Artist Interview with Breanna Shaw

Artist Interview with Breanna Shaw

World’s Best Wedding Photos has the most highly vetted recommendation list in the industry and we’re proud to promote our experienced, talented members. Today we are focused on Breanna Shaw from Washington DC, and her fun, authentic style of wedding photography.

Hi Brea! Tell us a bit about how you got started in wedding photography.

I've been in business since back in 2010. My background is actually in TV and video production, so a lot of the knowledge I acquired in lighting and composition, as well as my interest in storytelling, easily translated to wedding photography. Around 2009, my closest friends started having kids, and as the one with the 'fancy camera' I started taking their family photos. It snowballed into an accidental business once I started photographing the kids of their other friends.

After about a year of family portraits, I got hoodwinked (I say lovingly) by an insistent couple that wanted me to shoot their wedding. They took a chance on me, and I did everything I could to prepare to make sure I didn't bomb it. And by everything, I mean everything. I rented all the gear I needed to learn how to use before the wedding, then I rented it again on their wedding day. I shadowed a friend who was a wedding photographer on several weddings to get the gist of how the day would flow and see the photographer's role outside of taking photos. Plus, I brought along a second shooter to help cover my butt. For someone who knew nothing about weddings or wedding photography, it went really well and they still love their photos all these years later. I shot 5 weddings that year, 27 the next, and I’ve been full time ever since.

At the time I had absolutely no idea what a wonderful thing I was getting myself into. Photography is my career and the way I make a living,  but it's more than that for me. Being able to connect with people and show them tangible proof of the love in their lives is the greatest gift in the world. I get as much out of it emotionally as my couples and families do.

ByBrea-wb-love-during-covid
Photography by Photography by Brea - Baltimore, Maryland photographers

When did you first realize you had fallen in love with wedding photography?

This answer is twofold for me. The first time I realized I had fallen in love with wedding photography was at my first wedding in 2012. I loved being able to capture photos of happy people and beautiful things and, frankly, it was easier for me than traditional family photography. However, my approach was still pretty surface level, and I burned out fairly hard a few years later.

And that's when I realized I was doing it wrong. I had been treating weddings as a formula like  many wedding photographers do. The structure of a wedding day is the same weekend after weekend. Sometimes things vary - first look or not, will the cake cutting be announced or silent?, etc ... But, on the surface, the timing and rituals can feel like the same thing over and over again.

What's different every time are the couple, the family, and the dynamics between old friends. Those unique relationships never get old. Once I learned to stop showing up with expectations, worry less about the pretty, and focus on the real, I fell in love with wedding photography for a lifetime.

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Photography by Photography by Brea - Baltimore, Maryland photographers

What are your favorite parts of the wedding day? 

Genuinely, all of it, starting with the getting-ready moments because they are so intimate. Often brides and grooms have been dreaming of their wedding day their whole lives, and their parents, siblings, and best friends may have been too. Those moments with their closest people are hugely important and can be very emotional. I also love first looks and try to create a space for my couples to be truly present so they can soak in the moment in a way they can’t during an aisle reveal. Then, I can’t wait for the ceremony and especially the personal vows. I listen intently during the ceremony readings and speeches - which I know not all photographers do. I love learning more about the people I'm there to photograph and I also feel like it helps me capture them more authentically as I learn even more about their love story. And finally there's the magic of photographing the dance party. Give me a packed dance floor (of vaccinated folks, at the moment, please) and I will be all up in it with a smile on my face and a pep in my step!

Where do you shoot the most and what are 3 your favorite backgrounds and venues?

Baltimore, Maryland! My favorite venues are The Belvedere, George Peabody Library, and Mt. Washington Mill Dye House - though choosing just three made that a tough set of choices!

If your next destination wedding could be anywhere of your choosing, where would you go and why?

Maui, because it's my favorite place in the world! And I'd be able to hang with my friend Angie Nelson - also a World’s Best member!

couple-with-3d-glasses-at-cinema-with-spilling-popcorn-photo-by-photography-by-brea
Photography by Photography by Brea - Baltimore, Maryland photographers

What is your creative process when looking through a camera?

Moment trumps everything. I am always looking for dynamic, interesting light, and then composing the shot I want, but if the moment isn't there, it feels stale. 

What makes couples choose you for their wedding photography?

Couples who choose me to be their photographer value me being fully present to capture all of the real stuff vs. taking lots of staged photos. I do take a mix of beautiful and creative portraits and I think that is really important, but my goal is to get through them quickly and get back to what really matters - capturing the emotions and essence of their wedding day.

What 3 adjectives would you use to describe your own work?

Authentic, fun, and real!

Other than photography, what do you love to do?

I'm a rock climber, glass blower, ukulele player, and scuba diver! I also love just being lazy at home with my adorable cat Sherlock. During the winter when I'm not shooting weddings I teach a video class and I love having a positive impact on my students. I've had several of them turn into lifelong friends, and one of the grooms I worked with and photographed is now a successful wedding videographer!

Tell us the story behind the following five photos.

Bride-embraces-groom-from-behind-while-eye-wipes-his-tears-photo-ByBrea-DC
Photography by Photography by Brea - Baltimore, Maryland photographers

I love this photo for so many reasons. First, this couple is very special to me. Shawn is a former student, turned colleague (he's the wedding videographer I mentioned above!), turned groom. The first wedding we ever shot together was at this same venue, and his wife Kacie assisted him. Because Shawn and Kacie are wedding videographers in D.C., and they are intimately familiar with me and my approach, they were totally in the moment and just living their lives. Instead of walking up behind Shawn and tapping him on the shoulder in the usual contrived way first looks can unfold, Kacie wrapped her arms around Shawn in a big loving embrace. I have a photo from the side, but immediately I knew the story I wanted was from the front showing their hands so I quickly repositioned myself. I love photographing hands because people show so much emotion through them. The best part of this photo for me is how you can *feel* how they felt without seeing their faces.

backlit-portait-of-bride-and-groom-on-misty-night-in-baltimore-peabody-library-bybrea
Photography by Photography by Brea - Baltimore, Maryland photographers

This photo is just a simple backlit wedding portrait, but it was a dumb luck happy accident. Amanda and Eric were married on a rainy day, but the rain only fell when we were indoors so at no point did it interfere in their plans. That evening we went outside for night shots and didn't realize there was any moisture in the air until I took this backlit shot and saw the mist hanging illuminated by my flash. Needless to say, it was a very happy discovery and is still one of my favorite wedding photos, 5 years later. Amanda and Eric now have two kids and it makes me happy to see this photo in a large frame hanging on their wall whenever I come by to update their family photos!

covid-wedding-in-living-room-with-grandmother-bybrea-baltimore
Photography by Photography by Brea - Baltimore, Maryland photographers

This one is also very special to me. Brooke is my wedding assistant, and she helps me on all of my weddings. Last year in the height of the pandemic, she called me on a Wednesday and asked if I thought they'd be crazy if they eloped that weekend. Her Gram hadn't been doing well, and she was afraid she wouldn't make it to their big wedding the following year. The next words out of my mouth were "When and where?" That weekend she and Brian exchanged vows in Gram's living room. It was so beautiful and intimate and such an honor to be able to meet the woman who helped shape someone I care about so much. Gram passed away a month later. This to me captures the power of photography. These moments increase in value as time goes on. The most special photos aren't always the epic moments, they're the ones that capture real intimacy between people and the ones they love the most.

greek-wedding-dance-party-photo-bybrea-baltimorejpg
Photography by Photography by Brea - Baltimore, Maryland photographers

This photo is a case of good timing at an awesome wedding. Greek wedding receptions tend to be a blast and this one was no exception. This guy was literally balancing on one toe, held up by a napkin. Like, what? But the part of this photo that makes it for me is that the people around the dance circle are framed well (good composition) and all of them are reacting by losing their minds with excitement (which is just dumb luck). 

engagement-session-holi-powder-battle-bybrea-baltimore-wedding-photographer
Photography by Photography by Brea - Baltimore, Maryland photographers

Just for fun I wanted to throw in something totally different. This engagement session was a blast and right up my alley. The couple emailed me asking about a session that would include a nerf gun battle in onesies and a holi powder battle after dark. We have so many awesome action shots of them having fun and playing together, and I love this one that shows off the aftermath of the battle. It’s colorful and strong, and they look ready to face the world together. I shot this with two flashes about 45 degrees behind them both to get the dramatic lighting. 

Thank you so much for sharing your talent and insights on World’s Best Wedding Photos!  It is an honor to have you as a member and a pleasure to promote your photography. To see more work from Photography by Brea visit her website and WBWP profile.