Stela Zaharieva has been documenting weddings for a decade and a photographer for almost twice as long. It is not only her long-term experience but also her abiding passion for the art of wedding photography that drive her to create the exquisite work that graces our cover and pages. We look further to what happens behind the lens in making the ordinary extraordinary on one of the most memorable days of your life…
“Wedding photography wasn’t always something ‘serious’ photographers did,” she says. “The typical staid, artless, posed wedding shots were unexciting and lacked true emotion. Even though I can’t really take credit for wedding photography moving towards artful or documentary, I want to keep it going in the right direction with the work I do. We have to remember that a wedding is a life-changing event and all about the people in it.”
“When you are sifting through a photographer’s portfolio” – spoken by someone with 20 years’ experience – “consider that the pictures of napkin rings, centerpieces or shoes are not too important. Instead, focusing on loved ones is what matters most: capturing memories of those who may stay with us for many years to come, and who may not.”
Zaharieva understands that the heart of a wedding is the celebration of commitment of two human beings to one another, and that should be the story behind the photographs created, rather than consumerism: “I would rather work for someone who has seen and appreciated my work than for someone who wants to hire me based on cost alone in comparison to other photographers.” Although choosing a wedding photographer may seem overwhelming, she recommends a few simple rules to keep in mind for a pain-free process.
“Do not hire a photographer based solely on a budget; instead choose the one whose work you love, and tell them you do. Once a photographer knows how much their work means to you, they’ll go above and beyond to develop the most amazing images ever.” Like any great relationship, it’s a two-way street, a defining factor for what clients Stela works with, and the reason why she will document no more than 15 weddings a year. “I want to know my clients well, and I am emotionally invested 100 percent. It’s hard to offer a greater value when you shoot 40 or more events in 12 months. What is the point of the fancy flowers and expensive attire if the photography did not do justice to the beauty of the occasion? Hire the photographer you have your heart set on for the gift of what they can do creatively for you,” Zaharieva declares.
With that level of investment, trust between the couple and their chosen photographer is essential. A skilled photographer requires a level of creative freedom and should not need to be micromanaged. One of the biggest client misconceptions Zaharieva has come across is that couples choose a photographer based only on the fact he or she shot the same venue multiple times: “It doesn’t matter if they’ve never worked in the location where your wedding is, because if they are good, they’ll find the best shot and the best angle. Personally, I love shooting at places I’ve never photographed before. It’s exciting. It’s motivating. It’s rewarding.”
Stela Zaharieva’s work proves she will not back down from a challenge in any given place or unexpected weather. “I ask myself how I can photograph you in the best light, best scenery, and showcase your love in the best way possible. Having a photographer who’s as excited about your wedding as you are is the main thing.”