Cassie Valente is a wedding photographer whose work has been featured in People Magazine, The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, and many others. Her photos capture beautiful and heartfelt love stories from around the world. We sat down with her to discuss how she connects with her couples and brings their wedding to life.
How did you get started doing wedding photography?
I am a wedding photographer and storyteller. Behind everything I do is the simple, pure love of storytelling and creation. I think there’s something intensely compelling and something very real about witnessing the beginning of a marriage. My aim is to create art that moves people, that people want to hang on the walls of their home.
Describe your style of photography.
My honest, romantic, and artful style of photography is driven by my reason for photographing–to tell the human story, and the parts of the story that are shared among all weddings, regardless of background, tradition, or age.
What should a bride look for in a photographer?
I wrote a blog post about this and how I think the decision on hiring a dream wedding photographer comes down to five main key points: price, style, personality, offerings, and experience.
Perhaps my biggest piece of advice to couples looking for their wedding photographer would be to request full galleries for review.
Photographing a wedding day is a lengthy process, often stretching across several locations and lighting situations. When choosing a photographer, I can’t stress how important it is for you to see how an entire day flows, not just the highlight reel.
I’ve worked on big commercial shoots and engaged in corporate client work that involved CRAZY amounts of planning, but because of how emotionally charged and personal a wedding day is, I honestly believe it requires an entirely different level of care and attention that not every photographer may be equipped to provide.
My couples hire me because of the unique perspective and storytelling abilities that I offer. In that line, my process begins far before the actual wedding day, and I work closely with my couples and their entire vendor team every step of the way.
After all, it’s a day of memories that cannot be recaptured. I can’t state enough how essential it is to find the right kind of experience to match your wedding plans.
What is your favorite location for an engagement shoot?
My favorite locations for engagement sessions are the ones that hold the most meaning to my couples. Whether it’s the park where the first date happened, or a favorite neighborhood coffee shop, with all of the engagement sessions I photograph, I work closely with my couples to find locations that best suit their individual story.
I also provide suggestions on the ideal times of day for their photographs, as well as wardrobe styling advice. I believe that this level of planning and thought beforehand makes for truly timeless, meaningful photographs.
Any tips for camera-shy couples?
I love this question! To me, there is absolutely nothing extra a camera-shy couple needs to do to prepare for their photographs. I make it a huge point in my business that my couples never have to worry about how they look in photographs.
It’s entirely my responsibility as a photographer to tell their story for them in a way that’s entirely unique to them, in a way that’s clear, well-framed, and distraction-free.
That being said, I’m always happy to chat through any concerns that my couples may have beforehand - sometimes I’ll ask if they have any previously taken photographs that they really love and ask them what it is about that photograph that they really love.
At the end of the day, I strongly believe that the difference between a “good” photographer and a “great” photographer is the ability to connect and direct with regard to individual personalities and tastes.
What was the most memorable wedding you shot?
I have a terribly roundabout answer to this one: for me, the most memorable wedding is always the last one I’ve photographed, as well as the next one I’m about to. That’s the wonderful thing about honestly loving what I get to do.
I have photographed huge, multi-day weddings with several hundred attendees, as well as close, intimate weekday elopements.
I’ve photographed weddings in childhood homes, celebrity weddings published in People Magazine, backyard ceremonies, destination getaways, the entire range.
No two weddings are ever the same, and the joy I feel in witnessing and documenting these celebrations is something I am thankful for every single day.
What is your favorite moment or pose to shoot?
I love challenges - ha! I think almost every wedding photographer’s favorite moment to capture is the heartfelt and romantic portraits of the couple alone on their wedding day. This is my favorite as well–but especially when we’re working with incredibly complex timelines, with inclement weather, a million moving pieces, and multiple set changes.
To me, it’s so much more meaningful when I can create photographs that eliminate the stress of planning and logistics and instead, hone in on capturing a moment that my couples will want to frame and keep in their home for years to come.
What challenges have you faced when shooting a wedding and any tips on navigating them?
Every challenge imaginable, I promise you, I’ve faced at some point in the past decade of photographing weddings across the country.
My biggest advice when it comes to navigating potential challenges (and preparing sufficiently ahead of time to avoid them entirely!) would be this: lean on your vendors.
A strong vendor team, working together in close communication, makes all the difference when it comes to going through the motions of planning a wedding, versus truly enjoying every moment of your wedding day.
What are some creative ways you’ve seen a couple incorporate their culture into their wedding?
I personally had a traditional Chinese tea ceremony at my own wedding, so I get doubly excited when I see my couples incorporate parts of their family’s culture into their celebrations.
Even within the same cultural background, no two ceremonies are exactly alike. Speaking from personal experience, when it comes to planning cultural ceremonies, it can be tricky to find a single, comprehensive how-to guide!
So much of this process is still passed on through word-of-mouth, which I think lends to the entire notion of dedicating time to honor our heritage.
Through it all, I really appreciate it when my couples take the time to bring me into their planning process and share beforehand the overarching details of their unique, cultural ceremonies.
I think this really allows me to be as creative as possible and focus on the individual emotion of the scene, while also capturing all of the important moments of these unique ceremonies.
How do you capture the vibrant colors and details of a cultural dress in photos?
This comes to how I approach any other portion of the wedding day–for me, it’s all about understanding how to frame and pose in a way that’s most flattering for my couples, keeping an eye on potential backgrounds and distractions, and also reading the available light (and bringing in more light through my own resources if necessary!).
Bright, vibrant colors need suitable lighting and space in order to truly shine without reflecting distracting color casts on skin tones.
Many of my couples share images of their wedding wear with me ahead of time, which allows me to pre-plan their portraits.
Photographing on an analog film format also allows me to preserve true colors in a way that respects my couple’s design scheme without compromising on quality.
How have you been impacted by COVID19?
Most of my weddings and portrait sessions are currently in the process of being postponed and rescheduled. It’s been a tough past few weeks, but I’m grateful to my incredible vendor community for providing me with the resources necessary to continue taking care of my couples.
What tips do you have for brides in navigating wedding cancellations/postponements during this time?
If you are even considering a date change, please contact your vendor team ASAP to discuss options. The sooner I’m able to have this conversation with my couples, the better chance we have to resolve things successfully.
The biggest thing to remember is that your vendors are here for you. We want to celebrate with you, as soon as it’s safe and legally possible to do so. As you may know, photography is my full-time job, it’s how I support myself and my family. I’m taking the impact of COVID-19 on the wedding and events industry as a whole very seriously, and my couples and their families are always on my mind.
Overall, I’m always here to have a conversation. I know I speak for the rest of the wedding industry when I say that we 100% want to celebrate with you, as soon as it’s safe and legally possible to do so. These are certainly unprecedented times, but we will navigate them together.
About Cassie Valente Photography
Cassie Valente is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer. She's a native Georgia peach, born and raised in Atlanta (Go Jackets!), and now residing in the colorful Mission District of San Francisco. She photographs about 20-25 weddings a year, all over the country, and photographs in both digital and film formats. She puts a lot of love into what she does and is thankful for it every single day.