Houston, Texas based wedding and lifestyle photographer, Alyse French, has just wrapped up the 2012 wedding season and celebrated her business’ fifth anniversary. Alyse and I spoke about what she’s learned along the way, how she balances life as photog and bulldog momma, and what keeps her going.
I feel everyone has a great story as to how they got into their chosen profession, so to start, what is the story of how you got started in photography?
So the story of how I got into wedding photography is sort of strange. I graduated with a photojournalism degree from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, but knew that I could never work for a newspaper or magazine. It just wasn’t me. At all. What really made me decide to use my degree in this way was the fact that my then boyfriend (now husband) had a job that required him to travel back and forth between Houston and NY every single week. I needed a job that would let me be the boss and essentially, let me be with him. All in the name of love, I guess. I then started reaching out to wedding photographers I knew and admired, and simply asked questions! They then invited me to second-shoot some weddings with them. I, in turn, began building my wedding photography portfolio. From there on out I developed my blog and my brand and it’s been a blast ever since.
What do you think is the secret to standing out in the photography industry, or even any industry?
I think the secret to standing out in my particular industry is simply embracing who you are as a person first and a photographer second, and then building your brand around that. No one can be you, as terribly cliché and Disney that sounds.As photographers we sell ourselves and the experience a client has while working with us, just as much if not more than we sell our actual images.
What have you found to be the most valuable lesson you have learned as you have built your successful career?
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in building my career is probably to just enjoy the journey. To enjoy where I am right now, instead of wasting my life and productivity away with day -dreaming about where I want to be in the future.
From friends and family of mine that are photographers, I know they struggle to strike a balance in their work and home life. How do you find the balance?
I am probably not the best person to ask this question, but I swear I have a good reason: You know you love your job when it’s all you want to do in your free time. In other words, I’m definitely not a pro at shutting my computer at 6PM every day. But I am a firm believer in being efficient for the benefit of not only my clients, but my family and friends also. I outsource the majority of my editing, which frees up time for other client-related projects, as well as some solid cuddle time with my Sully-dog.
What is one thing you would highly recommend to anyone participating on the other side of the lens in a photography session?
My best word of advice to those who find themselves on the other side of the lens is to trust your photographer. I am extra passionate about this topic. It is extremely important for clients to trust me with the knowledge I possess to compose a beautiful image, to trust me to work in the best light and not the light they think would work but won’t, and to trust me that capturing moments and posing people in an awesome way is my full-time job. They do not need to stress over that! It’s all on me and that’s the way I like it.
Do you find to be the hardest thing about incorporating your own artistic vision and a couple’s vision into the photographs?
That’s the beauty of doing what I do - It’s not up to me to incorporate a couple’s artistic vision into their photographs because they came to me for my artistic vision. If we agree in that regard, incorporating my own artistic vision is a breeze.
What would you consider to be your dream shoot?
My dream shoot would be a styled shoot that is completely white! In an abandoned warehouse that is completely white, with a white dress, and white table decor. Someday…
Who was your most memorable couple to shoot?
Gosh, that’s such a hard question!! I really try to invest myself into every one of my shoots, so picking just one couple is basically impossible. The freshest in my mind is one of my more recent couples, Tammy and Sonny. They brought it hard.
Out of everything beautiful and inspiring about weddings, what are some key components that make shooting weddings beautiful and inspiring to you?
Some of the most beautiful and inspiring aspects of a wedding day are often the details (decor/venue/etc.) and the party! There’s something about a crazy, dance-filled reception that forces me to choke back tears. I love seeing a bride and groom’s most loved friends and family celebrate with so much joy.
With your business now celebrating its fifth birthday since inception and three years being an up and running business, at what point did you take a step back and say “I’ve made it!”
I don’t think I’ll ever say, “I’ve made it.” I’m far too much of a perfectionist for that. However, I am consistently validated for doing what I do. Whether that means receiving a sweet note from a grateful bride and groom, or being contacted by new photojournalism students whom my old professors have referred to me for questions. These things definitely make me proud of how far I’ve come.
Sum up a snapshot (pun definitely intended) of a day in the life of a photographer in three words.
Oh that’s hard! But I’d probably have to say, “Emails. Editing. Yoga-pants.” Had to hyphen that last one.
You can see more of Alyse’s work and read her always funny blog at alysefrenchphotography.com!