Tia Nash, a wedding photographer from New Orleans, was looking forward to a busy spring. She had wedding and engagement photo shoots lined up months in advance, and in mid-March managed to photograph three weddings in one weekend.

But a few days later, Ms. Nash became ill with what she believed was the coronavirus, and then the governor of Louisiana issued a stay-at-home order. By the time her fever broke, all of her upcoming assignments had been postponed or canceled.

“I was like: The world is collapsing,” Ms. Nash said.

A passion for capturing the love between recently engaged or married couples was what drew Ms. Nash to the field of wedding photography in the first place, and she was determined to find a way to continue to hold safe photo sessions once she started to feel better. She noticed that other photographers were offering clients the option of socially distanced portrait sessions using the Live Photo feature on FaceTime or by taking screen shots of Zoom calls. So, when a recently engaged couple from New Orleans reached out to inquire about Ms. Nash’s wedding packages, she asked if they would be interested in some unconventional engagement photos as well.


It didn’t take much convincing before Ms. Nash had Alyssa Bienes and Hanna Unverzagt posing in their living room. She gave them instructions on how to position their phone and themselves to get the best light, and snapped pictures over FaceTime.

“It’s not the same quality as I’m used to working with,” she said, “but there’s still super-sweet moments and cute memories.” The couple had gotten engaged the day before Louisiana’s stay-at-home order went into effect, and Ms. Nash said that after she sent them the photographs they texted her to say that they were both in tears.

“I’ve never met Tia in person, but being on FaceTime with her, it felt like we were having a real engagement photo shoot,” Ms. Bienes said. “It made the whole engagement feel real. Before that, we weren’t able to celebrate with our family or anything like that, so it was really fun to get to feel special for an hour or so.”

Ms. Nash posted the photos in the Mastin Labs — Community on Facebook, a group for photographers who use Mastin Labs’s editing software to share their work. She got so many positive messages that she decided to make a short tutorial about virtual photo shoots, which she sells for $10 on her website.

Rose Bowman, an Atlanta-based wedding photographer, was one of the more than 140 people who downloaded Ms. Nash’s tutorial. Ms. Bowman has been offering FaceTime and Zoom portrait sessions to couples for about two months or so. “There’s still a way to create art and capture what’s happening in the world right now,” she said. “I feel like more people are spending time with each other than they ever have. Why not capture it in a safe way for everybody?”

Ms. Bowman typically starts a virtual photo shoot by asking a couple to show her around their space over FaceTime. She picks out the areas with the best lighting for them to pose in, and gives them prompts like she would during an in-person photo shoot.

The more candid the better. After one couple’s dog jumped on the bed with them during her first FaceTime photo session, she started asking couples to bring out their pets for the shoots.

When Ms. Bowman did a virtual photo shoot with Brittin and Todd Pittard on April 11, she made sure their dog, Leroy, got to be front and center. The Atlanta-based couple had been planning to get married surrounded by family and friends, but were forced to cancel their large celebration because of the coronavirus pandemic. They decided to go ahead with the wedding anyway, and were married over Zoom in their backyard by their high school friend, Bryan Weldon, a Universal Life minister. Leroy was their ring bearer. The couple’s wedding planner put them in touch with Ms. Bowman, who took their wedding photos after their two-person (and one dog) ceremony.

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Credit…Rose Bowman

“We’re so glad to have them,” Ms. Pittard said about the photos. Even though the pandemic forced the Pittards to have the wedding without any friends or family in attendance, they are grateful to be able to send them professional photos from their wedding day. They plan to get copies printed to put around the house, and make an album to flip through.

“She captured a very special moment in time for us,” Mr. Pittard said, “and without technology that would not have happened.”

Kareem Virgo, a wedding photographer in Palm Beach, Fla., used the Live Photo feature on FaceTime to take candid selfies of his wife, Sandy Virgo, whenever they were apart. As cities and states went into lockdown and his clients began to cancel their photo shoots, Ms. Virgo suggested that he try using FaceTime to take professional, socially distanced portraits of couples. He was sceptical at first, but after getting positive feedback while testing the idea out with a few of his friends, Mr. Virgo started offering free photo sessions to people across the country.

Credit…Kareem Virgo
Credit…Kareem Virgo

He has shot a few engagement photos, but mainly is focused on giving couples a moment to have fun and forget about the daily stress of the pandemic. “We just wanted it to make people feel good,” he said. He has taken more than 400 virtual portraits since March and said he may open up more sessions for the rest of the year.

Wadly Estel and Faith Thomas, who live in Deerfield Beach, Fla., were one of the first couples Mr. Virgo shot. They had been socially distancing for about a week, and were grateful for the excuse to dress up and go outside. But didn’t know what to expect.

“The whole shoot was amazing,” said Mr. Estel. “We already knew he was a great photographer, but we didn’t know what he had in mind.” Not only were the couple happy with the photos, but the excuse to have fun and pose with each other was a welcome distraction during an uncertain time. “Being able to do that shoot with him gave my girlfriend and I a date night out,” he said.

To Ms. Nash, the photographer from New Orleans, it’s moments like these, when couples get to dress up and forget about the pandemic for an afternoon, that make virtual photo shoots so special. She says that often photographers talk about the quality of photos in reference to the number of pixels, but the virtual photo shoots have helped her reframe what makes a successful image.

“It’s still a high-quality moment, and it’s about that memory that you’re getting for them,” Ms. Nash said. “It’s been really fun to let go of striving for perfection, and instead really focus on capturing the emotion in the moment.”

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