In-Depth Interview with Cavin Elizabeth, an Incredible Wedding Photographer in San Diego
“When people look through a wedding gallery or an album I’ve designed they laugh, cry, and smile like they were at that wedding. Imagine having an even stronger feeling when you see the images I create from your wedding. It’s a powerful form of storytelling your future children will cherish and pass on to their children.” -Cavin Elizabeth
Patrick and I have finally set a date next year for our wedding, and we are both so excited! Once a date has been set however, there are so many little things to accomplish, it can be overwhelming. I created an account on The Knot for free, which gave me a great timeline and checklist for getting it all done. Twelve months out, the website suggests choosing your venue, and creating a free wedding website (included with your account on The Knot). So I did these few things, and then started looking ahead at coming months. A few of the items on the checklist were so exciting, I started searching online and getting things going right then.
One of the items was interviewing a wedding photographer in San Diego, and since I had seen Cavin Elizabeth‘s stunning wedding photos on her Instagram page, I decided to reach out to her about my wedding day. She responded quickly and set up a complimentary consultation for a week out at her home office. I was immediately inspired. Watch this great video about why Cavin believes you should meet a wedding photographer in San Diego before hiring one:
After watching this video, I was even more ecstatic to meet her, and before our appointment, I also had a lot of questions for her over the phone and via email. If you’re planning a wedding and talking to a wedding photographer in San Diego (or a few different photographers), you may have a lot of the same questions. Check out the questions I had for Cavin after reading her site’s FAQ page, and learn a bit more about the experience she provides to her clients:
San Diego Lifestyle: Cavin, thanks so much for answering all of my questions. How long have you been photographing weddings? How would you describe your photography style? Do you like to position people for photos or do you prefer capturing the natural activities?
Cavin Elizabeth: I’ve been shooting weddings for a little over 2 years and have been doing photography, in general, for about 10 years. My style is quite documentary with a focus on real moments and emotion. Wedding days are full of beautiful and genuine events, so I really capitalize on people’s expressions, body language, and movement in my images. I also like to ensure that my couples look their best, so I will step in to adjust their posing or move them to better light for the best possible photos.
SDL: Do you have a mental checklist of your favorite poses, or how do you come up with poses on the spot when the bridal party is unsure of how they want to pose?
CE: I usually have a couple of basic poses in my head that I call out at the beginning of sessions. After that warm-up, I consider my environment, the couple’s clothing, and the lighting to create very dynamic poses that have a realistic look. Doing so gives my images a different look for each couple that perfectly suits their personalities and doesn’t look trendy.
SDL: It’s so great that you get to know the couple so well. How many assistants do you usually use during a full day of shooting, and how many camera battery charges do you go through?!
CE: Typically, I have one second photographer who focuses on the groom and groomsmen, as well as shooting different angles than the angles I am shooting. I also bring an assistant with me who helps grab my gear when needed, keeps me on time, and helps with style detail shots, and anything else that helps keep me focused on shooting without stopping. As far as batteries go, I use two cameras throughout the day and typically go through 3 batteries!
SDL: How do you usually dress for the wedding day?
CE: My branding is quite chic, upscale, and modern, so I tend to wear sleek black dresses a lot; however, I’m not one of those photographers who thinks they have to wear all black just because they read that on the internet. I think that makes me look more like I’m on the catering staff and it can confuse guests. I consider myself more like the couple’s friend with a camera (who knows how to use it!) rather than a vendor, so sometimes I’ll wear a black top with a colorful skirt. I avoid patterns, though, as those would really stand out if I’m ever in my 2nd shooters photos 🙂 I also wear comfortable shoes that aren’t super cute. Each year, my shoes become less attractive and more supportive, as being on your feet for 8+ hours with 10 pounds of gear on your shoulders can take quite the toll on your body.
SDL: Sounds intense for your mind and body! How do you fit in eating, going to the restroom, checking your urgent messages and all of those other busy tasks during a wedding?
CE: I do always require a meal at weddings, as it is industry standard. Usually, I like to get my food right after the bride and groom get theirs. That way, I have some time to eat then get ready for the next reception event. As fas as restroom breaks go, I just started taking them this year. Usually during dinner or when it’s slow I’ll sneak off! When it comes to my phone, I honestly don’t look it from the time my 2nd shooter and I meet up for the ceremony until dinner, if then. I try not to be on my phone during weddings, as it’s really important to me to be incredibly professional.
SDL: That is dedication! Do you also shoot high quality video, or recommend someone else for that aspect of the wedding?
CE: Because I want to focus 100% of my mind and energy into creating a stunning gallery of wedding images, I don’t offer any video services. What I do instead is recommend my couples to 2-3 of my favorite videographers. The people I recommend are very respectful of photography and don’t get in the way of the couple’s shots. You’d be surprised to know that I’ve had a lot of great moments ruined by some videographer who stands 3 feet away from the couple during their ceremony or first dance. A good photography and videography team won’t do that, but rather work together and be respectful of not getting in each other’s shots.
SDL: Tell me a bit about the process you go through after you take the photos, during the eight weeks that the bridal party is anxiously awaiting their photos. I know a LOT goes on.
CE: Many vendors are totally done with their work by the time the wedding day is over. I would say that, as a photographer, I still have about 30% of my work cut out for me post-wedding. After I get home from the wedding, I download all of the images and back them up to at least 2 different places for safety. After I’ve had a little time to recover from the wedding, I cull the images, keeping the best photos that will tell a beautiful and cohesive story of the day. Over the next few weeks, I edit the images from start to finish, step away for a day or two, and come back with fresh eyes for any final touches before uploading to the online wedding gallery. After that, it’s time to email my brides that their wedding photos are ready!
SDL: Wow, your site says you deliver on average around 550-750 images of the wedding. How do you choose the best photos? What is your process?
CE: My culling process is quite ruthless, as I want to provide a beautifully curated collection of images that completely tells the story of the wedding day. As I’m going through each image, I decide if it’s a great moment or a wonderful detail shot or a gorgeous portrait. Next, I’m looking for a totally in-focus shot with good composition. At the end of culling, I see how many images I’m keeping. If it feels a little low, I go back through to see if I missed anything. If it’s a little too high, I might remove a few redundant images to ensure I’m maintaining quality over quantity.
SDL: Once you pick the best photos, you always deliver them in high quality digital format. Tell me more about the custom albums you also offer to interested wedding parties.
CE: I LOVE albums. There’s something really magical about holding a book of your wedding images in your hands. It’s absolutely nothing like .jpg files on a computer. Each album I create is custom-designed and is meant to tell the story of the day with many of the best images from the wedding. They’re such high-quality that they’ll be able to be passed down to the couple’s grandchildren and perhaps their great-grandchildren. It’s absolutely worth the investment, and is something so valuable that I consider it to be worth saving in a house fire! 😉
SDL: I love the idea of passing down wedding albums to future generations! I’ve seen on your Instagram profile that you’re based in San Diego, but you also travel other places to photograph weddings. Where has been your favorite location to travel to for a wedding?
CE: So far, Palm Springs. I love the atmosphere there and its architecture and mid-century modern charm!
SDL: What activities do you enjoy doing when you’re on a destination wedding trip and you have some down time?
CE: Exploring the local food scene, for sure. Also, going on walks and exploring the different parts of the city.
SDL: It’s always fun to explore! I love the idea of your photo registry, to enable guests to give the bride and groom photos or extra photographer time as a gift. How did this idea come about and how do people like it?
CE: For a lot of modern couples, myself included, there isn’t quite the need for traditional registry items. At least not to the degree that our parents’ generation had. I loved the idea of the honeymoon registry and wanted to adapt that innovation to my own business. It’s a way for couples to include tangible and beautiful photography products into their home that their guests love to gift them. Some couples will even register for extra hours of photography coverage, which is fantastic because they truly do end up with everything they wanted for their photography that they maybe weren’t able to include initially. Guests definitely love that they have the option to gift physical products like prints, as well as more service-based offerings like extra hours and anniversary portrait sessions.
SDL: Sounds great! How can interested brides and grooms get ahold of you for a consultation?
CE: It’s always best to fill out the contact form on my website. That way I get all of the information I need, such as their date, venue, and their contact info. I typically respond within 1-4 hours if I’m not at a wedding (or asleep) giving them availability of when they can come to meet me in my home office. I highly recommend that all couples meet me, or at least FaceTime me if they’re out of town, so that we can best determine if we’re a good fit for each other. It also lets us get to know each other, which is so important for the final images. I truly love my job and am thankful each day to have the opportunity to capture one of the greatest days in most couple’s lives.
SDL: There are many days where Patrick and I have been so confused about the entire wedding process, so I know how most brides feel as it inches closer and closer to their “special day.” I appreciate you being so flexible and explaining in more detail how you do what you do. I know that this interview will help others who are searching for a wedding photographer in San Diego, so for that I thank you!