As a print journalism major in college, I learned to craft a story through words. Yet I quickly discovered that my story was never going to make it into the paper without a photo. In my current job, I know that when I write a press release about our triathlete’s winning sprint finish (I’m in marketing for an international bicycle company), as much as I hope my writing brings to life the story, a photo of him triumphantly breaking the tape means everything.
It’s certainly shaped my feelings toward photography: integral. While in my last post, I focused on what videography is able to achieve compared to photography, photography, of course, has its very own distinctive benefits. Photos capture moments the human eye often can’t. They freeze time in a way that allows you to remember a moment lost without the camera. The little things: facial expressions, discreet gestures, shifting light.
When I began my search for a photographer, I knew I wanted someone who would document these moments of the day and not necessarily seek out posed photos. And once I started searching, I learned that it was not too hard to distinguish these two types of photographers from one another.
I had received several recommendations on Susan Stripling, but before I had the chance to reach out to her, I received a lovely message from a photographer I had worked with through my current job. We had worked together out in San Diego on an athlete photoshoot. He wrote me a message saying that he knew of a great photographer in San Diego who happened to be a wedding photographer, who loves to travel and would love the opportunity to photograph my wedding.
It was such a pleasant, wonderful surprise: first, to hear from him—for him to go out of his way to contact me—and second, to have someone expressing a sincere interest in being a part of my wedding. Up until then, I had had a great deal of difficulty negotiating contracts with the various vendors I had started to book, where it became very apparent that weddings are a business and vendors are looking to make a profit in any way they can. So this message was a much-appreciated turn of events.
I was, of course, familiar with his exceptional athlete photography, but when I browsed through his website, I was thrilled to find that his wedding photography was just as fantastic and very much what I was looking for—it captured the intimate, candid moments of the day. The stunning landscape of San Diego didn’t hurt, either.
After talking pricing and travel logistics, I was nearly ready to pull the trigger, but I had received so many recommendations about Susan that I felt I owed it to myself to at least take a look at her work and meet with her. So as to avoid any further confusion, as I walked to the café we were to meet at downtown, I was actually hoping I wouldn’t like her—that our personalities wouldn’t mesh—and would then be able to make a quick, easy decision and go with my friend from San Diego.
Turns out I loved her. Her work is so sophisticated that I would have never expected the outgoing, vivacious person I met. As I paged through the sample albums she brought, I was struck by how unique her work is. There are all the customary shots—the rings, the dress on the hangar, the shoes, the dad-daughter dance, etc.—and yet, she makes them look anything but customary. There’s the iconic Philadelphia wedding shot in front of City Hall, yet she’ll take it at night, off to the side, with a depth of field bringing only the couple’s faces into focus or just the background exposed with a shadow of the couple in the foreground.
In fact, what I think distinguishes Susan’s work from any of the others I looked at is the way she utilizes natural light. While in certain super low-light situations, flash is certainly necessary, in many other circumstances, I believe it’s needless and can ruin the photo. Susan uses every ounce of natural light to compose her photos, really enhancing the innate beauty.
So I walked out of the café happy, but perhaps more sad that now I was going to have to make a decision between two photographers I admired and simply really liked as people.
I deliberated on it for weeks, contemplating the same things over and over again: Stylistically, I think my San Diego photographer was more successful in capturing the joy and fun of the day, which was very appealing to me, as that’s what I think the day is all about. But Susan captured the ultra-emotional moments in a wow kind of way, which I also loved. Pricing was quite similar, though the packages included were a bit different (hours of coverage, albums, number of shooters).
What concerned me about Susan was that she works on her own, never using a second shooter—which is something that had been recommended to me in order to get multiple perspectives during the day, particularly both the bride’s and groom’s during the ceremony. What concerned me about my San Diego photographer was the travel element. We would have to fly him out a separate time for the engagement shoot. And leading up to the wedding, what if he missed his flight? What if weather prohibited him from taking off?
I not so wisely then opened it up for discussion, having my family and friends weigh in, which only made it more confusing. Pat voted San Diego, while most of my friends were for Susan. And so the predicament of “How do I please everyone?” presented itself, a dilemma that I find keeps presenting itself as I get further and further into planning. I very much admire brides capable of saying, “This is what I want. It doesn’t matter what you want.” Yet I find myself saying, “This is what I want. But if you can’t get behind it, than I guess maybe it’s not what I want?”
Ultimately, after way too much deliberation, I finally chose Susan, as I feel her work has the wow factor. And as just I scrolled through her website, I thought exactly that: Wow.
Did you have any trouble picking a photographer? Or have there been any wedding decisions that you’ve found yourself torn between two options, afraid of hurting someone’s feelings?