Today’s wedding photographer interview is with Stephanie West of Stephanie West Photography, based in Columbus, OH! Enjoy:
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company.
I started my photography business about 10 years ago with a Kodak point-and-shoot camera, photographing friends and family for extra money for our family. Now I have a stellar camera and my skills have improved immensely. I love shooting weddings more than anything and I’m constantly learning and improving my style and technical abilities. My style has evolved into a very authentic, lifestyle form, capturing real moments between real people. I love photographing love. And I love photographing light, whether it’s natural or artificial light that I have created with an off camera flash in the snow. Love and light. That’s what my business is about.
Read the full interview after the cut!
How did you get into wedding photography?
About two years ago I realized when I was shooting regular sessions I almost had a dreadful feeling when I had to go but when I was on my way to a wedding I was full of joy and anticipation of what the day would bring. So one day, while I was driving, I (literally) yelled at the universe “I just want to be a wedding photographer!” and I started to make it happen. I love the realness of a wedding day. The raw emotions and the tension and the pressure make me thrive.
What is your favorite part of the wedding day to capture?
My favorite part of the wedding day to photograph is the bride and groom portraits that we take part of the way through the reception. I like to time these portraits at just before sunset, just the two of them because a lot of times, this is the first chance they’ve gotten to just be alone for a little while. It’s when they stop and take a breath and really just get to be together for the first time as husband and wife. I do a little bit of coaching, asking questions to get them to interact, have them take a little walk and try to get them to be silly for a few minutes. It’s a great tension breaker for all of us at that point in the wedding day.
What is the most awkward moment you’ve experienced while on the job?
I was shooting a wedding in a restaurant in German Village in Columbus and it was moved to this particular place because a cold front came through, bringing rain, spoiling their outdoor Park of Roses wedding. The owner of this restaurant was friends with the couple, as they frequented it, so it was very kind of him to move their wedding to his place last minute. The couple had this beautiful arch covered in fresh flowers, lots of roses and lots of greenery and when I walked in the restaurant for the first time and got a huge breath of the smell of fresh flowers I said, “oh wow… that smells sooo good…. It smells like a funeral home.” Yep. I did that. AWKWARD! It was innocent on my part but you could have heard a pin drop. Thank goodness it was just the couple and a couple of family members!
What is your favorite venue and why?
My favorite venue to date is probably Strongwater in Columbus. It’s very industrial and has so many different options for ceremony spaces, a killer cocktail hour bar and a beautiful, exposed brick reception area. So many photo options there. And the people there were wonderful and warm. And in the evening, the setting sun beams through the industrial glass on the front of the building creating this insanely warm glow inside the spaces… *sigh*
Nikon or Canon?
Nikon. D750, to be exact.
What is your dream location to shoot a wedding?
My dream place to go is Italy. It would totally be a dream come true to shoot a wedding in Rome. All that amazing architecture and the history there. Yes, please.
If you could shoot any celebrity wedding (past, present or future), who would be the lucky couple?
Oprah and Steadman. That will happen someday, right? I can’t even imagine what their wedding would be like. Elegant and regal for sure. And the guest list. Whoa!
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned, and would pass along to other new wedding photographers just getting started?
The biggest lesson I have learned in the last two years of being focused on weddings is to really refine your editing workflow if you don’t outsource. I used to spend about 40-50 hours editing a wedding because I didn’t really know how to utilize the program I was using. If you’re a photographer and you want to know what I was doing that was taking so long, feel free to email me and I’ll explain the ridiculous process I was putting myself through. But I have it really refined now and it doesn’t take near that amount of time anymore. I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to my work so I’m not comfortable outsourcing it but I’m glad I have it down to only a few hours now!
What tips or advice can you give to couples who are looking to hire a photographer to cover their big day?
My advice for couples who are looking to hire a photographer is to go back and forth in email conversation and see how things flow and when you find someone who feels comfortable, set a time to meet with them so you can see how your personalities mesh. It’s so important to me that I become semi-friends with my couples before I shoot their wedding. Being a wedding photographer is an intimate part of a wedding day. You’re involved in some special, emotional, sometimes scantily clad, moments and you want that person to be someone you feel comfortable with and you trust. Make sure you meet them and ask lots of questions!
Thanks, Stephanie! For more information about Stephanie West Photography, please visit her WeddingLovely Vendor Guide profile or head straight to her website.
Do you have any questions or comments for Stephanie? Add them to the comments below!