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Staff Spare Time Series: Sam & her Camera

Next up in our Staff Spare Time Series is Sam from our East Side taproom! In her spare time, she's the owner of Sam Danner Photography and specializes in wedding photography.

I remember an experience in my grandparents' basement, I must have been around four years old. My grandparents always had boxes of toys for us, some they had collected or had been given as hand-me-downs, others were boxes from rummage and estate sales my grandpa went to. There was usually some really neat stuff in them, and in one of these boxes was an old Polaroid Spectra camera. I vividly remember my grandma pretending to take my picture, and then handing it to me to play with, so she could record us on VHS. That was my first camera. To go with the VHS tapes, she also had photo albums galore. Every moment was worth capturing, and later, reminiscing on. When I was older, one of our favorite things to do was to watch the old videos and she would bring down the albums, telling me stories from each frozen moment. 

As the years went on, I grew into using disposable cameras. My mom and I would go and buy them by the handful. It was our thing, getting disposables, taking dozens of photos, then anxiously waiting for the call that our pictures were ready for pickup. We'd sit in the car and flip through the envelope, comparing pictures and laughing. Pictures weren't just for special occasions, they captured the everyday moments. Feeding the dog, cooking dinner, a new bedspread, the summertime lemonade stand. It was fun to freeze time and catch up with it later. In my closet, I still have two full shoeboxes of photographs I took back in those days, tucked away. When those feelings of nostalgia arise, I have my time capsules. It feels like magic to be able just open and lid and go back in time. 

After a number of early digital cameras, I finally splurged and bought my first DSLR for a trip I took to Florida when I was 22. I was going on my own and wanted to document the journey. That grew into taking formal lessons from William Zuback, and learning through my own experience of doing. 

I formally began taking other people's pictures in 2015, after a meeting to be a nanny turned into a meeting about also being her second shooter for weddings. I had the fortunate opportunity to learn from someone who had been in the wedding business. Learning went both ways in that mentorship and friendship. We'd always take our turns doing a shot, and compare our styles and discuss our approaches. I learned that there's not just one perfect way to take a picture. She really laid the foundation for how I run my photography business today. After working together for a few months, she encouraged me to start booking clients on my own. So, in 2016 I established Sam Danner Photography. 

I enjoy wedding photography, it's such an honor to be asked to capture a momentous day in someone's life. Everyone celebrates differently and no two weddings are the same. My favorite part of doing wedding photography is when I sit down with the bride and groom for the first time, and I get to hear their story and learn what makes their relationship unique. Then, when their uniqueness in manifested into a day of things that celebrate them and their lives, it ties the pieces together for me. I'm let into their personal bubbles for a day, I get to meet their families and friends; hear stories from other perspectives. The wedding days are long and take a lot of work in post-production, but it's worth every minute when I get to deliver the album that will stand the test of time; the one they will show their children and grandchildren. 

I also love doing engagement sessions, senior pictures and family sessions. I just genuinely love getting to learn about others and save a moment in time for them. Most often, these sessions are celebrating monumental moments in their lives: just before a new baby, before leaving for college, right after deciding to spend their lives together. You learn a lot about people in these shifting life moments. 
I prefer clean, balanced images. I like styles that will stand the test of time, one that won't look like a trend ten years after. I love using nature whenever I can. I try to find quirky plants to places rings, large trees to pose under, the coming and going of waves, prairies with wildflowers to walk through. Nature is always bursting with color and life. I think it brings more to the image as a whole. 

It always helps to feel relaxed during a session, but being in front of a camera can feel so foreign and exposing. During my sessions, I try to keep things upbeat and light. Outside of minor adjustments, I try to let people pose in ways that feel natural and comfortable for them. I keep a small collection of jokes I've learned from my nephews ready to be used when I need that perfect smile. When you feel relaxed and comfortable, it shows in your images. 

It's hard to say, because everyone has their own journey into the business. My biggest piece of advice would be to become a willing learner. No one gets it perfectly right without practice and a learners' attitude. I'd suggest that a learner find someone to shoot under for at least a year. Weddings have a lot of components involved, you're capturing a moment you can't redo. Start with portrait sessions, learn how to feel comfortable posing large groups, romantic moments. Learn how to work in varying light situations, become comfortable with using flashes and working with the golden hour. The days are long and can get tiring, so it takes some endurance building as well. 

My main camera body is a 5D Mark III, and my favorite lens is my 50mm 1.8. I find that I can use them in so many situations, and I always get the crisp image I'm looking for. I also have a Canon 550D and an assortment of additional lenses. 

For me, my photography is a side business. I do somewhere between 7 and 10 weddings on average per year, along with about a dozen portrait sessions. I also capture a lot of personal moments. If I'm going to do something, I typically bring my camera with me. Anytime we travel, my camera is the first thing I pack up. In an average week, I'd say I spend about 2-3 hours either behind the camera or in front of the computer. That increases dramatically during wedding season (obviously).

Good City is also a side hustle for me. I tend to keep myself quite busy. There's so many incredible, fun things you can do in this life, why limit yourself? So I've got a few things I enjoy doing part-time. I recently graduated with my degree as an Occupational Therapy Assistant, so I plan on really diving into my career in healthcare and hopefully within neurological rehabilitation. I hope to incorporate my skills as a photographer in the world of rehabilitation practice in Occupational Therapy. No matter where this life takes me, I plan to always keep my photography business running as long as I am able. I enjoy being behind the lens, freezing moments in time.




INSTAGRAM: SamDannerPhotography
Facebook: Sam Danner Photography 

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