1. When did you launch this business and why?
I created Docuvitae, a boutique agency of editorial photographers who also shoot weddings, families and corporate assignments, in 2002. Until this time, I worked as freelance magazine photographer. I was constantly writing grants to fund my documentary photography projects. I decided to create Docuvitae (which is derived from Latin to mean “proof of life”) to fund my personal work and make a well-rounded income. Also, the writing was on the wall — the craft of journalism that I had fallen in love with as a student was changing before my eyes. Assignments turned from visual story telling to lit portraits and tabloid-style coverage and I wanted to find a way to still shoot in a natural, documentary-style. If you had asked me ten years ago if I would shoot a wedding, I would have said, “Heavens, NO!” But then I found my own way and I’ve never looked back.
2. There a bajillion wedding photographers but you stand apart – why do people love you so much?
One thing that is immediately a bit different is that I don’t consider myself a wedding photographer. Yes, I shoot a number of weddings each year, but what drives my work, for all my clients, whether it is a magazine editor or a couple getting married, is my love of being a documentarian. The people who book me to shoot weddings appreciate my commitment to authenticity. I believe the rise of wedding blogs has created a lot of mimicry among wedding photographers which has allowed my work and that of the photographers we represent, to stand apart.
3. What is your technique called?
Documentary wedding photography
4. What inspires you at a special event?
Anything real, anything out of the ordinary. Much of the wedding world is programmed, so when I see real moments, or an unscheduled, candid interaction, I have a lot of fun. Speaking artistically, I love magic hour, or better yet, those minutes just after the sun has set and there is a dreamy, soft light. I also really thrive in low-light situations and I like to find interesting pockets of light: dark stairwells with light flooding in, passage ways between buildings, window light in a dark room. I could go on and on about this one.
5. What’s the worst kind of picture to take (from your view)?
Group portraits or large family portraits are not a lot of fun – for me, or for the couples I work with. I’m happy to photograph and orchestrate group shots, and I encourage my clients to shoot a limited amount of family portraits, for posterity sake, but it’s often the most regimented part of the day and it’s a relief when they are over. Before a wedding, I try to encourage clients to think through which group shots are essential and to keep the list short and sweet. If they take this advice, family portraits are always much more pleasant. I also ask the coordinator or caterer to send cocktails over so guests can have fun and socialize while they wait for their name to be called.
6. How do you adjust your business for busy vs slow seasons?
In the winter (because of the temperate weather in Los Angeles, there is no off season, just a quiet season) we focus on all the things we don’t have time for during the rest of the year. In the studio, we put together portfolios with new work for all our photographers and we make beautiful show prints of our new favorite images. We focus on marketing and getting our work into the blogosphere. I also like to reconnect with wedding industry friends. From a relationship point of view, LA is really a small market and my most valuable jobs come from referrals. The winter gives me time to breathe, to stop and think about what worked well for us the year before, what didn’t, and to make strategic changes to our work-flow and our products and services.
7. How do you find sanity with a toddler and baby on the way while running your business?
I have a very easy commute, first off. I moved my studio into my backyard five days before I delivered my first daughter. I work Monday thru Friday, but we decided to divide my daughters care between a nanny in our home two days a week, and daycare the other three days of the week because she loves socializing with other children. On days when my daughter is home with our nanny, I often sneak in after her nap to find her looking absolutely priceless in a matching outfit and with pig-tails (something I never seem to do) so my biggest challenge on those days is to not turn the afternoon into a photo shoot!
Making my own hours — artist hours – helps keep me sane, too. I rarely start my work day before 11am so that I can attend classes with my daughter on the days she is home with our nanny (our nanny starts late, too) and the rest of the week, my husband drops her at daycare so that I can spend 30 minutes on our stationary bike. It’s easy to head straight to backyard in my workout clothes on those days, but I find the simple act of taking a shower gives me a few minutes to think and helps me feel human, which is a pretty good thing when you are trying to balance motherhood with running a business.