I first met Suzanne at a luxury wedding conference I attend, called Engage. We were kind-of-instant-best-friends. We bonded over art, life and the crazy business of wedding photography. Suzanne is a girl who dances to the beat of her own drum and is a true vagabond. Her photography has taken her all over the world and I just absolutely love this girl's philosophy on wedding photography. On her website, she writes this. " At Shewanders, we think we tend to see the sweeter side of life. We think it’s a powerful feeling to show someone else how beautiful you think they are through film. Where words might fail us, photographs let us express how we feel. We are happy and we like happy people. We love to capture joy on film." I think this is the essence to life as a photography and why we do what we do! Read below to learn more about Suzanne, her company and her fabulous work!
Q. How did you begin your journey in photography?
A. I began my photography journey as a seventeen year old valley girl. That summer I spent 3 weeks in England as an exchange student through the Rotary. It was so exciting to fly from the flat central Valley to a country with stunning architecture and such varied landscapes. It was my second trip out of the country and I learned from experience that I could not describe Europe's wonders with my storytelling skills. So my mom gave me 2 throw away cameras with 24 exposures. I remember being on one of those red double-decker buses yelling and waving to the people below and being so excited. I saw some other girls on the bus taking pictures and remembered to get mine out. My friend Jen and I had someone take our picture and then I grabbed some of the city. When I returned home and showed my friends and family my prints from the drug store it was amazing. Instead of relying on my awkward storytelling skills to share my excitement with people, I had these pictures. They were so much more effective. I could tell they could understand me in a visual way that meant a lot to me. Suddenly, I knew I was on to something. I signed up for Photo 101 and the rest is history
Q. What made you fall in love with being a wedding photographer?
A. This one is easy, it took about 5 minutes. It turned out weddings and me were love at first sight. I photographed a childhood friend's wedding. I was in the getting ready room with her mom and sister. They were helping her get dressed. Her mom looked at her with so much pride. We were all crying. The ceremony and the importance of it all left me breathless. I've always had a soft spot for portraiture and dressing up. I loved that there was so much to photograph. The intensity of the day really worked with my intuitive shooting style. I was hooked.
Q. You have a very unique and freeing vibe to your photos. How did you define your style as an artist? Awkwardly.... Seriously, whenever anyone asks me what is my style I become the most tongue-tied and awkward person. I know.
A. I should have an answer but some how it seems like such a personal question. My style is finding a connection to our clients. I really pride myself on finding a way for them to feel comfortable in front of me and capturing the picture that their friends will say "oh my gosh that is so you". Can trying really hard be our style? I think I feel an unusual amount of pride in our clients over our shooting techniques. Maybe our style could be attracting couples with big open hearts who love each other and capturing them in beautiful authentic moments. It's definitely our goal to capture the sweetness in life.
Q. Being in the California market, it's quite flooded. What is your approach to marketing and finding your perfect client?
A. I'm a California girl and I love the talent in our market and the sweet sweet light we have on the west coast. We make huge efforts every day to attract the right client. We make a point to show images with joy and candor. Shewanders is for happy people in love. We try our best to send out signals to those happy people. We make huge efforts to reach out to like minded people in the wedding community. I really adore it when I get a call from Courtney at Brightly Designed letting me know that she met a great vendor that's talented and NICE. I swear it's like someone yelling Eureka. I relish the chance to collaborate with vendors who will go out of their way for their clients to create a day that is incredibly special. That is the golden ticket. If everyone involved is willing to really give all that they have to create a great day then gorgeous joyous images will follow. A huge part of our marketing is referring good people to our clients. It's a nice way to show them that we care about how their wedding day goes and that we put a lot of thought into who we would send their way.
Q. Describe the perfect 'Shewanders' client.
A. The perfect Shewanders client is a couple who is madly in love. I can't even focus to answer this question. There are so many gorgeous memories floating around in my mind. I feel so grateful for these couples who have trusted us and open their hearts to us. I guess the really perfect ones have been the couples willing to be in the moment.
There is this really beautiful moment during the ceremony that I just live for. Some where 5 or 10 minutes in to the ceremony the couples face softens. It's almost as if all of the gorgeous decorations and music just disappear and they sort of realize... oh my gosh, I'm marrying you... It's you, it's my friend who I love, who proposed to me, and now here we really are. I marry you. That look is the perfect look. Whether it's a smile or through tears. The couples who feel all of that, I think they are the perfect ones. Ha, try to put yourself in that moment and not get teary eyed.
Q. Where do you gather your inspiration?
A. I'm so inspired by wedding designers and paper products. I adore Brightly Designed, Ashley Meaders, Luxe Special Events, Jen Likes, Jill La Fleur, Jess Gordon, Sitting in A Tree, Beau and Arrow, Jessi Haack...and other artists like Yoshitomo Nara, Baz Luhrmann, Richard Avedon, Sally Mann, Annie Leibovitz, Jonathan Adler, Prince. Destinations that I love returning to Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Sydney, San Francisco, New York. Destinations that I have yet to go to inspire me like nothing else. I can't wait to one day be sitting on the Galapagos Islands admiring all of the strange creatures, or capturing the moving landscape in Iceland or just making out with Mike at a bar in Russia. Mike inspires me just about anywhere doing any thing. Museums!! The SFMOMA, The Guggenheim in Venice, The Museum of Contemporary art in Sydney, San Diego Museum of Art, The Biennale in Venice, the little galleries in Havana, the Museo de Bellas Artes in Buenas Aires, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, oh and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. My friends and family near and far. I don't think I'll ever run out of inspiration.
Q. What do you see is a current trend when it comes to wedding photography?
A. More fun. I think everyone is starting to loosen up a little bit. I think that's a great thing.
Q. What advice do you have to photographers just entering our market?
A. Love it. Love it with everything you have. This is a great industry and passion is what fuels it. Love your clients, love your vendors, and love your craft.
Q. What advice do you have to photographers who have been in the industry for a while?
A. Probably the exact same thing. Sometimes our to do lists get overwhelming. Start over. Love your clients, love your vendors, and love your craft. Sounds cheesy but if you remember we are in the service industry and it's our job to care about our clients then loving your clients creates great work. Loving your vendors creates a great environment for everyone to work in. Loving your craft gives you something to take pride in and aspire to.
Q. What vendor relationships do you think are most relevant to the success of your business?
A. Although we need everyone to pull off a successful event, I adore strong wedding designers and expert hair and make up artists. Wedding designers keep us all on the same page, keep the friends and family happy, and make everything beautiful. Hair and Make up Artists can also make or break a day for me. My favorites ones show up on time, finish on time and keep us all on schedule. They also create natural beautiful looks that the bride is in love with. Thanks goodness for them.
Q. If you could photograph anyone, who would it be?
A. Our couples. I'm right where I want to be.
Q. What is next for Shewanders?
A. Another 10 years of photographing love!
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