Welcome to Swoyer Photography! I look forward to sharing my images with you and maybe even working with you in the future. Check back often for new posts and don't forget to like us on facebook.
Truly wonderful couples tend to surround themselves with only the coolest, kindest, most helpful people. They are laid back but organized and once they see their beloved all dressed up in their wedding finery for the first time, any stress they may have been harboring tends to melt away. They don't sweat the small stuff and they know that as long as they are together, they are basically unstoppable.
Michelle and Raymond fit this description to a tee.
My first encounter with Michelle and Ray happened on a miserably cold, rainy spring day. We met inside one of my favorite cozy coffee spots, complete with cushy leather chairs and a crackling fire. We sipped warm beverages, chatted and got to know one another. I found out that Ray is actually a humble but incredibly talented photographer and has lead workshops at the Cooper Hill Inn in the past, which explained their ties to the venue. I also learned that Ray's mother Sharon is also a talented photographer along with several other members of the family.
When our cups were empty we bundled up and ventured out into the chill to take some engagement photos. Ray had already scouted some beautiful locations in the area so we caravanned around town until we had a solid set of images of Michelle and Ray laughing and cuddling together for warmth with their pup Jackson in the cold rain. I have never seen two people look so soggy and so adorably happy at the same time.
A few months later I met Michelle and Ray again for the big event. It was my second time working at the Cooper Hill Inn and I sincerely hope it won't be my last. It is a beautiful location with an incredible view, delicious food and wonderfully kind owners. It was a perfect, sparkly bright September afternoon; a perfect day for a wedding.
Thanks to Michelle's planning and attention to detail, I had a great photo outline for the day. When I arrived at the venue Ray's mother, Sharon, had already laid out the dress, shoes, rings and accessories for me to photograph in a clean, uncluttered room. Swoon. The MOH Danielle had a schedule and photo list and functioned as an amazing logistics coordinator throughout the day, making sure the bride, groom and wedding party were all in the right place at the right time and later shepherding family members in and out of group photos. (Danielle, if you ever decide to move to VT and need a job...)
The rest of the day was photographic bliss. The sun was shining but there was plenty of open shade and flattering light for one of the loveliest first looks/ couples photo sessions of all time. I got to spend a solid half hour with Michelle and Ray before being joined by the rest of their super fun, cheeky, and extremely cooperative wedding party. I think it was one of the quickest, easiest, smoothest wedding party photo sessions ever.
Other highlights of the day included a gorgeous ceremony, huge group photo on the hill, perfect golden hour light for family photos, an amazing sunset over the expansive vista and an awesome dance party.
Thank you to Danielle and the rest of the super cool bridesmaids and groomsmen for being awesome, ridiculously photogenic and just the right amount of goofy. Thanks to Sharon, Laura, Scott and the rest of the family for being incredibly sweet and helpful. You all made my day so much fun.
Thanks most of all to Michelle and Raymond for having chosen me to be your photographer and for having been so much fun to get to know. You two are such a great team. I wish you a life filled with adventures and happiness!
Joya might be one of the most beautiful women I have ever met. She is kind, well spoken, has a wild, amazing laugh and the best facial expressions. She is a feminist, a champion for human rights and an advocate for women's safety and equality. Beneath her placid blue eyes and demure smile is the soul of a warrior. Growing up in a UN family Joya has lived, traveled and seen more in her early years than most of us will see or do in a lifetime. She and her brothers and father share a deep bond and she has made lifelong friendships throughout the world. She is a fierce, beloved friend and a total badass. Christopher is strong and soft spoken. Behind kind eyes and a warm smile lies wisdom and confidence. He, his brother and his parents are a small but tight family unit.
When I think about Joya and Christopher's wedding I am struck by the depth of joy and emotion that radiated throughout the ceremony and celebration. It was a day filled with poignant words and meaningful actions where nothing was taken for granted. It was a celebration of life, love and friendship. Perhaps the thing that speaks most to this couple's character is the fact that friends and family flew in from all corners of the world to celebrate throughout the weekend. To see that much love and comradery in the middle of rural Vermont was truly extraordinary. These two have an astounding international support network and an incredibly cool group of friends.
The ceremony took place in a clearing in the middle of the forest surrounded by tall, stoic conifers. The silence and seclusion of the forest and the late afternoon sun sparkling through the treetops gave the clearing a warm, enchanted feel. Guests put away their phones and electronics in order to be fully present in the moment with Joya and Chris as Joya's brother Jonathan lead the couple through the ceremony. It was one of the loveliest ceremonies I have ever seen.
After a gourmet dinner, first dances, heartfelt speeches, toasts and cake, the whole crew scooted onto the dance floor for a night of celebration.
Congratulations to Joya and Christopher. You are a truly incredible team. You are the type of people who inspire others to be better and do better. I am so happy to have met you and I wish you a long, happy, healthy life together.
Special thanks to the Inn at Weathersfield for making Joya and Christopher's day truly extraordinary and, as always, for being such a pleasure to work with.
I'm not gonna lie. Peter and Elizabeth's wedding had me seriously wishing I was Irish. Sure, I'm proud of my New England roots and although the Vermont side of my family used to get together regularly for family dinners where they would eat, drink and laugh until my grandpa retired to fall asleep on the couch in the sitting room, those celebrations paled in comparison to Elizabeth and Peter's wedding festivities.
A lot of my clients travel from out of state to get married in the beautiful mountains of VT but Elizabeth and Peter raised the bar and came all the way from Ireland. The wedding took place on the sunny shores of Lake Champlain where Elizabeth's darling parents, siblings and sweet, sassy grandmother still reside. Peter's family and an impressive contingent of friends also traveled across the Atlantic to join the bride and groom in a spectacular celebration.
I met Elizabeth, her sister, niece, mother, and grandmother at her parents' home in Alburgh, VT, way, way up near the Canadian border. The ladies did their hair and makeup, sipped wine and chatted with Grandma Lorraine while Elizabeth's dad prepared his nerve calming, specialty grilled cheeses.
After spending the morning with the ladies I scooted over to the venue to meet Peter and his family for a few photos before the ceremony. When I turned into the drive for the Turner Farmhouse my jaw dropped. It is one of the most beautiful venues I have ever seen. The stately farmhouse is warm and inviting but beautifully decorated and opens out onto a picturesque lawn peppered with well placed trees, looking out onto the lake.
The rest of the day was amazing. Peter and Elizabeth's families were funny, sweet and so much fun to work with. It is incredible to see two families who live on different continents laughing and celebrating together like they have known each other forever. The weather was gorgeous, the sunset was perfect and the party was unparalleled. I have seen some epic dance parties at weddings. This one blew them all out of the water. The Irish can dance. Like really dance. There was an energy and enthusiasm that was hard to describe so I think I will let the images tell the rest of the story.
Cheers to Elizabeth and Peter! I wish you a lifetime of love, laughter and dancing!
I love Vermont. I love the mountains, lakes and rivers. I love our farm stands and epic farmers markets. I love the people who live here and despite the fact that many people think of New Englanders as surly and cold, they are, in reality, kind and genuine and always have amazing stories to tell. I love the sense of camaraderie that binds people who work hard for a living and I love Vermont celebrations.
Amy and Adam were married in a beautiful field on a hill. I met Amy at the tail end of the getting ready process, just in time to photograph her ladies helping her into her tall socks and purple converse sneakers. (If there is one thing Vermonters know it is that it is silly to try to wear stilettos when getting married in a field.)
The day was perfect, bright and sunny. We arrived at the field to see Amy's horse headed down the hill to meet us. For years I have dreamed about photographing a bride with her horse. Thanks to Amy for finally making it happen! The rest of the day was a giant celebration. Friends and family gathered on bales of hay as Amy and Adam said their vows under a hand hewn altar. After the ceremony, guests made their way to the tent to fill up a commemorative mason jar with a cold beverage, eat local BBQ, talk, laugh, dance and celebrate.
Cheers to Amy and Adam and thanks to their sweet families and friends for making it such a fun day!
Once again I am astounded by the kindness and sincerity of my clients. I find myself digging deep, searching for the perfect words to describe this lovely wedding and this amazing couple.
Kerri and Charlie are artists in every sense of the word. As individuals they are sweet, quick witted, self possessed, poised and humble. Together they are a powerhouse of intellect, talent, confidence and charisma. They live their lives in notes and words; inspiring hearts, empowering minds, bringing joy, and provoking thoughts and feelings. Kerri has a soft voice and a commanding presence. Her melodic words and exquisite phrases draw you in and wrap you up. Her lyrics and poems are thoughtful, meaningful and beautiful. Charlie is debonaire and affable, with a spring in his step and twinkle in his eye. I can picture him seated comfortably at a table sharing a laugh and a drink with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye or Dean Martin. The two bear depth and talent beyond their years.
Friends and family gathered from around the country to celebrate the lovely couple in the idyllic Vermont countryside. The bride stepped out in a beautiful flowered dress that would make any bride think twice about wearing a traditional white gown and the groom looked dashing in a grey linen suit. Simplicity was perfection and each little touch allowed the rustic charm of the farm to shine through. There were beautiful flowers, a gorgeous cake complete with custom toppers crafted by the mother of the groom, and a station for each guest to create a personalized card for the bride and groom. The wedding was full of toasts, speeches, music, love and laughter.
Congratulations to Kerri and Charlie and cheers to a long and happy life together!
For the past 6 years my mother has been living a double life. Well, not really a double life so much as two lives crammed into the amount of time it would take the rest of us to live just one. For the majority of the past six years my mother has been working a full time job, driving three hours to Boston every week for an excruciatingly long day or two of classes and then coming home to read hundreds of books, write hundreds of papers and do the rest of those little things people need to do like mow the lawn (or shovel the driveway), do the laundry, eat and sleep. Somehow through all of it she has managed to find time to spend with our family, host sleepover weekends with her adorable granddaughter and watch our pup whenever Mike and I are out of town. If there was an award for multitasking, my mom would most definitely win.
Hundreds of books, papers, cups of coffee and chocolate espresso beans later, my mother can finally take a breath and live the one life that she has been working so hard for.
Two weeks ago our family and friends converged in Newton, MA to attend my mother's graduation. I cannot express the amount of pride and joy I felt as I watched my mom climb the steps to receive her masters hood and diploma. She has supported my brother and I through everything we have been through over the years; lending support, giving advice, visiting us in the far away places we have lived and worked, and mothering like a champ. This time we were able to be there to support her as she took her final step toward a whole new chapter of her life.
Cheers to my mom, her newly earned master's degree, and to all of the other parents and grandparents out there who are constantly working to better themselves and the world around them.
Let me preface this post by saying that I have heard the word whimsical used in different contexts and connotations. In this circumstance I mean it in the best, most sophisticated sense of the word. Occasionally the word attaches itself to other slightly degrading adjectives like "kitschy" and "childish". My intended use of the word is to convey unexpected, enchanting beauty and refreshing creativity. Playful but not childish. Fanciful but sophisticated.
My afternoon with Kerri and Charlie was fun, happy, light-hearted and yes, mildly whimsical thanks to Charlie's little table in the field. It is true, not everyone can pull of a little table in the middle of a field but these two did it with such charm and conviction that it didn't feel over the top or out of place. A vase of flowers, two glasses of wine, Kerri's beautiful dress and Charlie's handsome jacket made me feel as though I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
I appreciate couples who aren't afraid to bring ideas and their own personality to a session and I love working with couples who can smile, laugh and don't take themselves too seriously. I couldn't stop laughing during my first edit when I got to a set of photos of Charlie sweetly lifting Kerri and then the subsequent set of Kerri lifting Charlie.
In addition to the table in the field, we took advantage of the beautiful, charming, centuries old farmhouse and barn. The rustic background contributed elements of depth, history and texture to the images of this laid back, stylish couple; helping to showcase their appreciation for the beauty around them.
I can't wait to see what lovely things these two dream up for their wedding. So happy to be working with Kerri and Charlie!
May has finally arrived. It's that wonderful time of the year when our days become noticeably longer, the trees take on a vibrant neon green hue as they prepare to unfurl their new leaves, and our yard is suddenly awash in color as tulips shoot up overnight to stretch their petals and bask in the cool, spring sunshine. This is when Vermont starts to come alive. Suddenly the streets are crowded, the local farms are setting out flowers for mother's day, and I get to meet with new clients and get outdoors for for portrait and engagement sessions.
Yesterday I was excited to meet one of my fall wedding couples to chat over a cup of tea and then venture out to take some engagement photos. Unfortunately the weather had ideas of its own and decided to bestow upon us a steady stream of (much needed) rain. Fortunately it was more of a chilly drizzle than a torrential downpour and Michelle and Ray and their pup Jackson decided to put on their rain coats and make the best of the situation.
Ray, a talented nature photographer (http://www.klassphoto.com/), has lead photo workshops in Southern Vermont and had some great, less traveled locations up his sleeve. Working with these two sweet, adventurous souls made me so happy to be able to do what I do. They embraced the day with smiles and laughter and a true appreciation for Vermont in all of it's soggy, seasonal glory. We parted ways and I headed home, very thankful for my seat heaters and so excited to work with Michelle and Ray during their wedding this fall.
I have the best clients.
Sometimes the best things are the simplest.
Every couple is different. Some couples dream of a huge, extravagant wedding; pulling out all the stops to give their 300 some-odd guests an incredible festival-like experience. Other couples go smaller and more intimate with a close group of friends and family, a great band and a backyard BBQ. Some couples go smaller still, choosing to keep the day pure, simple, and just as memorable as any of the largest weddings out there.
Last Saturday I met Heather and Mike at the Inn At Weathersfield to photograph their mini wedding (only 5 other immediate family members present). It was a beautiful, sunny, February day and as I turned down the drive to the inn the stately, plantation style front porch, complete with rocking chairs, came into view. Despite the gorgeous southern-style exterior, the interior of the inn was filled with beautifully maintained New England charm. I was greeted by owner Marilee and escorted to the beautiful, bright room where the ceremony was to take place. She and assistant Jessica were busy rearranging and putting the final touches on the room to make it ceremony ready.
I made my way to Heather's bridal suite for a few pre-ceremony photos and then headed down to meet Mike and his mom and wait for the entrance of his bride and her family. The room was small, bright and warm, thanks to a glowing fire in the hearth. Heather and Mike held hands and exchanged vows and rings while their family members sat around them, radiating love and support.
After the ceremony we ventured out into the chilly sunshine for a few photos on the expansive porch. A few more with the bride and groom and then they were off to relax and celebrate the rest of the evening with their family, sampling the inn's renowned cuisine.
I was absolutely enamored with the impeccable simplicity of Heather and Mike's choices for the day. Heather looked stunning in a simple, lace dress with cream colored shoes, a gorgeous blue coat and a pop of complementary color from her fuchsia bouquet (plus a second pair of awesome blue shoes and a chic pair of Sorels for our venture down onto the icy lawn). Mike looked hip and handsome in a navy suit with a matching fuchsia boutonniere. It was a beautiful, memorable afternoon with a lovely couple who, once again, made me so happy to do what I do. I have the best clients!
Cheers to Heather and Mike!
A few years ago I started my own business. It is a dream to work for myself, choose the clients I want to work with, and do things the way I want. Over the course of this journey I have learned many things. I would like to share some of them here with you.
Weddings are awesome. From the guest's point of view things are perfect. They are surrounded by their favorite people, free booze, and good music, all in the comfort of a perfect, fairytale-like bubble made of burlap, mason jars and adorable chalkboards. The ladies sip champagne and wonder, in awe, how Jane found the time to make it all happen as they peruse the scene for pinterest-worthy ideas they might like to use for their own wedding someday.
Anyone who has actually been married knows that during the two months before the wedding, Jane was up until 3 am every night frantically tying twine around jelly jars, bleeding from papercuts, desperately trying to separate fingers accidentally superglued together in a moment of exhaustion and poor judgement.
Weddings are a lot of work.
Good couples do their homework. They whittle down a list of vendors, trying to find the magic combination of availability, style and price point. Once a vendor is booked, the couple can relax and breathe easy (or go back to glitter glueing designs on tiny candles).Vendors are professionals. They do what they do for a living. They should be good at it. Right?
Do your research. Read reviews, meet in person if you can and make sure you know what you are paying for. You don't want to end up with the DJ with faulty equipment, the mc who publicly embarasses you in front of 200 guests or the photographer who just got their first camera for Christmas and can't wait to try it out at your wedding. Budgeting is important but booking a vendor solely on price can hurt in the long run. Make sure you like your vendor's style and personality as well as their product. You want your wedding day to be fun and go smoothly.
The term "wedding photography" sounds so sweet. It sounds like the most romantic, fulfilling job in the world. We literally get to photograph people being in love. Yes... and no.
Wedding photography is one part sugar and spice, two parts adrenaline, three parts endurance and four parts problem solving.
When I wrote this blog I knew there was the possibility that no one would read it. I think I just needed to put into words some of the funny things I have seen and experienced in the world of wedding photography. If one of these little gems of wisdom helps even one couple, I feel my mission has been accomplished.
So, take my advice with a grain of salt if you like but here we go. A peek into the dark underbelly of wedding photography...
The night before a wedding, I don't sleep. I just don't. I am excited and a little bit nervous and spend 8 hours mentally setting up gear, putting together shots, and preparing for the day ahead. I worry about everything from a flat tire on the way to the venue to the state of the weather. Clouds. Always pray for clouds. Full midday sunlight is the enemy. It is harsh and unflattering, creates crazy shadows and turns suit-clad groomsmen into sweaty puddles. While you all are hoping for a sunny, beautiful day, I am praying for clouds.
Giant wedding parties. Nothing looks cooler than a huge array of color coordinated ladies and gentlemen but please, be patient with your photographer. We know you are hot and just want to get to the bar for a much deserved wine spritzer, but a 30 person wedding party = 60 blinking eyeballs. Every time one of you sneezes, makes a weird face, blinks, coughs etc... means we have to click the shutter button one more time. Yes, there are photoshop techniques that can remedy a blinky eye or two but it is time consuming. The more time we spend retouching, the more $ we have to charge to survive.
Can't you just photoshop it? I hear this one A LOT. Thanks to the internet, people generally think that photoshop is a magic world where one click of a button can make every couple look like Will and Kate. The truth of the matter is, photoshop takes time, effort and skill to use. Things do not magically appear. They must either exist somewhere else or be created by us. A lot of the photoshop stuff I do literally involves changing individual pixels. How many pixels are in a photo....? Millions. Are we incredibly lucky that photoshop exists? Heck yes! Every time I have to swap out a blinkey eye or remove the glare on someone's glasses I thank the tech gods of mount Adobe for the ability to make digital alterations. Is it something I want to spend 80 hours a week doing? Heck no. In the interest of time, cost effectiveness and our sanity, please show a little mercy and resist the urge to utter the words "can't you just photoshop it". Help us get it right in real life and you will get your images a lot sooner.
Talking while I am trying to take your photo. It usually makes me laugh. Everyone is looking dead on at the camera but one person is moving their mouth, making a comment or a joke. Unless you are a professional ventriloquist, I can see your mouth moving, which means the camera can see your mouth moving, which falls into the weird expression category. Just give us a minute to finish and you can chat away.
Backseat drivers. I am always happy to hear suggestions for photo setups and will always, always listen to the bride and groom if they ask for something. I even love it when an auntie darts in to fix an errant collar or hemline. It is, however, not super helpful to have someone standing next to me (or worse, in front of me) yelling at the wedding party and telling them what to do or how to stand. I'll take care of that thank you.
Along those lines...other cameras. Team, when we finally have the 30 person wedding party set up and ready to go, I want to get those photos done as quickly as possible. It is the opposite of helpful when someone is standing off to the side harassing a member of the wedding party (all in good fun of course) or trying to take their own photo, causing some of the members of the wedding party to look at them instead of me. That just means it takes me even longer to get the image I need. Give me a few minutes and I will step back and happily pass the baton to guests who want to take their own photos. I know I don't have a monopoly on photos of the bride and groom but I am the one they are paying. Please, please wait your turn.
Social media frenzy. Nothing makes me sadder than looking back at my photos of a stunning bride walking down the aisle to meet her handsome, teary-eyed groom, with a wall of cameras, phones and ipads behind her. The tech revolution has allowed us to completely detach from human interaction. I love social media as much as the next photographer but I also firmly believe that a wedding is a very intimate and meaningful event. Please, for the love of the bride and groom, put down your electronics and give them your attention. They invited you there to be a part of a momentous and special occasion. They invited me there to take pictures. Put down your phone and be present in the moment.
Photo credit Andrew McNeaney (from my very own "unplugged" wedding). Notice, not an iphone in sight!
Poorly dressed vendors. It sucks when your caterer looks like a hot mess and is standing behind you while you cut the cake. What we would like to be wearing when we shoot a wedding = track pants, compression socks and a sweatband. What we actually wear...a nice dress and a suit. Vendors should be dressed for a wedding or stay behind the scenes.
Mini Lasers. Thats right, lasers. This is one I had never thought about as a guest at a wedding. It was only when I started shooting them that I realized lasers are a menace. DJ with cool, colored lights = awesome for photos. DJ with the tiny spinning laser ball = looks like a sniper is trying to take out the father of the bride.
Unhelpful wedding party. Dear brides, please do yourself a favor and select your bridal party based on people you know are going to be fun and helpful on your wedding day. Choosing a bridal party can be tricky. Maybe you have a huge group of really good friends and don't want to leave anyone out. Maybe your parents are pressuring you to include the awkward cousin (you only see once every 5 years) just because she is a relative. Perhaps you know that if you don't ask Liz, she will complain to Becca and then Becca will complain to Sally... Brides, please remember that this day is about you. Keep it simple. Choose friends who live near you and won't mind coming over at midnight to help you cut out place settings, select a small group of really good friends, or, keep it close and make it siblings only. Surround yourself with the ladies (or gents) you know are going to keep you calm and relaxed on your wedding day and leave the caddy, snarky friend out of it. If they are truly your friends they will be happy for you whether they are amongst the "chosen" or not.
Punctuality and planning. Your wedding day is about you so obviously people are going to wait for you if you are running late. You may even make it to your ceremony on time but if you have to rush and get all stressed out and sweaty in the process you are doing it wrong. Leave yourself enough time. Calculate the amount of time you think you are going to need and then add an hour or even two. Some of my favorite photo moments come from brides who are ready a little bit ahead of schedule and have a few extra minutes to take some really beautiful bridal portraits or impromptu photos with their ladies, mothers, grammies, pets and anyone else who might happen to be hanging out in the bridal suite. Leave yourself time to take a deep breath, have a glass of champagne and make your way out to the ceremony with cool, calm dignity. The first day of your married life shouldn't start with stress and frustration. Give yourself plenty of time.
Solidarity. The day after a big wedding I usually feel like Mike Tyson beat the crap out of me. My whole body hurts. We are literally doing shoulder presses with up to 15 pounds of gear for 8 to 12 hours. The adrenaline and fast pace throughout the day keep us going but eventually we feel it. Just know that when you wake up with a headache from too many cocktails, blisters from wearing heels all day and sore muscles from dancing like a maniac, breakdance fighting and jumping up and down singing "Don't Stop Believing" we are right there with you. And we can't wait do it all over again:)