When the Wedding Photographer Becomes the Bride

When the Wedding Photographer Becomes the Bride

Rhode Island-based wedding photographer-turned-newlywed Lauren Halvorson talks shop.

Photography by Kaihla Tonai

Countless couples have chosen photographer Lauren Halvorson to capture every moment of their wedding days. So when the tables were turned and the time came for Lauren to choose the right person to shoot her July nuptials to husband Tyler, she had a mental checklist at the ready of everything she wanted in a shutterbug. Adding to her considerations was the uniqueness of her wedding: a surprise ceremony in the woods of the W. Alton Jones Environmental Education Center in West Greenwich, where the couple’s 170 family and friends in attendance would think they were there for an engagement celebration until they saw Lauren walking down the aisle in her gown.

From the moment Lauren met Canada-based Kaihla Tonai, she knew she was the photographer for them. “It’s kind of like finding your spouse — when you know, you know,” she says. “Her images spoke for themselves, and the connection we had was undeniable.”

Lauren and Tyler’s July 2015 wedding went off without a hitch, and they now have a collection of beautiful images of the day to look back on. Here, Lauren shares tips for making sure every couple has the same positive experience in capturing the memories and moments of the day.

As a wedding photographer, what was it like choosing a photographer for your own big day?

Choosing a photographer was incredibly easy. Being a photographer, I’ve followed the careers of the best in the industry for years so I knew exactly what I wanted. The biggest hurdle was finding someone that would be available on a Saturday in July with only ten to twelve weeks notice.

What did you absolutely know you wanted in a photographer?

Someone who captured authentic moments rather than curated posed moments, who got us and our vision for our day. We weren’t exactly going the traditional route. We got dressed in the middle of the woods, we had guests wearing jeans because they didn’t know they were coming to a wedding, we had a taco/burrito bar instead of a five-course meal, we lit a giant bonfire instead of a unity candle and we planned on having our ceremony in the pouring rain if that was what nature gave us. We wanted someone who not only got it, but was incredibly excited about it and believed in what we were doing.

What factors went into ultimately choosing Kaihla?

1. Authenticity. This was the mantra behind our day, and we wanted someone whose images were not only technically on-point but would also capture our raw and genuine emotions and those of our guests.
2. Chemistry. I know how closely I work with my couples. We wanted someone who felt like an old friend, someone who would bring a positive energy to our day and someone we would be excited to be around.
3. Price. I was willing to invest a lot to get what we wanted for photography, but price was something we threw into the mix when we were comparing
photographers that were equal in all other categories.

What kind of direction did you give Kaihla before the wedding or on the day of?

When you pick someone you truly trust, you shouldn’t need to give them direction. I told Kaihla to do whatever she needed to do to get her best images. Nothing makes a photographer cringe more than getting a Pinterest board with every image the couple wants them to capture. You fell in love with their work, and that’s why you booked them. If you make your photographer force these moments they’ll never be as good as the original.

But was there one shot you knew you wanted?

The surprise. I wanted to see people’s faces as they found out they were about to witness our wedding. I could only see so much through my tear-filled eyes, and I really wanted to be able to experience what each person felt in that moment.

Photography by Kaihla Tonai
Photography by Kaihla Tonai

When should couples start thinking about a photographer?

Start your hunt for a photographer immediately after you finalize your date and venue. The best ones can get booked more than a year in advance, and if you want to have a wide array of options, you want to make this an immediate priority.

How would a couple with little knowledge about photography begin to choose a photographer?

Referrals from friends and family are a great way to find a photographer. If you don’t have anyone you can ask, I’d recommend finding photos from previous weddings at your venue. If you see an image you love, find out who the photographer was. Look at a wedding that person has already done in your style or at your venue, and if the images make you feel something, or you can see yourself in them, set up a meeting.

How much should price factor into the decision?

I recommend that couples don’t immediately price shop. Instead, set up a meeting with a photographer first. Get to know them. You may find more value in them once you see their work in person and see how comfortable they make you.

How should couples go about deciding on a style?

Pinterest is a great tool for this step in the process. Pin twenty to thirty images that you love to one board and see what you’re attracted to. When you see the images you pinned all together you may notice that they all have the same look, or that they are more candid or more traditional and posed. From there, you can narrow down what you like and pick a style to narrow your search.

Other than style, what are some other factors couples should consider?

Personality and chemistry 100 percent! You want someone who will make the photo time fun for everyone involved, and someone you personally enjoy being around. Beyond that, you want someone you would want to be friends with. If they don’t get your sense of humor, make you feel shy or uncomfortable and don’t bring out the best in you and your fiance, then they will not be able to do your images justice no matter how technically talented they are. You want every person on your team of vendors to add to the atmosphere of your day in a positive way.

What are some red flags couples should be wary of?

Make sure the photographer you are considering is willing to show you at least two full weddings they have captured, not just the images they post on their website or blog. Some may disagree, but I also believe reviews are good to read. A photographer may take amazing images but may have a reputation for taking an incredibly long time getting images back to clients. Also be aware of portfolios only showcasing one or two couples. The person is probably brand new to the industry, and you may want someone more experienced.

If you’re looking at a national company or a larger studio, they likely have multiple photographers on staff and the person you meet may not be the one who shows up on your wedding day. Since every professional is an artist, each one has a different style and personality, so you want to make sure you’re meeting and connecting with the person who will actually be at your wedding.


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