When I first started in photography, I was a sucker for emotional shots, tender touches and loving embraces. Don’t get me wrong, they are still some of my favorite moments, and hold an important place in a photo session, but I have learned that capturing knockout portraits of your couple looking into your lens is just as important.
Over the years, I’ve developed a process to get these knockout shots, and I do it by waiting until nearly the end of our portrait session on the wedding day. By this time, a couple has had the chance to relax from the nerves of the day and to connect with one another alone, often for the first time since their day began. Finally, through my encouragement and guidance, they have started to feel like rockstars in front of the camera, so after one of their last embraces, as the fading light hits them with its perfect softness, I ask them to turn toward me with those big beautiful smiles . . . and then a moment like this happens, and the real storytelling begins.
It’s not simple to be yourself in front of a camera, so when I see my couples 100% relaxed and radiant in who they are, I’m pretty much the happiest girl in the world because THOSE are the shots I know they’ll treasure for the rest of their lives. 💛
Authenticity to yourself is just as important as learning the skills to help your clients be themselves in front of you.
For me, helping others show their true selves was very natural, but determining my own artistic self was a much harder journey. I stumbled upon the art world later than most (age 22 was my first real exposure and attempt at art) when I was required to take one art course in university. I chose a painting class, and I remember hesitantly asking the art professor before I signed up, “What if I just can’t do it? What if I absolutely suck at this?” I remember he smiled, and said if I just did my best, it didn’t matter what it looked like. So, I did just that, and it turned out I could paint—pretty well, actually. Heck, it turned out I LOVED to paint. A few years later, something very similar happened with photography, and here I am, years later, so pumped to share that no matter where you are starting in your journey, it is EXACTLY where you need to be, and if you just keep taking the next best step, you WILL arrive where you need to go.
Early on in my photography career, I was so quick to look around at what other photographers were doing and then would attempt to create my own version of that. Deep down, I knew I wanted to create work that was true to me, but I would quickly overthink myself into a corner and become paralyzed. Eventually, I found the key wasn’t to force authenticity, but to just TRY things, trust myself in the moment and listen to my gut. In many ways, my journey was trial and error, which often was scary and sometimes risky. The wonderful part was that I did learn to trust myself more and more with each attempt.
Today, I actually spend very little time looking at other photographers’ work, other than supporting and loving my amazing friends in the industry, because I truly believe my best work comes from within me. When I relax. When I stop hustling to prove myself. When I take time to be present and meet the beautiful people I’m photographing exactly where they are at.
This shoot down in San Francisco was the perfect example of that. We had a great team, but as shoots (and life) always go, there were complications and delays, but I chose to embrace the moment, to go with the flow, to capture who and what was in front of me, and not worry about who and what wasn’t. That’s where beauty met me—and because I was present, I was able to see it and capture it, in all its glory. ✨
Simplify. I am one to easily become overwhelmed with all of the things I’d like to do/capture/create. In shoots (as in life), I’m learning that my favorite shots are the ones I simplify. I step closer, cut things out, hone in and focus on a few key aspects of the scene in front of me that are important.
This image is the perfect example of that, because there was so much beauty to capture, but this simple shot became one of my favorites from the session. The model was stunning with incredible makeup & hair done by @ashleyreadings and @sweetwoodruff had created a beautiful arrangement of flowers set up beside her. Yet as I stood there, looking at the scene, what I REALLY liked about the moment was the shape of the model’s arm holding her wrist, the angle of the branch she was holding and the way the color palette was almost completely green and white with lights and shadows playing over it. 🌿
I use to think simple was boring (just give me MORE of everything, please!) but now I’m learning simple *IS* everything and through it, I can tell the story of beauty with greater truth.
When doing editorial work, choose vendors to collaborate with whose work inspires you.
During this rainy shoot down in Oregon, I was blown away with @bethlevelartistry’s stunning makeup on our model and how she chose a red lip with this burnt orange @elizabethdye gown. It was a bold move and I would never have guessed how good it would look, until I saw it, then I was in love. 💕
Any collaboration is truly that—a bunch of artists bringing in their unique take on a vision. I’ve grown so much by reaching out and inviting the artists I admire most to work alongside me in these shoots.
Celebrate your successes! When you get images back from your amazing lab (ahem, @photovisionprints) and you’re out of this world pumped for how they turned out, go out and freaking celebrate! Dedicate a night to doing something you’re excited about, a concert or a new restaurant with your favorite people. Take time to recognize the effort you put in and the progress you are making because it is all too easy to get sucked into the hustle and never slow down enough to enjoy exactly where you are.
Other professions do this well and naturally—an accountant getting a promotion or a dentist who opens up her own practice, people applaud and it’s recognized, because it *IS* a big deal. It’s also just as big for us as photographers when our hard work and talent come together to create something truly special in an image or photo session, and I want to encourage you to recognize that.
The results aren’t as obvious, but often these types of images get us new exposure, opportunity for features in great blogs or bookings with the kind of clients we want to work with, which is just as rewarding. These big and small victories take us one step closer to our goal, and deserve to be celebrated.
Don’t get lost in the hustle of accomplishment. Instead, savor each new achievement and enjoy the journey itself.
As a wedding photographer I, like most of you, keep a running tally in my mind of which shots I’ve completed and which I still need to get on a wedding day.
When I first started out, this could induce guilt if the day was further along and I knew there were still some shots I wanted to get. It took nerve for me to ask the couple if they’d be willing to come outside with me during the reception to take some last shots while the sun set. I would apologize and then shoot as fast as I could. Now, I trust that tally in my mind and feel no guilt at all, because I know these shots are going to be some of their absolute favorites, and it’s my job as their photographer to communicate their value to them.
This shot was taken just as the sun was disappearing steps from Paul & Lindsay’s reception venue. Their outdoor wedding was incredibly beautiful, but the sun had been high and hot midday when we had done their couple session, so many of those images were shot in open shade. As guests sat down for dinner, I saw the soft buttery glow of the sunset over the garden and knew that we just had to sneak outside to take advantage of it. We did, and in those 15 minutes, I captured some of the best images of the day.
Moral of the story: trust yourself and communicate with your clients. Even if they are a bit tired and ready to relax, this day only happens once, and they’ll be thankful when they receive those stunning images in their mailbox.
MOVEMENT is key to creating a safe place for your clients to be themselves. Shoulders relax, muscles unwind and laughter flows naturally when they know they have a direction and action. A place to walk or run to.
Guiding people into specific poses can be beneficial as well, but there are moments when even the most confident clients can look a bit stiff. Prescribed movement can naturally ease that tension for most clients, and give you the shots you were hoping for. It is important though to choose movements that your clients are comfortable with. Every couple is different, some may be more reserved and prefer a slow walk looking over their shoulders at one another, while others are ready to run and leap barefoot. 💃
I pull movement into my shoots within the first 10 minutes of starting, often walking and holding hands, while reserving any bigger movements (if fitting for my clients) like running, twirling, dancing for the end when they are most comfortable.
Jessy & James were definitely a couple full of energy and enthusiasm, and some of my favorite photos from their session were at the very end, laughing and running in the warm summer wind, hair messy, feet sandy, totally and completely relaxed.
It has been such a joy to be with y’all over these past few days! Thank you so much for following along on my journey and loving me along the way! @photovisionprints, thank you for all the ways you’ve supported me. I couldn’t ask for a lab full of more incredible people, you have always shown such dedication to my success! And to all my amazing fine art friends out there, I am so humbled and happy to be part of this community! You each encourage and inspire me daily. Shine on, you beautiful people!