Sandra O’Claire has been a photographer her whole life. “My first exhibit was actually when I was seven,” she says. “I was this weird child who would pull my stuffed animals outside and take photos of them all lined up – that was a start!” she laughs. By the time she was 12, she had “grandiose visions” of being a National Geographic-style photographer and attempted to embrace that vision with her mom’s 1980s disc-style camera on a trip to the zoo. When the photos didn’t turn out how she saw them in her head, she started trying to learn and took classes in photography. “I took all the highschool classes, but didn’t go into it right away because I didn’t think you could get a good job,” she shares. “I had visions of working in Sears’ Portrait Studio!” In college she ended up in the film and motion picture department and double majored in photography. She worked in commercial photography for many years and people began asking her to do weddings. The simplest answer of how she ended up a professional photographer? “It’s always been a part of me,” she says.
2021 marks 20 years in wedding photography for Sandra. “Having 20 years of experience, nothing throws me for a loop anymore,” says Sandra. “I feel like we keep up with the modern styles – we’re not outdated. I feel like I’m an absolute expert. I know the ins and outs. We really just take care of clients because we’re so experienced. I’m not guessing and I ask my clients ‘what are you looking for,’ ‘what’s most important to you,’ and I really try to individualize the coverage.”
“The number one word I use to describe my style is ‘natural,’” says Sandra. “Candid, in the moment, emotion but most of the time when people reach out they say ‘Oh I love your work! It’s so natural!” so I hear that alot and I just say it’s “natural.” Sandra doesn’t over-pose her clients or try to make them look like models; “I just want them to look like the best version of themselves,” she shares.
“When you’re picking a photographer, it’s important to find someone who ‘clicks’ with your personality,” Sandra advises. She also notes that it’s important to ask about working style. “There are so many photographers who pose everything,” she notes, “everything is composed and set up. You get those quality shots but they’re kind of devoid of your personality. But some people love that! Others feel very uncomfortable posing.”
Sandra also advises to make sure that your videographers style meshes well too. “If you have a videographer who likes to pose and you have a candid, documentary photographer, that doesn’t mix.” She encourages couples to think about “What do you want to do? What end product do you want?” she asks. “The downside to documentary is that you may not get those perfectly posed photos. That’s why I tell clients we do a mix of both – we let things happen naturally at first and then we might go in and say ‘stand by the window and look at us.’” It’s important to make sure that everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect.
Sandra’s work and shooting style tend to attract clients who just want to enjoy their day. “They want great photographs but they don’t want the whole day choreographed – the wedding isn’t a photo shoot. I wouldn’t describe our style as ‘fly on the wall,’” she says, “but most of our clients want candid, natural, in the moment photographs.”