You have been a professional photographer since 1997. Tell us a little about your beginnings. How did you change jobs from firefighter to photographer?

For twelve summers, I worked as a member of the US Forest Service Hot Shots, traveling all over the United States fighting forest fires. In those years, I carried a Nikon SLR with a 50mm lens. When I had a second, I grabbed my camera to freeze red hot flames in silver. (See my website under the heading ‘Journeys’ for fire imagery). During winters, I traveled the globe. In 1996, the Forest Service offered me a full-time job photographing forest fires. Although I loved fighting fires, this was an opportunity I could not pass up, yet no sooner did this great opportunity arise, it was taken away due to funding issues.  I decided to start up a photography business.

In the early years, I photographed every job that came my way, from aerials to portraits. I really enjoyed weddings! My first wedding shoot was in 1997 and it was easy! A nice overcast day with sun coming though like a giant softbox. All my shots were right on for exposure. I said “I can do this. This is easy!”. Then came the next wedding in full sun. I got the images after and said “ I can’t do this. I am really bad!”.

Everything changed in 2001, when I and my wife Kassandra, who also shoots with me, attended a five-day Gary Fong workshop in Canada. Hearing lectures by Joe Busink and other industry greats opened my eyes to the creative and artistic possibilities in wedding photography. The workshop inspired me to totally shift my focus to wedding photography.  I dropped all other types of photography and created a destination wedding website and purchased two new digital cameras.

My business has been exciting ever since and I have been able to push my style and art to new levels, and my brides and grooms love it!

Chose the right answer: 

a. Women are impressed by uniforms"

b. People feel good in front of my camera"

This is a funny question! When I wore the only uniform in my life (Forest Service Fire Fighting) I always smelled like smoke! I never got the feeling they were impressed! ;-)

And for question b: people feel good in front of the camera only when you learn to help them feel comfortable being there! It is about infusing them with your passion and educating them about the how much they will enjoy the process.

How do you feel about having your wife as your assistant?

I love it!! Kassandra my wife shoots every wedding with me. She shoots as many images as I do. We make a good team, as we both bring something different to the bride. For example, we work in tandem as I often will go for an environmental composition and she will work close up on details. We are in different areas one up one down. She is good with names and enjoys getting to know the families and friends of the bride and groom. I enjoy interacting with the kids and bride and groom. However, Kassandra is often telling me she needs an assistant. I remind her she is the assistant! Ha, Ha!

Why do you think that strong sun light is the best thing for a wedding photographer? Most people try to avoid harsh shadows.

Light calls to me. Of course on the wedding day there may be cloud cover. If there is light I look for strong, powerful and dramatic light. In fact, I could care less about the ‘Sweet Light’: the nice lighting you get 30 minutes before the sunset, sunset and a few minutes after the sun has dropped below the horizon. This light is sought out by professionals with gusto. I personally want harsh light! Dramatic light! Over powering backlight! The light most photographers shun. Many new photographers are absolutely afraid of this hard light and avoid it. I embrace it because it gives me a stylistic look many photographers don't have.  I want my eyes to water from shooting directly into sun’s rays! I have not burned my camera CCD out yet and lord knows I have tried! Many times shooting into the hottest rays gives me imagery I could not plan. I love to be surprised by the way rays bounce around my lens and CCD to create something unexpected. I take a lot of risks with my imagery.

What eye are you using when shooting trough your viewfinder? This question popped into my mind when I've read about you that you have a "heavy right-side brain":)

I mainly shoot without looking through the viewfinder at all! But it is my right eye when I do.

You recently had a workshop in Romania. What do you think about the level of Romanian wedding photographers and their creativity?

I found photographers in Romania to be on the move upwards with their creativity. I am so glad they have photographers like Antochi to help them tap into their passion and art! I was impressed!

You were invited by C. Antochi to shoot a Romanian wedding in Bucharest. How did you feel at wedding? Were you his assistant?

I was the playful second shooter! I really enjoyed it and we had a crazy fun bride! It was fun to shoot with Antochi!

After this experience, what did you enjoy most about Romanian weddings? Did you feel at any moment that you wouldn't be able to handle it?

I enjoyed some of the small traditions and the small church we shot in.

After 16 years of photographing weddings Romania probably could not throw something at me I could not handle. But because I was just doing this for fun I did not stay the traditional long night hours most photographers have to do. I left at 12am and most weddings tend to go much later. Time for Romanian photographers to ban together and demand extra payment for such long nights. We don’t have such late night weddings in the US.

How much would you charge for a wedding in Romania if a bride would contact you?

I would tell her that she already has a great photographer there in Romania and she should hire him!!

Did you take any pictures for you personally while you have been traveling trough Romania?

Not many. Antochi and I did shoot a small model shoot in Bulgaria. Fun!

And Dracula’s castle!! ;-)

Everyone knows you as a destination wedding photographer. What equipment do you take with you while traveling? What would you do if you get your camera gear lost at the airport?

My cameras will not get lost!! I take steps to insure that. We split our gear up so if one bag gets stolen, we could shoot the whole wedding with the other bag. Each bag has: 2 cameras, 2 flashes, 1 videolight, 3 lenses. Nothing more. We like to travel light.

 Please send a message for the readers of "Weddingstaff" community.

 I believe that every time I press the shutter, I create for myself. I want my imagery to be unique and stylized! I book brides around the globe who fall in love with ‘MY’ art. Not some preconception of what they think my art should be. My imagery and overall style showed them something new and a different place that wedding photography can go.


Being yourself and shooting for ‘you’ is the most important concept I can give to other photographers. 


Here are a few my quotes:

“Creating a brand that is you, shooting in a style that is yours and attracting clients who love and respect that kind of freedom; that’s what it’s about for me!”


“I enjoyed most; clients that wanted what I wanted. So I evolved my site and imagery in my own way without much regard to what most clients wanted. So the market I targeted was my brand. I target me!”

 Copyright © David Beckstead

Interviu realizat de Ana Tanasescu