Two weeks ago, we shared this stunning nautical Maine wedding and loved every last bit of it, including that gorg ombre petal pathway! Remember? It’s not just the sweet details that made this fête so memorable. It was also that lovely lady behind the lens, Liz Banfield, that gets us every time. We just can’t get enough of her! So, we’re back this week with a bundle of Liz for you, including a behind the scenes look into her stylish studio (designed by Janet Gridley), an interview complete with Liz’s favorite shots and a fabulous film from Hello Sunshine Films. Need more? It’s all right here in gallery.
1. What inspired you to become a wedding photographer?
I was always hobby photographer and have been shooting with an SLR since the age of 11. In my early 20s I worked as an advertising executive at Fallon. Midway through my advertising career I was assigned to the Nikon camera account. The experience of working with that particular client, specifically observing some of the world’s best photographers, such as Matthew Rolston, opened my eyes to what photography could be as a profession. At the time, wedding photography was transforming from traditional portraiture to the more photojournalistic, fine art approach that is the standard today. Plus everyone around me was getting married! I shot my first weddings for advertising colleagues and family who were looking for something different for their wedding documentation.
couch: recovered thrift store purchase / peekaboo clear coffee table: CB2 / domino gold leaf table: Worlds Away / chandelier: Deco Glam from Shades of Light / tray: “Braid Charcoal” by Ellen Evans of Terra Firma Ceramics / small copper dipped vase: Nate Berkus for Target / gray throw: Faribault Woolen Mills Co. / wall paint: ‘Wickham Gray’ by Benjamin Moore
2. Are you self-taught or did you go to school for photography?
I have a liberal arts degree from Grinnell College and studied Art History. My school didn’t even have a photography course. And I never intended to be a photographer so it wasn’t on my mind as a path to study. To me, photography was a personal passion and I didn’t see it as a potential career until I worked in advertising. I’m actually so grateful that I took the circuitous path. I feel fortunate that I was able to get a great education and some corporate experience before becoming a professional photographer.
3. What does your typical work day look like? How often are you in your studio?
My typical day really depends largely on whether I have a shoot. In addition to weddings I shoot commercial and editorial assignments during the week. For shoot days, I’m usually up early and on location by 7 a.m. I like to get started early because it makes me feel that we won’t run out of time or light to complete the assignment. A location shoot is an action-filled day of the best kind.
For a day at the studio I try to get up early to work out first, then get the kids through their morning routine and off to school. I have an easy 5 minute commute to my studio. While there, I’m usually at my computer doing a thousand little things to manage my business: marketing, client service, social networking, editing. Ironically I don’t do all that much shooting at the studio though I have beautiful light and plenty of space when the need arises. In addition to using the studio as my office, I have a consultation space to meet clients. I have carefully decorated it to reflect my aesthetic and compliment my work. Also I have carefully organized the studio so that everything has a place and a purpose, giving me a sense of productivity from the moment I walk in the door.
basket: Nate Berkus for Target / sconces: Restoration Hardware / rug: Nate Berkus for Target / small pewter vessel (with pink flowers): Match / bespoke stationery notepad: The Lettered Olive / mouse pad: DIY using Pikku’s Baubles Blu paper (she also uses this paper to wrap up reprint orders!) / gold office lamps: Visual Comfort / white cabinets: recovered thrift store purchase / Parsons Desks: West Elm / desk chair: Ballard / gold throw: Faribault Woolen Mills Co. / floor paint: ‘All White’ by Farrow and Ball
4. Can you walk us through a wedding day shoot?
For a wedding shoot, I’m usually on the first flight out on Friday morning. When I arrive at my destination, I’ll scout the locations and review my notes from the client and planner. If there’s time, I’ll dash off to a local museum, which is my favorite place to get inspired (I was an Art History major, after all!). Then I make sure I learn all the names of the immediate family and wedding party. I feel that personal touch often makes an impression, establishing an immediate rapport that has a positive impact on the photos. I also usually shoot the rehearsal dinner, which is a great way to get to know who’s who with the wedding party and families. On the day of the wedding I try to sleep as late as possible, have a big breakfast, and put my feet up until it’s time to start shooting. From there, it’s pretty much non-stop until midnight or later. The next morning, I like to get home as soon possible so I can to squeak in a little weekend time with the family. I give myself permission to putter around a little bit on Mondays, though in the midst of wedding season, there really is no such thing as a day off.
5. Whose work are you most inspired by in the wedding industry?
I’m hugely inspired by photographers who shoot film and have a strong creative point of view, such as John Dolan and Elizabeth Messina. John was a trailblazer in transforming wedding photography into a respectable art form and has always been my role model for the kind of photographer I wanted to be. Also, the craft of shooting film is something I hold dear to my heart. Many top photographers like Elizabeth and John, Meg Smith, and Jose Villa have proven that film is still relevant in photography today. I think there are many sophisticated clients out there who see and appreciate the difference. And it’s heartwarming to see young photographers like Tec Petaja, Kate Headley, and Charlotte Jenks Lewis also shooting film.
Inspiration is not limited to photographers, however. Sometimes a floral arrangement or an invitation suite really knocks my socks off. I am so inspired by all the creative elements that go into a wedding. I certainly relish capturing them all on film.
6. What is the most rewarding part of being a wedding photographer?
It gives me great satisfaction to know I’m creating a legacy and archiving a moment in time for families. My hope is that the pictures will tell the story of a happy day for generations to come.
Parsons Desks: West Elm
7. What is your dream photo shoot location?
I love any location that has a trifecta of great light, beautiful architectural elements, and a remarkable vista. It can be almost anywhere as long as it has those three things! I’m an intrepid traveler so there are many places I’d love to see and shoot such as India, Japan, and Argentina. Still, the U.S. is full of amazing locations and I’ve shot many of them.
8. What are your all time favorite photographs that you’ve taken, and why?
I couldn’t possibly pick so few ALL TIME favorites. I have hundreds! But here are a few…
Photographing people getting ready for their wedding is always a favorite subject of mine. This lovely bride had just tried on some family heirloom earrings that she would wearing for her wedding. I love feeling the genuine excitement in this picture as she and her sisters look in the mirror. This photo takes me right back to that moment. I’m sure I was smiling too!
Oftentimes I like to shoot before my subjects are “ready” for the posed shot. In this case the wedding party was gathering around the swing and instead of putting my camera down to arrange everyone, I just kept shooting. I love how natural everyone looks as a result. But amid the chaos, there is still a focus to the picture.
If I could have a super-power, it definitely would be an invisibility cloak! I love it when I can truly stealth shoot a reception and take a shot where no one is in the least bit aware that I’m there. There seem to be several different narratives happening simultaneously. Also, the black and white film and the tuxes, gives this scene a timeless, atmospheric feel.
Oh the pure joy of this shot! I love the cinematic quality here — the motion, the narrative, the panoramic composition. I often stalk the sides of posed group shots, looking for those in-between moments, which I find much more special than anything posed could ever be.
I’m always captivated by this yummy, beautiful ring shot. The diamond is the only thing in focus and the rest has a creamy softness… the beading on her Kenneth Pool gown, the thick satin ribbon, her pale flowers. Collectively it all speaks to both the luxury and the sweetness of this wedding. It’s very much a portrait of this bride, even though it doesn’t show her face.
This image was taken of the bride’s parents who are giddy over watching their only daughter perform her first dance. In moments like these, I try to remember to look around a bit instead of just focusing solely on the bride and groom dancing — what’s happening around them is also very important to telling the story of that event.
9. What advice do you have for brides and grooms on their wedding day?
I have lots of advice! After 15 years in the business, I could probably write a book. Top tip? Be sure to hire vendors that you click with on a personal level. You will spend more time with your photographer than any other person on your wedding day so make sure they are the kind of person you like to be around. But the advice really applies to all your vendors. Throughout the process of planning you need to work with people who have what YOU need, whether it be creative vision or good listening skills. Trust your gut there and you will be happy with your choice.