Ashley Jardim, the woman behind She of the Woods
, isn't your typical wedding photographer. And that's just how she likes it.
How did you get started in photography?
I come from a pretty creative family, so there were always cameras around. They were nothing fancy, but I found that using weird, old gear taught me a lot about how to see things. As a super introverted child, having a camera was more than my artist statement; it was my way of coping with social situations! A camera felt very protective for me. I'm much more confident and friendly now, and I don't hide behind my cameras anymore.
I bought my first DSLR while I was in college studying social work, with no plans to start a photography business. That's when Facebook was born, so I started posting my images there. It was all personal stuff that I shared, but people started paying me to shoot portraits and low budget weddings. It was overwhelming back then because it all just fell into my lap. I did not have a business and I wasn't able to be very professional about it. But it was a great learning experience!
After college I kept up the personal photography and pursued my other interests—social work, farming and gardening, exploring the West Coast for a bit. A few years later, a wedding photographer asked me out of the blue to shoot her wedding, and I felt really encouraged to finally start a business. That was 3 years ago, and now I'm running my photography business She of the Woods full-time.
What do you love about wedding photography?
I really do love the couples and the weddings that I'm hired to shoot. Honestly, I don't love wedding photography in general, and I feel like a bit of an oddball in the wedding industry, but I love it the way I do it, and with the kick-ass people who hire me.
I like the opportunity to be a photojournalist and to have an inside pass to an really intimate, sometimes crazy, usually super fun event. By the time their wedding comes around, my clients have gotten to know me pretty well, and it's like I'm part of the family. My absolute favorite thing about wedding photography is that I get to practice my art while making people so happy. I'm pretty easy-going, friendly, and calm at a wedding, and I love surprising people afterwards with all the moments I was able to capture without them even noticing me working. It's like magic!
What is the biggest challenge you face when shooting a wedding?
I don't have any really big challenges, actually. I communicate really carefully and thoroughly with my clients before their celebration so that everything runs as smoothly as possible on their wedding day. The biggest challenge I face only happens at some weddings-and it's guests stepping in the aisle in front of me or sticking their iPads in front of my camera. I'm a huge fan of unplugged weddings.
Bad lighting is another challenge. But that's usually not an issue because I let my clients know ahead of time how to have the best lighting so that their photos will be as beautiful as possible. I think it's totally possible to photograph a wedding without any major challenges. Just takes some extra work ahead of time!
What should clients know about your style of photography?
My style is about as candid and documentary as it gets. I have my ways of getting gorgeous photos that look like they were posed but that really weren't. Honesty is so important to me in my work. I'll take maybe one "smile at the camera" photo and then the rest are gorgeously real moments. Most of my clients hire me specifically for this reason.
I don't work with "shot lists" but I do capture all the typical stuff-all the details, the scenery, simple family photos, the important moments throughout the day, in addition to the magical little moments that happen in between it all.
When you're not behind the camera, what do you like to do?
There's a lot I like to do! Only about 5% of my working time is actually behind the camera. Running a business entails lots of other stuff, and I actually enjoy all of it. But mostly I like to be outside.
I love plants, identifying trees, gardening, learning about the constellations, and hiking. This summer my husband and I are building a little home in the woods, and I really enjoy doing that with him. I also like to knit, sew anything, make guerrilla art, read a ton, and search thrift stores for treasures.
How can the couple help YOU on their wedding day?
What a nice question! There's not much I need from couples on their wedding day. By that time we've worked hard to make sure we're on the same page so that their day can just flow. As long as they feed me dinner, that's about it!
How has your photography style changed over the years?
I don't think my style has changed much at all. I've always been about candid moments, beautiful natural light, and telling the story in a cozy, intimate way. What has changed is my technique. I'm constantly inspired to improve my composition, and I feel I'm getting better all the time!
What sorts of things inspire you when you pick up your camera?
I'm inspired by everything that happens when no one notices I have a camera. It is so hard to feel completely comfortable in front of a camera, and I totally get that. I notice the subtle ways people are different when they know I'm photographing them. It makes sense. I'm inspired when people feel comfortable enough to show raw emotion even when I'm there. It's such an honor to capture that.
Honestly, I'm inspired by the very ordinary-the tiniest things. I think it's really subtle movements and expressions and scenes that tell the most compelling stories. Also the way sunlight plays on things and changes throughout the day. I guess I could say I'm driven by the strange art of inserting myself into a story without disturbing it and telling it in the most beautiful way possible.
Where will your business be in the next 5 years?
In 5 years I want to be doing exactly what I am now-photographing weddings for creative, untraditional, amazing couples, as well as the artists, small businesses, farms, and retreats I photograph on the side. I moved to Maine recently, so I'm still working all over New England. My goal is to shoot more and more weddings in Maine in each year so that I can spend more time with Kurtis in our little house in the woods.