Since I moved to Indiana in early 2017, I've gotten a little taste of what it's like to be a bride or groom looking for the right wedding photographer. I moved here knowing absolutely no one in the wedding industry, and since I was massively pregnant, I met people the way most couples do--through Instagram and Google searches.
Even though I was looking for a hospital to deliver my baby and living through some pretty major house updates, I made time to reach out to other photographers because I knew I couldn't survive in a new city without them.
If that sounds extreme, let me tell you about what it’s like to not have friends as a creative entrepreneur. When I first left my office job to be full-time wedding photographer in 2012, I sat at my desk all day feeling bored and lonely. Every time I had a business disappointment I had no one to help talk me through it. Every time I needed new software or equipment, I searched online reviews and forums to see what people were saying. I was spending so much time alone that my jaw started aching from not talking all day.
I tried to meet people. I went to a few networking events but found it hard to connect with people over cocktails and business cards (The DC photo scene was dominated by very traditional meet and greet events). In the end, I just went online and looked for photographers around me who seemed like kind, genuine people. And then I emailed them and asked if they wanted to be friends (awkward? Yes! Vulnerable? Yes! Worth it? Yes! Yes! Yes!) That's how I met Audra, who is still one of my favorite people and industry colleagues today.
So when I moved to Indy, the first thing I did was start looking for new friends in the wedding community. I knew I was going to need encouragement and advice and lots of coffee dates if I was going to go through the monumental task of relaunching my business. I was so pleasantly surprised to discover that there is a thriving community of photographers here that is only too excited to welcome new people. In just a few months, I had a whole group of friends and colleagues to encourage and support me through my first year here.
I love sharing about the people and things I enjoy, so I thought I'd put together a post about some of the amazing people I've met so far. I know there are other wedding photographers in Indiana who are talented and sought-after, but these are the ones I’ve actually met. (If you want a list of the top Google hits for best photographers, that’s pretty easy to get on your own. But if you want an inside scoop on what these people are like in person, I can give you the very exclusive “Rachael Foster friendship search results”. )
For the purposes of this blog post, I’m listing everyone in the order that I met them.
Sami Renee Photography - I found Sami because of her lifestyle newborn sessions. I was looking for a birth and newborn photographer, and I loved how her images captured the tiny details and big emotions of new babies and their families. I didn't end up hiring her only because she was totally booked for the month already, but she was kind enough to connect me to a whole group of wedding photographers in the Northern Indy suburbs that get together with their kids. Since then, we've hung out and emailed and texted a lot, and I have to say, she is just as kind and fun as she seems in her blog. Sami describes her wedding photography as "bright and airy with lots of color". To see some of her images, check out her portfolio!
Ashley Wittmer Photography - I found Ashley when I was scrolling through Instagram. Her images really arrested me because they are more colorful and crisp than a lot of others, and she and I both like to use lots of compression (this is a technique for separating your subject from the background by shooting with a longer lens). Also like me, she's been shooting for a long time, and prefers to work with just a dozen or so great couples each year. I emailed Ashley to introduce myself, and she was kind enough to suggest that we meet up for brunch with her friend, Chloe Luka (see below for more about Chloe.) I had such a great chat with both of them, and we quickly discovered that all three of us had relocated our business to Indy in the past couple of years. I left feeling so refreshed and hopeful about my move and business. If you want to get to know Ashley more, she has a great video about what it's like to work with her!
Chloe Luke Photography - Chloe has a fine art approach to weddings and she's one of the few photographers in Indy who is shooting film. Her work has that soft, dreamy film look, and she's really gifted at shooting all those gorgeous detail photos. She loves loves to travel and she's got some beautiful photos of engagements in Paris that you should check out. She's also incredibly energetic, upbeat, and hardworking. If you want to see what I mean, she's got a great intro page!
Erin Hession - When I asked neighbors and friends who I should meet in the wedding industry, a lot of them mentioned Erin, and that's because Erin has been shooting weddings in Indy for a long time and she has a great reputation. I sent Erin an email and we quickly found time for a lunch (just before I went into labor, as it turns out!) We covered so much ground at our lunch date - talking about our businesses and families and life generally, and Erin has been so incredibly helpful about connecting me with Indy couples and venues. I really can't say enough about how kind and thoughtful she is. Her work is known for being fun, whimsical, and colorful, and you can see her latest weddings here.
Conforti Photography - I met Cassie Conforti through the playgroup that Sami invited me to attend, and this lady has quickly become my go-to for everything from wedding venue questions to potty training meltdowns. She's got an awesome sense of humor and boy, does she hustle to take care of her two kiddos and get her wedding work done fast for her clients. She's so good at both posing and styling, and she always seems like she's bursting with creative ideas. You should definitely follow her on Instagram--I regularly laugh out loud at her posts.
Ivan and Louise - This is a husband and wife team made up of James Ivan and Emily Louise. I first emailed with Emily about photographing my birth, but she was due only a few weeks after me, so that seemed like a lot to ask! We eventually met at our playgroup after we'd both had precious little boys, and it's been so fun to have our little guys go through their first year together. Emily and her husband photograph weddings and babies and they use a mix of digital and film photography. I love they way they use natural light and soft focus. You can see their latest images here!
Jennifer Van Elk Photographers - Jenn and her husband Steven work together to create wedding photos and videos and also have several associate photographers. Jenn is a fellow momma, and I met her at our playdate group, but I was lucky enough to also hire her for a family event this fall. I was so impressed by how quickly she organized everyone for group photos, adjusted her off-camera lighting, and got us all smiling. She also captured some really sweet candids that I just love. If you look at her wedding work, you'll see she has an eye for creating iconic images of brides. You should definitely follow her latest updates on Instagram!
I have no doubt I'll be adding more great people to this list as I continue to make new friends. In the meantime, the thing that has really struck me about searching for wedding photographers is how much the wedding industry has changed since I was engaged nine years ago. The only wedding website back then was The Knot, and the only real social media was Facebook. Pinterest had yet to become the place where wedding visions are born, and most couples designed weddings without planners or mood boards.
Getting an inside perspective on what it’s like to search for wedding photographers from scratch has shown me how much a good website and a strong Instagram presence can help you feel comfortable with someone. But there is still no substitute for meeting them in person. I can't say enough good things about all of these talented photographers, and I feel so blessed to have stumbled into this community.
If you are a fellow photographer reading this and thinking you want to get connected, I'd love to meet you! Send me an email and let's chat! If you are a bride or groom and you have more questions about choosing a great photographer, I have another blog post on that subject right here. Thanks for reading, and I'd love to hear what you think!