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Happy Together



WEDDING FEATURE


Happy Together
KARINA MARIE DIAZ AND HER COUPLES ENJOY A SPECIAL BOND

TEXT BY ALICE B. MILLER • IMAGES BY KARINA MARIE DIAZ

For Karina Marie Diaz, having her own San Francisco wedding photography business, and loving it the way she does, is a dream come true. With little previous business experience or photo training, Diaz has built a booming wedding business that grows with each passing day.

In recent months, Wedding Channel has featured her in their new website launch, the Nob Hill Gazette has featured her couples six times in its Mergers & Acquistions section, and she was the only wedding/baby photographer featured in the new book Unique Places, showcasing the coolest small businesses in San Francisco. Since 2000, 17 of her weddings have been published in San Francisco Bride, Northern California Modern Bride, The Knot, and Wedding Bells.

"I had only imagined this kind of life," says Diaz. "To have it finally come to fruition has been more than exhilarating. The rush I get from my job—more like my lifestyle—keeps me motivated through the mistakes and sometimes slow learning curve."

For this self-described "sensitive, intuitive" spirit, everything is coming together. Recently settled into a splendid new three-story studio in the SOMA district—"a really large space with the kind of light I dream about"-her top priority is to create time to do the things that mean the most to her.

For starters, she now outsources her images to three different printers and has hired a retoucher, bookkeeper, housecleaner, handyman, computer wiz, and an associate photographer, Erin Conforti, whose "photography and philosophy mirror mine in some ways and complement them in others. If I ever get married, I'd love her to photograph my wedding."

THE DIAZ DIFFERENCE
Diaz enjoys close supportive ties with her brides, before and after their wedding days. "I listen to and watch my clients before the wedding, so by the time the Big Day arrives, I know what they want, what they mean." Choosing not to be invisible on their wedding day, "I like my clients to know I'm there for them. I'm six feet tall anyway," she says. Her work reflects this rapport, capturing the emotions and beauty of the day more than documenting the event.

She'll tell you she has no set formula, rather she responds to her clients on an emotional level and takes it from there. "There's no pattern. Every wedding looks different because each couple is unique. Capturing the true personalities of each couple makes each day fresh, challenging, and exciting—things I personally cannot work without."

Her clients, typically local couples who find her through her website, www.KMDPHOTO.com, are most interested in portraits that look more like art than wedding photos. One of her light tricks is using long exposures with a flash at the end or the beginning to freeze the couple and get some dramatic motion.

With an affinity for design, Diaz does all the art direction of the website, logo design, advertising, promotions, special gift boxes. She loves packaging and presentation, and has fun creating the albums. Clients are often surprised at the close personal detail she puts into each order.

Some of her visual insights derived during a modeling career that began when she was six, in an Oscar Meyer commercial. "I was so tall and thin, everyone said I should model. I did it for years, eventually working and living in New York City, then discovered it was not for me. I was way too shy and not really good at it anyway."

PERSONALITY HER CALLING CARD
Beyond the positive buzz she receives from clients, Diaz considers her personality, style, and energy all part of her marketing/advertising initiative. Her website is "like a fancy business card for 2002." And apparently it's working. She shot 45 weddings in 2001, and 35 already this year. Whereas Diaz won't cover a wedding without an album, her associate photographer will shoot more flexible packages.

While digital may be in her future—"I do love technology!"—for now she's sticking with her Nikons, Holga, and Kodak negative film. "Also, fiber prints are something I'm not willing to let go off at his time."

Diaz looks to a time when she no longer feels she's trying to catch up with herself, can enjoy workouts three days a week, and expand her baby portrait business for her wedding clients.

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