Ask A Vendor: Brooke Jackson of Brooke Michelle Photography
All photos courtesy of Brooke Michelle Photography
Picking a wedding or elopement photographer is arguably one of the most important parts of planning your celebration. After all, these are the tangible memories that you'll look back on time and time again!
We checked in with lifestyle and wedding photographer Brooke Jackson to chat about her journey to pursuing a career in photography, tips for clicking with your dream photographer and how to feel like your best, most confident self when you tie the knot.
Ready to feel like a pro when hiring your own photographer? Keep reading!
Q: What is your background in photography, and what led you to pursue Brooke Michelle Photography?
A: This story can start in about five different ways because for me it felt like there were so many little obstacles, opportunities and events in my life just kind of nudging me into the photography world! That probably sounds so cliche, but it really felt like it landed in my lap and I was crazy to think of just throwing it to the side! I started my business while I was still in high school at just the age of 17. Part of the reason I love photographing high school seniors alongside weddings is that I relate to them in so many ways since this is around when I began this business, which then resulted in this life that has been built from it!
After high school graduation, I saved up and attended a summer photography intensive in New York City called SOCAPA. This program was two to three weeks long depending on which you chose to sign up for and focused on properly using your camera, studio lighting, editing workflows, interacting with clients and concepts and so much more! It is truly what got my wheels turning on going headfirst into this career and not just leaving it as a side hustle. After that summer I began attending community college and then was later asked back to work at SOCAPA as a summer photography intern. For me, this was a DREAM because ever since I left that program I was itching to find my way back to work with this company. So at 19, going on 20, I left and worked for 8 weeks in Brooklyn, NY for the summer.
When I left to begin working for the program that summer, I was balancing working full time as a waitress, community college and trying to find ways to launch my business off the ground, but after I left that summer having worked day to day in the photo field I came back home and spontaneously quit my job to go full time into pursuing Brooke Michelle Photography. Looking back I am thankful I was so naive and young, simply because I am not sure I would have had that spontaneity today knowing all the responsibility that falls on running this business at a steady pace! I had no budget mapped out for how I would pay my bills, but I had what was going to be my busiest wedding season yet and I decided to take the jump into full time and pray I didn't fail.
After that I graduated from community college with my AA in photography and have been completely out of school and full-time since July of 2016! My "why" behind what I do comes from a wide range of things. After losing a close friend in high school I realized how truly special images are in maintaining memories and capturing the best parts of our lives. Photography, for me, was an escape. Whenever things got tough it gave me a way to escape the harsh realities of life and just live in the silver lining. I believe a wonderful photo experience can leave you feeling empowered and that no matter what transition or stage of life you are in that you should feel worthy. So if I can bring that to someone for even a second of their day then I have accomplished what I truly love about this art.
Q: Give us a peek into what a day in the life of a multi-passionate photographer looks like! Are you going to shoots and meetings, responding to emails, editing, etc.?
A: I love this question simply because some days I feel like a total train wreck! Working from home, and for myself, can sometimes be quite the adventure and it really varies day to day, and week to week. Some days I am waking up and bouncing from phone to coffeeshop, to boutiques for meetings on meetings. Other days I am simply in my pj's all day long editing away for hours working on pretty client galleries, blog posts and email newsletter content. But, my favorite days are photographing sweet senior clients in the sunshine or spending 8-12 hours at a wedding witnessing two people fully commit themselves to one another and every emotion and crazy moment that comes with that.
It honestly is a job that keeps me on my toes constantly with every day being a new adventure. I think that's one of the reasons I fell so hard and fast for this career. I am the kind of person who loves change – I love never staying still or being repetitive – so although sometimes tasks can be on repeat it is always for a different client, different story, different situation and each time it feels completely new and unique to myself and to them!
Q: When it comes to choosing a wedding photographer, we know that brides want to work with someone who will perfectly capture the heart of their special day. What are your top tips for brides who are just beginning the hunt for the perfect wedding photographer?
A: Best question ever! I have a few top tips because I think so much goes into selecting your wedding photographer.
My first tip would have to be to find someone you mesh with. Find someone you love as a person, as well as a photographer, because in reality this person is going to witness and be a part of some of the craziest and most important moments in your life. They are going to be with you during your wedding day just as much as the person you are marrying. They will witness emotional moments, trying moments and weird family dynamics that all come out to play during the wedding day festivities, so having someone you feel completely comfortable with makes it that much easier to just relax and enjoy your day because you can let us, the photographer, handle some of that crazy while you dance the night away!
Another huge tip I would say is to ask your photographer about things that really matter to you. For example, if you have a large family (same here) and it is super important that you spend extra time photographing family formal groupings, ask them their opinions on that. Or if you would really want more dancing shots because you know your group is a wild party kind of crew, then ask them their opinions or how they work for things like that. Every photographer is so different in the way that they work and the things that they value, so I think it is super important to make sure what is important to you lines up with what is important to them!
And my last tip, but one that is definitely not anything small, is ask to view a full completed wedding gallery from a recent wedding of theirs. With social media nowadays everyone (I'm guilty too) is showing off their highlight reel! We individually post our best of the best. We want you to see the really really good parts, and even full blog posts are curated down to the top 50-150 photos of the day when in reality usually so much more is delivered. Asking to see a full gallery can show you if your photographer likes to capture more candid moments, candid mixed with traditional or all traditional. Whatever their style may be, this will allow you to see what a full day looks like from beginning to end, possibly bringing up new questions about how they work or verifying your decision that this photographer would be perfect for your day specifically!
Q: The Big Day can also entail a lot of nerves! How do you encourage couples to feel comfortable and pose naturally in their wedding photos?
A: I love this question! A huge thing I would recommend is hiring a photographer that you 110% fully trust. Find someone who you not only obsess over their photos, but someone who you love as a person as well. Choose a photographer who values the same things you do, and don't be afraid to ask big questions!
Q: For brides who are nervous about looking and feeling their best on their big day, what is your #1 tip?
A: My number one tip would be stay true to who you are. Wedding trends fade in and fade out, and while I love me a bold bride, I think it's important to keep your wedding true to who you are and not let "the color of the year" or "what's trending" be the decision-maker!
I also think you can totally use parts of what make you unique as an individual to enhance how you feel or enhance the vibe for your wedding day. If you are a barefoot, makeup-free kind of woman, then opt to have a super-natural face when you walk down that aisle, and don't even worry about buying shoes! If you are a bold woman who loves experimenting with new trends and your outfits depend on the day, then try a bold lip or switch hairstyles between ceremony and reception.
This is one thing I actually love Vowed's subscription box specifically, is that it is to celebrate the non-traditional bride. I love it when brides stray from what the “wedding norm” is because each bride or couple I work with is so unique, so the idea that they would do similar things throughout their day is crazy to me! When it comes to weddings – especially your own – you (the couple) get to make the rules. Plus, maybe you could be the start of the next big trend ;)