‘Honest Stories’ approach and how to incorporate it into your wedding or elopement


Port Townsend 'Honest Stories' Session l Washington Elopement Photographer

This post breaks down my ‘honest stories’ approach to couple’s photography, and how to achieve beautifully authentic and honest storytelling images. Learn why I love photographing sessions with an ‘Honest Stories’ approach, the difference between this approach and a more traditional couple’s session, and how you can incorporate it into your wedding or elopement. I also invite you into my process and share my top three tips for achieving beautiful, authentic storytelling imagery! And scroll to the end for the BONUS Spotlight of Lindsay + William’s ‘Honest Stories’ couple’s portrait (turned steamy) session!

What is my ‘Honest Stories’ Approach?

It’s a collaborative approach to a portrait session focused on telling a story. I begin by getting to know you and your story, and then we collaborate to design a session that tells your story through a series of experiences together. The focus is on your connection, the emotions evoked, and the smaller details that bring your story together. Honest stories sessions can be described as raw, intimate, and connected. The images are often more artsy and ethereal and focused on capturing the feelings behind each scene and story.

Why do I love shooting with an ‘Honest Stories’ approach?

When I bought my first camera, it was out of the desire to tell stories. The stories of the many people and places I visited and the travels that changed my life. But my love of storytelling was quickly overshadowed by all the technical things I had to learn –  how to set my settings, composition, lighting, how to direct, and simply how to not take a bad photo. Recently, I’ve found myself called back to stories and a longing to go deeper. I don’t just want to make pretty pictures that are technically correct and visually appealing. I want to see your soul – to know you deeply, what lights you up, what brings you peace, and what connects you. I want to strip away the pretty dresses, lavish details, and gorgeous mountain backdrop. Don’t get me wrong,  I love those things too. But what is real underneath it all? You. Your story.


What's the difference between this approach and a traditional session?

The main difference between a more traditional couple’s session and a session with an Honest Stories approach is in the preparation. A more traditional engagement or couple’s session focuses more on aesthetics than story-telling. Although I love to get to know my couples either way, preparing for a more traditional couples session is more about preparing logistics such as attire and location. 

Alternatively, a session with an Honest Stories approach has a more involved and collaborative planning process. Through prompts and questionnaires, I help my couples immerse into their story. Then we collaborate to plan a session with scenes and experiences that tell that story. 

Sessions with an Honest Stories approach tend to have a variety of imagery (including lots of details) that together tell a beautiful story. The images often feel more raw and intimate, more artsy (focused on feeling) and less traditional.

Can I incorporate an Honest Stories approach into my wedding or elopement?

Yes! Although my ‘Honest Stories’ approach can be done with any session; it pairs beautifully with a wedding or elopement. Typically your wedding or elopement has a flow to the day and an expectation for specific images. Adding an honest stories approach allows you to document the more raw, intimate, and honest story of who you are together at this extraordinary time in your lives.  If this is something you are interested in, then please let me know and we can certainly find a way to incorporate. Here are some ideas to get you thinking! (and be sure to check out the session below for some inspo).

  • Opt for a less traditional Engagement Session – Instead of a more traditional style engagement shoot, opt for a session with an ‘Honest Stories’ approach.
  • Incorporate a Couple’s Steamy Session or individual Boudoir – By their nature, sessions with an Honest Stories approach are raw, intimate, and meant to go deeper than a pretty picture. Sometimes that means playing silly games and bringing out your goofy side together. Other times, if the story is about intimacy and the more serious side of the connection, they can get a little steamy. Individual boudoir is another way to capture a more raw and intimate look back at who you were during this wild chapter of your life. 
  • Incorporate more intentional experiences into your elopement day – There are ways to incorporate honest stories style imagery into your elopement day as long as you have booked enough time. It really comes down to setting aside the time and crafting intentional moments or micro experiences that you feel represent this time in your life together. For example, instead of spending your morning apart and getting ready the traditional way, you might opt to make breakfast or brew coffee together. Or maybe take your dog for a walk together. Or perhaps there’s a game you love to play together. Or maybe you’ll take a bubble bath together and spend the morning snuggled up with breakfast in bed. Or after your guests leave you might end the day in the hot tub or stargazing. Or fill in the blank. It’s not about choosing activities that would photograph well. It’s about choosing experiences that feel you, that evoke a true emotion, and that collectively help tell the story of the time in your life when you married your best friend.

What if I'm not getting married - Do you offer stand-alone 'Honest Stories' couple (or individual) portrait sessions?

Yup – I sure do! Think of an ‘Honest Stories’ session as a portrait session, but with greater depth and focused on creating and documenting an authentic experience. This is for couples (or individuals who wish to explore themselves and their relationship together, and co-create art that tells a story.

Take a peek into the process behind my ‘Honest Stories’ approach! Here are my top three tips for achieving beautiful, honest storytelling imagery.

Identify feelings and an overall vibe. What is your and your partner’s vibe together? Quiet and thoughtful, wild and playful? Brainstorm a list of words that describe you and your partner. What are the various settings of your story together? When do you feel most connected to your partner? When do you feel most loved by your partner? This first step is to dig deep and gather info.

Plan at least three scenes, including activities that will take place during those scenes. Think of it like making a movie! Each scene will be set in a specific location with a specific activity that tells the story of who you are as a couple. For example, you might jump on the bed and have a pillow fight to bring out your wild and playful side, and then you might have your partner read you a book while you take a bath to bring out the more thoughtful and intimate side. In the featured shoot, we decided to have William read to Lindsay in the bathtub, because that is something special he does in real life. They also love drinking whiskey and dancing. To bring in their silly side, we had them playing around and jumping on the bed. And their sweet little boy even made an appearance.  It works best if you choose real activities that you and your partner do for each other or together in your day-to-day life (or at least nails the vive of who you are together). When it comes down to it, I want you to feel something when you look at your images. The way that a movie can set the scene so beautifully and perfectly that you fall right into it and forget that you’re watching a movie at all.

It’s about the experience – Consider your session a date night. Come open-minded, be willing just to play, and let loose. Be OK with images not being posed and perfect, and trust in the process and your photographer. It is in this environment that creativity is unleashed and magic occurs.

Are you ready to start your greatest adventure yet?

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Hey that's me, I'm Jess

I’m your Wedding and Elopement photographer, but i’m also your dream enabler, permission grantor, and co-conspirator. I’m here for you, holding your hand, and helping you to craft an outside the box wedding experience that is unique, intentional and true to you and your life adventure together.




Jess Albonico

Jess Albonico

Seattle + PNW Wedding Photographer, helping couples ditch the rulebook and have a wedding day as epic and unique as there life adventure together.

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I can’t wait to meet you and hear all about what you’re dreaming up. I will be in touch within 48-hours.

xx, Jess