Jessica VanTassel of Stout Studios offers advice about capturing your perfect wedding day


How long have you been a wedding photographer? What got you started in the business?

I began photographing weddings in 2004. I had been studying photography at a community college and one of our assignments was to shadow a photographer. I contacted a local wedding photographer who agreed to allow me to come along. I assisted by loading his film (yes, film) and carrying his bags. After a few events he asked if I would like to be his apprentice and I agreed. I was thrilled at the opportunity.

What is some advice you’d give a bride/groom for the day of the photography?

 In short, let it all go and enjoy the day! I’ve photographed over a thousand weddings and I often see couples get so invested in the inanimate objects, things like center pieces and name cards, and "perfection" of the day, they actually forget the most important part they get to marry their favorite person. That’s it. That is the entire point of the day. Not the flowers, not the bridesmaids, not the cake, or perfect weather. It’s one day you get to spend with all your closest friends and relatives in one space celebrating together. If you’re able to do this, it will actually improve your photographic results. Happy couples enjoying their day yield much better photos than a couple who is pouting over the wrong shade of peonies in the bouquet.

How have some of your most unique shots occurred? Are they planned?

Most often, they are not planned, but they are premeditated. There are three primary things I am looking for when putting together an image; light, a moment and composition. The absolute most important tool and skill a photographer can have is anticipation. Being aware of the surroundings and interactions. If you can anticipate a moment is going to happen, you’re more likely to be prepared with the right lens, place yourself with (or artificially create) the best light, compose the frame and patiently wait for it to come together.

At one event I photographed, the first time I met the groom, Adam, was on their wedding day. I told him his bride looked beautiful and as those words left my mouth, he grabbed his chest and put a hand over his mouth. I knew then, the moment he saw her coming up the aisle would be special. As she walked to approach him at the alter that day, I was fixated on him with my macro telephoto lens on, waiting to capture his reaction. Paying attention to your clients, getting to know them as people and what’s important to them, helps us to be better photographers and capture unique and impactful moments for them.

Besides anticipating a moment is going to happen, I think it’s important to set yourself up with interesting lighting and hope that a moment unfolds in that space.

 What are some common mistakes couples make during a photography session?


 Underestimating the value of professional hair and makeup. 


How has photographing weddings for a living affected your perception of weddings/marriage? Of love?


I love weddings and what they represent. My perception of them has changed a bit in the past few years, in large part due to Pinterest and social media putting a lot of pressure on couples to have the most elaborate wedding possible. While I can appreciate a beautifully designed wedding and love flowers and a cohesive design as much as the next artistic girl, I am saddened when that overshadows the celebration of love and family. That is one reason we do not show any decor photos of flowers, table settings, paper goods, etc. on our website or social media. Instead, we put an emphasis on impactful moments between the couple, family and friends.

As for changing my perception of love, I would say if anything I think more often couples are very thoughtful about the decision to get married. Far more than generations before us. It is very calculated and because of it, I see most of our couples are successful in their marriages. 


How should a couple go about choosing the right photographer? Why is booking the right photographer important?

I think number one would be connecting with the photographer's work. Within reason, a photographer wants their vision to be trusted. The biggest detriment to the outcome of your photography investment is to micromanage and give your photographer a shot list. All creativity ceases and we are instead focused on that list rather than creating and documenting your day. So, if you can find a photographer whose work you’re excited about and that you trust, you’re setting yourself up for success. I would say second to connecting with their work would be making sure the photographer is experienced. A new photographer may be able to beautifully photograph a perfect day with no timing issues, perfect weather and no lighting complications but this kind of wedding photographer is a unicorn. Most receptions are dark and require advanced lighting skills. Most weddings run behind and require a photographer who can think fast, make the best decision on your behalf and not compromise your end result. In short, find a photographer who’s experienced and one who’s work you love!


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