I recently teamed up with Borrowed and Blue, a locally-focused online wedding resource, to answer a few questions about my wedding photography services.
Here’s my Q&A with Borrowed & Blue:
How did you first get into photography?
I’ve been a visual artist my whole life, and I got into photography because I love making beautiful images. I started photographing in high school, then majored in Visual Arts in college where I studied both painting and photography. I’m driven to make pictures that have meaning and capture memories – that’s what drew me to wedding photography, as opposed to commercial or fashion photography.
What single photo sums up your aesthetic?
This photograph of a couple filling out the paperwork before their San Francisco City Hall ceremony is one of my favorites. The picture has a strong composition that has your eyes moving among important details — the bride’s face, her pointing hand, the groom’s tilted head, and the tell-tale bouquet. I love the way their heads are bent over the paper together, with their hands touching gently. I think this photo tells you so much about who they are and how they work together as a couple. It’s a quiet, somewhat ordinary, moment on an extraordinary day.
As a storyteller, what draws you to a particular subject?
I love stories of great emotion and significance, and I believe that it’s the details that count. I grew up in Minnesota – the land of understatement – and I am ultimately drawn to quiet, subtle, and soulful images. I’m more interested in the river running deep than the big splash. This means that I’m always looking beyond the obvious for more hidden gems — the tear in a father’s eye, the quiet hint of a smile, or the secret, knowing looks that pass between a couple at the altar.
What is your favorite moment to photograph at a wedding?
At a recent wedding, I photographed the sweetest couple. At the start of the ceremony, the bride walked down a long, winding path through some trees before emerging at the end of the aisle. She rounded that last corner, looked up, and both she and the groom saw each other for the first time that day. As she paused before walking the rest of the way to the altar, both she and the groom teared up – I still start crying myself when I think about it. Moments like that I are the reason I love photographing weddings.
What makes, or breaks, a bridal shoot?
It’s really important for the couple to feel comfortable during their bridal shoot. If the couple is relaxed, confident, and comfortable with the photographer, you see it in the photos. I work hard to put couple at ease during their portraits, since it’s often a new experience for them. When a couple tells me that my photographs captured how they really felt, I know I’ve succeeded.
What are some of the most photogenic spots for engagement shoots?
San Francisco is a wonderful location for an engagement shoot because there is so much variety within the city. You can find urban settings, intimate cafes, funky side streets, sandy beaches, and famous icons like the Golden Gate Bridge or the cable cars. Some of my favorite places in the city are Chinatown, Flora Grubb Gardens, and Golden Gate Park. I encourage couples to choose a few different sites for their engagement shoot, so that they take advantage of all the variety the city has to offer.
Where else do you love to photograph?
I feel a location should be — or become — part of the couple’s story. It should be a place they want to be, and to interact with, like their favorite café, park, or street. After that, a good spot is one with a variety of texture and color and shape. The light has to be good, meaning neither harsh sunlight nor deep shade. Another one of my favorite sites is San Francisco City Hall — it has everything: beautiful architecture, magical light, elegance, charm, and a classic San Francisco feel. It’s a wonderful site for engagement photos, wedding photos, or just about any kind of shoot.
What’s your favorite photograph you’ve ever taken?
I don’t have one favorite wedding photo, mostly because I see a wedding as a series of images that together tell a story. That said, the image below is one that I really like because it captured a fleeting moment that sums up what the whole day was really about: the love and support of friends and family. I love that it is a quiet, intimate event in the midst of chaos – the two friends seem like a happy island in the middle of it all.
What’s your favorite wedding that you’ve shot?
I really don’t have a favorite wedding. It may sound like a cliché, but each wedding is beautifully unique and important to me. But since I shared the above photo, I thought I would include the link to the blog post for that same wedding. It was held at the Healdsburg Country Gardens, a gorgeous venue in the Sonoma Wine Country: http://madandmoonlyblog.com/healdsburg-country-gardens-wedding/
What’s your favorite out of all the San Francisco wedding venues to shoot at?
I just recently discovered Healdsburg Country Gardens. It’s a beautiful location for a wedding, with a huge variety of color, texture, and scenery for photography. The ceremony site is under a giant oak tree, overlooking vineyards. There are gorgeous, vibrant gardens on the site, as well as an adorable cottage. It’s a lovely site for a wedding, and for wedding photography.
What is the first thing you ask couples when they approach you?
I ask: “What kind of photographs are important to you on your wedding day?”
It’s a great question because it always gets the discussion going. It tells me about the couple, about what matters to them about their wedding day, but in the context of photography. What draws me to photography is telling stories that have meaning, so that’s where I like to start – by finding out what it important to the couple.
What’s the biggest mistake the couples make when choosing their photographer?
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is not talking to their photographer before they hire her. I think the most important consideration is choosing someone you are comfortable with. Your photographer is going to be with you on one of the most important days of your life — the whole day! — and you should feel at ease with her. I really enjoy meeting couples even before they hire me so that we all get to know each other a little first.
What makes you different from other wedding photographers?
In addition to photographing weddings, I do documentary photography. I do most of this personal work during the winter (the wedding “off-season”). It keeps me actively photographing throughout the year, and it also gives me a broader perspective when it comes to photography in general. I currently have two ongoing photography projects: one in my home state of Minnesota, and one in northern Spain. Both focus on refugees and migration, subjects that are dear to my heart.
What tips do you have for couples who have never been photographed before?
Relax, have fun, and be yourself! A good photographer will help you to do all these things, so that your photographs look and feel like you.
What are some of your upcoming projects for the future?
For the next few months: weddings! But after that, I’ll return to my documentary projects. I’m also starting to expand my wedding work to include destination wedding photography. I love to travel, meet new people, and explore new places, so this seems like the logical next step. I’m excited by the possibilities and adventures that lie ahead!
Inspired yet? Book your wedding photography with Mieke Strand at Mad & Moonly Photography today. And thanks again to Borrowed & Blue for the Q&A!