You know how sometimes you meet somebody for the first time and feel like you’re besties after one conversation? Be prepared — you might have that same experience after reading this interview with Bailey Clopp of Bailey Michelle Photography. Not only does this Seattle-based photographer take some amazing pictures, she’s absolutely brimming with positive energy and has the most inspirational story about how she became a wedding photographer in the first place. Enjoy!
How did you get into photography?
I started photography after I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and became extremely ill for several years. Before the diagnosis, I was really athletic and loved running, but needed a hobby that wasn’t so physically demanding. I thought photography seemed like something I could do as a hobby – little did I know it would become my career! Photography has been an amazing blessing that came out of a fairly difficult time in my life. I am mostly self-taught, but have a fair amount of training as well. (Want to read more about Bailey’s journey? Check out this blog post for the inspirational story.)
How did you get into wedding photography specifically?
I actually turned away my first few requests for weddings – I was too nervous to photograph such an important day for somebody. Then, two years ago, one of my oldest childhood friends was getting married. I did engagement photos for her, and then she insisted that I photograph her wedding as well. (Her mom later told me the first thing she said when they sat down to plan was “It has to be Bailey!” How sweet is that?!). She had FAR more confidence in my abilities than I did, and for that I will be forever grateful.
I thought that would be my only wedding. I was in college at the time with plans to pursue a graduate degree in the sciences and had no intention of turning this into a business. But then everything spiraled, and two years later I find myself getting busier and busier. I’m even currently in the midst of a massive rebranding campaign (stay tuned!).
I’m forever indebted to the many people who had confidence in me and who pushed me to pursue it long before I ever even thought it was a possibility. I love it. Now I only accept weddings, engagements, and boudoir shoots. (Though I may leap into families/newborns when my brides and grooms start their own families).
Describe your style in one sentence.
I want my images to reflect what love should be — full of light and joy and sunshine and laughter.
What do you love most about photographing weddings? Why do you photograph weddings in particular?
Overwhelmingly- the response from my couples and brides – it makes the long days of being on your feet so worth it. I still get texts from brides telling me they cry as they look through their photos, and I’ve had brides and grooms text me from their honeymoon to tell me how thankful they are that I was their wedding photographer.
Do you have any special rituals to prepare before you shoot a wedding?
There’s just no way to replace the feeling that comes when I get to be a part of making someone’s wedding so special. It’s such a monumental day. Before each and every wedding, I spend a solid 30 minutes praying that I am able to not only do a good job, but that Chris (my boyfriend and shooting partner) and I can be a blessing to the couple (who, by that point, have usually become our friends). Hearing that I can do that, even just a little bit, is all I could ever ask for (except that they love their photos, of course).
Do you have a favorite, must-capture moment for every wedding?
I think I will always love the first look the most. There is just so much raw emotion when a couple first sees each other that is stunningly beautiful to capture.
What’s the most unique photo you’ve ever taken at a wedding?
A few weeks ago, I was taking portraits of a groom and his brother insisted we get one of him doing some sort of flying leap over the groom’s head. He actually made it look quite graceful!
As a photographer, what has been your biggest wedding day challenge?
Dealing with too many guests who want to take their own photos with big, professional cameras. I used to allow it, but then I actually started tripping over people trying to take photos over my shoulder with their own cameras (literally tripping — I move around a lot!). I’ve also had shots ruined because guests and their big cameras get in my frame, or because bridal parties don’t know where to look. So I actually just had to add an exclusivity clause to my contract so that people aren’t using their own professional cameras when I am working.
It may sound a little bit harsh, but my client’s’ response has been overwhelmingly positive. They are paying me for their wedding photos, and they have seen my work and trust that I can capture the moments that need to be captured. Chris and I are a team and we always shoot together, so we always capture weddings from two angles. But our ability to do that well is impeded if other people are trying to take their own photos, or stage their own shots, or if there are just too many people in the area in general during the ceremony or portrait sessions.
What piece of advice would you give brides and grooms to ensure that they get wedding photos they love forever?
The best way to get the best photos is to set aside a little more time than you think you will need. I always anticipate running about 30 to 45 minutes behind due to hair and makeup running late, or someone forgetting something. If you pad your schedule with a little extra time, a few schedule snafus won’t stress you out. I want my subjects laughing and full of joy that it’s their special day. Those are the moments, and the photos, they will cherish forever.
What are your favorite wedding trends to photograph right now?
I love that we are seeing more and more of these overgrown bouquets. I just adore that slightly wild element paired something elegant, like pale pink flowers. It adds a nice organic, natural feel to the flowers. I also love muted colors (whites, golds, grays, blush, tan) and unique bridesmaids dresses.
What piece of advice would you give to wedding guests who want to take better pictures at weddings they attend?
Ahh, this is a great question! I do ask people to refrain from using professional cameras while I am working, but a mom snapping an iPhone photo is an entirely different story. I love seeing those candid shots too (what else is Instagram for?!).
My advice: unless it’s at sunset, try to snap shots in open shade and avoid blowing out the photo with too much of a bright sky. In the middle of the day, the sky is so bright. I learned to shoot from a tiny bit above (which, thankfully is easy, because I’m tall) and to angle the camera down just a tad if they are in front of the sky. Bright skies can cast a strange look to photos taken during midday, so I bring my clients forward so there is less sky behind them. These are great tricks that help whether you are using a smartphone or a professional DSLR camera!
What will your dream wedding like?
This is very much on my mind, since Chris, my second shooter and long-term boyfriend, and I just started the planning process. We’ve already decided on an intimate ceremony, likely in California, where I’m from. My only “must-have” is an outdoor ceremony, preferably a garden. He’s British, and I have very classic taste, so we’re thinking a very traditional ceremony with lots of elegant elements. I want a custom lace gown (a friend who is an amazing artist helped me design it) with a cathedral length mantilla veil and a soft curly updo. I’m thinking long, dove-gray bridesmaid dresses; pearls; and white and blush flowers with lots of fresh greenery. After the ceremony, we want to host an amazing dinner with the people we love most in this world.
As much fun as it is to plan, at the end of the day, what matters is that I’ll be marrying the love of my life and I’d marry him anywhere.
What are you most excited about in regard to Joy The App?
I honestly think Joy is just such an amazing concept! I can’t believe it’s taken so long for something like this to come out, but at the same time, I am so glad it did because nobody could have done it as beautifully as the team at Joy! I think it’s a natural progression because interestingly, as our lives have moved to iPhones and apps, the wedding industry really hasn’t. I think that this is a huge first step in revolutionizing that transition and making the process so much simpler for brides and grooms.
If you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be doing?
Oh I would love to get a PhD in microbiology. I’m STILL in touch with my microbiology professor from college (she sent me her new textbook as a gift… if that tells you how nerdy I am). I’m a huge science nerd and my background is in public health and epidemiological research.