“I’m a wedding photographer, I’ve worked with celebrities, blizzards and The Weeknd Crashing A Shoot”
I vividly remember the first wedding I attended as a photographer, as I started working during the reception when a hora was in full swing. It was almost like sneaking into a pit of happy people with a camera. The experience was just mind blowing. I loved the energy, but I was scared, because you’re in a dark room trying to get “the picture”. After that, I admired whoever could do this job. I found it so stimulating and wonderful.
I grew up with a very artistic father and loved to paint and draw. But as soon as I got a camera in my hand, it was like magic. I always dreamed of being a photographer, but after college I ended up working in advertising in New York. I missed the camera so much and in 2010 a friend got engaged, so I offered to do some portraits of her and her fiance. Her wedding photographer then saw these photographs and hired me to assist her with this first wedding. My schedule for two years after that was to work my day job in advertising and then work as many weekends as possible as an assistant on wedding sets. But I was not tired, it brought me so much joy.
Photographing weddings has been the best education I have ever had as a photographer because you have to be good at so many different things. From still life to portrait via documentary. And you only have one attempt, there is no redesign.
By 2011, I had reached a point where I felt advertising was no longer for me and started my own wedding photography business. My minimum offer is eight hours of coverage. It could be preparation, couple portraits, family portraits, wedding portraits, cocktail hour, reception details and whatever happens in the eight hour day. Of course, weddings sometimes last longer or several days. I’ve probably shot around 250 weddings over the past 11 years, but honestly I’ve lost count!
If couples are looking for someone to capture the spontaneous, spontaneous moments of joy – the moments that unfold before your eyes – that’s when I know we’re really well suited. I remember meeting a client who was getting married in a beautiful location that I had not filmed. Finally, she showed me her friend’s photographs of this place and what she didn’t like about them. I thought they were really very beautiful. I was honest and told him that there would be someone else who would suit him better.
In fact, I see “strange” in a positive way. I recently had a bride who was trendy, fun, and interesting. The place where she was getting married had a really gorgeous bathroom, and she had imagined pictures of her in the tub with a glass of champagne toasting her husband. So we did a mini editorial fashion shoot on the wedding day; we took out the champagne and my assistant was holding a strobe. If I had brought this idea up for someone else it might not have worked, but they were a really cool couple and it felt organic.
It’s rare to get this, but sometimes I still get requests to take pictures of each table at a wedding of 300 people. I have to explain the challenges involved. There’s always an “Uncle Bob” missing – they’re drinking champagne in a corner or in the bathroom. I try my best but I recommend that you rent a photo booth if you want to take a photo of everyone at your wedding.
In many ways, every wedding is an adventure, as every couple is different and the cast of characters and the setting change. But I shot a very beautiful wedding in Iceland quite early in my career. The couple were planning to get married on a small island, then a storm hit at the last minute. In less than 36 hours, they had to find a whole new place on the continent. It was a scramble, and the bride changed between sweatpants and her wedding dress so we could take the photos, but thinking back to the wedding, these are some of my favorite photographs.
The weather has always been a problem. I have photographed weddings in blizzards and downpours, it is part of the job of a wedding photographer in New York. I stay calm and cool on the outside, but inside my brain is vibrating, thinking about how to get the picture when there’s a blizzard outside. I explain to my couple that I will find the places with the best light and that we will get there.
I have photographed a few beautiful high profile weddings including Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s wedding to Hilarie Burton at the Bowery Hotel in 2019 and Aidy Bryant’s wedding to Conner O’Malley in Brooklyn in 2018.
In general, the celebrity weddings I have photographed are word of mouth and a lot of requests for these weddings are similar. There are going to be a lot of prominent people on the guest list, you cannot share any personal information, and none of the images can ever be posted outside of what has been agreed.
These people are in the public eye all the time, and I’m invited to one of their most personal days. They are filmed differently on their wedding day and I am there to photograph their guests and special moments. In my experience, celebrities don’t want a lot of posed photos. It was a good lesson learned because normally there is a pressure to make beautiful portraits. There are also some things you can’t do with a celebrity wedding. You can’t go out on the streets of New York and start photographing the couple because then they lose their privacy.
When I asked a high profile couple if they had any requests, they mentioned that there would be guests I would recognize, but they wanted me to make sure I photograph everyone the same. The celebrity compared it to another high-profile wedding she saw where she noticed the photographer only took pictures of “famous” people. I don’t think that’s the point of weddings, it’s the most precious people in your life who come together to celebrate you.
I’m a grandma when it comes to pop culture anyway. At a wedding in 2017, I took photos of a couple on an adorable and charming street in New York’s West Village. All of a sudden my couple started to get excited, they were like, “Oh my god, it’s so and so!”
I am so oblivious that I just accepted it. It happened so quickly, we took a picture with this person and afterwards I asked them if he was part of their alliance. I had no idea who he was! The couple were so sweet, but they had to explain to me that it was The Weeknd. Apparently Selena Gomez was nearby but I didn’t see her.
I look for those spontaneous moments in every marriage, and I tell couples that magical snaps, where a whole story can be read in one picture, are like unicorns. But one of my favorite shots is always the couple right after their wedding, when they walk down the aisle together. It’s almost like a release of energy and then everyone is ready to party.
For each wedding, I take three digital cameras and two film cameras that I use here and there. For larger weddings with over 100 guests, I usually have a second photographer to help me capture multiple points of view, as sometimes I really need to be in two places at once!
But even though I only shoot eight hours a day, there’s a lot more work than I think people do. There are calls and scouts that sometimes require getting to a wedding a day in advance. And there is the editing time. After photographing a wedding, I look at everything I photograph, then select and search for the best from thousands, then correct the colors in each image.
Since the pandemic hit, I have seen couples show such grace and gratitude, they are just happy that they and their families are healthy and safe. I’ve heard this from so much talk in the 15 COVID weddings I’ve photographed. It was really beautiful. It struck my heart, because when you take out everything you might see on Pinterest about weddings, the most important aspect is the deepest connections between loved ones.
I am so touched that I can do what I love and that people trust me to share their most intimate and special moments. I know what it’s like to have a job where I felt like a square peg in a round hole and I feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do. I feel so lucky. It’s work, and it’s hard, but it motivates me, I think that’s my goal.
Sasithon Pooviriyakul is the owner and creative director of New York-based Sasithon Photography. You can follow her on Instagram @sasithonphoto and discover his work on sasithonphotography.com.
All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
As said to Jenny Haward.