Incredible Wedding Photographs in Pleasantville, Ohio
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m a hopeless romantic and a hyper-empath, which I believe makes me an even better wedding photographer. I shoot emotions and try to capture feelings on a wedding day.
Hi! I’m Stephanie West, owner and lead photographer at Stephanie West Photography. I have been exclusively a wedding photographer for about the last two years, but I have had my business since 2009. In the last two years, I have had numerous weddings featured and published on various wedding websites and blogs and I have been awarded Wedding Wire’s Couples’ Choice Award both years. This year I also received Two Bright Lights’ Editor’s Choice Award which I received for being one of the most frequently published photographers.
In addition to being a full-time wedding photographer, I am also a stay-at-home mom of 4 incredible little humans. They are ages 5, 7, 9 and 14. I have everything I have ever dreamed of and I am incredibly grateful for my simple (though busy) life. I love coffee (that may be an understatement), whiskey, powerlifting, hiking, reading and all things music. I’m a hopeless romantic and a hyper-empath, which I believe makes me an even better wedding photographer. I shoot emotions and try to capture feelings on a wedding day. And the fact that I am a “feeler” means that I not only see emotional moments, but I can feel them, which sometimes allows me to give a better perspective and be a better storyteller. That’s my goal on a wedding day. Tell the story of the day. Not just photograph it.
How did you become a wedding photographer?
With over 50 weddings under my belt at this point in my career, I’ve experienced almost everything that can happen at a wedding. I’ve been so lucky to have had the best couples and families.
I became a wedding photographer when I had a cheap little point ad shoot camera and was just taking pictures of my son. People thought I had a natural talent and someone asked me to take their daughter’s senior photos and then their friends asked me to take THEIR child’s senior photos and it just snowballed. I have upgraded equipment several times since then (I feel like such a big kid now 😊) and my skills have improved… beyond improved. With over 50 weddings under my belt at this point in my career, I’ve experienced almost everything that can happen at a wedding. I’ve been so lucky to have had the best couples and families. In fact, many of my brides have become good friends of mine. That’s my favorite part. The relationships that I have built along the way. I’m so grateful for people who appreciate what I do when it’s something I love so much. I’m so blessed.
How would you describe your style?
My style can be described as authentic, natural and modern.
My style can be described as authentic, natural and modern. I use three flashes on a typical wedding day which allows me to use modern technology and techniques in my photography but I use that to capture authentic moments (I try to be an observer on a wedding day, instead of a moment creator) and real emotions and moments between people. Photography should be about relationships. Not posing.
When I’m shooting portraits, for example, I would rather put a couple in a beautiful location and “coach” them to interact with each other in a natural way. I have little tricks to make them giggle or get really romantic in a moment and I try to step back and just let them take it from there. And, of course, there are couples who don’t need coaching at all. Once they get a moment alone on a crazy, hectic day like their wedding day, they’re just happy to have a few minutes to snuggle and hug and kiss. That’s when portraits are the best. When they just take advantage of a few minutes away from their families and their guests. That’s when “authentic” happens.
Are there things that differentiate wedding photographers?
There are several things that differentiate photographers from one another.
- First, and most obvious, is their personality. Your wedding photographer will be with you almost the entire day. They will be there for the big moments but also the small, intimate moments so your photographer has to be someone who makes you feel comfortable and secure enough to let your guard down so you can be vulnerable and be able to have those natural moments.
- The second thing is probably shooting style. I prefer natural interaction but some photographers prefer to have control over most of the day, with lots of posing and instruction. I have a very efficient system of shooting family and bridal party portraits on a wedding day so we rarely take longer than an hour to shoot that part of the day but I have heard of other photographers requesting two or three hours for portraits. I think that is okay as long as everyone involved is okay with it. I think that is an important thing to talk about when you’re consulting with a potential photographer for your wedding. You should know how long they anticipate portraits to be (because your guests will be waiting at this point in the day) and what their shooting style is like. If you want posed, more traditional portraits, great! Then you should have a photographer who shoots that way. If you want more natural photos and portraits, then you should make sure that is the photographer’s style. And you definitely want to see lots of examples of their work and possible a full wedding gallery so you know exactly what you’re going to get in your gallery as well. Your wedding will be very different from others, of course, but you should be able to see a full wedding from any photographer you interview.
What do couples value most from their wedding photographer?
What couples value most from their wedding photographer (besides the obvious- their work) is their ability to work with everyone involved on a wedding day.
What couples value most from their wedding photographer (besides the obvious- their work) is their ability to work with everyone involved on a wedding day. We are a small part on the day of a couple’s wedding. There is a venue involved, usually a DJ or musician, a caterer, bridal party, the couples’ families, guests… so many people make a wedding day happen. I do like to have a hand in creating the wedding day timeline, just because I’m the only vendor who actually spends nearly the entire day with the couple, the timeline is typically created around portraits and sometimes a first look, which we coordinate as well but I know I’m part of a team on that day.
I not only enjoy working with a team to make sure my couple’s wedding is everything they imagined (and more) but I also make sure to “tag” the other team members on social media, my blog posts and I always have a running list of vendors I have worked with in my office, so I can make referrals to other couples when someone asks if I have anyone who I have worked with on a particular aspect of a wedding. We have to work well with everyone, not just the couple who are getting married.
Which portion of the process keeps you busy the most, and what takes the most energy?
The most labor intensive part of a wedding day for me is everything that happens after the wedding day.
The most labor intensive part of a wedding day for me is everything that happens after the wedding day. The six hours I’m at a wedding is the easy part. It typically goes pretty quickly because I never stop moving or shooting. There is always something happening so there is always something for me to do. From everyone getting ready, to the details I like to capture, to the pre-ceremony events, first look, ceremony, portraits and the reception fun. Always moving. Never boring. But then the real work starts after I get home and change clothes. That’s when I upload images to my computer, back those RAW images to do an external drive.
Then it’s hours culling (choosing which photos to keep and which ones to delete) and editing. I do color correction, brightness, white balance and a little personal touch in my style for the color but I touch every single image myself and our average number of images shot on a wedding day is 1,800! This is where the real work is. After the images are edited they are uploaded to a really cute, custom USB drive and packaged for delivery to my clients. After that, I write a blog post to post on my own website (which takes several hours), I post to social media and I also upload to a website that I use to submit to publications. Hours. And hours. And hours. 😊
How affordable are wedding photographers?
This is your legacy.. part of your life story and that shouldn’t be taken lightly and left to a friend who has a nice camera.
I think everyone looking for a wedding photographer could find someone who is affordable to them and fits their budget. Personally, I think wedding photography should be the vendor you spend the most of your budget on, after the venue and maybe catering. This is your legacy.. part of your life story and that shouldn’t be taken lightly and left to a friend who has a nice camera. Shooting a wedding is a special skill and requires professional equipment in many situations. I remember being a little girl and sitting at my grandma’s kitchen table looking at her wedding photos and old family photos and it’s such a special thing to have these photos to share with your children and your grandchildren… I always advise my clients to print photos or at minimum buy an album with their wedding package so you at least have something as an heirloom that can be passed down through the generations after you’re gone. It is so important to hire someone who is of quality and can make sure those images are there and those products are there so that can happen.
Can I get a wedding photographer for $1000 or less?
I don’t believe you can get a high quality wedding photographer for under $1000, unless it is someone you know or you’re getting a great deal from a pro. This is definitely one of those cases where “you get what you pay for”. There are photographers who are just starting out or just starting to make their way in the wedding industry and charge less than that amount. I was one of them at one point in my career, but do I think my work was higher quality when I was charging that amount? No. As I improved and my equipment upgraded, I raised my prices to reflect my level of professionalism. It’s okay for someone to charge $1000 to shoot a wedding. But as I said previously in an early question, you have to make sure you know what you’re getting, regardless of who you’re hiring. And just because they’re cheap doesn’t mean they’re quality. Do your homework, for sure!
What is the most bizarre wedding photo you have ever seen?
This one is really difficult. First, I don’t want to offend anyone. Your wedding is your wedding and you do you, girls and boys! Second, it is your wedding and no one else’s so if you want to do something bizarre, then you do it. It seems everyone wants to “go viral” these days and that’s the fastest way to do it, I think. You have to do something bizarre or outrageous to get there. I don’t even really have an answer for this one. *shrugs*
What was the most memorable wedding you photographed?
I’m honored to shoot every wedding I’m entrusted with. ❤
I think the most memorable wedding for me to photograph was one for some close family friends but that wasn’t the reason it was so memorable. The bride’s aging grandfather had travelled for many miles to attend the wedding, when no one was really sure if he would even be living by the time the wedding was scheduled. So the fact that he was there was so special. And he was very emotional during the entire day and so was his son, the bride’s dad. Besides being thankful for his father being there, his daughter was marrying the man of her dreams so he was also very emotional during the entire day. And speaking of man of her dreams, the groom was ALSO incredibly emotive during the entire wedding day. It was such a wonderfully heartwarming day, with all of these men (who are sterotypically tough and “macho”) who were so happy and grateful and in tears, nearly all day. For me it was so touching and an incredible day to capture for these friends. I was honored to be there. I’m honored to shoot every wedding I’m entrusted with. ❤