All photos by Meg Smith
Meg Smith's wedding photography goes beyond the typically posed portraits--she
has a gift for capturing special, intimate moments throughout the event, resulting
in some very memorable images. Her attitude, which translates to her images
is, "Weddings are fun--they're celebrations!" During
the eight years she's done weddings, this Napa-based photographer has
traveled the world, shooting weddings in locations such as Nantucket, the Hamptons,
and even "the Bahamas a few times." At the time of our interview,
she was looking forward to photographing a wedding in the West Indies. Her images
have been featured on Television's VH-1 News and Entertainment Tonight.
She's photographed celebrity weddings for InStyle magazine, and her work
appears regularly in Martha Stewart Weddings. Additionally, her seemingly effortless
photographic style has graced the pages of The New York Times, Town & Country,
and Vera Wang On Weddings.
A romantic view of a couple in Napa Valley (who had actually eloped).
Discovering Her Niche
"What inspires me to keep shooting weddings is the positive feedback.
These couples really appreciate the work," Smith says, adding that she
felt this wasn't the case with her first foray into photography. Born
and raised in the Napa Valley in a wine-making family, she started her career
by shooting advertising photos for the wine trade: "Wine bottles, the
winemaker--it was boring just taking pictures to sell something."
Nonetheless, she enjoyed photography and decided to explore her options. She
says, "When I first shot weddings, I thought formal posing was how it
was supposed to be." But she wasn't "artistically satisfied"
with the results and wanted to do art photography on the side to express her
A happy "little man," applauding for the bride and
A bride and groom dance at their reception in Malibu (this image
was taken in available light).
As an art history major at UC Berkeley, she did a documentary series of photographs,
and concluded, "that's how I wanted to approach weddings."
Today, she jokes, "My background in wedding photography was shooting riots."
Smith's parents were against her wishes to go to photography school, but
she now acknowledges, "I think my fine art background sets me apart."
She's learned (and continues to explore) much about various artists, photographers,
and their work--"to see the Masters who started it all." According
to Smith, she learned photography "from the school of hard knocks."
A bride in the doorway of an old mission in Sonoma, where the
wedding was going to take place.
After college, she began assisting a National Geographic photographer, Charles
O'Rear, who had recently moved to Napa. Not long after moving to this
region, she says, he shot the "largest collection of wine photography
in the world." She recalls that this lighting specialist used creative
techniques such as flashlight, and flash with specular highlights to achieve
his style. Although she learned much from him, she notes, "Ironically,
now I use mostly natural light," as it gives the viewer "more of
a feeling of being there." Occasionally, she says, she'll use some
very subtle flash.
Smith says she loves to photograph details, as they help tell
the story of the couple's special day.
Also, she says her unobtrusive style lends itself better to natural lighting.
Smith doesn't like to be disruptive with "flash going off in people's
face." She also prefers "to capture events as they happen, instead
of stopping the action." She says that she often wears tasteful, black
outfits to shoot weddings. "It's another way that I can be more
invisible." This low-key approach moved one grateful bride to write to
Smith after the wedding, "...We were afraid we would feel like we were
being pursued by paparazzi, but you were subtle enough so that we hardly noticed
you, and you still managed to to be everywhere!" According to Smith, another
way she achieves this is to "hide behind people's shoulders. It's
also a framing technique."