Always & Forever

Wedding photographers have the tough job of capturing images that a couple will enjoy for a lifetime. Some photographers rely on their unique style, while others put increased effort into connecting with the couple through the entire wedding process. We talked with top wedding photography studios to discover their secrets to success.

Stout Photography

Jessica Stout
stoutphoto.com

I’m Jessica, and I’m an international documentary wedding photographer. There are precise moments of my life I’d give anything to have a picture of, and that really drives me. I believe in honest photography. For me, it’s not about the posed or contrived, but the stories inside the image. I’m passionate about preserving the energy and relationships of the people we photograph. Photography is an extension of my heart and mind, and I really couldn’t imagine a life without my camera.

How do you define your shooting style?
A combination of many, really. Most often, though, I define myself as a creative documentary wedding photographer. First and foremost, I want to document a wedding day with integrity and honesty. I want to tell the story without becoming part of it. I also think it’s essential to have the traditional expectations of wedding photography: remarkable portraits, family photos and everything in between.

What are your "must-capture" shots?
When a really profound moment that’s full of emotion and good light comes together in one image, my heart is fullest. To me, capturing the energy, love and relationships of a day trumps anything else. With that said, giving our couples really remarkable portraits they can be proud to hang on the wall is something we strive for, as well.

How do you create a positive working relationship with your clients?
Communication and managed expectations is key for us. I’m in constant communication with our couples, often reaching out to them for information before they have the opportunity to ask. I want to make sure they know I’m here for them and excited about their day. I email them a questionnaire 45 days prior to the wedding requesting details about their timeline, family photo requests, feedback they might want to share about their engagement session and more. After the wedding, we send them an email letting them know what to expect and when—again, reaching out to them before they even have a chance to ask. I always want to be one step ahead of them.

Equipment:
Nikon D750
Prime lenses ranging from 28mm ƒ/1.4 to 135mm ƒ/2.0
Never carry less than 5 flashes

What’s the single most important business advice you’ve learned?
That’s tough. I’d say find a balance between creating work that stands out and pricing yourself within the demand of your market.

How do you grow your business?
A combination of vendor relationships, word of mouth and social media, in that order.


Stark Photography

Lindsay and Daniel Stark
www.starkphotography.com

We’re Daniel and Lindsay Stark, a husband and wife photography team specializing in artistic documentary wedding photography. Over the past nine years, we’ve photographed hundreds of weddings across the globe, but proudly call Portland, Oregon, our home base. We’re humbled and thrilled to be awarded and recognized as some of the top wedding photographers in the world by Fearless Photographers, ISPWP, Junebug Weddings and The Huffington Post. But what brings us the most satisfaction is the sense of adventure we receive in meeting each new couple and photographing each new wedding week after week.

How do you define your shooting style?
Our style can best be described by describing us and the couples we photograph: romantic, fun, curious and adventurous. We want to capture the spirit and emotion of a wedding in an artistic and creative way while at the same time revealing moments that might have gone unnoticed.

What are your "must-capture" shots?
When we’re working, we don’t so much look for "must-captures," but rather keep a couple of main goals in mind so that, at the end of the day, we photograph everything, from the expected beauty to the unexpected stories that will undoubtedly unfold. One, we want to retell the couple’s story, so we always have our camera ready to click and capture real moments between the bride, groom and the people they love. Two, we love to make a great fun portrait for the couple that reflects where and when they tied the knot. We want awesome light, a thought-provoking composition and for the couple to have a good time while we’re at it, so we get them in a natural moment.

How do you create a positive working relationship with your clients?
We’re positive people! We love to meet new people, especially our clients. From the beginning, we’re prompt, friendly and responsive to all their needs. We love to help, and we love the feeling of knowing we’ve made their day and the process of working with us as smooth as can be. Building a connection with our clients is every bit as important as the photos we deliver to them. And from building a solid connection, we’re able to take photos that are even more powerful. So it’s a win-win for everyone.

Equipment:
4 Canon EOS 6Ds
2 Canon EF 35mm ƒ/1.4L lenses
2 Canon EF 85mm ƒ/1.8 lenses
Canon 550EX Speedlite
Canon 580EX II Speedlite
Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite
Yongnuo YN-565 EX II flash
Yongnuo YN-622C triggers
Switronix TL-BT200 TorchLED
HoldFast MoneyMaker straps

What’s the single most important business advice you’ve learned?
Match the quality of your work to the quality of your service, from your photos to your client relationships to your business cards to your website. Everything reflects you and your brand, so don’t let any part of it be less amazing than the other.

How do you grow your business?
Word-of-mouth referral has been really good to us and is our number-one form of marketing. We’ve developed some amazing friendships with our wedding clients, and they refer us to friends of theirs who get married. Then those couples become our friends, too, and the connections just grow and grow! It’s not only incredible for our business, but has enriched our personal lives so much, too. Aside from referrals, we also use Instagram and Facebook a lot to promote our work. Lindsay crunches out a newsletter a couple of times per year to keep former and current couples in the loop, too. We were recently featured on ShotKit, a website blog that looks into the bags of photographers: shotkit
.com/stark-photography
.


Shannen Natasha Weddings

Shannen Norman
shannennatasha.com

I grew up in Southern California and graduated college in 2008 with a business degree. I was a graphic design major for a semester, which is how I got introduced to photography. I had no intention of making it a career, to be honest. I thought it was fun and interesting, saved up and bought a bit of gear. I worked for two years outside of college at a design firm and then got to the point where I either had to start saying no to wedding inquiries or jump in. And so I jumped, and I couldn’t be happier. I moved to New York in 2010 and moved back to California at the end of 2014. I’m thankful for my career and getting to shoot with the lovely people I do.

How do you define your shooting style?
I would say my style is a mix of documentary with editorial. I want to capture the story and the moments that are happening throughout a day in a real way, but I also want to get amazing images of the couple and details that may not have happened without me setting them up. Capturing the beauty of the environment with the emotions of the celebration is a definite aim.

What are your "must-capture" shots?
I feel like killer images of the couple together are a must-have. Those and trying to get images of the beauty of the scene mixed with the happenings of the day. All of it works together to tell the story.

How do you create a positive working relationship with your clients?
I think that when clients feel like they not only have a great photographer at their side, but also a friend, they’re able to be comfortable and have fun in the whole process. I want to not only inform and educate my couples, but to have them enjoy their day and feel like they’re in good hands.

Equipment:
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Canon EF 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L
Canon EF 35mm ƒ/1.4L
Canon EF 50mm ƒ/1.4
Canon EF 85mm ƒ/1.2L II
Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite
Holga camera
Polaroid Land camera

What’s the single most important business advice you’ve learned?
Hustle. I think that’s a really important business aspect that’s easy to forget about when working for yourself. It’s so important to show up each day and be proactive in working really hard to be successful.

How do you grow your business?
I’m finding more and more how important it is to create and maintain relationships with people in the industry. That, along with pushing my work out there via social media, blogging, getting on wedding blogs and occasionally sending out promos. The more I can get my work in front of people and be remembered in the sea of endless photographers, the better my business will do.


Chrisman Studios

www.chrismanstudios.com

We are Ben Chrisman, Erin Chrisman, Mauricio Javier Arias Mora, Joseph Victor Stefanchik and videographer Vladimir Chaloupka.

Equipment:
There are four of us, so here’s our comprehensive list:
Nikon D750
Nikon D810
Canon EOS-1D X
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Nikon SB-910 Speedlight
Neewer TT850 flash
Neewer wireless flash transmitters
Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite
Profoto B1
Profoto B2
Cheetah Light V850
Lowel GL-1 Hotlight
MagMod flash modifiers
HoldFast MoneyMaker camera straps
Think Tank Photo camera bags
Kelly Moore camera bags

How do you define your shooting style?
The most apt description of our style is probably "creative documentary." We come from newspaper backgrounds, so our foundation is in documentary photography. And then we complement our documentary coverage with experimental, creative portraiture.

What are your "must-capture" shots?
For us, the absolute most important thing is capturing the story of the day—showing the emotion, the interactions and the feel of the day. The creative portraiture is also important, but something we consider a bonus to the documentary photos. And then showing what the day "looks" like in terms of decor, details, etc., is the last piece that rounds out our coverage. We’re extremely thorough on a wedding day and feel proud that we can deliver creative photos, but also classic, traditional photos such as timeless bridal portraits, family photos, and food and decor photography.

How do you create a positive working relationship with your clients?
We communicate with our clients all year leading up to their weddings. We like to send updates and check in on them so they always feel confident about how the day will play out and how the photography will be implemented.

What’s the single most important business advice you’ve learned?
Always stay positive.

How do you grow your business?
Our business is sustained primarily by word of mouth, but we’ve also developed our website to be SEO-based, so we’ve begun getting lots of new inquiries through Google searches.


JLB Photography

Jeffrey Lewis Bennett
www.jlbwedding.com

I’m 37, married with two kids. I worked as a graphic designer here in the Detroit area before I did much photography. What started as a side job in 2003 eventually grew into equal demand on my time as my day job. In the spring of 2010, my wife gave me the final push to do photography full time. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’m now consistently booked a year in advance and cover weddings all over the United States. I’ve also received some international attention for the animated GIFs I create for my clients.

How do you define your shooting style?
I describe my style as "Available Light—Art Directed." I like to have some control over the scene and give my clients a lot of direction, but I’m always looking for real moments happening inside what I set up. For the creative shots, I very, very rarely use any reflectors or lighting. I also work alone—no assistants.
I’ve found this increases my artistic drive.

What are your "must-capture" shots?
Three shots I’m always looking for: an "American Gothic"-inspired, serious-faced couple’s portrait; a wide shot where the entire scene is as important as the subjects; and a tight fun/romantic shot of the couple that’s backlit—sunset, if possible.

Equipment:
2 Canon EOS 5D Mark IIIs
Canon L-series prime lenses from 14mm to 135mm
Manfrotto CF tripods
Think Tank Photo bags
HoldFast MoneyMaker strap

How do you create a positive working relationship with your clients?
Be attentive. I respond to emails in a few hours, post teasers to Facebook within 24 hours and deliver finished work just a week or two after. I believe in a combination of listening to what the client wants and leading.

What’s the single most important business advice you’ve learned?
Being a fun, calm, positive leader, not a tyrant, on the day of has been integral to my success. This has been noted in my client feedback as being just as important to them as the quality of the images.

How do you grow your business?
It has been a combination of a strong website, online advertising, local networking, social media and submissions to publications that has built the brand. I’ve never done a bridal show.


Tori Pintar

www.toripintar.com

Tori Pintar is a wedding photographer, traveler and avid home cook. She has had the good fortune of photographing couples all over her home state, Montana, and the U.S. Her pursuit and eventual career as a wedding photographer began with a point-and-shoot camera and a round-the-world trip in her early 20s. Tori is a big proponent of solo travel, especially for women. She recently spent five weeks traveling in India alone. When she’s at home, you’ll find her in her kitchen making a huge mess, but usually for a meal worth every last dish.

How do you define your shooting style?
Honest, raw and sentimental. I strive to create images that are very representative of the mood, emotions and overall feeling at a wedding. I’m not interested in fluff. People are people. Sometimes I feel like brides and grooms, photographers, and the wedding industry have forgotten this. We try to enhance moments with lots of Photoshop, props, even natural backdrops, when the stories and emotions of the people in our photos are already more than enough.

What are your "must-capture" shots?
Portraits of the bride’s and groom’s parents together. It only takes a moment to squeeze in these shots, but they have tremendous value to the couple and their parents. It’s a big day for the parents, and this is a small way to celebrate their relationship and the joy they feel celebrating this major milestone in their child’s life.

Equipment:
2 Canon EOS 5D Mark IIIs
Canon EF 35mm ƒ/1.4L
Canon EF 50mm ƒ/1.4
Canon EF 85mm ƒ/1.8
Canon EF 100mm ƒ/2.8
Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L
Fujifilm X100S for travel and personal photography

How do you create a positive working relationship with your clients?
I often joke with prospective couples at the end of our first meeting that they should hire me if they’d want to drink an entire bottle of wine with me or go camping in the backcountry together. From the very beginning, I want them to know that I’m asking to be more than just another vendor. When I leave a wedding feeling like an old family friend, I know we’ve created better images together and they’ve had the best experience. Leading up to the wedding, I do small things to build up our friendship like sending them postcards from my travels, cooking them dinner in their homes or mine and sending other small gifts that remind them that I’m there for them.

What’s the single most important business advice you’ve learned?
To follow my own path. As cliché as that might sound, I’m human and struggle with comparison. When I get caught up in what other photographers are doing and making, I start to lose confidence and belief in myself. We’re in a saturated field, which is a blessing and curse. While wedding photography may be highly competitive, this competition creates a lot of room for different photography styles and ways of running a business. When I take images and make choices for my clients that resonate with me and what I believe about life, my clients are better served and I’m more fulfilled.

How do you grow your business?
Referrals from past clients, vendors and my local community have been integral to the growth of my business. I’ve struggled with SEO and a strong web presence, and I’m definitely not an avid blogger. I’ve invested most of my energy into my clients, and creating a real, personal experience for them. I try to go above and beyond for them, and the vendors I work with. Facebook has been a great resource for me in the past, but I’ve begun to switch my energies to Instagram.


Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer
ryanbrenizer.com

New York City wedding photographer Ryan Brenizer has been named one of the top-10 wedding photographers in the world by American Photo and Rangefinder magazines. He got there via a career in journalism and corporate photography, photographing three U.S. presidents, Muhammad Ali, the Pope, and other celebrities and heads of state. He’s now merging business and lives with his fiancé, wedding photographer Tatiana Breslow.

How do you define your shooting style?
I believe the most important trait of a wedding photographer is versatility, and I try to exemplify that for my clients. Wedding photographers are called on to be portrait artists, documentarians, still-life photographers, landscape shooters, wedding planners—you name it. We aim first for telling the story in a way that you can look back at the images and really feel what it was like to be there, whether you’re looking at them weeks or decades later.

What are your "must-capture" shots?

Every couple and wedding is different, so any list we have in our head is highly malleable, but we want to show the best emotions that the couple have for the day and for each other, and we try to capture good moments and/or flattering captures of as many guests as possible.

Equipment:
2 Nikon D4s
Nikon D810
Nikon D750
Sigma 12-24mm ƒ/4.5-5.6
AF-S NIKKOR 28mm ƒ/1.8G
PC-E Micro-NIKKOR 45mm ƒ/2.8D ED Tilt-Shift
AF-S NIKKOR 85mm ƒ/1.4G
Sigma 50mm ƒ/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm ƒ/2.8G ED VR II
Switronix TorchLED
LumiQuest SoftBox LTp
3 Phottix Mitros+ flashes
HoldFast MoneyMaker strap

How do you create a positive working relationship with your clients?
Communication is everything. We’re trying to create a positive, comfortable relationship from the response to our first email. I’m often too busy to do all of this work from day to day, so I have a full-time studio manager, Wendy, whose only job is to help make people’s lives easier.

What’s the single most important business advice you’ve learned?
Do whatever it takes to keep the job fun. If you’re still having fun over the long term, you’ll be able to work harder, longer, without burning out. That may mean delegation, it may mean choices that make you less money in the short run, but you’ll avoid longer-term problems that are harder to fix.

How do you grow your business?
Social media is a sort of advanced word of mouth these days, and both pay the most dividends, but take a very long time. This is a marathon, not a sprint. For boosts, it pays to know who your target market is as clearly as possible and aim right at them—not just "people getting married," but what sorts of people are the clients who you click with, and, equally as important, who seem to be most excited by your work? What do they do, what are their interests, and where do they find photographers?


Jen Huang Photography

Jen Huang
www.jenhuangphoto.com

Jen Huang is a dedicated medium-format film photographer, and shoots wedding and editorial work on location all over the world. Known for her fresh, light-filled portraits, Jen has been featured on the covers of numerous books and international bridal publications, including Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country Weddings, Brides Magazine, Style Me Pretty, Martha Stewart, The Boston Globe and New York Magazine. She has also been named a top photographer by Martha Stewart Weddings. Jen has been teaching workshops for several years on the art and craft of shooting film. In 2012, Jen released her first book, A Guide to Fine Art Wedding Photography,"along with her highly anticipated Workshop-in-a-Box. She continues to teach and speak at collaborative events and workshops globally. Jen lives in Santa Barbara with her husband and two French bulldogs.

How do you define your shooting style?
My style is painterly, light-filled and genuine.

What are your "must-capture" shots?
Every wedding is different, and every bride and groom unique, so it varies from wedding to wedding what the "must-capture" shot is. For some weddings, it’s the bride and groom showered in confetti as they come down the aisle, for others it’s the tranquil moment of reflection that the bride has before she gets ready—it always changes from day to day!

How do you create a positive working relationship with your clients?
I think the best way to create a positive working relationship with your client is to make sure you’re booking the clients that admire and understand your work and craft as an artist, and those that you respect in return.

What’s the single most important business advice you’ve learned?
The most important business advice I’ve ever received is that it’s important to be your own critic.

Equipment:
Contax 645 medium-format camera

How do you grow your business?
I grow my business through a variety of different ways—mostly, I think, from continuing to create unique images so that my work is fresh and able to stand out of the crowd. I also thank my wonderful clients and vendor friends who so diligently refer me to future brides and grooms.

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