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Inspiration » Photography » Vendor Spotlight: Nicole Ryan Photography

Vendor Spotlight: Nicole Ryan Photography

by Cali Pitchel
Vendor Spotlight: Nicole Ryan Photography

Nicole Ryan is an Austin-based wedding photographer (who also happens to photograph weddings worldwide). She started her wedding photography career on a bit of a whim—who can’t thank Serendipity for some of the best things in life? Now six years and over 100 weddings later, she still wakes up every day thankful for that terrifyingly wonderful moment that led her here. Nicole graciously shared what she loves most about photographing weddings, her must-capture moment for every wedding, and advice for brides and grooms to ensure that they get wedding photos they’ll love forever.


How did you get into photography? Are you self taught or formally trained?

I’ve had a love of photography ever since I was a little girl. I got my first real camera at 10 years old and spent the summer taking photos of EVERYTHING. Macro shots of plants and flowers in my backyard were my favorite, and thinking about it now, that’s probably the reason I love detail and floral shots at weddings so much. I studied photography in college, but that was in the dark room days, so much of my digital training is self-taught.

Nicole Close Up

How did you get into wedding photography specifically?

I kind of stumbled into wedding photography. I was living in LA at the time, and came home to Houston for my aunt’s wedding. When I arrived at the rehearsal dinner, my aunt said something along the lines of “Did you bring your camera? Great! Would you take photos at the wedding?”

So with one 50 mm lens and zero experience, I shot the wedding, took family and wedding party portraits, the works. Because I hadn’t learned how to approach a wedding from another photographer, I just did what felt natural and made sense to me. I loved it, and more importantly, they were so happy with the results. From there, I was hooked!

Describe your style in one sentence.

I like to call it “natural and romantic”—it’s deliberate but not overly posed.

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What’s been your favorite experience as a wedding photographer?

All the cake! (Just kidding.) I just love sharing in this incredibly important day in my clients’ lives. Seeing the blending of families, hearing the vows, witnessing love stories first hand… I’m a softie for that stuff, and I’m often tearing up behind the camera. Also, I love that weddings has given me the opportunity to travel for work. Seeing new places and how other cities approach their wedding industry is so exciting.

What do you love most about photographing weddings? Why do you photograph weddings in particular?

Weddings have evolved greatly over the past 10 or 15 years. There are no limits anymore, no stringent rules to follow. So going into a wedding is always a new experience, and I love seeing what each bride/designer/planner does differently, and how they make their day unique to their personalities.

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Where is the most interesting or unique place you’ve photographed a wedding? Was there anything especially challenging about it?

I love doing destination wedding photography, and the most unique space I ever shot in was definitely an old vaudeville theater in Yakima, WA. The ceremony was on the stage, and the reception was backstage behind the big velvet curtain amidst the catwalks and ropes and theater lights. It was amazing. Talk about transforming a space! It was challenging in that theater lighting is very dramatic, and the high dark ceilings just eat up camera flash, so my settings and lighting technique had to be on point at every moment.

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Do you have a favorite, must-capture moment for every wedding?

Hands down it’s when the bride and groom are walking down the aisle together after their ceremony. I love that moment. I remember it so well from my own wedding. A combination of relief, euphoria, and excitement. I think it really shows in their faces and always makes for a great shot.

What’s the most unique photo you’ve ever taken at a wedding?

One of my brides had her dog in the getting ready suite with her. She was in her dress getting her makeup touched up, and the dog came and laid down on her train. Most brides would have freaked but she loved it. I snapped that pic, and it’s been an iconic one for me. It was also one of my first weddings, so that will always be special.

Stella the Dog on the train

What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten at a wedding?

Hmmm that’s tough, being in Austin we often get great BBQ! But recently one of my couples had Homeslice Pizza (a popular pizza place in Austin) cater their wedding. It was so refreshing and unpretentious. And DELICIOUS, of course.

As a photographer, what has been your biggest wedding day challenge?

When couples don’t hire day-of coordinators, a lot of those details can fall to the photographer. Keeping everyone in line and on schedule can be challenging when your main priority is getting fabulous shots. Also, wrangling family photos after the ceremony is never fun, no matter how loud your “listen up” voice is! Making sure my clients prepare their families for where/when to be ready for photos is an easy way to help with that part, though.

Erin and Brent's First Dance

What piece of advice would you give brides and grooms to ensure that they get wedding photos they love forever?

Choosing the right photographer is obviously huge. A lot of my couples tell me they “just had a feeling” when looking at my photos, and I do believe it’s a gut thing. There are so many of us to choose from, so listening to that gut reaction is important.

And you really want to vibe with your photographer on a personal level, too. They are going to be following you around on your wedding day, so it’s important to like being with them! And finally, communication. Misaligned expectations is the number one reason for unhappiness in most relationships, and your relationship with your photog is no different.

What are your favorite wedding trends to photograph right now?

I’m loving all the interesting ceremony backdrops (floral walls, installations, etc.) and creative escort cards.

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What piece of advice would you give to wedding guests who want to take better pictures at weddings they attend?

Find that good lighting! If you really want to get sneaky with it, have someone not in the picture use the flashlight on their phone to cast light onto the subjects. Works like a dream. Or jump in the photo booth. Most weddings these days have them! I offer one as well.

If you could plan your wedding all over again, what would you do differently?

Honestly, my wedding was a dream. I would do it all over again! It was in the mountains of New Mexico, with fall leaves and crisp air, only our closest loved ones around us, and was the most epic dance party ever.

How do you think an app like Joy can help make weddings better?

Having all that helpful info in one place is a huge deal. We got married in a pretty remote location, and one of my guests (who opted not to take the provided transportation) had a hard time finding the ceremony and arrived late. Having that map feature would have been huge for us, as well as the push notifications for communicating with our guests when plans change at the last minute. It happens!

The bride Brooke and her brother

If you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be doing?

I imagine that photography would be at the heart of my career, no matter what. I’d love to have my own venue one day, and it would be a killer spot for photos, because obviously that’s important to me.

At Joy we believe that even though a wedding lasts a day, joy lasts forever. What does that mean to you?

I saw something on Pinterest once that said “I want a marriage as beautiful as my wedding.” I think it’s important to keep that perspective while wedding planning, and to hold on to that feeling you get when you say, “I Do.” I’m still technically a newlywed, but I think the amazing memories of my wedding day will last a lifetime, and I hope to see the joy I saw in my husband’s eyes on that day for years to come.

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For more beautiful wedding photos and inspiration, follow Nicole on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

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