FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS // An Interview with Liz Banfield

Liz Banfield Headshot

Liz Banfield is one of my favorite photographers. Personally, I love how refined and simply gorgeous her work is and I believe she is a person in our industry who is going 'to go down in the books.' What do I mean by this? Liz's work is timeless. As an artist she has stuck to her film roots and has still continued to run a successful business by not making the switch to digital. There will always be an aesthetic to film that no action can every compare in digital. It's pure, beautiful and should remind us why we are all photographers. Stylistically, Liz's work has notes of photojournalism, along with a more editorial tone that simply comes together to create stunning imagery that will continue to inspire for generations to come!

Q.  How did you first start to photograph weddings?

A. Before I was a professional, I was that person who was taking pictures all the time. When I got to the age when my friends were getting married, shooting pictures at their weddings was a very natural extension of what I had always done. This was also the era when wedding photography was transforming from a rigid, traditional approach to one with it's roots in fine art and photojournalism. At the time I was working as an executive in advertising and my stylish advertising colleagues were at the forefront of this trend. Soon I graduated from "friend" photographer to "official" photographer and was shooting their weddings on weekends.

Q. What were the first steps a photographer should consider when deciding to become a wedding photographer?

A. Make sure you are pursuing it for the right reason -- because the assignment inspires you, not because you think you'll make money. Assuming your motivation checks out, carefully consider the lifestyle choice you are making. Are you willing to work evenings, weekends and practically every holiday weekend throughout the year? And that's not just shooting. Wedding clients usually have full time jobs and will want to do consultations, engagement sessions, and conference calls all during their spare time and almost never during the regular work day. Also, ask yourself if you are willing to miss the weddings or other celebrations of your own friends/family because you booked a particular date a year in advance. I have missed many over the years.

Brides and Groom in classic car

Q.  How do you view your relationship with the vendors in your industry? Why are these relationships so important to you?

A. I can tell you that without a doubt, my relationships with other creative partners in the wedding business has been essential to my business success. You never know who will give you your next great referral. It can come from unexpected places, even someone you might consider to be your competitor. I always go out of my way to help and connect with other industry professionals. Many have become close personal friends in the process.

Q. What kind of resources did you use to gather inspiration?

A. I was an Art History major in college so my favorite place to gather visual inspiration is at a museum. When I'm traveling I always try to make time to visit one or two while I'm in town. At home, I love the Minneapolis Institute of Art for it's vast mix of art throughout the ages. I also read fashion and interior design magazines for inspiration. I try to live an artful, aesthetic life. Everything I do feeds into my life as an artist, from the shoes I'm wearing to the restaurants I seek out. I embrace inspiration and celebrate good design every day.

Q. Describe the perfect 'Liz Banfield' client.

A. I have a wide range of clients from school teachers to art collectors, all of them "perfect" in different ways, but the most important factor is that they appreciate what I do and put their trust in me.

Q. What is one of the coolest weddings you have ever photographed. Why was it so special?

A. Oh, it's so hard to play favorites! As an artist I thrive on photographing things that are new to me, visually. My first Hindu wedding was for CNN Correspondent Sanjay Gupta. He arrived at the ceremony on a white horse. And the festive, expressive nature of a traditional Indian celebration, not to mention all the bright colors -- I was in heaven!

Sanjay Gupta Indian Wedding

Q. What kind of work are you personally drawn to?

A. I'm a sucker for great design with a touch of the human hand. Objects and images that are perfect and balanced but with a little imperfection or spontaneity thrown in.

outdoor wedding reception tablescape

Q. What are some innovative trends you are seeing in the wedding industry right now?

A. Extending beyond the wedding day, clients are wanting to chronicle more and more of their entire wedding experience, from the engagement party to celebrating their first anniversary. I can easily see this blossoming into other events, such as the bachelorette. And I know it sounds a little crazy (and it hasn't happened yet) but I'm hoping that some day to be invited to capture travel highlights of the honeymoon. Wouldn't it be amazing to have your once in a lifetime trip documented professionally? Romantic shots of the new couple wandering the streets of Venice, sailing the Caribbean, up close and personal with the lions on a Safari... I see so much potential here!

Q.  You are so respected in our industry. How do you continue to stay inspired?

A. I have always been careful to respect my workload. I don't take more than 15 weddings a year and that has allowed me to stay fresh over a long period of time. This is my 14th year as a full-time professional and I still feel excited as ever to be shooting weddings.

Q. What is the best part about your job?

A. I have to say it's the shooting itself -- the actual creation of images and the challenge of always looking for the next one that really excites me. When I get a shot that I know is really good, a surge of happiness goes all the way down to my toes.

Kissing couple at wedding

Q. What kind of differences do you see in weddings in Minnesota vs other parts of the states?

A. In general, I think regional differences are really diminishing because people share ideas over the blogs, pinterest, etc. I've actually seen this change take place throughout my career. People travel more than ever to attend weddings all over the world. While doing so they are curating their ideas and notions for their own celebration.

I will say that midwesterners tend to be more pragmatic when it comes to planning their day. They aren't as hung up on traditions or how it's "supposed" to be done. Also, the culture of the midwest influences the style of the wedding, which tends to be more understated and less flamboyant than in other regions. The ultimate compliment to a Minnesota wedding might be "pretty!" whereas in Texas it might be "wow!"

There are lingering traditions in other parts of the country that I find charming. Down South, for example, the Best Man is usually the groom's father. I think that's so sweet! Also, many other regions have started to adopt this, but a "Southern-Style" reception is a stand-up affair with food stations. In the North, a sit-down dinner is much more typical.

Be sure to check out Liz Banfield on Facebook!