We interviewed Sally O'Donnell, the Chicago-based wedding photographer and owner of Sally O'Donnell Photography. Sally shares how she got into wedding photography, what she loves about photographing weddings in particular, and what wedding photography trends she's loving right this minute.
How did you get into photography? Are you self taught or formally trained?
When I was 13, I bought my first camera after a selling farm animals at our county fair through 4H. It was hard work – much harder than photography! – but I loved photography and desperately wanted my own camera. At that time, I had planned on becoming a journalist like my grandfather and taught myself to use my camera.
Through my education in journalism and the work I did as a journalist, I learned how to report on and photograph all kinds of events, people, and places. That training is the only formal training I’ve ever had but it prepared me well to work in weddings. When I decided to transition to wedding photography, I had already experienced many high-emotion, high-energy situations. Journalism taught me how to see, even when everything is chaotic and busy around me.
Describe your style in one sentence.
My style is natural, warm, and journalistic and I focus most on trying to capture the most beautiful version of a wedding day, rather than trying to fit each wedding into a pre-conceived mold.
What’s been your favorite experience as a wedding photographer?
I love making people feel beautiful. I love making heirloom family photos. I love making people happy and beautiful, honest, and flattering wedding photos do just that. It’s hard to pick one favorite experience as my favorite part is just the people we work with!
What do you love most about photographing weddings? Why do you photograph weddings in particular?
The best part about weddings, for me, is seeing two families come together to create something new. One of my big focuses is on family photos, be they candid or posed. Those are some of the photos that matter most to me from my wedding and I want to give the same gift to other people.
I photograph weddings in particular for all of the reasons I’ve mentioned and because I love being part of high-energy experiences. Weddings have so much going on and I love all of the moving pieces. I love having to figure out how to make art even in moments when their is so little time or space to do so.
Where is the most interesting or unique place you’ve photographed a wedding? Was there anything especially challenging about it?
The most interesting location we’ve shot a wedding is probably the Rocky Mountains. It was challenging as the altitude impacted me much more than I thought it would. Plus, the weather changed so much and I didn’t have much cell service so that was nerve-wracking. I didn’t want to be responsible for the bride getting snowed or rained on!
Do you have a favorite, must-capture moment for every wedding?
My favorite moment is when the couple is walking down the aisle after they’re married. I love how much emotion is in those moments!
As a photographer, what has been your biggest wedding day challenge?
My biggest wedding day challenge is trying to make sure that everyone’s having a blast while also making sure we get enough group photos that the couple is happy. I always want to make photos fun.
What piece of advice would you give brides and grooms to ensure that they get wedding photos they love forever?
Make sure you connect with your photographer! It’s so important to like your photographer as you spend most of your wedding day with them. Check their portfolio to see if they shoot in a loft of different types of locations, not just perfect outdoor settings.
What are your favorite wedding trends to photograph right now?
I am loving elopements so much. I’m also a huge fan of rich colors, greenery, and food trucks. To be honest, I’m just so happy that couples have the space now to do what they want with their weddings.
How do you think an app like Joy can help make weddings better?
It’s stressful having different websites and apps for different things and something that keeps everything in one place is a brilliant idea. I love that the app collects all of the photos too. Though I try, I can’t always be in every place at one time.
At Joy we believe that even though a wedding lasts a day, joy lasts forever. What does that mean to you?
That’s a great reminder for me that the work I do brings people joy and that joy is something they can carry with them into their new marriages.