An Elegant Zombie Engagement Session

If future me went back in time to tell past me that I would shoot a zombie engagement session, I would have probably curled up in the fetal position, rocked back and forth, and whispered soothing words to myself. That’s how I can best sum up my incredible, irrational fear of zombies.

Then Tom and Amy sat down with warm cups of coffee, and we talked about their engagement session, and then we jokingly suggested a zombie shoot, and then we seriously talked about it. And I realized that I would have the awesome opportunity to face my deep-seated fear of the undead with one of the toughest-looking police officers ever–AND he promised lots of weapons. It seemed like the perfect way to finally move past it!

Tom & Amy were so awesome that even though the day was full of rain and murky clouds, they packed their sword, fake molotov cocktail, and various guns, and outfits, and we rocked it out in the streets of Coeur d’ Alene, to the docks, and then hit up a junkyard! I’m so glad we did this shoot, it was such a great opportunity, and the rain actually ended up playing an epic, vital role to bring out the mood.

I could go on and on about every facet of the day, but instead, you should just enjoy the pictures. ❤

Special thanks to our two zombies Brad and Alex, they really committed to the Undead role, and I wish I could have talked with them more, but the makeup job by our makeup artist Kendra was so good, I was internally screaming every time one of them shuffled by me. *shudder* Enjoy! ❤

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot
Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot
Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

Zombie Engagement Shoot

S T Y L I Z E D . S H O O T || OffBeat Brides Concept Shoot

It’s been almost a month since I went to United, and I’ve been holding on to these shoots jealously, because after I publish each one, I get to spend the whole day reminiscing about the amazing, sometimes surreal setting for the United conference I attended. And with only a couple more shoots to share, and wedding season starting this weekend, it’s a bittersweet post I write.


I’ve heard over and over from friends, family, and my brides that I seem softer and more at peace since I came back. My outlook seems brighter, my photography is much more organic and emotional, and my feelings of heart-bursting joy for the people in my life has come to the front–I’m not nearly as reserved with my enthusiasm for the people I adore anymore.

These people are the reason why. They broke me down, reminded me of why I started shooting, and gave me my passion back–but more than that, they showed me, by leading from example, how to give that passion away and multiply it’s return. When you have kindness and a giving nature on a scale of over 400 people, well….that’s a lot of passion and heart to soak in–and I was the best sponge ever.


One such example is our Offbeat Brides Shoot–a really amazing shoot that focused on showcasing brides that went off the beaten path. So often, we focus on the model brides with the million dollar weddings and amazing soirrees, but the truth is, these brides have a completely different aesthetic to what they love about their relationship and wedding–and man oh man, do I love that about them. There were three couple total, and the first pair, rocking the epic sunglasses, was my soulmate couple. Fiesty, funny, and rocking every tattoo they had, I wanted to capture them all day. Then I got sidetracked by a conversation with another photographer, and when I turned around, they had disappeared down the stretch of the beach–and I dunno about you, but walking through the sand is hard enough when you’re just holding a towel, but I had all of my gear with me. So I peace’d out that rad couple. Then there was this other couple that I literally only got one shot of, but wanted a zillion more, because the bride was an absolute SIREN you guys, she was drop-dead gorgeous, and her groom had an epic beard.  But again, I was sidetracked by conversations. In fairness to me, my husband is quiet, my son isn’t talking yet, and I was geeking out about gear, shooting in direct sunlight, and the perils of shooting on a beach. It’s rare for me, okay? Okay.

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Here’s a few more shots to share with you, and credit absolutely has to go to the creator and leader of our shoot, Carrie Swails. She’s an amazing teacher and mentor, and everyone goes away from her knowing something new that can help them. She’s amazing.








In any case, you can bet that I’ll be going back again next year, but this time, with TJ. And we aren’t done yet! I still have MY shoot to share with ya’ll, and the Great Gatsby shoot, which you might die of happiness from looking at. Those will be coming up in the foreseeable future, friends!


Jamie Ivins –
Julie Wilmes –
Mycah and Bobby Burns –
Lauren and Seth Pinson –

Julie Wilmes – Corset
Lauren Pinson – Dress and shoes 

Shoot Organizer: Carrie Swails –

S T Y L I Z E D . S H O O T || Sugar & Spice Concept Shoot

When I was little, I used to achingly wish that I was a princess with my whole heart. They had it *made*, don’t you think? I mean, sure, most Princesses had it rough for a bit (Princess Odette was turned into a swan after being forced into a marriage arrangement from childhood, only to realize she did love the guy who didn’t know she needed to be more than beautiful, and then he declared his love for the wrong person, and she basically died, but he saved the day in the end, and they got all married anyways; Princess Jasmine fell in love, mourned his death, fell in love again with a different guy, found out he was the same guy, then got enslaved by his nemesis, and then finally got to keep dating him after her dad changed laws for it to happen; then there’s Rapunzel who lived her entire life shoved into a tower with a woman who emotionally abused her while forcing her to wear a hair style that was impractical and probably gave her wicked migraines, only to fall in love with a wanted thief who wanted nothing to do with her for quite a while, and then willingly gave up her freedom to save his life, only to have him die in her arms saving her, only to find out she had magical tears–and then she was abruptly reunited with her parents, and the responsibilities of an entire kingdom where thrust upon her now light-headed shoulders) but in the end, they had gorgeous clothing, fantastic, smooth skin, and droves of admirers. C’mon, what little girl doesn’t want that?!

We know a lot of women reminisce fondly about the time when they were little girls, dreaming of being a princess, or a warrior princess, or a punk princess (whatever your favorite might be!) but how was that captured and recorded? Did you write your dreams in journals? Did your mom sneak pictures of you while you played? What about your daughter? How have you captured that whimsical, fleeting stage of her self-awareness?

Enter the Sugar & Spice Shoot, coming up on May 3rd. Shmily Face Photography has teamed up with 3 amazing small businesses to give a one of a kind, fairy tale experience to little princesses everywhere. So what’s included in the shoot, you ask? Weeeellllll, I’m glad you asked!



Though there are 10 time slots total, we are officially down to 9 slots left, with several in the works to being booked. The sooner you book, the more options on time slots you have, and the more time you have to plan for outfits! So if you’re on the fence, remember, these slots will be selling out quickly-and this is a limited edition shoot–meaning that while we’ll explore other themes for down the road, we don’t know that we’ll be doing a princess-themed shoot again anytime soon. And seeing as we only plan on doing one stylized shoot a year… could be 5 or 6 years. Or longer.

In the mean time, we’d love if you’d also take a look at some of our favorites we got on our shoot. While the shoot wont be in this exact location, we’re excited to give you an idea of how gorgeous taking pictures of little girls in tall grass can be. The inside pictures are gorgeous, we know, but until we can get a location that allows us to have old, vintage floors, we’ll have to make do with blossoming meadows and country roads, *sigh*. I don’t think we can lose 😉

Spokane Family Photography 2014-03-11_0040 2014-03-11_0044 2014-03-11_0041 2014-03-11_0042 2014-03-11_0043 2014-03-11_0045 2014-03-11_0046 2014-03-11_0050 2014-03-11_0047 2014-03-11_0048 2014-03-11_0049 2014-03-11_0051 2014-03-11_0052 2014-03-11_0053 2014-03-11_0056 2014-03-11_0054 2014-03-11_0055 2014-03-11_0057Special thanks to the small businesses that came together to make both our concept shoot a success, and the real deal and May come to life in an amazing way:

Tutu’s – Little Blooms
ace Crowns: Snickerdoodle 
Cupcakes & Vintage Props : Batch Bakeshop

And a special thank you to our gorgeous models:
Mary, and her two little ones, Miss J and Miss M,
and Melissa’s sweet little one, Miss K.

Thank you Princesses for sharing your beauty and curiosity with us! It was a privilege to capture you as you are!

And finally, a very special thank you to Staci Lewis, for her unwavering support, her last minute rescuing a rained out shoot, her wonderful companionship, and her amazing talent with film photography. You’re awesome, Staci!!!

S T Y L I Z E D . S H O O T || Tori & Brett || Grassini Family Vineyards

I’ve been editing like a mad woman since I came back from Santa Barbara, home of the gorgeous, aesthetically themed Spanish-Villa town on the ocean front, and home of the best photography conference in the world, United. It was such a treat to go down there, and be with a ton of photographers who believe in the same philosophy that I have, in regards to photography, in that we all believe that once we give you the pictures, you should be able to have them both digitally, and physically, as you desire–because they belong to YOU. While it’s a controversial business method, I believe that with the rise of technology, and the rise of sharing more of our lives online, it seems silly to make you pay to have the images you already paid for — and that’s the philosophy shared by this conference.

Further, our goal was to get down to the nuts and bolts of celebrating stories, organically. For me, something I wanted to get more in tune with was telling the love story of my brides and grooms without crazy posing and tons of props. I want to be able to share the way my couples look deep into each others eyes, I want her smile when he tells her he loves her to be captured for him to see. That is the real couple–not making them stand back to back, and hold hands, haha.

This shoot, done at the gorgeous Grassini Family Vineyards, was a gorgeous 50 minute drive away from the hotel. We first stopped at the ridge before the vineyard, to capture the sunrise–and even though large clouds snuffed out those lovely golden rays only seconds after that sun came up over the hills, we still had enough time to capture these gorgeous moments:


Gah, that sun, and this couple. Augh. So gorgeous.



After we lost our rays of sun, we focused on using the couples knowledge of each other to create real, organic moments that resulted in absolutely gorgeous portraits.

2014-03-03_0004Brett and Tori were such an amazing couple to work with. Seriously, they were so comfortable in front of the camera, which, believe it or not, isn’t very easy to be with several dozen photographers staring at you.


2014-03-03_0006When I saw her hair fluttering in the breeze in that shot, I said “Shut. Up. NO.” Apparently, it’s becoming a habit of mine, because I also said it to a couple other models I worked with, haha.


2014-03-03_0008Special shout out to Rincon Floral for the absolutely stunning white bouquet. I love the texture and consistent creamy look, and the floral scents were heavenly!

After we finished shooting on a simple dirt road, (yes, those were all shot on a dirt road, which just goes to show, emotion trumps background any day!) we loaded back up and drove down to the vineyard–a stunning, well-loved vineyard. The trees were gorgeous, and HUGE, a testament to the attention they had received at the hands of the family that had worked and lived on those rolling vineyard hills for 4 generations. Even as we worked with our bride and groom, I could see the people carefully tending to the vines several hills away.

Speaking of their gorgeous, large trees, they immediately captured the attention of my lens, and the pictures that we captured under those weaving, thick branches were jaw-dropping. I actually had a incredibly hard time finding a way to share what I saw, and the emotion that was shared under that tree, because there were SO. MANY. GOOD ONES. But here are a few of my favorites, because there’s still MORE.

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And then we watched them wander through a row of the vineyard, intertwined and focused only on holding one another, and my heart hurt from how sweet the entire shoot had been. This is what I want to capture in my clients! This sort of organic emotion and love! And, thanks to our amazing instructor, Montana Dennis (yes, that’s his name, yes, he can grow a beard, and yes, he is awesome) we were able to learn exactly how to guide our couples into that sort of posing. It was so magical, out there in the vineyards, with huge, desert mountains around us, and large grey clouds hanging low over our heads.

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It was such an awesome, deep experience, and it’s transformed my way of capturing my brides, and I think it’s actually better, wouldn’t you agree? 🙂 I’d love to know what you think!

Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll share the shoot that *I* led, using simple paper cranes, some fishing line, two gorgeous models, and some gorgeous paper bouquets.

Instructor: Montana Dennis

Venue: Grassini Family Vineyards

Production Coordinator: Kristin Renee

Floral bouquet by Rincon Floral


Tori Benham
Brett Benham