Weddings and engagements take months, and sometimes years, to plan, and they’re gone in a flash. What’s left in their jubilant wake is a blur of moments and some fragmented memories – all of which (and many more) are catalogued through the event’s historians, the photographers, who, through their lenses, capture what will become a family’s record of a special time and place gone by.
Of course, it helps when those memories are anchored by an offbeat theme or an unexpected dose of originality. Many of today’s couples are eschewing the traditional-white-dress-and-sensible-location route to wedded bliss by carving their own paths, oftentimes with a little help from myths and heroes, film and fantasy. The modern wedding or engagement shoot can now be anything that a couple’s imagination can conjure, but its place in history rests solely on the shoulders of the photographer.
Coast chatted up several of these Orange County-based photographic artists to delve into their nuptial inspirations, and to indulge in some of their fondest themed pastimes of OC couples, captured on film.
Lauren Hillary Photographic Artist
Camera :: Canon 6D and Contax 645
Bride and Groom :: Nicole and Michael Fabian
Wedding theme :: James Bond 007
Venue :: Orange County Museum of Art
This shoot :: My inspiration drew from the very modern and classic 007 theme that the bride and groom worked so hard to create. I really wanted the images to reflect the style and feel of the event as well as capture the personalities of the couple and their guests.
Photographic inspiration :: Photography is my always-evolving creative outlet. Being a very visual, intuitive, passionate person, photography allows me to capture the personalities, hopes, dreams, and lives of others. I am inspired by textures, light and color, or lack thereof. I am inspired by joy and growth and laughter. The stories of my subjects inspire my work and create an outcome of photographs that are deeply personalized.
Signature style :: A mix between commercial photography and classic photojournalism. My main goal on any shoot is to capture the “realness” of my subjects – their authentic personalities, how they get along, the way they hold hands or make each other laugh. I want to capture the entire feel of the wedding day so when looking back at the images you feel like you are there.
Can’t leave home without :: My black Toms crocheted shoes. I am on my feet for eight-plus hours and these never hurt my feet. I also always have my Philosophy lip gloss, and green tea keeps me alert and hydrated throughout a long shoot.
Favorite moment from the wedding :: As a surprise to the bride and groom, both brothers did a reading during the ceremony. They each read the lyrics of two love songs. The first one was “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News and the second reading was “I’ll Be There For You” by Method Man. It was so funny and cute and surprising and different.
Dream theme :: I would love to shoot a sideshow circus type of wedding or event, maybe with a kissing booth and fun games to entertain guests. Weddings typically follow a standard tradition, and it is always fun to see a break in that tradition.
B Street Photo
Camera :: Canon 5D Mark II
Bride and Groom :: Hilary and Steven Ward
Engagement shoot theme :: Camping and the great outdoors
Venue :: Back Bay, Newport Beach
This shoot :: Initially, I was going for a camping-themed shoot and I thought it would be cool to use a homemade tent. Then I took it a step further and thought, “Why not make a teepee?!” After that, I decided that a tribal theme was the way to go.
Photographic inspiration :: My inspiration is constantly changing, which makes being a photographer so exciting. My most inspiring shoots as of late were done in a concrete riverbed and an art gallery. But the thing that continues to inspire me most is the outdoors. Nothing is more beautiful to me than what is already created. Trends and ideas will come and go, but the beauty of the outdoors always leaves me in awe.
Signature style :: I love shooting in a documentary style because I want my images to be as natural and real as possible. I like to keep things simple so my pictures stand the test of time.
Can’t leave home without :: Promax bars! Gotta have my snacks.
Favorite moment from the engagement session :: After all the planning and preparation that went into this shoot, my favorite part was seeing it all come to fruition. I worked on this shoot with a small team of vendors (Five Sparrows Design Studio for the paper goods/invitation suite and P2 Designs for florals), and loved having them come alongside me for the day. It was really fun working together as a team.
Dream theme :: I’d love to do anything with a woodsy theme. Shooting in forests and on mountaintops would be great. The more outdoorsy, the better.
Photography by Johanna
Camera :: Canon 5D Mark II
Bride and Groom :: Elizabeth Fields and Tim McVicker
Wedding theme :: Huskies
Venue :: Lutheran Church of the Cross, Laguna Woods
This shoot :: This wedding was all about Liz and Tim’s love for their dogs; “yours and mine become ours” was the theme. I’m inspired by capturing special moments to remember forever (or, the saying in today’s tech world, “Pics or it didn’t happen!").
Photographic inspiration :: I want to make sure the couple has several good shots they are both comfortable with and will remind them of the wonderful feelings they had on that day for many years to come. I also like to make sure they can relive the day with some of the details they may not have seen that day – colors, decorations, clothing details, views, and friends' and families’ happy expressions.
Can’t leave home without :: My Sherpa.
Favorite moment from the wedding :: Silvia is the husky puppy that Liz and Tim acquired together – symbolic of bringing the love of all their dogs together. When she joined the wedding party by bringing the rings down the aisle, you could feel the spirit of Liz and Tim’s love filling the entire church.
Dream theme :: My dream wedding to photograph is at the beach, just before sunset. The lighting is perfect, the couple is peaceful and carefree. The guests have all put aside their issues for the day – it's all about the bride and groom and their devotion and commitment to one another. But the key is the couple is sharing their unique love, which brings Technicolor and radiance to the photos.
Thao Vu Archey
Thao Vu Photography
Camera :: Canon Mark III
Bride and Groom :: Nancy and Quang
Engagement shoot theme :: Tim Burton
Venue :: Katie Wheeler Library, Irvine
This shoot :: This engagement shoot was Nancy’s idea all the way! Her favorite holiday is Halloween, and a Tim Burton-themed engagement shoot seemed to fit perfectly with her love for the holiday. She even has a Halloween-themed tattoo on her shoulder.
Photographic inspiration :: My goal is to be able to capture perfectly a reflection of the couple’s love for each other – what makes them a perfect match that their family and friends can immediately see through my eyes. That is what I’m aiming for. I get to know my couples a lot better at their engagement session, which gives me a better idea of how I will interact with them on their wedding day. I learn what makes them laugh, any inside jokes they may share – anything to get them to relax and be themselves.
Can’t leave home without :: I always bring along snacks and water. A hair tie is also a must to keep my long hair from interfering with the camera.
Favorite moment from the engagement session :: When the bride showed up in her first outfit with hair and makeup done, I was completely blown away. Her stylist and makeup/hair artist were incredibly creative in their take of Tim Burton. They really brought to life what the bride was envisioning.
Dream theme :: Someday I would love to get as many of my previous brides as possible for one mega photo shoot. It would be fun to see 100-plus of my brides together in their wedding gowns, wouldn’t it?
Jason Burns Photography
Camera :: Nikon D600
Bride and Groom :: Alex and Elsa Ramirez
Wedding theme :: Day of the Dead
Venue :: Ceremony, Holy Family Catholic Church, Wilmington; Reception, The Queen Mary, Long Beach
This shoot :: The inspiration for the wedding was Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. It was all the idea of the bride, Elsa. She told me that her nana, whom she was very close to, had passed away and she wanted to honor her presence on her wedding day.
Photographic inspiration :: In general, I take inspiration from everyday life. My loved ones and the people around me are a great inspiration. I also love watching movies; the cinematography is a huge inspiration to me.
Signature style :: I think my style of photography is a mix of artistic and contemporary, with a touch of romance. My goal is to capture the natural chemistry my couples share and to document their wedding or engagement in a way that reflects who they are as a couple.
Can’t leave home without :: Altoids! You have no idea how many times the bride has wanted one right before she walks down the aisle and I’m always prepared.
Favorite moment from the wedding :: There are so many moments; it’s hard to pick just one. I think my favorite moments in general are the times I get to spend with the couple for their formal photos. Elsa and Alex were so much fun. We walked all over The Queen Mary, stopping to take photos here and there. I don’t think Elsa ever stopped smiling.
Dream theme :: There are too many to count, but I think my top two right now would have to be a Gatsby theme and a Steampunk theme.