Today, we have a real treat -- a chat with DC wedding photojournalist extraordinaire Andrea Jacobson of The Observatory. Andrea does great work, and I've worked with some of her staff as well -- it's always nice to work with photographers who want to be part of a team! Andrea, you're on the hot seat... Here we go!
How did you get started in the wedding business?
When several of my friends started getting married about six years ago I would take my camera along as my date. I would literally write my camera model on the RSVP card. I gave the images to my newly married friends as gifts and soon their younger siblings or friends of friends were asking me to photograph their weddings. With the encouragement of family and friends, I left my “day job” as a budget analyst for the Office of Management and Budget and started photographing weddings professionally. I now own a wedding photography company – The Observatory, which has five photographers including me.
What do you do when you are not working?
First, I’m known to be somewhat of a work-a-holic, but when I do take some time off I enjoy a variety of activities including watching movies in the theater --where they were designed to be watched -- or spending time out with friends trying new restaurants or frequenting old favorites. I have quite a Nordstrom habit and usually schedule to spend some quality time there during the "Half Yearly" and "Anniversary" sales when I’m not just casually dropping by. Also, if I’ve got enough free time, I usually travel to visit family. We’re spread out in nearly all four corners of the US.
How would you describe your approach to weddings?
At The Observatory, we are a team of active photojournalists and documentary photographers who photograph weddings as they naturally unfold. For us that means, we do not stop the bride as she’s walking down the aisle and ask her to smile –hopefully she is smiling already, nor do we show couples how to hold the knife when they cut the cake. We prefer to document events as visual historians and not dictate them. The biggest compliment we can receive –in addition to couples loving their images, is when they don’t recall us being there to take them. This spring a couple booked us after we photographed their friend’s wedding. During our initial consultation they said they didn’t recall me being there. Some might be offended by not being remembered, I saw it as evidence of our approach in practice.
What inspires you in your work?
When photographing weddings, I’m inspired by great light, strong emotions, big smiles, creative details, lots of color, and dance moves that put reality TV show contestants to shame. It’s like magic when any of those three elements come into alignment in front of my lens.
What do you find the most rewarding about your job?
What is most rewarding for me is when we capture images that couples truly love and rave about. It’s that simple.
What’s the one thing you wish everyone knew about you or your business?
I wish everyone knew how much time and energy we devote to each couple we photograph. Couples may think they’re spending 8 hours with us on their wedding day, but that’s only a snapshot (excuse the pun) in the middle of a much longer relationship. From the initial consultation, I’m taking notes on who they are, how they met, what interests they share in an effort to get to know them and personalize their experience working with us. Getting to know the couples we photograph on a more personal level comes through in everything from the photographs we capture of them to the design styles we use in their album layouts which is completed in the months following their wedding.
What do you think sets your company apart from other photographers?
We don’t just photograph weddings in a photojournalistic or documentary style because it’s popular. We do it because we are a team of active photojournalists and freelance photographers who work for prominent newspapers in the region –The Washington Post and The Washington Times, among other publications and are recognized for that work. This past spring one of our photographers, Barbara Salisbury, was nominated for Pulitzer Prize by The Washington Times for a photo essay she did on impoverished children in Myanmar (Burma).
What do you love about weddings?
Probably what I love most about weddings is the variety of emotions that are displayed throughout the day. In one day, I can observe love, laughter, tears, silent moments of remembrance or prayer, and cut-loose craziness on the dance floor. I get to see it all at weddings. I’m also a big sucker for traditions and details both of which are plentiful on such occasions.
What do you hate about weddings?
I hate bad lighting at weddings! It’s a photographer’s nightmare. Oh, and unhappy faces aren’t a good fit for weddings either. I’ll take bad weather over unhappy faces and bad lighting.
What is the coolest thing you’ve ever seen at a wedding?
I’m not good at narrowing down selections to the “best” or “coolest” one thing. A random sampling of notable things I’ve observed at weddings include: Tiered Krispy Kreme donuts in lue of a wedding cake; cake slices boxed and bagged for guests to take home as favors; personalized M&Ms with the couples faces and cute sayings; --wait, I’ll stop my sugar rush now. I should have mentioned in an answer above that I enjoy sugar and chocolate in particular during my free time. On the more emotional side, I was really touched by a ceremony I photographed in which a gospel choir sang during the processional, recessional, and throughout the ceremony. Their voices filled the cathedral to the ceilings enveloping everyone and giving me goose bumps. That was really cool.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give to couples planning a wedding?
Again, I’m not good at picking just one. Can I give my top three pieces of advice? 1) Consider what the lighting will look like at the time and place of your ceremony; 2) Hire a wedding coordinator – or, at a minimum, for their “day of” services; and 3) Smile and have a good time on your wedding day. You’ve planned the day, delegated roles and responsibilities, once it arrives just enjoy it! The pictures show it when you do.
Who is your favorite artist or band?
I listen to National Public Radio morning, noon, and night which doesn’t leave a lot of time for music. But when I do switch the dial I could be listening to anything from alternative to disco to folk or 80s music.
What is the worst song of all time?
“Puberty Love” which plays in the late 1970s B-movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
Open mic, final thoughts:
Thanks, but I think I’ll stay behind the camera if you don’t mind. =)
[Evan] Thanks, Andrea! There's some great advice here. It's obvious that you really care about your craft and really want to make your clients happy -- keep up the great work!