What guests remember about a wedding can range from the beauty of the surroundings to the joy of the couple's parents to the intricate design of the bride's gown. "That's what makes a wedding unique," says Minneapolis, Minnesota-based wedding photographer Liz Banfield. "It's the people, places, and things that make it something memorable."
Banfield's passion for beauty and aesthetics is a driving factor in everything she does, from photography to decorating her house to choosing a greeting card for a friend. No matter who, where, or what the subject is, she loves to make it look exquisitely beautiful.
Calm Amidst Chaos
A real "people" person, Banfield does whatever it takes to put everyone at ease. She focuses on projecting calm at all times, keeping clients comfortable and at their best.
"I stay cool in the midst of chaos," she says. "People often come up to me at the reception to say what a 'great job' I'm doing, which is funny because they can't see the pictures! But it goes to show that how you conduct yourself is nearly as important as the final product."
While the initial consultation often reveals a lot about the wedded ones' desires and expectations, Banfield conducts an in-depth conversation with them about three months prior to the wedding date. "It's close enough so that timelines and details have been set, but not so close that people are swamped with planning.
"I give them a short questionnaire that helps me get to know their priorities and any special details," says Banfield. Among the questions I'll ask the couple are: 'Out of all the photo opportunities, which are the most important to you?' Their answers range from 'the first kiss' to 'our family and friends at the reception' to 'pictures of us with our dog.' Since about 60 percent of my clients are out of state, I find that the questionnaire also helps establish rapport with clients I may not meet until the big day."
A Sense of Place
While many people prefer to stay close to home, Banfield enjoys traveling, which makes shooting destination weddings a natural fit for her. "The type of client who takes the trouble to get married far away is also the kind of client who's interested in great photography," she observes.
A photographer for several consumer magazines, Banfield has had her destination weddings featured in Elegant Bride, Martha Stewart Weddings, Bride's, and Town & Country. The January issue of InStyle will feature her wedding images, as well.
Her photography, which she terms "editorial style," lends an air of sophistication and professionalism that she feels gives her an edge. "My clientele has high expectations for photography. They are quite often involved in the arts or have a keen interest in collecting art."
Whether she's grabbing her wide-angle lens for a shot of the whole room or for the landscape of the background, Banfield instills that sense of "place" in her photos. "I do whatever it takes to make pictures beautiful," she says. "I will direct, sort of take charge, of the action without just following what happens. If the bride and groom aren't getting enough light at the head table, I keep a plastic bag of votives in my film bag and won't hesitate to place four or five of them near the dinner plates to get the extra light I need to highlight their faces using my Ilford Delta 3200 film."
Banfield has traveled to weddings in Italy, Turkey, France, Bahamas, New York City and East Hampton in New York, South Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, Montana, California, and Hawaii. Many of her clients find the studio through her website, www.lizbanfield.com, which serves as a virtual storefront for her up-to-date images.
"I probably spend 50 percent of my yearly marketing budget on keeping my website current and fresh. It's a huge time saver, too, because when clients call me after seeing the site, they are ready to book me by the time we get off the phone," she says.
Tools of the Trade
From email to cell phones, communication advances have made working with clients quite easy. Much of Banfield's pre-wedding planning is done via modern technology, even for in-town clients too busy to make an appointment.
Despite her comfort with technology, she has not made the transition to digital. Explains Banfield, "I think film and digital are just different, like apples and oranges. I love the look of film, the unique qualities of grain, and I haven't seen digital approximate that feel, especially when it comes to skin tones."