Your wedding day is fleeting. I would love to tell you that you're going to remember every detail, but the truth is, emotions will be running so high and time will be moving so quickly that it's easy to get lost in the blur of it all. We always encourage our couples to take a few moments throughout the day to focus in on one another and really be present. When all is said and done, what you will have left of your wedding day are your scattered memories – and (hopefully) beautiful photographs to help you relive them. I have seen far too many couples choose to ask a family friend to document their wedding day, or to hire a "budget" photographer because it doesn't seem as important to them. I have seen those same couples cry when receiving their images – and unfortunately I do not mean tears of joy. Investing in a quality photographer is the number one piece of advice that I give to my couples, not only for their wedding day but for life's other big moments. One day, photographs are all that you will have, and they will be the most precious thing you can pass down for generations. When I first met Samantha of Samantha Jay Photography, we instantly bonded over our love and appreciation for family heirlooms. After years of working with Samantha for our mutual couples, as well as my own personal family photos, I sat down with her to dive into her passion for photography.
"I first realized the power of photography when I looked through my own grandparents wedding album. Their album includes 30 black and white images that perfectly encapsulate their day- my grandmother with her bridesmaids in tow walking up to the church, my grandparents welcoming guests in their receiving line after the ceremony, and the final image was a sendoff image of my grandparents leaving their reception. My grandmother is laughing with her eyes closed, and my grandfather has this huge grin on his face. It filled me with such emotion to see these two hopeful newlyweds and then to see how their relationship has blossomed over the years. As the granddaughter of these two people who have lived such a beautiful life together and continue to treat each other with such love and mutual respect, it is incredible to have this living memory of the first day of their life together. This became my reason for being a wedding photographer."
Samantha double majored in Broadcast Journalism and Theater at Penn State, and her love of cameras quickly emerged. "When I graduated, I began producing commercials in the Philly area, and while I met a ton of amazing people and learned so much, I longed to have more creative freedom over my work. I began to use my DSLR for still photography and loved it! However, it wasn't until I had a friend ask me to photograph his proposal to his longtime girlfriend that I really found my passion. I found that working with couples was what I was meant to do." One of the reasons I love working with her so much is that Samantha has a way of instantly putting you at ease. Her love of love can be felt throughout every session, and she has a sense of calm about her that allows you to be yourselves. Having a relationship with your photographer is crucial. Whether it's your wedding day or a family session, you should feel comfortable and relaxed so that your true emotion can shine through.
"When delivering a gallery, I want my couples to see themselves. I want them to be able to be transported back to that exact moment in time and remember how it felt. Being able to feel an image is what inspires me most. ... The nervous energy leading up to the ceremony, the family members that surround you, the moment you say I do, the first dance you share… I want to capture these memories, not just for you, but for future generations of your family, because they are important."
When you look through Samantha's portfolio, you really get a feel of who these couples and families are. Much like we try to do at Bloom With Us, Samantha gets to know her clients as so much more than just clients. My husband and I have images from various sessions with her hanging throughout our home, and every time we look at them we smile and feel like we are right back in that moment. This isn't to say that there aren't other photographers that I love working with as well. There are literally thousands of photographers in the Philadelphia area – there are many hobbyists, hundreds of excellent professionals, and a few that go above and beyond. I find myself coming back to Samantha time and time again, because working with her is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
"My style definitely evolves as I continue to work within the wedding industry, but what is constant is my desire to craft heirloom images that will stand the test of time. I want the images I create to feel fresh each time you view them, but to also be timeless. 50 years from now, I hope my couples love their images just as much as they did the first time they saw them, and having a timeless style is a huge part of that. ... At this point in my career, couples are still my jam. I love working with couples in love for their engagements, weddings, anniversaries. It has also been great to see my couples create these beautiful marriages. I have gotten to document so many of my couples as they start their families, and that has helped lead me in the direction of offering family and children's portraits. It is such a joy to be able to follow their life story!"
"I love [newlywed] portrait time because that is my time on a wedding day to create beautiful images for my couples. I see this as my way to help craft special memories for them that are all their own. Whether we find a cool secret spot for a photo or play a silly game during portraits, I love that time to just let them focus on each other. But my favorite moment on a wedding day is after the happy couple have had their first kiss and they are being introduced back down the aisle. I love that unadulterated joy and excitement. There is a sense of release when you see that couple proudly walking down the aisle and into their married life."
Some fun facts about Samantha? She uses nature as a big inspiration in her work, one of her favorite photographers is Zalmy Berkowitz – "He is an amazing documentary photographer who creates images that look like paintings!" –, and one of her favorite parts of the planning process is creating the timeline of a wedding day alongside her clients. "I know this sounds super dorky, but I love the organization of timeline planning." (Me too, Sam! Major timeline dork, at your service.) "I help all of my couples map out their photography timing so that we make sure we are hitting all of the special moments they would like."
"I have found that my business is constantly evolving and much of that evolution has echoed my personal life. My dream is to one day have an in home studio where I can take on more personal art projects and portrait work. Each year I strive to keep pushing, creating and dreaming."
Owning an expensive camera does not make someone a photographer, and that's one of the reasons we suggest taking a little extra time, research, and care when making this decision (especially for a wedding!). Not every photographer is right for everybody, and that's okay. It's important to find a style you love, images you will want in your home forever, and a person you connect with – in reality, you'll be spending a major chunk of your wedding day with your photographer, so cultivating that relationship is going to be a huge part of this process. At Bloom With Us, we choose to work with Samantha for her clean and bright aesthetic. We are completely confident in referring our couples to her, knowing that they will receive a final gallery of images that will bring back all of the best emotion each time they look at them.
"I would hope that every inquiring couple knows that aside from your incredible marriage, photos are what you walk away with from your wedding day. These are the heirlooms that will be your time capsule for the day, and it is so important to invest wisely."