Ashlee Brooke has been behind the lens of cameras since she was ten years old. Somewhere between photographing her grandfather on film cameras and snapping candids of her friends for her own enjoyment, she discovered a passion for capturing the love between two people. Now, having photographed weddings for 14 years, Ashlee has curated an authentic lifestyle approach to her work and built her roster of impressive destination ceremonies and long-term clients. To celebrate her work in the industry, we chatted with Ashlee about her dream projects, editing style and making new clients comfortable.
UBG: Tell us about how you got started in photography. What sparked your passion?
From a young age, I always loved taking photos. I started with little 35 mm film cameras, disposable cameras as a little girl, probably 10 years old. My grandpa was one of my first models, I would walked him around the yard and we would have a little photoshoot. It just feels like it’s always been a part of me! I just loved taking photos of my friends and family and after doing a few shoots here and there for fun, people started asking me to take photos, and it just naturally progressed. Then, in 2008, someone asked me to shoot their wedding and I haven’t looked back since.
UBG: You work in many different fields: weddings, portraits, fashion and commercial. What is the full range of projects you work on?
I truly do love weddings, they are so much work, but full of so much love. One of my favorite aspects of the industry is how one-time clients develop into long term connections, and I’m so honored to photograph them as their families start to grow! Nothing feels as good as delivering a client a gallery they will treasure forever whether it be a wedding, newborn, family, couple’s shoot, etc.
Commercial and fashion projects are fun and different from weddings, obviously. I really enjoy developing relationships with different companies and models, and working with them regularly. As someone who is self employed it almost feels as if I have an occasional co-workers! I have a lot of fun working with brands, but I equally enjoy a headshot session and shooting the interior of a home. I remember early in my career people saying “You need to find your niche,” but I think you really just need to find what works for you. Truly I just love it all and I am happy and grateful for the opportunities to work in different areas.
UBG: How would you describe your brand, or your photography style?
I would say I strive for a timeless-romantic, with natural and true color! I love romantic and candid moments, beautiful landscapes, and documenting real emotion. Maybe a bit of a filmy vibe, since I began shooting on and love film. I take a lifestyle approach to family sessions by photographing authentic interaction, chemistry, and love between people. I’m also very inspired by beautiful landscapes, the outdoors and travel.
UBG: You focus on true-to-life images with light-handed editing, why are you drawn to this style?
It just feels right to me! Anytime I have tried to apply a trendy edit or color alteration, it just never feels right. I have developed an editing style I love, that feels classic and clean. I want my skin tones true and my colors to be rich but natural. I want the photos to be beautiful and not just a trend when you look back at your wedding or session in 10 years. I love bright clean light but occasionally I love some moody settings too.
UBG: A lot of couples express nerves or anxiety when getting their photo taken. How do you make clients feel comfortable when working with you for the first time?
I let them know I’ve got them! If you’re working with me (or any photographer), part of our job is not only to be comfortable with the camera and techniques, but also half of it is to make you comfortable in front of the camera. I have had my photos taken a few times for headshots and whatnot, and it can be intimidating for sure. I can tell people what to do all day, but then I hop in front of the lens and I freeze!
It’s really important to be yourself as a photographer to allow clients to also be themselves! You cannot be timid as a wedding photographer, in my opinion. Being outgoing, confident in your process, and making an effort to connect with your clients will make them feel more comfortable. When posing, I always will give some direction but then coach them into candid moments. They might not even know it’s happening, and sometimes those are the best photos. I give my clients constant direction. They usually don’t need to ask me what they should be doing because I will be constantly telling them. It’s completely up to me to create a space where my clients feel comfortable and feel good about themselves. Finding the poses that you think will be flattering, and fit their personality. Coaching them into situations where they can candidly have fun, etc. It takes practice but it becomes second nature and natural after this long.
UBG: You travel around a lot to capture life’s precious moments, what made you decide to become a destination photographer?
It kind of just happened! I’ve been really lucky to have some opportunities in different parts of the world. I traveled to multiple countries for work including Italy, Switzerland, England, Thailand and Iceland. Last year I was lucky enough to shoot a couple weddings on the island of Maui and that was incredible. I am due to shoot a wedding in Fiji next year and really looking forward to that. I am selective with how often I accept destination work (there’s just so much gear to haul around!), but when opportunities present themselves of course I am grateful and so excited. Most of my work is based in SLC and Park City, Utah and some of my favorite places to shoot are just within the Beehive state!
UBG: Do you have a dream venue to shoot for a wedding?
Well, as I said we have some amazing venues here in Utah. But probably some chateau in France, somewhere on the coast of Italy or somewhere like Lake Como…just breathtaking backdrops for a wedding, my goodness, I love Europe! It’s just so romantic and everything about those places is beautiful, timeless — all the things that inspire me. Effortlessly beautiful, almost.
UBG: When creating unique styled shoots, what type of aesthetic do you typically aim to create?
It totally depends! I guess part of a styled shoot often times is to manifest a unique concept. Creating something that fits my own style and hopefully attracts my ideal clients. It’s a lot of work putting together a styled shoot – many little details to plan and think about and usually requires a bit of a budget. Planning something that is your own concept, vision, etc. can be a great reset and very inspiring. Sometimes if I feel in a bit of a photographic funk, styled shoots encourage a flow of creativity and result in rewarding new work I’m excited to show off.
UBG: Do you have a favorite or most memorable project, either wedding related or not?
I have been photographing a lot more proposals lately, and those are so much fun! This past Saturday I shot a proposal on the ski slopes at Deer Valley where the groom surprised the bride at the top of a ski run. Whether it’s something like a ski proposal, sleigh ride proposal, or just a simple get down on one knee, proposals are just high energy and just really fun to be a part of. I coordinate and orchestrate plans with whoever is proposing, and then after they propose we usually have a small session afterward of more posed and candid photos. They have become one of my favorite things to photograph.
UBG: What is one piece of advice you would offer an engaged couple?
Hire an experienced photographer that you love, and order a wedding album! Your big day deserves to be remembered in that way and having a beautiful heirloom book you can show guests and look at over the years is so special!
We recently featured a proposal shot by Ashlee on our blog, view the full gallery here!