Get to know Stephanie for just a few minutes and a couple of things will become readily apparent: she loves to laugh, she loves her husband Ryan almost as much as her cats and she really, really loves shooting weddings.
Since shooting her first wedding in 2009, Stephanie’s shot more than 200 weddings in the past decade. In 2012, after spending time in tech, doing marketing operations and design for a startup, she made the decision to pursue wedding photography full-time with Ryan joining the studio as a secondary shooter, providing another perspective and creative eye to the team.
“I felt like the universe kept sending me signals and nudging me in this direction, that I needed to take a leap,” she says. “Being able to focus all of my energy on what I love, waking up in the morning and being genuinely excited to work – it’s a remarkable feeling.”
Simply put: Stephanie loves shooting love. She knew this was something she could do for a living before the final dance of the first wedding she shot – Angela and Nate.
“Being surrounded by love and laughter and a bottomless well of happiness, knowing there’s nowhere else I’d rather be…” she pauses for a second. “Being a wedding photographer is free therapy,” she finally says, a small smile on her face. “It’s impossible to not get caught up in the moments.”
It’s capturing those moments that form the heart and soul of Stephanie’s work.
Her shooting philosophy is simple: love, happiness, and fun. She lives to capture those tiny snapshots of life – realism, hope, happiness, faith – and capture it in a way that is open and transparent.
Developed as a result of her newsroom experience, Stephanie’s wedding photography philosophy is deeply rooted in the idea of true photojournalism: documenting the events without inserting yourself into the situation.
Stephanie spent four years at Humboldt State University, six hours north of San Francisco along the Northern California coast among the Redwoods and Pacific Ocean. She switched majors three times – art, archaeology and finally journalism. She planned out her semester schedules six-to-eight weeks in advance, color-coding blocks of time and maximizing her working hours in between classes, student government and the newspaper.
“I was definitely channeling a little Hermione Granger there,” she says, laughing.
Stephanie’s time as photo editor, art director and finally editor-in-chief are reflected in the highly candid approach she takes to her work. “Shooting sports and breaking news, like car crashes and fires, challenged me as a photographer. Reporting is unpredictable and nonstop; it's raw while being restrained."
"There is always a story to be told. A relationship. A belief. An honor. Being able to showcase events honestly and transport the reader visually and emotionally through a series of pictures is an incredibly vital skill to have as a wedding photographer.”
“I would be a completely different photographer if I had never stepped foot in a newsroom.”
You can see her journalism background play out in her attention to detail at a wedding: if possible, she’s early and is constantly moving throughout the day, watching the crowd, anticipating moments, and looking for the hidden story. Nothing’s more important than her couple and making sure everything goes smoothly. If it doesn’t, she’s there to take charge.
“I’m there to make sure you take care of yourself and do what I can to minimize your stress.” Just what does that entail? “That can range from providing more posing guidance, cracking jokes, setting up tables, dropping F-bombs, making sure you shaved your armpits, fixing your dress and taking the hair tie off your wrist,” she says wryly. She’s seen – and done – it all.
“There are so many ways a wedding can go wrong – but there are many more ways it can go right,” she says.
Why I Shoot Weddings
When Stephanie can build a friendship with a couple, and get to know them both individually and together, there’s an emotional line that’s crossed. It's that difference - the emotional investment - that she's looking for.
When you have a genuine connection with a couple - the quality of the work changes. Finding commonalities in our struggles - whether that's infertility or family situations - or simply being unable to get through Hamilton without crying - all of that makes an enormous difference in the work created."
“I cry at every single wedding I shoot. I’ve stood there with a father, listening to him reminisce about his beautiful daughter growing up, a proud smile on his face and a catch in his throat as he watches her dance with her new husband. Having a grandmother grab my hand and give me a hug and a kiss, thanking me for everything I've done..feeling those nerves every single time the music swells and the bride begins to walk down the aisle."
"Having a bride grab my hands and tell me how thankful she is that I'm there with her because she knows she's being taken care of. Watching a grandfather see his granddaughter be given away and seeing so much emotion flash across his face in the span of a second. Feeling all of that - being made a part of the day - that’s an honor."
"Feeling that love, being emotionally invested, means I’m there. I’m not checked out. It’s not ‘just another gig.”
It is this emotional attachment that Stephanie thinks is one of the traits that sets her apart from other wedding photographers. “When I don’t cry anymore – when I just go through the motions – there’s something missing. Something’s changed. If I ever get to the point where I’m not feeling that happiness, I’ll know that I shouldn’t shoot anymore. Because you deserve better.”
"Knowing my couples allows me to capture the day unlike anyone else. We have a great time and you trust in me that I’ll deliver my best performance, not just because I have to, but because I want to. That’s why I do this.”