Which conditions and creative choices lend themselves to truly gorgeous photographs? You're about to find out.

If you really want to blow people's minds go for an "editorial"-style photo session

With their narrative themes and elaborate sets, these shoots are becoming popular among imaginative couples. Of course, this is definitely not for everyone: It takes hours of planning and prep—and a considerable amount of creative daring—to stage a themed engagement shoot. Joy Harmon Prouty of Wildflowers Photography worked closely with clients Hayley and Alex to create this Alice in Wonderland-inspired shoot. "I help guide couples toward a theme that speaks to them," says Joy. While a theme can inspire a certain feel, the real goal is for the love story of the couple to be told. And no matter how theatrical the setting or props, you should still feel like yourselves, not characters in a film or novel. Once these "rules" are set, you can let your imagination run wild. This couple chose the Alice theme because the bride had a passion for the story. To design the set, Joy used props and costumes from her own collection, including the blue vintage dress worn by the bride. The shoot took place in Joy's backyard, where she constructed a dynamic set using quilts, vintage chairs, and handmade cardboard cutouts of blue clouds. Hayley also contributed to the set design—the vintage teacups once belonged to her grandmother.

Photo: Wildflowers Photography/Joy Harmon Prouty