Picture Perfect: Wedding Photographers’ Weddings

What happens when Pittsburgh wedding photographers take their turn on the other side of the lens? We asked photographer brides to share their experiences and insider advice.

Photo by gabrielle halle

Photographer Jenna Hidinger has captured other couples’ special days for four years, and she officially started her own business last March. In August, though, it was time for her to switch roles — from photographer to subject — when she wed longtime boyfriend Nicholas Sasala.

“It was kind of interesting because Nick actually got me turned onto photography,” Jenna says. “The first time I ever used a camera, it was his camera, and I ended up stealing it from him.”

A mutual friend who worked in wedding photography inspired Jenna to take her newfound hobby in a nuptial direction.

“I kind of saw what he was doing, and I was like, ‘Oh, I can do that. That looks like fun,’” Jenna says. The friend brought her along to a wedding, and she was hooked.

“I just fell in love with it instantly, the way you get to encourage the couple throughout the day,” she says. “I started doing senior portraits, families, all kinds of stuff — it just kind of blew up from there.” 

When it came time to plan her own wedding, Jenna’s expertise complicated the process in some ways. In addition to wedding photography, she also worked as a server in the banquet room at the Pittsburgh Marriott North, and she found that her immersion in the wedding world made it difficult for her to make her own decisions. “I kept second-guessing myself,” she says. “I’d see someone else’s escort cards and [think], ‘Oh my gosh, we have to do that.’ At some point I just had to stop myself and say, ‘What I have is great. It’s perfect. I don’t need anything else.’”

It was a little easier to choose her own photographer because she already knew what was most important to her: “I wanted to have someone there that I trusted,” she says. She chose Gabrielle Halle, who had acted as a mentor by bringing her to weddings as a “second shooter” and helping her to develop skills and gain experience.

“She’s been a really great friend to me and really helped me out a lot, so I knew that I wanted to have her there,” Jenna says. “I knew that she would give it her all and do the best that she possibly could and that we would have fun doing it.”

For brides who aren’t lucky enough to count professional photographers among their close friends, Jenna says that feeling of comfort is important. In addition to checking out a photographer’s website to make sure you like their style, she recommends meeting to determine if you click.

“It’s important that you like their work, but it’s also important that you like who they are as a person,” she says. She encourages brides to meet with her before they book her services. “If a photographer’s there with you on your wedding day, they’re following you around the entire day, getting all of the intimate moments, so you want to feel comfortable with them.”

When the big day arrived, Jenna credits Halle with helping her to relax and stay in the moment. “It was so weird because I constantly felt like I needed to be doing something,” she laughs. “Usually when I'm at weddings, I'm working them. It was really nice to just relax during it. I think because I trusted [Halle], it made it so easy for me to not even think about it.”

She said she didn't feel tempted to micromanage — she didn't feel the urge to suggest poses or make sure Halle was getting the right shots. "When you have good communication with your photographer, that is key,” she says. “And I really, really love having my picture taken.”

photo by laurel mountain photography


Anastasia and Mark Steinman had been working together as professional wedding photographers for two years at their business, Laurel Mountain Photography, before they tied the knot in 2008. Their method for picking a photographer was slightly more unconventional than Jenna's.

“We actually had a few of our friends do it,” laughs Anastasia. “We gave them cameras and kind of let them go to town.”

After the ceremony, she and Mark took turns capturing traditional portrait shots of each other. Anastasia’s parents work with them as photographers as well, so they handled the bridal party shots.

“We figured that we would pretty much want to edit everything ourselves anyway, and we knew which poses we wanted, so it was pretty easy for us to set it up on our own,” Anastasia says.

As for the rest of the wedding, Anastasia says their work made planning a breeze. “Our wedding was the 47th we shot that year. It made me a lot more calm planning my own wedding because we had already been to so many.”

She’d already picked out her venue, the Ligonier Country Inn, after shooting a few receptions there, and she booked her DJ while on the job. Anastasia says that wedding professionals get an insider view into who the best vendors are and which ones will suit their vision.

So what are brides to do when they don’t have the inside scoop? Anastasia recommends reading reviews and talking to other brides. She also suggests checking out your venue’s list of preferred vendors. “Most of the time [the list is] the best professionals they’ve worked with, so that kind of gives you a heads up,” Anastasia says.

For their honeymoon, Anastasia and Mark traveled across the country to the Grand Canyon, Mojave Desert, through Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park before flying to Hawaii. They brought their wedding attire everywhere they went, posing photo shoots all the way.

“I got really good at putting my wedding dress on in the backs of rental cars,” Anastasia says.


Categories: Beyond the Cookie Table, Weddings