Lauren Louise is in the business of storytelling—in particular, love stories. And while she has written the love stories of people all over the country, you won’t find them in a bookstore or library, and you won’t find them in words or paragraphs or pages in a book. You’ll find them behind the lens of her camera.
The first love story she was introduced to was that of her parents.
“I grew up in a place where good, strong love grows, with parents who have been together since they were 16. They taught me that true love grows in the face of hardship and, as strong believers in their faith, that love is, indeed, patient and kind. Even after I graduated from college, I had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life, but the inspiration that comes from their love had been with me all along. And so it’s no surprise that my life’s work revolves around documenting love.”
With a professional opera singer for a grandmother and a mother in theater, Lauren always leaned naturally toward extracurriculars like choir and the chamber orchestra. It wasn’t until college that her interests veered toward visual arts after working at her school newspaper as Staff Editor and then later moving up to Lead Photography Editor. This experience lent her an avenue for additional income after college while working with AmeriCorps. In need of extra cash, she picked up her camera and started doing sessions for friends, while building her resume. That same year Lauren’s life pivoted permanently in the direction of photography.
“I got an email from a frantic bride whose wedding photographer had cancelled on her the day before the wedding. I agreed to shoot the wedding for $300 with the expectation that I had never shot a wedding before. I’ve been shooting ever since.”
When she finished her time with AmeriCorps, Lauren landed a job teaching photography and continued to grow her own business on the side, which allowed her the freedom to only take on projects that fueled her creativity.
“As soon as I realized that wedding photography didn’t have to be posed and mechanical, that I could shoot weddings how I wanted to, organically and authentically, that I could document a story, not direct one, I was hooked. I started to seek out like-minded couples who wanted me to tell their unique story and who were equally as passionate about love as I am.”
Eventually her full-time job had some stiff competition for her time and attention.
“When my passion for my wedding photography business took precedence over teaching, I knew it was time to part ways with my career in education. I just didn’t feel the same surge of energy or wholeness that I got from photographing people in love. I quit halfway through the school year and moved to Washington, DC, after doing long distance with my partner for almost two years. Yes, you heard that right: I quit my job and not only started a business, but I started one in an entirely new city. It was challenging, but I knew I was ready for it.”
In DC she was met with a tight-knit community of talented photographers and immediately joined the minority as a woman. But this brought with it unexpected community and a constant potential for growth.
“Photography has, historically, been a boys club. One of the advantages of being female in a male-run industry is breaking up the boys club and supporting each other. It’s extremely empowering to be a woman and run your own business and be your own boss, and I’m so grateful that photography has given me these opportunities.
I feel like such a badass every day, and to know that it’s being celebrated and fought for in 2018 is so inspiring. I’m constantly reminding myself of how lucky I am to be able to create art for a living.”
While DC is a city overflowing with politicians, Lauren jumped in at just the right time.
“I moved to DC right as the creative movement was hitting its peak; the city was no longer just for the politicians or the 9-5ers. Artists, specifically in the wedding industry, were finding their voice and growing an incredibly supportive community.”
A large community also meant a large masse of similarly skilled people all competing for the same client base.
“You definitely have to find your niche and find a way to stand out against the rest. I think I have a really consistent style and a strong brand presence. My work is colorful, yet soft and warm, and really shows off my clients’ true personalities.
I truly believe that no one one else has a story like yours, and it’s my job as your photographer to tell that story in the most genuine and authentic way possible. People want their wedding to feel unique and personal to them as a couple, and I think my work does that.”
In DC Lauren splits her time between an office in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, and a co-working space in DC “with about two hundred crazy, talented, and impressive women.” Between her two locations, her preparation and approach remain the same.
“I systemize everything. I know that doesn’t sound artistic, but wedding photography is a business with loads of client expectations and photographer responsibilities. That being said, no one wedding is the same, so you need to have a level of flexibility despite the planning and preparation. That’s what I love about weddings: I’m constantly creating something new with a totally different group of people, clients, and vendors alike.”
With this many creative minds and talented hands involved in one day, it’s no surprise that the room for error is so small.
“There’s really no space for being creatively blocked on a wedding day; you have to get it done and you have to get it done right. There are no redos. If I’m in a rut or feeling burnt out, which usually happens once a season, I’ll photograph something for fun without compensation. I also watch films that are visually inspiring. One of my favorites is Little Miss Sunshine. I love the colors and the way they use motion to make you feel like you’re actually there. I’m also really motivated by music. I bring a little bluetooth speaker with me to session. It loosens up my subjects and also gets me in a better headspace for creating.”
When she is on site, Lauren follows a specific artistic process that helps her achieve the level of authenticity seen in her shots.
“Wedding photography is all about anticipating the moment. There’s a level of patience involved to get the shot. I photograph using prime lenses, which means that if I want to zoom in or out on my subject or a moment, I have to physically move closer or further away. It’s a more intentional way of photographing a moment that I find incredibly important to photographing a wedding day.”
In terms of what emotions she is looking to capture when shooting, her answer is simple:
“The real ones. We never dictate the day.”
Lauren’s unique approach to photography and her profession as a whole has spilled over into her own personal life as well, bringing with it a sense of passion, purpose, and creative power.
“A couple of years ago I had received some really difficult news hours before an engagement shoot. I photographed their session, and despite the heartache I was personally experiencing, I actually forgot about my pain for an hour. I remember leaving the session thinking, ‘How did I do that?’
Exercising creativity can be such a powerful tool in combatting stress and anxiety. It was after that session that I realized I was truly doing what I was put on this earth to do.”
While she recognizes that her genre of photography is a luxury to most, she treasures each session and knows that what she produces is so much more than just a picture on an important day.
“A wedding day is fleeting, and the photography is really all you have left when all is said and done. To be able to look back on the day and remember the memories, or even see the moments you might have missed, is priceless. I love looking through my parent’s wedding album—to know that I’m creating the very first family heirloom for my couples is an honor.”
As plans progress to scale and expand the business that she herself built from the ground up, Lauren remains as humble as she is talented, constantly pouring out her gratitude for the hand life has dealt her and the talents she has been given.
“Sometimes the achievement of owning my own business stops me in my tracks. Like, holy shit, I’m my own boss. I write my own paychecks. I built this all on my own. Most people aren’t able to say that. I recognize my privilege, and I don’t ever want to take that for granted.”
Lauren in Ten:
- Hometown: Bellport, New York
- Hidden Talent: Bass clarinet
- Pet: A French bulldog named Oliver
- Favorite Destination Wedding Shoot: An elopement in the El Dorado Dry Beds in Nevada (see image below)
- Number of Weddings This Year: 25
- Her Marriage Record: 100%. “So far, all of my couples have stayed together.”
- Awkward Request She’s Made During an Engagement Shoot: “Whisper her favorite dessert into her ear in the most seductive voice possible.”
- First Look or No First Look: First Look! But no matching outfits. “This is not a high school choir concert.”
- If not photography, what: “I love being in charge, and I am more of an ideas girl than a details girls. If helping folks recognize their dreams and potential is a job, then I think I’d be pretty good at that!”
- Advice: “Be patient. If you can work a full-time job and your side hustle for a while, you’ll be able to save. Feeling financially stable was key to me feeling comfortable enough to go full-time.”