Why I Became a Wedding Photographer
When I first began my wedding photography journey, I had no intention of becoming a wedding photographer, which I know is hard to believe now. But what began as a way to keep to myself, capturing the smallest of moments has transitioned into telling the grandest of love stories. And my goodness, did it take me by surprise. This is my photography journey, my origin story, my why.
Falling for Film
I watched the image come to life in the developer tray. It seemed to take forever but I stood, unmoving, in that high school dark room, eyes locked on that blank piece of photo paper just under the surface. After what felt like an eternity, my first photo appeared before my eyes.
I was hooked.
From that point on, my camera went with me almost everywhere. I took it on the class trip to Chicago. When running around town with my best friend, Megan. To photograph my little brother when he went to prom. It was always there. I loved being able to quietly document life as it was happening around me. It allowed me to slow down and notice things that others didn’t. My photography teacher, Mr. Koursari, encouraged me and taught me all he knew. Back then I didn’t even consider it as a possible career option. But I knew it’d be a significant part of my life.
My First Wedding
A few years after high school, my friend Ashley asked me to photograph her wedding. “No way!” I said. I had no interest in photographing weddings. There was too much pressure. I had to actually talk to people. Why would I ever want to do that? Ashley’s voice fell. “Oh, that’s okay” she said. “I’m sure we can maybe find someone else with a camera.” I knew in that moment that I had to do it. This was my friend and despite my own fears, I knew I had to help her.
The photos from that day were absolutely terrible. The pastor wouldn’t let me photograph during the ceremony and we had to stage everything afterwards. I had no idea how to pose well.. anyone. But we had a great day celebrating the happy couple and cheered them on as they descended the steps of the one room church in the middle of a snowstorm. And then I promptly went back to photographing anything other than people. Just the way I liked it.
My Own Wedding
Years after shooting that first wedding, it was my turn to be the bride. Zach and I were young and in love, but we had no clue what we were doing when it came to planning our wedding. We got married before Pinterest for crying out loud! We paid for the majority of the wedding on our own and we made it work, but it wasn’t exactly what we wanted. Our friend photographed our wedding, which was very kind of him to do. To this day I am incredibly thankful to him for that and don’t fault him for what happened.
But he wasn’t a wedding photographer. There was no timeline, there was no structure, there was no back up plan. And as a result the photos of Zach and I were squeezed in at the very end. We had maybe five minutes together for portraits and were incredibly rushed as a rain storm came in right as we were starting our photos. (This is a HUGE reason why I recommend sharing a first look before the ceremony. Click here to read more about them.) When we got our portraits back, none of them were those timeless images every bride dreams of. Not a single one.
As the years went on, I realized I didn’t have wedding photos to hang on my wall or pass down to future children. And it made me sad. I so badly wanted photos that I could display proudly in my home. But it was too late. Fortunately, when my best friend got married she hired Jackie Santana Photography who has become a dear friend of mine. She asked Zach and I to model for her so now Zach and I have the most beautiful (and fake) wedding photos all over our home! My best friend and her husband even got to stand in as our bridal party!
A Difficult Lesson
Not long after Zach and I were married, my friend Ashley was diagnosed with cancer. She told me in typical Ashley fashion, causally while we were petting the dogs at the kennel where she worked. It was in the advanced stages, it didn’t look good. And then she went back to snuggling a chocolate lab.
We were in our early twenties, so it seemed absolutely impossible. But life is has a weird way of proving you wrong. We stood in the longest line I have ever seen to pay our respects to Ashley’s husband at her funeral. I didn’t expect him to remember me. But oh, was I wrong. He put his arms around me and cried as he thanked me for the photos I had taken. He told me that they were the only photos they really had of them together. As I looked around the room I saw the photos I had taken that day proudly displayed on every photo board. They were everywhere.
In that moment I realized just how important wedding photos are. They truly are our heirlooms. Our love stories – standing still somewhere in time. They are evidence that we were here and not only did we live, but we loved too. I thought of the photos Zach and I didn’t get of our day and realized that this could have very well been Ashley’s husband. What if he didn’t have photos of that day? What if I had told Ashley no?
From that day forward I knew how important wedding photos really were and I knew with out a shadow of a doubt, that it was what I was meant to do.
From Now On
Since that day I have not once slowed down in my pursuit to becoming a wedding photographer. And along the way, I learned that I could let my love for helping others flourish. As a result, I broke out of my shell and learned that I actually adored photographing people! These days I love connecting with others as I celebrate the love they share. I walk away from every single wedding feeling as though I am apart of the family, complete with a giant hug from mom.
Each wedding that I take on is ridiculously important to me and I treat it as such. I do everything in my power to capture each wedding as beautifully as I possibly can and I love my couples endlessly. For me, wedding photography is just so much more than pretty photos. It’s about telling your story: that you were here, that you lived and oh, that you loved.