Engagement Photoshoot in the Tropical Gardens of Matthaei Conservatory

December 4, 2022

Matthaei Botanical Gardens Engagement in Ann Arbor

It is not every day that I get to work in the lush tropical conservatory of the University of Michigan, but it’s always such a wonderful treat. Some of you may know that I spent six beautiful weeks on the islands of Hawai’i a couple years ago and the visual aesthetic of this engagement session immediately transported me back to my beloved tropical paradise.

Yahang and Eric chose a Matthaei Botanical Gardens engagement, because they are avid supporters of sustainability research, climate action and conservancy. We got together at the beginning of November and while we were truly blessed by Michigan weather in its 70s, we couldn’t get enough strolling through the botanical greenhouses and various climate zones. The couple chose casual outfits to wear, they selected natural materials and botanical patterns. It was a perfect fit for the tropical garden settings.


matthaei botanical gardens engagement

The Earth is a fine place and worth fighting for.

Ernest Hemingway 
matthaei botanical gardens engagement
ann arbor engagement photographer

Photo permit for a Matthaei Botanical Gardens engagement and wedding

Getting a photography permit for your engagement session at the conservatory is easy! While you don’t need a reservation for your engagement photoshoot, it is always good to call ahead of your portrait session. You can then stop at the front desk to pay the fee and pick-up your photo-pass. Be aware, that the conservatory is closed on Mondays. For more information, visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens website.

  • Engagement sessions and couples photoshoot permits cost $50.
  • Matthaei Botanical Gardens also offers three different price packages for wedding events at the conservatory – for more information please click here.

How to plan a fun Ann Arbor engagement session

There are great advantages to booking an engagement photoshoot before your wedding:

  • Setting up an engagement session will give you a taste of my shooting style and a collection of photos you can use for your wedding stationery and website.
  • Getting to know you on a deeper level through your personalized engagement photoshoot will give me the opportunity to capture your wedding day with sensitivity and insight later on.

Pro tips:

  • Envision the season for your engagement photoshoot
  • Choose a meaningful location 
  • Pick out a comfortable engagement outfit that fits the theme
  • Be yourself (unless you can be a unicorn)
  • Focus on your connection
  • Have fun!

What I’ll do before your engagement session:

  • Offer unlimited consultations
  • Provide a complimentary wardrobe guide book
  • Posing support: I’ll give you easy instructions, asking you to move and interact together in ways that allow me to capture candid moments in a flattering way. We might play fun games to capture the real you with prompts that include movements, emotions and associations.


Moody Nichols Arboretum Engagement Photoshoot at Dusk

After we exhausted the beautiful greenhouse setting of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, we ventured out to the Nichols Arboretum – adjacent to University of Michigan’s Central Campus in Ann Arbor. The stunning Huron River, meadows and healthy woods of the Arb are the most impressive green areas in Ann Arbor. The land includes extensive collections of native and exotic trees and shrubs incorporated into a naturalistic landscape. These stunning woodsy trails are open daily sunrise to sunset and are a beautiful backdrop for engagements, couples sessions, intimate elopements and wedding portraits.

Yahang and Eric had a specific location in the Arb in mind when we started discussing the concept for their engagement session. They wanted to incorporate tall pines and the fields with golden grass for beautiful variety. They changed their outfits to a mirror the earthy fall tones of the Arb landscape. As props, they brought a hand made ochre blanket that Eric crafted for Yahang at the beginning of their relationship. They also wanted to pop a bottle of sparkling wine at the end of their photoshoot to celebrate a fun experience!


nichols arboretum engagement

Engagement photos 101

Picking the locations and outfits

The sky is the limit when it comes to engagement shoot locations. With adventure engagements gaining popularity in the recent years, couples venture out into wild places more then ever. The landscape tends to be the prominent element in these types of engagement photographs, just like in Yahang’s and Eric’s Ann Arbor engagement.

Couples often ask me about number of locations and outfits to consider for engagements and couples sessions. My engagement sessions include 2 hours of consecutive photo coverage and unlimited locations and wardrobe changes during this time. Throughout the years of working as an Ann Arbor wedding and engagement photographer, 2 locations and 2 outfits are usually the best route to choose.

Combining elegant and casual outfits with locations in the nature, a downtown city scape or in a cozy coffee shop usually produces the best results. Earthy tones and metallics are fantastic, but stay away from large distracting patterns. Opt for complimenting colors, rather than matching hues. Flowy dresses are beautiful, but so is a casual outfit consisting of favorite jeans and a simple t-shirt. Feeling comfortable will help you embrace being in the spotlight for a couple of hours!

Picking the right Ann Arbor engagement photographer

Researching the style of your Ann Arbor engagement photographer and noticing the different shooting and editing styles is the first step. Some photographers shoot and edit in a fine art, composed, light and airy aesthetic. Some photographers love earthy, warm tones, candid moments and imperfections that create intimacy and the feeling of authenticity. It is a good idea to view portfolios of multiple photographers and decide what style you gravitate towards. Make sure sure you choose an experienced photographer who knows how to work in ever changing lighting conditions and understands composition rules in the wild outdoors. An experienced photographer will make sure to give you prompts that evoke feelings and emotions, rather than forcing uncomfortable poses.


nichols arboretum engagement photoshoot

Other Ann Arbor Engagement Locations to Consider

As an Ann Arbor wedding photographer, I often photograph at other locations in the area. Here is a list of my favorite photoshoot locations in Ann Arbor:

Natural aesthetic:

  • Barton Nature Area & Huron River Drive trails
  • Delhi Metropark
  • Fuller Park
  • Argo Nature Area
  • Gallup Park
  • Lillie Park

Downtown city vibes:

  • Main Street
  • State Street
  • Kerrytown

Architectural features:

  • University of Michigan Museum of Art – UMMA
  • The Law Quadrangle
  • Shapiro Library
  • Angell Hall
  • Rackham Graduate School
  • Michigan Union
  • Michigan League
  • Hill Auditorium

Restaurants, bars and coffee shops with cool vibes:

  • Spencer
  • Shinola
  • Hyperion Coffee
  • The Last Word
  • Aventura
michigan wedding photographer

Hi, lovely, I am Yana, a Michigan wedding and elopement photographer! When you book me as your Ann Arbor engagement photographer, you’re also booking my knowledge of stunning locations in Michigan and beyond. But that’s not all. I spend hours scouting new locations, researching activities and vetting vendors to be able to provide my expertise for a unique experience. I will also become your sounding board to consult ideas about your dream elopement adventure. Through all of this, we will most likely become friends and I will silently shed a tear hiding behind my camera when I witness you exchange your vows with your one and only. To book your complimentary consultation and chat about your Ann Arbor engagement and wedding planning with me, fill out the form below.