After covering hundreds of weddings solo for nearly a decade in the Midwest and on the East Coast, Callanan wasn't enjoying it anymore. She had actually set her camera aside and given up shooting altogether.
For the next couple of years, she was content to focus on teaching at the rapidly growing Santa Fe Workshops—co-founded and owned by her husband, Reid—and attending to her top priorities: "family, friends, relationships."
"I'd been photographing solo for years," she recalls, "and needed to figure out a way to continue to be creative and to have fun again."
Slowly, she began to feel that making her mark on the world of photography was less important to her than creating significant images for her clients and their families. "Now I'm excited again," she says, her enthusiasm seven years later spilling over as if her personal rediscovery had taken place just yesterday.
"I also realized that I like photographing with other people," Callanan says. "Working as a team is much less stressful for me—and the product is so rewarding. We're doing a little bit of everything: documentary, fashion, portraits, candids. Getting together and seeing what we've come up with is a lot of fun."
These days, Callanan typically shoots with one other photographer and two assistants, though there may be as many as six shooters. She briefs the team in a pre-flight group meeting about areas of responsibility and the client's preferences: "no cutesie candids," "watch for emotion," "we love intimate details," etc.—information she obtains through extensive consultation beforehand. A brief prayer together for spiritual guidance puts them "all on the same page," and they're ready to take the field.
As the principal photographer, Callanan focuses on the bride and groom; only she photographs during the ceremony. Her team fans out and makes as many as 1,200-1,500 images.
She laughs as she recalls some of the novel things she does to encourage the creativity of both the wedding party and her staff. For example, in addition to her Hasselblad 503CX and Canon EOS-A2, she uses a $20 plastic Holga camera loaded with 120 film. "It leaks light, so you have to tape it up with black tape," she says, "but you can get some wonderfully funky results."
To relax the men, she may have them jump, for an action shot; she has the brides wrap themselves in their veils or twirl around.
For more intimate shots, if the couple agrees, she quietly takes them aside for candids just before the ceremony. "We'll hold a sheet up to hide the bride and then drop it to capture the moment when they first see each other. Or I may blindfold the groom and then reveal his bride. The last time we did that, he cried! It produces some great moments."
Such variety and innovation are the stuff that now keeps Callanan loving her work. "No two of our weddings look alike," she says.