

Connection was another big factor in why I chose the images. The image needed to portray a connection between my subjects, or between my subjects and nature, or even between my subject and myself.

Movement was another prevalent theme across all the images I chose. It could be windblown hair, kids running and splashing in water, jumping, or flowing dresses. Anything in the image in which there was movement created a lot of interest for me. By spending time looking at all of your work and deciding what you find beautiful, you can curate a portfolio that is consistent with your style. Including that portfolio on your website will attract customers that want you specifically for your personal photography style. Instead of trying to mimic other photographers styles, or feed into what you think people want from you, this exercise helps you to begin answering to your own artistic soul.

    Slow down.

    Dad holding up baby daughter over his head photographed in the personal style of Erika Rigger

    To keep yourself from burning out, it’s imperative that you take breaks to reassess, regroup, refresh. It may seem scary to turn some work down in order to make more space for your creativity. But, your craft and ultimately your business will be better off for it.  Turning down gigs or clients that you know aren’t hiring you for your style is the best thing you can do!

    Make space in your sessions to slow down, hold space for sweet family moments and capture the emotion. Make space between session to enjoy your process and not rush through edits. By being selective of your clients and shooting more intentionally you will create more work that you love. In the process, you’ll build larger galleries and give you newfound freedom in your client work. You’ll see that finding your personal photography style will start to happen on its own as themes in your work emerge.

    Create your style, not someone else’s.

    Mom kissing son on the head while daughter smiles at photographer

    The turning point from feeling like an imposter to a professional was when I stopped creating for others’ expectations. I started creating only for my own. This may seem counterintuitive since we take on clients, and our service is to provide them with beautiful photos. But remember: they have hired us based on the work that they saw on our website, or social media. And that’s what they’re expecting. If you’re showing work that you are proud of and love, then that’s what your clients will hire you for. For example, if the images displayed on your site are usually low light, and edited in a dark and moody style, then that is what will attract clients that want that style. This is super important so you don’t get stuck and burnt out doing work that doesn’t align with your artistic style. 

    Shoot with intention.

    Kids running along the shoreline on the beach at sunset

    As photographers, we tend to see the world around us in frames. I remember I used to shoot in rapid fire from the moment I arrived at a location until I left. And while I got lots of great shots, they weren’t intentional, and they didn’t have that special thing that made them mine. That told a story.  My heart wasn’t fully in it. But, after finding my personal style by observing and contemplating what I find beautiful, I’ve made space for actually composing in the camera, positioning myself for light composition, and that beautiful moment of inspiration. This approach to each session will greatly up-level your work.

    Find your people.

    A couple standing in small waves on a beach showcasing Erika Rigger's personal photography style

    There are so many amazing communities of like-minded photographers out there just waiting to welcome you. Find a professional photographer group (whether it be local or virtual!) and get to networking. Bring your questions and bring your experience so you can help others out as well. There are so many creatives we can learn from, bounce ideas off of, and who will encourage us to do the things we sometimes get scared to do – like enter our work into contests or join collaborations. When the fear creeps in it only limits us.

    Having a group of like-minded photographers can help reduce that fear.  One excellent group to join is the Professional Photographers of America. They offer so many benefits, like in-person and online education, conferences, group chats, webinars, photographers insurance and so much more! To me, it’s an essential resource as a professional photographer. You can enjoy $35 off of your first year of membership by using to join.

    Personal style will find you.

    Mother and father swinging son up into the air by his hands on the beach, photographed by Erika Rigger in her personal photography style

    Whether you’ve been on your photography business journey for a while, or you’ve just begun, there’s always more of you to be discovered and shared with the world. And the same goes for everyone else. We all have our unique experiences, talents and skills to share. Once you begin to put more attention and intention into your photography craft – the reason you’re doing this to being with – you’ll see finding your personal photography style becomes quite effortless.

    Newborns’ Perfect Imperfections

    Close up of a scratch on newborn baby's foot

    As a professional newborn photographer, I have had the pleasure of capturing the beauty of countless infants. Usually, I am photographing these beautiful babies only days after they’ve made the hard trek into this world; and that journey can be tough. Bumps and bruises are par for the course, and these “imperfections” are not actually imperfect at all. I love to highlight the small blemishes that come with the transition into life on the outside. These tiny details of your baby are what make them unique, and are part of the beauty of the experience of entering into the world. Read on to see some close-up and personal shots highlighting newborns’ perfect imperfections.

    Newborn Perfect Skin

    Peeling skin on the feet of a new baby
    Peeling skin on the hands of a newborn baby during newborn photography session

    One of the most common newborn features is peeling skin. Rest assured that this is a completely normal occurrence that happens to almost all newborns. Peeling skin is simply a result of the baby’s skin adjusting to the outside world. It’s nothing to worry about, and actually makes for some really sweet and intimate close-up shots. So, embrace those little flakes of skin and let them be a part of your baby’s story. They are merely a part of the transition out of the safety of mom’s tummy, and into the big wide world.

    A Kiss from Mother Nature

    Baby birth mark and umbilical cord
    A birthmark on the back of a baby's leg

    Birthmarks are also quite common and personally, I find them so endearing.  I like to think of birthmarks on newborns as a kiss from Mother Nature on their way into the world. They are a sweet surprise that oftentimes are just for Mom and Dad to see and love. These unique features are what make your baby special. I like to be sure to capture birthmarks during newborn sessions, as sometimes they will disappear over time. 

    Baby Bumps

    A close up of a baby's mouth with baby acne
    A close up photo showcasing a newborn baby's skin

    Nearly every newborn at some point or another experiences baby acne. These harmless little white or red bumps on the face are short lived, and so sweet. I never miss a chance to capture them, because they usually only appear in the first few days and weeks of a newborn’s life on the outside. They are part of what makes a fresh baby look so brand new.

    Unique Newborn Surprises

    A baby's hand with an extra digit on his thumb

    Sometimes babies are born with even more unique surprises. Like a tiny additional digit, for example. In the photo above, this newborn was born with an additional thumb. While it did get removed soon after our session, I wanted to be sure to document how sweet and small and absolutely adorable it was. If nothing else, these parents will be able to look back on that extraordinary little hand fondly for years to come.

    At the end of the day, every baby is different and unique in their own way. Embrace your newborn’s perfect “imperfections” – which aren’t imperfect at all – and celebrate them as a part of your baby’s story. As a photographer, I am here to help capture those precious moments and help you see the beauty in every feature of your newborn. 

    So, if you’re expecting a new addition, contact me or book now and let’s create some stunning photos that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.

    I'm Erika and I am a maternity, newborn, and family photographer based near Wilmington, NC. I'm also a mom to two cutie boys, lover of backyard gardening, candles, chocolate and Amazon Prime.

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    “When all is said and done I’d never count the cost, it’s worth all that’s lost, just to see you smile.” -Tim McGraw
    My mentoring program is open & ready to get you on your way to being the kind of photographer you’ve been dreaming about!! DM me, and let’s get started; I can’t wait! ♥️✨
    “Received our pictures and to say we are obsessed is an understatement. Erika did a wonderful job. We will definitely be using her again, next time we are in Wilmington!” -Brice A. ♥️
    Happy MONDAY! I hope you can find time for yourself this week; whether it’s a Starbucks run or an everything-shower or some time outside. You deserve it, and if you need it, I hope you take it!
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For those who already seem to have it all, they truly do make the perfect gift. What could be better than an afternoon with loved ones, a day spent smiling and laughing, and the memories to keep forever?
    "Every other artist begins with a blank canvas, a piece of paper... the photographer begins with the finished product." -Edward Steichen

    Lifestyle Family Newborn Maternity Photography

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