Engage 14 Cayman Islands Portrait Project


Every six months I have the absolute JOY to attend the Engage! Conference held in exotic and amazing locations all over the world. I have been to the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas (my very first time going!), The Breakers in Palm Beach, The Biltmore in Asheville, Montelucia Resort in Scottsdale, The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek CO and the last one was at The Ritz-Carlton on Grand Cayman.  So. How can Rebecca Grinnals + Kathryn Arce of Engaging Concepts keep making each Engage! better and better and better? I am not sure, but man it sure does! Maybe it’s the relationships I have started and developed over the years that just sweeten with time…? Maybe I am so lucky to have seen this conference through so many different lenses- as wide-eyed and kind of doubtful that I would enjoy it first timer to attendee to 2 time speaker (what an incredible honor!!)  to photographer and now Photo Director (yes, there are capital letters there)…! To a completely Engage obsessed pink-haired fool!  In between each Engage I long for the company of my friends. As many of us have said before, it is like summer camp for wedding and event professionals!

The theme of Engage 14 organically became one of authenticity. So many of the industry giants spoke on this very topic. How now matter what? You are where you are. Be present. Connect. Don’t lose sight of who you are, and how you got there. And never, ever forget where you came from. It was a humbling and powerful message to be heard, and heard it was. This message resonated so deeply with us all, I felt like each speaker was speaking directly to me! I looked around at one point and everyone was riveted. Eyes glued to the front. Complete silence. It was so powerful and empowering at the same time to hear this message! So thank you to everyone who unknowingly came here to present on this topic!

Coming to Cayman I decided I wanted to evolve how I was covering Engage a bit and decided to really take the portrait project I had casually started at The Biltmore and Bachelor Gulch and make it official. Like. This was ALL I was gonna focus on. Which was a struggle! I was surrounded by so many fancy details and landscapes…! But once I started connecting with each person I photographed… I was a woman obsessed!

Enter Stefanie  from Stefanie Miles Events in Dallas. She was one of my very first portraits and we connected on such a deep level!  Even though we were surrounded by people while she was talking to me and really opening herself up I could only hear her voice and her story. She was moved to tears as she shared and, lump in my throat I photographed her. See, this. THIS was what it was all about. Not just creating fabulous photographs of fabulous people. But connecting with each and every person who asked me to photograph them.

thank you Kasey Conyers of Bliss Wedding + Event Design in Columbus Ohio + Fredi Ross of Total Entertainment in NY NY (image above)


Who doesn’t know and love Allan Zepeda?  Watching him order breakfast is something to add on your bucket list! I am serious!


My New England neighbor Miss Stephanie Frazier-Grimm does double duty as the owner of Couture Parties in Newport Rhode Island and the Founder of The Confetti Foundation! She has a heart of pure gold!


So many of my often-times two minute ‘sessions’ started with complete laughter… but ended in them settling in and letting me see them… thank you Miss Sarah Pease of Brilliant Event Planning in NY NY


After I saw my friend Ed Libby of Ed Libby & Co. speak about his incredible life journey this year… I grabbed him and asked if I could photograph him in his custom made jacket. He wore this to his ‘Heaven Can Wait’ party this summer in LA. And yes, Ed. Heaven can wait. We aren’t quite done with you here! Thank you for sharing your story with us all!


This southern gentleman that is Todd Fiscus of Todd Events is just one of my favorite people. He lets me bask in the smell of his amazing cologne (and doesn’t for one second think it’s weird) and is always so kind and warm to me every time I see him. You know when people ask ‘how are you?’ and then look away and scan the room? Not Todd. He waits. He makes eye contact. He makes you feel like you are the only one in the room! I love that quality in a person so very much! Thank you Todd for seeing me, each and every time!


Oh Shira. What you don’t see here is that there was a hallway full of people rushing about, some heckling her in her ‘zen’ pose…! and she was the best sport! I loved this shot of her with her smile in full bloom! Shira is the Real Weddings editor at Martha Stewart Weddings, and we got to know each other even better while working on a wedding together that will be featured in an upcoming issue of Martha! It was so fun to see their whole operation in full swing! During a moment of down time there she confessed that she was so disappointed that she missed out on having me take her portrait at Bachelor Gulch and made sure she found me in Cayman! I was so honored to, of course!




I was a little intimidated to photograph this lovely man, I can tell you this! Braedon Flynn is someone who I have admired from afar for a long time. Now, for one reason or another I never knew what he looked like, but I sure knew his work! At one Engage we were bonding on the dance floor and I made the connection that this was in fact THE Braedon Flynn of Braedon Photography in Costa Mesa CA… and I almost did a back flip! Not only is he so so talented but he is one of the most kind and sweet people I have met!


Who gets a break? Not me! How can you not shoot while on a catamaran headed to stingray city? I am so so glad I brought my camera and forced people to let me hover all wobbly-ish over them with my giant camera (which could be a weapon if dropped it is so freaking heavy!) on a fast moving boat! This girl here quickly morphed into my buddy after she graciously agreed to let me photograph her here! Thank you Hannah of DFW Events in Dallas!! Even her nail polish matches the water. come ON.


Bringing it full circle to my home state of CT. Dan of Shindig Lighting in Fairfield CT is one of those guys when I walk into an event and I see him setting up I immediately squeal with delight! He is so fun to work with! Dan, I am really missing my daily dose of you! Thank you for letting me drag you over here for some pictures!


Clane of Clane Gessel Photography in Seattle, Nicki of Toast of the Coast in Fernandina Beach FL and Kasey McNabnay of the stunning The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg Montana. All photographed on Rum Point. After, ahem. I had some RUM PEOPLE!!!!! They’re in focus. ish.


Yes. Ryan of David Beahm gets two shots in here! The top one? I wasn’t sure I loved when I was taking it, but I was like hey. I’m drinking rum. Who cares! Try something new! But man. I looooooooooove it. And no, I am not drinking rum now! Ryan was just so game for anything. So up for it. Into it! I love that kind of energy so I took  a little trip with him and liked where we ended up!


This was the last shot I took of Ryan and I showed him a quick peek and holy hell if he didn’t straight up SQUEAL with delight!!! Can we say ‘profile pic’ people??? The man is beautiful!


This was one of the funnier moments for me. Meet Mark Ingram of Mark Ingram Atelier in New York City. The word Atelier is so… FANCY. I feel fancier just even typing it! Atelier! The ‘r’ is silent. Just so you non-fancy people know! So here he is. So classy and elegant and put together even in a bathing suit! How is that even possible! He asks me for a portrait. Let me set the scene..

Me. In a bathing suit. In the water. Setting up my shot, standing kinda close to him. And a freaking CRAB decides to bite my foot so hard! I FLAILED and yelled and swore so loud I nearly leapt out of the water! Ha ha ha! Poor Mark Ingram!! No matter. I laughed, we moved, he laughed and I resumed my shoot! I have things to do Mr. Crab!


Miss Sarah of Lonesome Valley in Cashiers NC. One of the sweetest people I met on this trip! We are FFL. Or friends for life. I just made that acronym up. Or did I…TBD. I did not make that one up!


My friend Nadia of Events by Nadia in Sydney is an old friend to me at this point! My favorite thing about her is she is Mexican with an Australian accent! Every time she speaks I think. Wait. Wait. OK. Wait. ha ha ha. Every. single. time. I love my Mexican posse!!!!


These lovelies Emily Thomas + Kristin Winchester from Southern Weddings Magazine…made me so nervous.. because I have already seen their head shots in the magazine and they are so darn pretty! They were so patient with me (many times I had a long line of people queued up waiting) and just let it flow for me! I love how each of them have such different looks and mostly how Kristin thought I wasn’t going to take her portrait! Girl please!


This woman here has the biggest kindest heart! Danielle Wolfe is the GM of The Caribbean Club right down the beach from the Ritz.. and I was lucky enough to have stayed there at the beginning and end of my week in Cayman. She took such amazing care of me all week long..even sending someone to bring me some fresh cut aloe for my terrible sunburn and applying it during the dessert party! She insisted that she take care of me, and Danielle, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated you mothering me. I haven’t had that since my Mom died, and I am tearing up now just thinking of what that even feels like to know there is someone who is just in charge of you and taking care of you no matter what. Thank you for doing that all week. From the fabulous meals, to the fabulous suites and the daily check ins and crying sessions on the beach talking about our old pets… you were a trip highlight for me. I loved getting to know you so much better here in your home! Until I come back to Cayman, my friend! Which please. Will be like tomorrow! I LOVE THAT ISLAND.. but I love you more!


Kathleen McFeeters, the founder of Donna Morgan in New York is one of the most naturally ethereal and beautiful women I have ever photographed. So comfortable in her own skin, and in front of my camera! She just kind of fell into this chair like a ribbon and her blue eyes danced! I can’t wait to work with you again my friend!

Why is Mike Roffino of Design Works in CO laughing, you ask? Well he had the most darling view of my uterus as I contorted my body behind a plant to get this shot! Otherwise known as the world’s most flattering way to take a photo! I fell in total love with Mike after meeting him and watching him work at the Bachelor Gulch Engage. The way he interacted with his team when he thought no one was looking just melted my heart. What a gentleman and a true team player. I would work for you any day! My favorite Mike moment though was when he revealed the ballroom to Rebecca + Kathryn and they all cried with joy! I was so incredibly moved to watch this man who just loves his job so much just share such emotion with everyone! That is the kind of person I want to photograph for, someone who just loves so openly!


And here we are to the battle of ‘who’s prettier!’ Diva Borrelli lives on the island of Ibiza and is a world traveling hair and makeup artist and best friend to none other than Vanessa Kreckel of Two Paper Dolls fame aka my home girl deluxe! While in Maine shooting Vanessa’s wedding I got to meet Diva and instantly fell in love with her infectious smile and incessant banter! And I love that she is so fashionable and speaks Italian! But is also one of the most real and down to earth women I know!

The second pretty here is none other than Scott Konizer of Blooming Gallery in Houston TX. Scott is a gentleman and a scholar. Always looking out for me, making sure I am taken care of, offering me his seat, his hand, a laugh, a smile, but not his wallet. What’s up with that Scott? I adore you SO. MUCH.


Is it me or do these two look related?? Kelly Karli of Kelly Karli Weddings and Events in Edwards CO + Matt Buckman of I Do Films aka the Blonde Ambition Tour! Or the long lost siblings tour! I am just getting to know Kelly, we are in the early stages of our courtship! She is close with people I love, and vice versa. So therefor you can clearly not choose the wine in front of me! (please someone tell me you got that)  Although I have worked alongside Matt for a few Engages, it was not until Bachelor Gulch that I really saw him let his hair down. He got buck WILD on the dance floor and I knew we were besties for life! I love you man! I will shoot alongside you any day of the week!

The bottom image is of my roomie and another soul who I have gotten to connect with so much deeper this year, Amanda Allen of NewlyWish in New York. Girl you have my heart! You are so kind, so classy. Thank you for sticking up for my pink hair, for asking me to be a part of this project this week and for being a true real friend. I am really looking forward to seeing more of you! And screaming more! Holy smokes! From schools of fish to dragons to death defying helicopter rides… girl we have seen it ALL!


Ali Phillips of Engaging Events by Ali in Chicago just calls it as she sees it, and she started calling me Dahlia. I’m going with it! Amy of Amy Zaroff Events + Design in Edina MN always has a smile on her face.. she just.. glows! Always quick with a kind word in person and online.. I just love the grace she exudes!

Suzanne of Magnolia Events and Planning in Atlanta and her husband Kris of Bold American Events and Catering in Atlanta were sweet to oblige and snuggle! Not many Engagees had their spouses there as well, so this was a bonus!


Susan Moynihan is the editor in chief of Modern Luxury Bride South Florida and was my roomie for a night at the Caribbean Club. She is so, freaking, FUNNY. Oh man. Another gem from my trip was getting to know this woman who just loved Duran Duran as much as me! #johntaylorforlife


Andy of The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas. So dapper. I could photograph you for days, my friend! Let me. Just go with it.


Ah.. I love photographing photographers..! They just know how to work it and these two ladies prove my point! Binita of Binita Patel Photography in Boston is an old friend who I was so so proud of being a speaker at this Engage! Kristi Drago-Price is also a friend and is a photography director and advisor at The Editor’s Edge in NYC and was also a speaker at this Engage! Two-fer!


I am a little obsessed with this image of Lisa Gooder, the Digital Content Editor from Bride’s Magazine. The colors, her eye contact, the wave almost crashing, the way she has her arms. GAH. I love it!!


I light up when I see this woman!!! Alicia Caldecott of A Day in May Events in Traverse City MI is someone deep in my heart. I met her on the way in to the welcome party in Palm Beach at the Breakers… and we just became fast friends. We sought each other out on the dance floor (she has some smooth moves people) and she just makes me feel so good! I love that she got smacked by this wave and just went with it! It’s the true spirit of who she is, and I couldn’t be happier with these images!!


So I saw Tara of Oscar de la Renta walk into the welcome party in Cayman, she was a little ahead of me and the group I was walking in with, and she had this flowy silver caftan on… and I just impulsively yelled ‘hey! silver lady!’ how rude, I know- because she had to know how beautiful she looked and how badly I wanted to photograph her in this again! (I didn’t bring my camera to the party…) So we made a plan for her to wear it again and come to the beach.. man I am so glad she did! I LOVE these shots so much!!


Emily of Emily Clarke Events in Texas… Dude! Thanks for being such a good sport! This shot is epic!


And lastly. I was done. Spent. Ready to go. I packed up my stuff after a long day of shooting, and was headed to rinse off. The light was almost completely gone, as in there was NONE left. I see this beauty round the corner looking for me and Eden sees me being done and says quietly ‘Oh darn I just missed you.’ Oh honey. Oh no you did not! Eden had gotten dressed so much earlier for the gala so that I could photograph her on the beach and danggit that’s what we were gonna do! I yelled “Let’s go!’ and sprinted to the beach to catch the very last little bit of light we had! This portrait was shot at 4000 iso my camera was just struggling as there was just no light, almost nothing to grab onto to focus! But it did. And I love this image so so much! Not only for what it is, this portrait of a beautiful, peaceful woman. But of a one baller at Engage, going out on a limb to find me and be photographed, who thought she missed me… but girl. No way, no how!

I see you. I see you all.


  1. Binita says:

    Carla – you have a heart & soul that shines through in every image you take. Thank you for making us all feel so comfortable in front of the camera and letting us shine!! I {heart} you!!

  2. Stop it! These are AMAZING! Carla – oh my goodness, you are good. xoxo

  3. Dora says:

    Wow, these are amazing! I love that you spent your time doing this! Gorgeous!!!

  4. Christina says:

    Love all these pics! Sad I didn’t get to catch you this time around for one of my own – next time for sure 🙂

  5. Your words were too sweet and love that photo you got of me. The whole portraits series is amazing. Such great work.
    Glad we’ve met, glad we’ve become friends and I smile every time I get to see you! Thanks for being awesome. See you in Mex.

  6. Well done Carla! You have an innate ability to put people at ease which allows you to create such successful and beautiful portraits. Not an easy thing to do. You rock!

  7. mary dago says:

    I’m Kristi Drago-Prices mom and like the pictures you’ve take of her. Especially the one looking into the distance. I was wondering how much it would cost to get a print of it and also is there any chance you might have one of her smiling. I do love her smile, it just make me laugh.

  8. Shira says:

    I was so thrilled to finally get my carla pic taken. Super excited to not only see all the portraits in this post but read about them too. Well done carla, well done!

  9. Stef Miles says:

    I am so grateful for your words and for capturing this transition in my life…this is an image that I will always treasure!! You’re so talented my friend…many many hugs!!

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