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Category Archives: Beginnings

How I Became a Wedding Photographer

I often get asked how I got started as a wedding photographer. So here you go:
My sister, Cindi got married 11 years ago and used the then fairly unknown wedding photographer, Joe Buissink for the unheard of price tag of $5,000. They got him just before his prices skyrocketed and he became practically untouchable by us mortals (price-wise). Joe is now a legend in the wedding photography industry pretty much doing celebrity and high high end weddings. At the time he, along with one of my Art Center instructors, Kathleen Clark were two of only a handful of documentary photographers shooting weddings. When I saw the outcome of his work at my sister’s wedding, I was in awe, but not yet hooked. I was studying at Art Center to join the ranks of the now dwindling advertising photographer crowd. Once out of school, armed with my trusty agent Lisa Ellison, I was out to conquer the photography world. It only took about 4 years to realize I absolutely DID NOT want to have anything to do with this world. It sucked the life right out of me and made me realize the type of life I wanted was down a different path. I was told at Art Center, that as a woman, if you wanted to be a successful photographer you would not be able to have kids (or at least I would not be able to be a normal mom). This always shocked me and anyone who knows me knows I am a “have it all, do it all” kind of gal. Then, in 2003 the marriage proposal came from my High School sweetheart (okay, Junior High School crush) Tim O’Sullivan and the search was on. As an advertising photographer (starving photographer is more like it) how could I find the right wedding photographer. All I found in my hundreds of hours of searching were a bunch of over priced, under qualified photographers who lacked any sense of artistry and passion. There were only two worthy wedding shooters I knew of: Joe Buissink and Isabel Lawrence Photographers, who are family friends. Joe was so off the charts for my sad little photo budget as were Isabel and Larry of Isabel Lawrence even WITH a friend discount. Then I stumbled on Laura Kleinhenz. She was also out of my budget but was willing to trade part of her fees in custom binding services for some of her high end clients. Although I do not do binding full time anymore, I still do the occasional custom book for brides who want it. (See Little Book Bindery for more info.) She was so great to work with and shot the entire wedding in film with more of an artistic photojournalistic style. Her work is very different from my own and she captures things in ways that are so deeply beautiful. After realizing there were not that many people doing any work that stood out I decided to jump into weddings full time. I had shot a few weddings for friends over the years since 2001 and knew I liked it so it seemed to be the perfect fit. Weddings on the weekends — wife, mother, teacher during the week. I started to steadily work myself out of advertising work keeping only the best clients doing (and still do) marketing materials and annual reports for Private Schools, and I opened up Save The Date Photo (now simply Jen O’Sullivan) in 2004 and never looked back. I can now say that those instructors at Art Center were dead wrong. While wedding photography is not looked on as a photography profession at Art Center, in my mind it encompasses everything I learned there. At every wedding I am able to photograph architecture, still life, editorial, fashion, portraiture, food, and even cars. I love how diverse it is and I do not have to deal with picky art directors telling me how to do my job (although I do get the occasional aunt or mother who likes to put their two cents in). My life is basically this: party with some of the happiest people on the planet, eat some cake, do what I love, and then hang out in my pajamas the rest of the week while archiving and playing with my husband and son. I do have it all and I am loving every second of it. Who knew work could be fun, rewarding, and pay the bills all at the same time.

A bit more about my background

BFA in Photography with Honors, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena
Undergrad in Graphic Design, Cal State Fullerton

The Knot Best of Weddings 2008/2009 Pick
Wedding Wire 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Bride’s Choice Award
MyFOX LA 2008 Winner Best Wedding Photographer in Los Angeles