I consider it a privilege to play the part of APW’s Managing Editor these days. But it wasn’t too long ago that I was a reader myself, and an aspiring wedding photographer trying to figure out how to make it in this industry. While I was living in Connecticut, I had the opportunity to meet with longtime APW sponsor Kelly Prizel, who graciously agreed to share her wisdom with me over coffee on the way to an APW Book Club meetup, despite never having met me before. And what I learned from that interaction is that Kelly Prizel Photography is not only one of APW’s best assets, but she’s a generous, thoughtful, hilarious woman with talent coming out of her ears. (Also she loves animals. Which I learned when she marched right up to and immediately subdued my two-hundred-pound dog.) In short, Kelly is everything you want by your side all day at your wedding. Plus an animal wrangler. Rad.
The thing about Kelly Prizel Photography is that I almost have a hard time identifying which of Kelly’s strengths to call out first. Because damn is she well rounded. I mean, first off her photos are crisp, clear, emotional and downright stunning. (She’s the photographer behind today’s amazing wordless wedding, and I’m sort of convinced that the scooter getaway shot is going to end up in a national campaign for something someday.) But I think it’s the intention behind Kelly’s work that really gets me. I’m enamored with her motivation to represent couples who don’t get the playtime they deserve in the mainstream wedding world, and I love how you can see that commitment shine in her portfolio. But I think it sounds best coming from Kelly herself. She says:
The reason I started in this industry was because I had something to say. Namely, “Where are the f***ing gay people? The people of color? Where are the rip-your-heart-out-emotionally-gorgeous weddings minus the trendy hipster-gear?” I love people choosing to commit publicly to each other. Each wedding I shoot, whether you’re twenty or fifty, gay or straight, black, white or anything else, I strive to tell the story of what your wedding is about: love, community, and commitment.
And when you combine that motivation with the kindness and generosity I mentioned up above? Well, that’s where magic happens. Heck, Kelly even includes dinner dates to watch The Wire in her wedding packages, that’s how much she cares about you guys. So now, I’m going to kick it to Kelly to tell you exactly how she feels about you. But be warned, you might cry. At least, I did.
My home is filled with love. I’m surrounded by love not only because it’s where I spend time with my amazing wife Natalie (who also doubles as the other half of my wife-wife photography team) and not only because it’s also home to our nine rescue pets. It’s because it’s full of the love, your guys’ love, that I have documented over the past five years of shooting weddings. The love radiates from the walls: I have pictures of my happy couples hanging in my client room. And while it might seem weird to some to have pictures of strangers in love looking over you while you’re eating a homemade pizza, these aren’t strangers. They’re my couples. They populate my mantel with holiday cards—sometimes with pictures I took and sometimes with iPhone photos of their pets. Their names are magnets affixed to my editing board. They’re the first contacts that come up in my phone.
Here’s the thing about owning your own photography studio. Until this past year, when the amazing Katharine—studio manager, gluten-free baking fairy, violist, soprano, and life-guru extraordinaire—entered our lives, most days I was in the house working alone. I wasn’t alone alone: Natalie was in and out (academic schedules are weird) and the pets were always there. But often it was silent. Theoretically, it should have been lonely.
It never was, though. Because you guys, my clients, were always here. Not only on the mantel, but in the Skype chats I’d have with a client who had moved out west and just had a baby. In the article I just have to send to a client because we’re both guinea-pig lovers. In the fact that a gluten-free client invited me over for post-Thanksgiving leftovers because she knew my family wasn’t good about remembering to make things celiac-friendly.
I joke with Natalie sometimes that I spend ninety percent of my time in the house. My slippers wear out faster than my shoes. I love working from home, in front of my gas fireplace with my big-ass twenty-seven-inch iMac. My house is really important to me. Ask Natalie how many times I’ve rearranged the furniture. Or made her haul furniture. If you’re going to spend ninety percent of your time somewhere, you’ve got to love it.
So I’ve made it a place of love and community. And my clients are my community: on this now-five-year-old journey of owning a wedding photography business, I’ve built a pretty freaking awesome village—one that extends from Costa Rica to San Francisco to Nashville to New York. And it’s all here in my little 1928 house in New Haven, CT.
After you come in to chat, I’ll send you away with a little info packet. And when you open it up at home, you might find a few strands of orange cat fur, or black dog fur, or God knows, grey bunny fur. I might email you a link to a podcast we bonded over. Or a book recommendation. And just as you all leave traces of your lives—your most important moments—in my house, with your photos, your cards, and your loves—traces of my life seep in your homes as well. And that’s probably the most fucking awesome thing about this job.
The thing is, I know there is a lot of pressure to become bestest ever friends with your photographer. And that’s great if you have it. I know not everyone even wants it. But with Kelly Prizel Photography, there’s no trying about it. It just happens. Because she authentically loves and appreciates each and every one of her clients, and it’s impossible not to love her back.
And the best part? It’s obvious that you guys enrich Kelly’s life, so she’s paying it forward by offering not one, but two awesome deals to APWers. First, any APW couples that book with Kelly before March 31st will get a complimentary coffee table album. And second, Kelly’s also put together a super all-inclusive package for Friday and Sunday weddings that includes full day wedding coverage, an engagement session, and an album for $3,800. For Saturday weddings, regular packages start at $3,000. And while Kelly is primarily located in New Haven, Connecticut, she loves to travel. (Just check out her blog and you’ll see. The NYC City Hall weddings? To. Die. For.)
At the end of the day, I could probably write a whole dissertation on the reasons that Kelly and Natalie are an amazing team who you should hire right this minute. But the fact of the matter is, words don’t really do it justice. Because so much of what Kelly Prizel Photography offers is intangible. It’s in the expressions on Kelly’s clients’ faces, in the crazy “acrobatic shooting poses” Kelly will endure to get the shot, in the personal attention to what makes you and your partner unique, and in the bunny hairs stuck to your contract. It’s in the fact that Kelly’s been an active part of this community for as long as I can remember.
So go, check out Kelly’s impressive body of work, peruse her blog and drool over the recent weddings (hint: they are awesome). And then do yourself a favor and contact Kelly Prizel Photography. Not only will you get the hugs and The Wire viewing parties out of it. But, as Kelly herself says, you’ll also get a photographer for life.