It was that time of year. Snow was falling, festive lights lacing houses, a regular winter wonderland in Ontario. It was December of 2010 and time for Ben's annual company Christmas dinner.
This year we celebrated at a Edelweiss Tavern. A dimly lit Alps themed banquet hall with buffet style service. Ben had been telling me about this photographer who he worked with. At the time they were a husband and wife team, shooting weddings and family portraits. The lead photographer was John and his second shooter, Kerry. I wanted to meet them, so badly. At this point, I was an island, doing this all on my own.
I was a bag of nerves. As a brand new photographer, I didn't think anyone would take me seriously. My work needed improvement, but my desire and hustle were absolutely there.
Branding and headshot circa 2011
We sit down at our banquet table with them. Ben, bridges the conversation. He tells them that I'm a photographer, while I blush, "Well, I'm a new photographer". They don't miss a beat. They start opening up immediately, graciously welcoming me into the elusive "photographer club." We chat about business, the art of it all, I am treated as a colleague.
A few months later I was second shooting my first wedding for John. I still remember the advice he gave me, how to prepare. Things like, "Bring Gatorade to hydrate, always clean your car in case someone needs a ride, be ready to jump in and help with anything for the bridal party." That day I pinned boutonnieres on the groomsmen, held reflectors, and nervously shot from other angles, as he directed. It was the kindest introduction to wedding photography that I could have experienced.
This wedding photography thing quickly went from a crush to full blown love. I knew there was no going back. MAYBE IT WAS THE CONNECTIONS MADE WITH THE FAMILY AND BRIDAL PARTY. MAYBE IT WAS THE ADRENALINE RUSH OF THAT "CLICK, CLICK", THE STILLING OF A MONUMENTAL MOMENT. MAYBE IT WAS THE MILLION OTHER THINGS THAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS JOB. ONE THING IS CLEAR, THE ROMANCE IS NEVER LOST ON ME. EACH AND EVERY WEDDING.
I knew that weddings were my passion. With weddings, there is no style experimenting allowed. I had to find my niche. When booking a wedding, you must be true to the images that couples see presented. Consistency. This was my dilemma. I hadn't decided what my aesthetic would be. I liked so many styles!
Pinterest was still new in the spring of 2011. It was very helpful as I learned what pulls at my heart.
Somehow, I needed to stand out. At first, I thought this was through actions and filters. Hello, texture overlays. That yellow tinting, gahhh, now I cringe.
I went through some suuuuper bad editing days, you guys. Not with my weddings, but a few portraits and my own, personal projects.
Then, I came across a book. This book would transform my mindset and reveal my true style. Jose Villa's Fine Art Wedding Photography revolutionized my business. His fine art approach spoke to me in every way.
In the book he describes approaching a wedding as a collection. From start to finish you are thinking about the album and creating a cohesive gallery of images. Just as a museum curates an institution's collections.
Look at the wedding and details that speak to the personality of the couple, that is a part of their story. Take that in, then create custom wedding art out of the entire day.
His humble and high end art perspective revolutionized my approach. He shares about capturing authentic skin tones and creating timeless wedding work. He pushed me to make my images amazing, not the post processing. When your work is solid, you only need a little polish.
I am often asked, by those in the photography world, if I shoot film. That may seem like a strange question to those outside of the photography world.
It sounds total old school, and it kind of is, but with a modern twist. Using older medium format cameras do create a certain quality that digital has not mastered.
So, the next question, would I use film? Jose Villa is the master of film photography. Any photographer who inspired me also shot medium format film.
I wasn't alone in my search. In the summer of 2011, it was the early beginning of the niche explosion of fine art film photography.
I was given a 35 mm Nikon which I used to experiment. It was scary, no back-of-camera affirmation. I had to go with my technical knowledge and gut. I loved it! But, the further I explored, the more doubts I had about it.
The outcome of a Contax 645 can be right out of a dream. But, there are risks as well involving old equipment, film sourcing, and the ongoing processing expenses.
For the way I wanted to run my business, it wasn't a true match.
I'm still a passionate lover of film photography, and likely always will be. I will also continue experimenting and maybe even incorporate it into some of my work on a wedding day. But, I'm primarily a digital photographer who takes a fine art approach to my work.
So it began, learning to curate a wedding, from start to finish. Telling a story through styling pretty details and portrait backdrops that fit the aesthetic of that wedding. Searching for the very best light, harnessing it for a special glow. All while still capturing candid moments and emotion unfolding all around.
Throughout a wedding day I am continually thinking about the cohesiveness of the collection. First, finding good light. Second, styling my details and portraits with backgrounds that are in line with the overall aesthetic. Also, keeping an eye out candid moments.
This approach gives me life and feeds my creative soul. When others connect with that feeling, it makes me so happy. Because, at the end of the day, my job is making wedding art that brings joy to couples.
These images are from my very first official wedding as the main shooter.
Mark & Ainslie are always going to be a super special couple to me. They designed a gorgeous wedding (It was featured on Style Me Pretty) and took a chance on a newer photographer. They are now a family of four with two little ones just as gorgeous as they are.
Looking back, I now see all of those little pieces that came into my life, setting my trajectory. I am so grateful.
I am thankful for that first wedding where I second shot. Thankful that John and Kerry gave me a chance, welcoming me. Grateful for experts like Jose Villa who share generously so that we can all grow in our craft.
Most of all, grateful to each couple who gives me the gift of entering and capturing their lives.