By: Jessica Weinberger
A picture is worth a thousand words but a wedding album is meant to be a fairytale novel. The only decision is choosing the right author to write it for you. 40 to 50 years after the big day, you are going to want to open your wedding album and relive every moment of the most important day of your life. It is every bride’s wish to preserve these memories for years and one of the biggest decisions you will make when planning a wedding, is choosing who will be with you on that day to capture those moments the way you will see them for years to come.
We sat down with some of the best wedding photographers in the San Diego area to give our readers a better insight into their businesses and their personal lives. From love stories to tips and advice, our SDSW photographers give you a look into how they got their start and their words of wisdom for picking the best wedding photographer to write your fairytale.
Holly Ireland Photography
Holly and Bruce Ireland
Holly and Bruce Ireland met and fell in love in what seems like a fairytale story. Holly was dancing for Broadway in Tokyo when Bruce spotted her at a subway station and it was love at first sight. They bonded over their shared interest in photography and after six months of a long distance relationship, Holly moved to California and they got married a year later. Thus began Holly Ireland Photography. They started their business together photographing dancers and then found their love for wedding photography, which they have been doing for five years. Holly compares wedding photography to a Broadway show in that you are a telling a story of one of the most important days in a couple’s life. Holly and Bruce describe their photography style as both timeless and innovative. They love taking classic photos that your parents will love and contemporary ones that you will love while striving to preserve the story of your day for you to relive every time you open your album. Holly and Bruce really strive to get to know their clients and what they really want. They both meet the bride and groom in person for a consultation and engagement shoot. This way, by the time the big day comes, everyone is more like friends and the couple is more relaxed in front of the camera. Their philosophy? Always make it fun. Holly and Bruce feel that the more fun and relaxed the photo shoots are, the better the couple looks in them and the easier it is to capture the couples true expressions and love for each other.
Leah Marie Photography
Leah Faddis and Marcella Caldwell
Leah and Marcella describe their photography style as fun, romantic and natural. As two pure romantics at heart, they admit that they are just two girls who fell in love with happily ever after and found a way to stay in its nostalgia everyday. They have been shooting weddings together for almost eight years and they say their secret to success is treating every wedding like it is their first. Approaching every scenario with the excitement and enthusiasm as they did when they first started out, makes it feel less like work and more of just doing exactly what they love to do. Leah and Marcella provide a unique service to their photography that they feel makes shoots more fun and brings out the personality of their clients. Couples have the option to have their wedding day or engagement session professionally styled by professional Leah Marie Photography event designers. Couples can create unique scenes with furniture and props to use for their portrait sessions that take their shoots to the next level. Leah and Marcella have photographed pillow fight scenes, shot in open meadows and even dragged a piano out into a vineyard. They promise to create magazine style shoots tailored to the personality and character of each couple. One piece of advice that they can give to brides is to make sure you invest in a photographer that has the style and personality that you are looking for. Chose a photographer you feel you can trust because every photographer has a different style and if you do not trust them to do what they do, then it might not be the right fit.
Influenced by the work and advice of his grandfather, Peter Grant, a renowned World War II photographer, Aaron Feldman was encouraged to choose where he wanted to make a mark. Aaron decided to make an impact by telling conceptual stories through wedding photography. Even though he had multiple job offers lined up after graduating from Brooks Institute of Photography, he turned them down for his love of weddings and started True Photography 14 years ago and hasn’t looked back. At True Photography you get the efficiency benefits of a large studio and the hands on personal connection of a small studio. True Photography has a group of talented and artistic people all specializing in what makes for a quality wedding album. From enhancement and retouching to album design and finance, Aaron ensures that you will receive images that feel genuine and are “true” to who you are. True Photography also provides a website unlike any other. They are the only wedding photography website that showcases over 1000 weddings and 100,000+ images so you know exactly what you’re getting. Aaron says that when it comes to weddings, you have to produce amazing results every time, so they began posting every wedding on the website from the past 5 five years to prove that consistency. Aaron’s biggest advice to brides? Plan, plan, plan up to the big day, but when the big day comes, let go of everything and just embrace the day. Remember why you are there, and that is because you found the one person that you are happy to spend the rest of your life with. If you can just enjoy the day to the fullest, it will show up in your photographs and will be an everlasting memory.
Tony and Julie Eisenhower (father/daughter team)
Tony Eisenhower and his daughter Julie grew in their passion for photography together. Tony, the self proclaimed photography enthusiast, started out photographing weddings for friends and family and taking studio portraits for local theaters before he decided to pursue photography full time in 2000. Julie, who had been following in dad’s footsteps since she was eight years old, joined him in starting Eisenhower Photography in 2008. Since they both went through the age of film and print development, they both have a strong technical foundation in photography from old-fashioned dark room development to the ins and outs of Photoshop. With the technical aspects under her belt, Julie can really get into the part of wedding photography that she loves, the unique moments and special connections between people. Julie says that her passion is capturing the “feel” of the wedding with photo favorites like the bride’s mother helping her into her gown or the hint of tears in the grooms eyes as he watched his bride walk slowly down the aisle. When Julie later looks through the set of wedding photos and finds herself laughing and tearing up all over again, she knows that she has done a good job. At Eisenhower Photography, you can feel good knowing that Tony and Julie will be with you every step of the way. They don’t believe in 6-hour packages. They will arrive as early as you like and stay with you in as many locations as necessary until you are completely satisfied. Julie says that it’s not about an hourly rate for her and her dad. It’s about you and only you and that isn’t something that should cost extra. Their advice for getting the most out of the photography element of the wedding is to communicate! Show the photographer other photos you love and describe why you love them. Tell them if you’re planning on having unique events like a choreographed dance. That way, the photographer can be in the best position to capture it. Be sure the photographer knows the venue. Julie says it is not inappropriate to ask the photographer to visit the venue before hand if they haven’t been there before. Communication is key according to Eisenhower Photography, and the best way to make sure your happy with your photos is to make sure your photographer knows what makes you happy.
Christina O’Brien Photography
Christina began her career as a wedding photographer out of college when a local wedding photographer hired her after viewing her work in an art show. Christina provided a photojournalistic style that made her stand out the in crowd even in college and has been shooting weddings for 11 years since then. Christina loves being able to share in your special occasion and being able to help make that occasion memorable for you for years to come. Christina likes to keep her shoots fun, relaxing, and centered around you and your personality. Her philosophy is that it is your shoot, not hers. Her shoots are never posed, but shot in a more fluid and organic way. She says this allows her to capture the candid moments and make them unique and personal to you. Christina promises to personally walk you through the whole experience and will be the one that you work with from start to finish. She will know you, your personality, your style and make sure that it is all reflected in what she creates for you. With Christina O’Brien Photography, you also get the all in one package. With only one vendor, Christina offers photography, videography and a unique open-air style photo booth. Christina’s advice is when searching for a photographer look for style first and then price. You want to find someone you get along with and that respects your ideas. She says that you want to find someone whose work speaks to you. This will be the person that you will be getting dressed in front of and the person you will be kissing in front of and it is so important to hire a person you would want to have along side you for the whole day.
Tricia’s background is in fine art photography so she has a unique understanding of how to utilize light in photos. She began shooting weddings 15 years ago as a way that she could use her talent as a tool to tell a couple’s love story. Tricia loves getting to know her clients before shooting them. “I want to know how they met, where they like to go on dates and what their “first dance” song will be,” she says. Who better to shoot your wedding than a couple that knows about romance first hand? Tricia and her husband often shoot weddings together. She says, “because the two of them are very much in love and have been married for so long, they really understand what the bride and groom are feeling on their big day.” This understanding shines through in their photographs. Tricia describes her style as very photo-journalistic. Her goal is to document a couple’s one of a kind love story by capturing each kiss, giggle and embrace. The results are images that showcase each couple’s individual personalities ; with Equinox Photo, you’re not just getting a photographer. You’re getting your own personal “wedding concierge” for the day. You will have two photographers capturing every special moment, plus your own wedding stylist who will make sure you are taken care of all day. Tricia’s business partner has been a fashion and wedding stylist for over 10 years and they partner together on every shoot. She consults with each couple on everything from wardrobe to photo shoot location to create editorial-worthy images. Tricia’s biggest piece of advice is to find a photographer you “click” with. They will be with you all day and they should understand your personalities and desired outcome for the big day.
Mr. & Mrs. – A Wedding Duo
Peter and Shayna San Nicolas
The very own Mr. & Mrs. behind Mr. & Mrs. – A Video and Photography Duo are not only phenomenal artists, but also professional business owners. Customer service has been their top priority for the past seven years and they know first hand what it is like to pay for a photographer that didn’t provide that for them. This motivates Peter and Shayna to give every couple they shoot the very best experience they could have. They say a wedding day is the most monumental day in a person’s life and it is an honor to them to be a part of it. Over two decades ago, Peter and Shayna fell in love as mere 12 year olds and grew up together in a small rural town sharing in their love for Jesus and a passion for photography and cinema. With three beautiful children, they are truly living their dream. As a photographer and videographer team, they enjoy capturing and experiencing that dynamic that makes a couple so great together. You wont see them posing you every five seconds but instead directing you to have fun and let loose with your loved ones. They say an engagement shoot is a must and is key to getting to know your photographer and videographer and getting more comfortable with each other before the wedding. To Peter and Shayna, each couple’s love story and personalities are different and they aim to express this and their true selves in their photographs and movies.
Marissa Boucher & Kimberlee W
With one of the biggest boudoir studios in the US and a team of fabulous women, The Boudoir Divas aim to give women an experience to not only look and feel beautiful, but also to feel empowered through gaining a newfound confidence. Marissa and her husband shot weddings starting in 2003 and Marissa shot boudoir sessions for her brides on the side. By 2007, the boudoir shoots were so popular that they needed to move into a larger studio to accommodate the demand. A few years later, Marissa stopped shooting weddings and started The Boudoir Divas with Kimberlee. Marissa’s team includes photographers, a hair & makeup artist, a studio manager, and a ‘production princess’ specializing in airbrushing photos. Being the only studio in San Diego to specialize only in boudoir photography, The Boudoir Divas offers a unique experience for clients to enter and entire Boudoir Divas world that is dedicated to helping women feel beautiful. They love giving brides the opportunity to surprise their groom with a gorgeous book filled with sexy and classy images of her. They also suggest talking with your wedding photographer to plan to capture the moment when your future husband opens his special groom’s gift. The reaction is priceless and definitely worth capturing. A day at The Boudoir Divas is more than just taking a pretty picture. It is an entire day where you get to step outside of your everyday life, feel pampered, get glammed-up, and then walk away with new confidence after seeing just how beautiful you are. They also provide a fun service for brides and her friends called “PinUp Parties” which is a perfect way to have a fun and unparalleled bachelorette party. The Boudoir Divas mission with every shoot is to help you “Reveal Your Sexy.” They say they truly believe that every woman is uniquely beautiful, and they want to provide and experience that helps you celebrate your beauty through a pampering, fun photo shoot.
Kelly has never been one to hide her passion for photography. “I do it because I love the art of taking photos. It’s in my soul,” she says. Kelly developed an avid interest for photography early in her life when she watched her grandfather work magic developing photos in his garage that he converted into a Dark Room. Watching her grandfather sparked a fire in her belly for photography that lasted her whole life. Kelly considers it an extreme honor when clients ask her to photograph their wedding. When a couple invites her to not only capture their special day but also take part in it, it’s something she takes very seriously. She puts her heart and soul into capturing those special moments that could easily go unnoticed. When working with couples, her golden rule is simple. Loosen up and have fun. Kelly promises that this is the key to spectacular photos. She also swears by the element of communication. She always requests that couples provide her with a shot list a few weeks before the wedding. It not only gets the couple thinking about what shots are important to them on their big day but it is also a huge time saver.
Cricket Estrada Studios
Cricket has been in the photography business for 15 years and got into wedding photography with his wife. Not only does he provide photography but Cricket also does motion film. Cricket says that he is the type of guy for those couples who want a highly personal and customizable wedding photographer. He claims that his work is laid back, loose and a lot of fun for all. Cricket describes his relationship with his clients to be like that of a team. He is a great listener and loves trying out clients’ ideas as well as some of his own. Cricket also doesn’t limit himself to the wedding location. He also photographs or films all wedding related events such as fittings, tastings, rehearsals and everything in between. He believes in covering and telling the story of your entire wedding experience, not just your wedding day. His special advice is to use your vendors and just have fun. It’s a long day, but it flies by.
Muse & Creator
Geoff Rowe and Mary Jo O’Neal
Geoff comes from a 10-year background in fashion and commercial work in the UK, Europe and Arizona. He had planned on entering the world of wedding photography for a number of years and when he moved to Southern California two and a half years ago and met a ton of wonderful and talented wedding vendors, he thought it was the perfect time to begin the transition. There is a technical side to Geoff’s work, which was born in the fashion photography industry along with a very distinctive British accent and a sense of humor. Working in the fashion industry also greatly influenced his photography style. He describes his style has fashion forward, somewhat editorial and a little journalistic. But none of his work could be done with out Mary Jo, the studio manager of Muse & Creator. Geoff actually met Mary Jo on Match.com! One day he had a “wink” in his inbox and they met up. They met for lunch that turned into dinner on Mother’s Day in 2007 and the story began. It was a perfect match! Geoff’s key to perfect photos is to listen to his clients. He says if you have something you really want to shoot, he will want to hear it and he will incorporate that into your day but with his unique style. Engagement sessions are also very important in Geoff’s eyes. It is an opportunity to really push boundaries and get the couple to tell a story that is personal to them. Geoff’s two photography tips for clients: Give us time and give us light. To make beautiful images that you see in the magazines takes time. Time to get to that perfect location, to get you in place, to the perfect angle. It takes a lot to get those magnificent photos. As for light, Geoff says you might think that modern equipment is so good that it alone can pull of miracles but you still have to get the fundamentals right to get those great images.
Rita has had a camera attached to her hip since she was given her first one at nine years old. She loved capturing the memories of her life and at the age of 20, she was asked by friends and family to capture the memories of their lives too. She started out with family portraits, maternity and engagement shoots and sometimes weddings. Shooting her very first wedding was the most heart touching moment for Rita. At that moment, she decided that one day she wanted to be a full time wedding photographer. She has been a professional wedding photographer for five years now. Her goal as a photographer is to give her couples a day to remember. With a style that is timeless, romantic and intimate, she wants her clients to look back at her work 5, 10 and 20 years from now and feel as if it was just yesterday. She also takes it upon herself as a wedding photographer to keep her couples happy and on time with their day. With every wedding, there is an engagement shoot and Rita’s gift to her clients is a 10×10 album of their favorite 20 photos. “Do everything with love,” is Rita’s working philosophy, and it is clear that plenty of love is put into her photographs. She edits every photo so it is ready for print and also gives clients a full resolution downloadable link and an online gallery. Rita’s advice to brides in picking a photographer is not only to have a connection with the photographs you see on a website, but to have a connection with the photographer. When you have that special connection, you will have the right photographer for you.
Bob Hoffman Video & Photography
Bob & Tara Hoffman
Bob and Tara have been running their family business since 1983. Over 30 years! The college sweethearts fell in love at UC Santa Cruz and got married. They now run Bob Hoffman Video & Photography together and have a son and daughter. As a family run business, they aim for the idea of family to run through with their clients. Bob and Tara want their clients to feel like they can communicate with them on a personal level and trust them with all of their photography needs. They understand that clients have needs and they like to get to know and understand those needs and what the couple is looking for on their special day. Bob admits that a lot of companies offer great photography, but what sets Bob Hoffman Video & Photography apart is that they offer the security that comes with experience. Bob’s first love is photography and he has spent three decades building a strong and creative team dedicated to giving clients the best quality. They have been through a variety of wedding situations in San Diego and that gives Bob the confidence that he can capture any wedding successfully. Bob and Tara piece of advice is to lock in the schedule and trust that it is going to work. Having a strong plan and someone you can trust to get all the little jobs done is going to give you the most ease. “You’re going to look beautiful in your dress or handsome in your tux,” says Bob, “so being present with one another and focusing on what that day means to both of you is going to be the most important thing. That love is what you will want to transfer through your photos.”
Stephen and Angela Dela Cruz
Stephen and Angela only shoot weddings for one reason. They love, LOVE! To Stephen and Angela every couple has their own story and they love being a part of every couple’s special day to capture the emotions and celebration of love. With a beautiful love story of their own, it is a no brainer where they get their motivation. Stephen and Angela met in college both studying music with the same piano professor. Angela needed help with a musical piece and asked Stephen to sing to accompany her playing. Two years later, Stephen proposed to Angela in the exact piano lab with five gallons of rose petals and candles filling the room. They then started shooting weddings together in college at age 18. They shot 44 weddings in their first year thanks to college friends getting proposed to and hiring them. Now they only take a limited amount of weddings per year to give special attention to each couple. It is very common that the photography duo go to comedy clubs or dinners with their clients in order to get to know them on a more personal level. The style of Stegela Photography is described as candid, comfortable and classy. They focus on the photojournalistic style of wedding photography. They capture photos of the event as it happens with raw emotions, unscripted and undirected. They aim to have each client feel comfortable with them to the point that they show up on their wedding day as good friends with big fancy cameras. They also edit your photos, capture your photos and handle your photos with the future generation in mind. They would hate to have your future kids look at your photos and say, “Mom, this is so 2015!” Their philosophy when working is to have a ton of fun. If you are not having fun and being relaxed, then they say they are not doing their job. Anyone can pick up a camera with the right settings and lens but it is the person behind the camera that makes or breaks the final product. Stephen and Angela know that there are tons of outstanding photographers in the San Diego area and they most likely know the other photographers you are considering. Stegela Photography admits that they are not for everyone, but they are for someone. They are a husband and wife team that enjoys fine dining, musical theater, luxury hotels, karaoke, mani/pedi’s, shopping, comedy clubs, Las Vega, movies, the beach and relaxing massages. If you can relate somehow with any of these items, then Stephen and Angela think they may be a good fit for you.
Siegel Thurston Photography
Brett & Elizabeth Siegel
Brett and Elizabeth began shooting weddings in 2006 when a dear friend asked if they would photograph their wedding in Sedona, Arizona. At the time, they were both working on their Bachelor of Arts degrees at Brooks Institute and they barely knew what it took to successfully cover a wedding. Somehow they pulled it off beautifully and as they continued to finish their degrees, more and more people started to enquire about using them for their wedding photographers. Soon after they graduated, they decided to start a full-fledged wedding photography business. Brett and Elizabeth met in college through a mutual friend and have been inseparable ever since and they love every minute they get to spend together. Brett and Elizabeth say that running a business together has been one great adventure they are so fortunate to be able to share with each other. The first thing they like to do with clients is spend time with them before the wedding day. Whether they are sharing a glass of wine, craft beer or great coffee, it allows them to know the clients better and understand their desires. They also love to do walk throughs with their clients at their wedding location prior to the wedding day. This allows them to step into their client’s shoes for a moment and find out exactly what they love about their venue and how to properly document the day. When you work with Siegel Thurston Photography, you get two professionally trained photographers. Elizabeth’s degree is a concentration in advertising photography. Her skills will be able to capture all those details that you have spent so many months agonizing over in all their glory. Brett’s degree is in commercial photography focusing on portraits and editorials. With his skills you will be directed and posed with the eyes and technique of a trained professional that will ensure you look your best.
Tim Otto Photography
Tim grew up in Pasadena, CA and moved to San Diego to earn his degree in photography and graphic arts. He has been photographing weddings for over 10 years and can’t imagine doing anything else. Tim loves what he does and aspires to create photographs that you will truly love from your big day. His goal is to tell the story of the wedding by capturing personalities, events and important moments in an artistic and unobtrusive way. Tim is always honored and humbled to play such an important part in someone’s special day.
David Santos Photography
With a bachelor’s degree in fine arts David specializes in both color and black and white photography. He has a stylistic and unobtrusive approach but still pays close attention to your traditional needs. He has been shooting weddings for 16 years and with his experience, David Santos photography will combine classic portraiture with a photojournalistic edge for any wedding.
Ashley Bee Photography
Ashley Bee loves weddings and is extremely passionate about what she does. Her favorite moment when shooting a wedding is after all the mayhem ends and she takes the bride and groom aside to capture pictures of the new couple. She says its the moment where they go, “OMG we’re married!” and it is so amazing to capture those moments that they can never get back. Ashley has been shooting weddings for nearly 7 years now and approaches each wedding with a timeless flare and an editorial style while playing off of each couples energy. Ashley tries to make each of her brides feel as glamorous as possible on their special day and is always excited with the end result.