Today’s wedding photographer interview is with Dana Siles Photographer, based in New England! Enjoy:
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company:
First, thank you WeddingLovely for this opportunity! I’ve had the honor of solo-photographing over 400 weddings, events and families since I started my business in 1998. I continually challenge myself to achieve authenticity and timelessness in my work, and strive for quality and craftsmanship. I love making people happy through photography and that is really my primary goal every day, whether I am out photographing my clients or in front of the computer working on their images (often with a smile from ear-to-ear).
Read the full interview after the cut!
After graduating from Rhode Island School of Photography in 1994, I started assisting photographers (a valuable learning experience) and taking on editorial, music and news photography assignments. I was passionate about photojournalism and unless posing a music band, kept my work as honest and candid as possible. Although I had photographed a few weddings at this point, a career in wedding photography was not yet on the radar – I imagined going in the direction of photojournalism. In 1996, I was at my photo lab, waiting for prints at the counter. When the rep called my name, a nearby customer introduced himself and told me he’d heard of me; he complimented me on my work that he’d seen around town. He co-owned a wedding photography studio and asked me to come visit – perhaps we’d be a good fit. When I visited, I liked their work and most importantly, I could relate to how they SAW. So I decided to give wedding photography a try.
I was a second and main shooter for this studio for about 2 years. My brother ironically worked for a wedding publication at the time. He and my family encouraged (more like drilled) me to go out on my own. I was terrified, but in 1998 I officially launched my business. To this day, I am so happy I took that step.
What is your favorite part of the wedding day to capture?
I can’t say I have a favorite part of the day because honestly, what I love about being a wedding photographer is observing and photographing the unfolding of the story as a whole. That said, my favorite experiences during any wedding day are those that make me feel. I literally get a jolt when I manage to capture something that I know is going to be important for my client down the road.
Oh boy. I’ll give you two: when the groom hit on me; and when another groom asked me to smoke pot with him in the parking lot. True stories.
What is your favorite venue and why?
The majority of the weddings I photograph are at private estates, and that is truly my favorite type of location because each is different, providing their own unique challenges and creative opportunities. That said, one of my favorite venues is Rosecliff in Newport, Rhode Island. I’d compare the light and environment at Rosecliff to a thumbprint: no two days are alike, which is inspiring. Although I’ve worked at Rosecliff numerous times throughout the years, I always manage to see and shoot differently, allowing each series of work to have its own perspective unique to that day.
Nikon and Hasselblad. Throughout the years, Nikon earned their reputation from their flash system, while Canon earned their reputation through their fast auto focus system. Generally speaking, you’d see more portrait photographers shooting Nikon and more sports photographers shooting Canon. Being a wedding photographer is smack dab in the middle, technically speaking. So it’s a pretty even split between wedding photographers. These days, with technology improving rapidly, I don’t see a huge advantage of one over the other. My favorite cameras to shoot are my Hasselbad 500C (square format film camera) and my Hasselbad XPanII (rangefinder panoramic 35mm film camera). I love the way they allow me to see.
What is your dream location to shoot a wedding?
I am fortunate that I experienced my dream location when I photographed a wedding atop Aspen Mountain in Colorado. And now I look forward to my next mountain top!
If you could shoot any celebrity wedding (past, present or future), who would be the lucky couple?
Tim Ferris (Podcast celebrity and Author) and whoever his lucky bride is. No doubt. Simply because he is awesome and an inspiration. And I’m sure he’d be a BLAST to work with. Tim: you reading this?!
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned, and would pass along to other new wedding photographers just getting started?
I’d say the biggest lesson I’ve learned is: Plan, Plan, Plan so you can Wing It, Wing It, Wing It. I will literally absorb myself with the details of a wedding prior to shooting. I’ll try to remember as many names and relations as possible, memorize the timeline with all its intricacies, etc. And then the day of, just go with the flow. I compare my plan to a map. I can go off the trail to see the view any time as long as I know how and when to get back on the trail.
What tips or advice can you give to couples who are looking to hire a photographer to cover their big day?
I recently wrote two blog posts on the subject of choosing a wedding photographer (here and here). The best pieces of advice I can give are first, be objective when looking at web sites; does the photographer show complete weddings from beginning to end? I believe it’s important that you not base your thoughts on limited subject matter (ie, just romantic photos and bouquets); your wedding or event is much more than that, so it’s important that you see all aspects of our work, from details to dancing, and everywhere in-between. Also, try to look past the design of web sites and truly see the actual pictures. Consider the site design as the “frame:” what’s important is what’s inside. Look closely at the photos: are they properly exposed, or are they very light or dark? Can you see the detail in the white wedding dress, or are the whites often blown out? Although we all have our own artistic styles, you want to select a photographer who is also a technician and can work in virtually any and every lighting condition. I also believe it’s important to meet with the photographer(s) you are considering in person (Skype if this is not possible). You’ll work with your photographer the longest and closest of all of your vendors – so personality is important!
Thanks Dana! For more information about Dana Siles Photographer, please visit her WeddingLovely Vendor Guide profile or head straight to her website.
Do you have any questions or comments for Dana? Add them to the comments below!