How did you get into photography? Are you self-taught or formally trained?
My grandfather collected every NATGEO magazine since 1920 and they were all stored in our cottage basement. As a child, I was enamored by the yellow bookshelves that lined the walls. So much so, I would pull them down and go through them. I’ve always had an adventurous wandering soul at heart but these magazines gave me a new world to explore, and I knew someday I actually would. One day I found the image of the Afghan girl (the most iconic photo in the world) with her eyes piercing blue/green looking at me through a 7×10 page. She pulled me in so much, I wanted to know who she was and what was her story. I flipped to the back and felt something for this human I knew I would never meet and never know what it’s like to live like her. At that moment I knew I wanted to take photographs for generations in the past and present to understand what it’s like to be that human, even just an ounce.
My love for photography started with an image before I ever picked up a photograph but soon I fell in love with Polaroid’s. I took a photography class at an Art Museum and knew somewhere deep down, this is for me. Throughout my childhood and high school years I photographed everything from flowers, friends parties, sunsets, families, senior photos, and food. I was obsessed with this ability to document history. Photography and adventure have always been in my blood. I am named after my Great Grandmother- Hannah. She and her husband George would go on six-month adventures in the 1880’s around the world on a boat. George was a photographer and I recently found hundreds of his film slides from Israel, Africa, Japan, Italy, etc. I felt some sort of connection to these people I come from but had never met. Photographs have a way of pulling us into what it means to be human and where you come from. I photograph weddings because of this reason. I hope the images I photograph for families and couples will be cherished for years and that they would be passed down to their great-grandchildren so they are able to understand the legacy they come from. It’s a special thing to be a historian and I take it as an honor.
Back to my story- I ended up majoring in Fine Art Photography at Indiana Wesleyan University where I spent more time in the darkroom than in my own dorm room. I fell in love with how photography started, the chemistry and math (which I actually hate both, but love in photo world!). I studied all sorts of photos- product, documentary, editorial, studio lighting and on. I loved all of them. That was my issue, I wanted to specialize in all varieties of photography but my professors wanted me to pick one. So I started shooting weddings because in a 10 hour wedding day I get to photograph all of those and more. From detail shots, family photos, couple portraits, and receptions, I get a taste of everything I love. I started shooting weddings in the middle of college and really my business just snowballed without me trying. I was actively trying to travel with nonprofits doing more media/humanism photography. But my friends kept getting engaged and kept asking me to photograph them! I can’t pass up a fun opportunity, so I’ve been shooting weddings for almost seven years and love it. I also photograph for a lot of restaurants because, let’s be honest, growing, cooking, and eating food is my first love before photography! I am all about documenting what it means to be human. I see myself as a historian and writing a legacy for generations to come.
Describe your style in one sentence.
My style is natural light documentary photography with a twist of joy, warmth, and romance.
What’s been your favorite experience as a wedding photographer?
My very favorite experience has a wedding photographer was getting the chance to photograph an 18-hour long wedding in Singapore. I met these lovely people on their trip to America, Drew and Roui were visiting friends on the West Coast but wanted to see the Grand Canyon. Little did Roui know, Drew was going to propose at the bottom of the canyon during a helicopter tour. Drew found me on Instagram and had a whole beautiful elaborate plan. After I photographed the proposal, they asked me to come to Singapore to photograph their wedding day. I thought, “Hello! An opportunity of a lifetime!” I was able to stay with Drew’s family and I got the full Singapore experience. I fell in love with their country (and them) so much, I am going back to visit soon. I always say I am not a ‘professional’ photographer. By saying that, I mean that I will be making friends with every single person at your wedding, on the dance floor with a drink in my hand by the end of the night, and will take you out to dinner months after your wedding just to say hi. The Singapore wedding was just that. Their families have Chinese roots so many of the ceremonies were originally Chinese traditions and I love learning about new cultures and religions. The day was filled with tea ceremonies, fun Singapore traditions with the bridal party, two wedding ceremonies (one in a church and one at the harbor) and a reception that blew my mind! From the dry ice, five live bands, the eight-course meal, and amazing people I met, the experience will be forever sketched in my mind. There was one moment that brought me to tears and I was able to document it. Roui’s grandfather was hospitalized a week earlier for a triple bypass heart surgery. Roui and Drew both were so close to her grandparents. Respecting your elders in Asian cultures is way more recognized then here in America (I have found). Grandpa couldn’t make it to the wedding but was able to come home from the hospital. So, we surprised them at their apartment for a special tea ceremony. The moment Roui walked in her big beautiful white wedding dress he lost it along with everyone in the room. They embraced with tears rolling down their faces and smiles from ear to ear. It’s these moments that are almost too special for photographs, they need to be felt with the heart.
What do you love most about photographing weddings? Why do you photograph weddings in particular?
There is something to be said about beauty and how it invites us to rest and take a step away from the chaos of the world. Each wedding does this for me. It’s not about the flowers or the cake or the venue. It’s the moments that are shared between two families coming together, friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time, and a ceremony that only happens once a lifetime. Weddings invite us in for one night, to reconnect, eat good food with good friends, and have fun dancing like a kid again.
Where is the most interesting or unique place you’ve photographed a wedding? Was there anything especially challenging about it?
It was for sure the Singapore wedding. It was 100 degrees with 95% humidity! Luckily, most Singaporeans speak English but some only spoke Chinese. It was still hard to communicate a few things! Along with the food- I love food but have many food allergies like seafood. Singapore is an island and they are obsessed with prawn- shrimp. So I couldn’t eat a lot that day which is hard to work and not be able to eat! I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. I had to be on for 18 hours that day. I am an extrovert, outgoing person, but that was even hard for me to do!
Do you have a favorite, must-capture moment for every wedding?
My must capture moment at every wedding is the normal walk down the aisle, the kiss of course, and first dance. What I also love to photograph is the parent’s faces while their kids are reading vows. For years they have prayed and dreamed of the person their kid would marry and it’s happening in front of their eyes. It’s a really beautiful moment I always try to get.
As a photographer, what has been your biggest wedding day challenge?
My biggest wedding day challenge is always receptions. I studied lighting in college but for some reason I still have a hard time getting my flashes to do what I want them to do, haha! I’m sure this is easy for some like family photos are hard for others but easy for me! I am a dreamer, big picture, type B person so details and the technical side of things can be hard for me. It’s always a working process to get where I want to be, I am so hard on myself though.
What piece of advice would you give brides and grooms to ensure that they get wedding photos they love forever? (This can include tips about preparation,
choosing a photographer, or anything else.)
This is a big question! First, I would ask, what is your favorite type of music? Second, I would ask what is your highest priority at your wedding? These are because everyone has a style they are drawn to in music, home decor, food. I am not everyone’s photographer, everyone won’t like my style of how I document and edit and that’s okay!. Look for someone who likes what you like, listens to what you listen to, photographs the way you see the world. I am the eyes of the bride and groom on their wedding day. I am running around documenting things they never got to see and I want to tell their story the way they saw it. So it’s really important we are friends before I ever document their wedding day! Friends first, clients second. Also, If your highest priority at your wedding is your details or your wedding shoes, I’m probably not your photographer. I will photograph everything to the last detail but my couples care more about their people, their love, their marriage. I don’t see weddings as a one and done, I see it as apart of your story. I also don’t see it as the start of your life, it’s already been going on for a long time. You want a photographer that has the same vision of a wedding and life as you do. Your priority should be their priority. There are thousands of wedding photographers in the world. I think this is important because as an artist I am not trying to appeal to everyone but a certain type of couple.
- What do I love about their work?
- Is their editing trendy right now? Will you like that style of editing 50 years from now?
- Do they document they world the way you like?
You have to be a little bit of an art critic. Everyone is creative so don’t second-guess yourself. You know what you like and don’t like!
What are your favorite wedding trends to photograph right now?
My favorite wedding trends I see a lot of right now is in the dresses and florals! I keep seeing these amazing flowy, non-traditional ball gown, dresses. It gives the bride more of a personality. I’ve even seen a little color in some white wedding dresses and that is my jam!
How do you think an app like Joy can help make weddings better?
I think Joy is a great online tool for everyone! They make it easy, efficient, and eco-friendly. 🙂
If you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be doing?
Wow! So many things. The world is so big and I have so many dreams. Either hosting a NatGeo show around the world on a boat about cultures, religions, and food, or a pastry chef, starting a trauma therapy school for children where they can learn and heal through yoga, how to grow food, cook food, ride horses, etc., or raising babies in Hawaii on a farm! Good news is, I see myself doing all of those before I die, so it’s all just a matter of time.
At Joy we believe that even though a wedding lasts a day, joy lasts forever. What does that mean to you?
I have not gotten married yet myself but I’ve experienced over 200+ weddings and through the experience of a wedding day I realize it’s just a day. It’s a really big, beautiful, wonderful day of celebration and love…but it’s one day. You look up to the sun, breath in the air, eat good food, and go to sleep. But Joy, deep, deep joy happens in and through everything in a day. We get to take in a wedding day once but Joy can happen every day if we let it, even in the smallest most simple ways. Having joy in a marriage will sustain long past the wedding day. Choosing Joy every day is better than choosing your dress, florals, or venue. Joy is an active choice that lives deep within you.