Winner interview: Isle + Oak photography

The duo behind Isle + Oak photography won first place in the photojournalism category and finalist in the wedding couple category in the 2021 edition of the West Coast Wedding Awards. Enjoy our interview with these two fantastic wedding photographers!

Website: Isle + Oak photography


Tell us about yourself!

We are a non-husband + wife team (just friends over here) who met in Art School at UVIC almost 12 years ago. We were the black sheep of our contemporary art program because we pursued weddings. We fell in love with the West Coast, the mountains and the overall beauty of living here, and that is what we have always attempted to represent in our work. When we are not photographing weddings Sam enjoys cooking and plants, and Chris enjoys rock climbing and time spent with his pug.

What makes your business unique, different or special?

Two things: Firstly, we are not married (that seems to be a rare thing :P) We have been best friends for almost 12 years now, and growing our company from that perspective has been the best part of this entire journey. We take a bet at the start of every wedding and guess how many guests will ask us ‘are you two married?’

Secondly, we shoot with Canon and Nikon equipment (we are mortal enemies). While this is something we would not recommend to anyone, we were both very invested when the business took off so we have become VERY good at taking two completely different files and making them look the same (Chris’ super power).

How do you support your lifestyle when you have less weddings than expected for the year?

We have been very fortunate (even during COVID) to have full years of weddings which we are very grateful for. While weddings are the bread and butter of our income throughout the year, we do schedule a lot of portrait work (families, engagements, couples sessions, etc.) , which does help to supplement income especially in the off season when we typically shoot less weddings. Each year we set a CAP on the number of weddings we accept and then use portrait work to fill in the gaps in our schedule. This helps us create a little more balance.

If you had one piece of advice for couples looking for a wedding photographer, what would it be?

Connection and trust is everything. If you don’t feel a spark or a connection to your photographer, then keep looking because that is most important. If you don’t trust them 100% then keep looking. For us, we don’t take on clients where we don’t feel a personal connection. We want our time together to feel special and effortless. We want our couples to feel safe in giving us their trust.

When everyone involved is comfortable and relaxed then the personal walls effortlessly come down and that is what we are looking for when creating authentic images. A beautiful image of a helicopter elopement means nothing if the human connection and story behind the image is missing. That is what we are always the most excited about when working with our couples.

If you weren’t shooting weddings, what would you be doing for work?

Before shooting weddings full time Sam was a brewer for a local craft brewery in port moody. We had a dream of owning a brewery and using it as a venue space. Chris would be in a boy band.

What do you think makes a photograph good?

The feelings it evokes. We have grown to love that every photographer has a unique style and approach to creating, but how a specific images makes us feel is what we are always most excited about. When we look at a image (especially a portrait) we want feel the emotion and the connection.

What is a business mistake you made?

Self doubt/self sabotage. We really struggled with making the decision to quit our ‘real’ jobs and give photography our full time attention. We were scared of failing, but once we jumped into the pool we saw infinitely more success that we ever thought possible. It took us time to embrace our personal style and we have learned over time that having the confidence to do what we do is most important.

What do you think makes an image award winning?

An image that is unique, shows emotion and connection.

Advice for new photographers?

Shoot. Shoot. Shoot. Never stop shooting. Photograph your friends, your family and ask to work with other photographers. Take it from two photographers who studied at art school … nothing is more valuable than experience and playing with that camera.

What’s something people need to understand about photography?

That it is completely individual. Our best work is created when we are inspired, not when we are recreating magic from someone else. We enjoy when we have clients that afford us the space to create in our own way and trust us wholeheartedly.

Anything else you want people to know?

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Chris would love everyone to know that we are and always will be a safe space for everyone to feel safe to be themselves. Our favourite part of what we do is connect with couples and help tell their authentic stories through our work.

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West Coast Wedding Awards is an awards program for photographers residing on the west coast of Canada and USA.


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