Setting Up the Shot
A novice and a professional photographer weigh in on what it’s like to be in charge of the camera on the most important day of a woman’s life.
The average American bride to be spends 14 months planning her wedding, according to wedding publication The Knot. After rearranging flowers for weeks, altering bridesmaids dress for months and dreaming of this special day for years, everyone takes a collective sigh of relief and enjoys the celebration once the wedding day arrives.
For a wedding photographer, this is when the nerves begin to settle in. One chance, that’s all the photographer gets. Hired photographers have built companies based on an understanding that their work is more than just an addition to a portfolio. Their photos are responsible for representing a lifelong memory.
Expert wedding photographer Caroline Robert of Caroline Studios, and novice photographer Rachael Hyde of Rachael Hyde Photography discuss the similarities in their industry experience and the immense responsibility involved in capturing a couple’s most important day.
Austin Woman: When did you first start experimenting with photography?
Caroline Robert: My brother is 10 years older than me. When he was in high school, he was taking a photography class and I had aspirations to be exactly like him. So, when I got to high school, I decided to do the same. I continued to major in photography in college.
Rachael Hyde: I started taking photographs in 2010, when I embarked on a Project 365. Basically, the purpose of the project was to take a photo every day for a year as a means of self-improvement. I completed the year with a lifelong passion. It wasn’t long after that I started doing client work.
AW: What was it like to shoot your first wedding?
CR: I really didn’t know what I was doing. Thankfully, I was an assistant, so I just needed to do whatever the photographer asked me. I worked for free. I was just happy to be there. I was so excited to be doing anything in photography at all. It went well, and I was just having a blast. I did a bunch of research before I went into it, looking up all these photos, trying to find inspiration.
RH: I shot my first wedding in March 2016, just outside of Austin. I was so excited. I’d been doing senior and family portraits for so long, and I wanted something new. But surprisingly, I was not nervous at all. Wedding photography is just another form of photojournalism, and you are there to capture the day and the little moments people will look back on.
AW: In your experience, what is the hardest part about photographing weddings?
CR: The fact that it’s only going to happen once. That’s the hardest thing. You can shoot corporate events, you can even shoot commercial gigs and you think, “This could happen again. Holiday parties happen every year.” But on a wedding day, this is it. This is once in a lifetime.
RH: Prioritization. There [are] so many things going on all at once: bride getting ready, groom getting ready, guests arriving. You have to make sure you capture all the most important big-event things, and that means sacrificing another great moment that might be happening at the same time.
AW: What is your favorite thing about photographing weddings?
CR: I like the pressure. I think it keeps me on my toes. If I were shooting commercial stuff in a studio, it’d be OK. But it’s a challenge. Weddings are a challenge. Everything you do, every ceremony that you go to is incredibly different—different people, different days, different light—it’s ever-changing. That’s the coolest part for me.
RH: So many things. … I think the reason why I love shooting weddings is you feel so enveloped with love. Sometimes I forget that I am not a part of the family because I feel so involved with them on such a special day.
AW: How important is it for you to get to know your clients on a more personal level?
CR: I feel like it’s important to bond with clients. I think it’s really important. You want them to feel comfortable with you throughout the entirety of the wedding day. Sometimes it just clicks. What does “professional” even mean? It means I’m doing a job. If I get to know them and I’m having fun with them, I feel like I’m going to do a better job on their photos because there’s more of a connection.
RH: I just remember being so grateful that this young couple who had just graduated from my university was taking a chance on a photographer who had never shot a wedding before. I am so lucky that my clients have all been amazing because that really makes a difference.
Both Hyde and Robert attribute a close connection with their clients as an important process of producing the best wedding photos. When asked what sort of advice Robert would give Hyde after nearly 10 years in the business, Robert quickly answered, “Love your clients and never stop shooting.”
A labor of love, as Robert calls it, wedding photography is the simplest yet most long-lasting portion of the ceremony. Whereas many celebrate years of a couple’s relationship, at the end of nearly 14 months of preparation, photographers have only one kiss, one dance and a series of once-in-a-lifetime moments to capture for the duration of the wedding. Though the preparation for the family and the photographer are vastly different, both parties attribute the ultimate success of the wedding day with the exact same thing: love.
Caroline Robert is the owner of Austin-based Caroline Studios. She specializes in wedding photography, with experience in commercial work. Rachael Hyde is a senior digital-media management student at St. Edward’s University, and is hoping to work in the tech industry while keeping her company, Rachael Hyde Photography, as her side job.