“I want people to remember us,” says Brian Callaway. He and his wife Allison run the popular Callaway Gable wedding photographers Studio in Los Angeles, known for producing award-winning wedding photographs. It wasn’t just enough for Brian and Allison to create wonderful memories for their clients. They wanted to be remembered too… not to expand their clientele, but for having celebrated alongside the couple using stunning imagery. “We’re always very hands-on with our clients, so much so that we usually end up being in a lot of their wedding pictures. It’s important for Allison and I to have a close-knit relationship with our clients. We want them to be comfortable enough to come to us with their problems. Moreover, the closeness helps us develop a strong bridge of trust, thus allowing us to make the photographs we have envisioned for the couple,” he said.
However, for Brian and Allison, to be able to show such commitment towards the client, and to be passionate and excited about photographing them, entails that they too have to harbour similar qualities towards one another. It’s even harder in fact, when you’re married to your ‘business partner’. It’s easy for tempers to flare and to take the other person for granted. In their case too, it took quite a few hits and misses to get them to be the dynamic couple they are today. “Allison and I are both alphas, and like to take charge of the situation. The only way we could make this work was by allotting different responsibilities to one another. This has also made us effective communicators, especially in a taxing environment like that of a wedding,” he said.
The Distractor And The Chainsaw
What also makes the duo work is their contrasting personalities. Brian describes himself as the ‘distractor’… getting people to loosen up and have fun. Allison, on the other hand, is nicknamed ‘the chainsaw’. “A lot of our work is about pushing people to do things that they’ve never done before, whether they like it or not. I find it particularly hard to convince people. This is where Allison comes in. She’s great at this… at convincing people to bring our ideas to life,” he said. Even their approach towards photography helps keep the balance right. While Brian executes previsioned ideas (that usually involves a lot of planning), Allison’s approach involves reacting to the situation at hand, and this makes her a better anticipator of important moments.
Where Most Wedding Photographers Go Wrong
When asked where most wedding photographers go wrong today, Brian mentions two areas, “They don’t operate it like a business, and they copy.” “You’ve got to stand out,” he says, “especially since it has become so easy today to enter the wedding photography industry.” “But the tough part is leaving your mark, not just in the photographic aspect, but also how you market and value your work.” The latter is something that took Brian a while to understand… to make the transition from art to business. “Yes, you may be making great photographs. But if you can’t sell them, then where does that leave you?” he said. “Allison has taught me that we’re worth every single dollar that we charge… even more; that we’re doing is invaluable. And unless you see yourself that way, you’re never going to be content with your work.”
So what got Brian and Allison interested in becoming wedding photographers in the first place? Prior to taking up photography full time, Brian was an actor and appeared in popular T.V. shows like Seinfeld and The Bernie Mac Show, as well as several commercials. This exposed him to cameras and lighting, and why certain scenes were shot a particular way. It was also during this time that Brian took up commercial photography projects, to make ends meet. Both the experiences helped him hone his photography skills. Allison, on the other hand, grew up surrounded by cameras. She was previously a model, having begun at a very young age, and was used to being under the limelight of the camera. Moreover, her grandfather was an artist and photographer. With their combined experiences of being in front of the camera, allowed them to gauge what their clients must feel like to be constantly under the eye of the camera’s lens. “Not everyone’s comfortable being in front of the camera, even if it’s their big day. But since Allison and I know what it’s like, we’re able to find ways of tackling such situations.”
We Learned Things By Making Mistakes
Brian also mentioned how when they first started out, they never really looked at what other wedding photographers were shooting. “We learned things the hard way… By making mistakes,” he said. “Moreover, by not having any prior reference or exposure to someone else’s work, pushed us to come up with new ideas and make our own mistakes. One of the things that we did was include the photojournalistic style into our wedding pictures. This was at a time when no one in Los Angeles was even remotely doing the kind of work that we were. But it worked. The pictures were about capturing the fleeting, delicate moments, and not forcing it or directing the couple to feel a certain way. That’s what makes our style of photography so dynamic and energetic. People are excited about what we have to offer them.”
Brian and Allison are also critical about their work, but only up to a certain extent. “We make sure that we don’t kill ourselves over it. However, for every photograph we make, we ask ourselves if this is a ‘fearless’ shot. It’s something that we’ve included in our everyday lingo. That’s our benchmark.”
What makes Brian and Allison a force to reckon with is their ability to infuse the best of their divergent qualities into their wedding photographs. They leave their mark not just in the photographic part of the process, but also in their enthusiasm and dedication towards what they do. No wonder people call them ‘a beautiful chaos.’
Brian Callaway is one of the panelists of SILK INSPIRE 2017 festival, and will be in India on October 6th-10th to give a seminar, as well as a master class. He will be available to meet photographers. Get your ticket for India’s first Wedding Photography festival, and come meet him in Goa this October.