Our second studio spotlight is Chugach Peaks Photography in the stunning Anchorage, Alaska area. Started in 2006 by owner Joe Connolly, they have photographed over 1000 weddings (they actually had a contest in 2015 and wedding booking #1000 got a free wedding!) all over the state of Alaska and the other 49 states. Joe’s team prides themselves on not using Photoshop gimmicks, special effects, or filters on any images – they only show their clients natural, clean images that showcase their big day and the sweeping Alaskan vistas. There’s virtually no situation too challenging for Joe and his team of capable photographers. Their clients are an adventurous bunch and covering their dream weddings often means working in demanding weather conditions, over rugged terrain and asking a lot from cameras and gear.
Joe, what is your strategy for selling albums?
We first tried including an photo album with every package, but with Alaska bride’s being some of the more independent folks I’ve ever worked with, often we were asked to remove the album so the client could build their own. We began offering a discounted rate at the time of booking versus adding it a la carte later at a higher rate, and reminding our clients that most people never actually build their own wedding album even if they think they will. After trying that strategy, our album sales have gone up and many of our clients end up with a completed album soon after the wedding. As Alaska is a destination location, or the clients grew up in Alaska and live elsewhere now, having sales meetings is actually rare for us. Having that initial phone call and explaining the options, and showcasing examples online has been very important.
What do you love about shooting in your area?
I left the Detroit, Michigan area seeking adventure and mountains, and definitely found that in Alaska. With so many people incorporating the outdoors and adventure into their weddings, my personal life looks a lot like my professional life. On any given week during the summer, we may photograph multiple weddings in a row that bring a wide variety of unique transportation modes and activities. One day I’ll be on a helicopter landing on a glacier. The next will be a float plane to a remote lake for a beach wedding. Next up is a fancy wedding at a nice hotel with gourmet food. Two days later I may be riding an ATV for an hour to a remote mountain top in the middle of nowhere, covered in mud. Next up might be a private boat charter with the ceremony at a remote beach in a secluded cove. One of Alaska’s most unique attributes is the vastness and need for air travel. I have my own airplane I use to get to a lot of weddings – saving me 4-12 hours of driving round trip in many cases, and allowing me to be back in Anchorage the same night and ready to do it again the next day. We also travel a lot around the state flying commercially, going to smaller towns like Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, and Ketchikan.
What is your favorite website/book for photo inspiration?
I have actually found Instagram to be a great source of inspiration. I like looking at a variety of photographer’s work, including those who don’t photograph weddings. There are some brilliant, creative minds that have never photographed a wedding but produce amazing images of interesting subjects. Travel photographers seem to see things differently than wedding photographers, but are complementary, for example. Fashion photographer’s style often compliments weddings, and some of the more avant-garde folks can provide inspiration as well. Instagram is a nice way to compile all of those into a single place with frequent updates. I find photographers who inspire me, and then look at who they follow for their inspiration.
What was your first camera? What do you shoot with now?
I initially had a Pentax K-1000 but migrated up to Leica M-6 and a variety of Hasselblad bodies and lenses right away. As equipment became digital, I have moved through the Canon sequence of bodies and now have the Mark IV. The Pentax K-1000 was my very first camera at age 13, and unfortunately that was stolen at a hostel in British Columbia on a bicycle trip after I finished high school.
Do you prefer to shoot by yourself or with an assistant and why?
I actually enjoy working solo and with another photographer – our company employs multiple photographers, and each one spends a summer training with me before they are out on their own. It’s a lot of fun when I can teach someone and watch their development and progression. We don’t generally need a dedicated assistant at most of our weddings, but a second shooter is a nice addition for a bigger wedding. When solo, I am able to spend a little more time getting to know the couple and sometimes their guests.
If you could go back and time and shoot one event in history, what would it be?
I think any of the great exploration/migration events in history would be fascinating to photograph – Captain Cook exploring Hawaii, Alaska, and the west coast of the America’s would be high on the list. The vikings finding North America before Columbus. Columbus’ Voyage itself. The migration of humans to North America across the land bridge. America’s westward migration along the Oregon Trail. Polynesians setting out in canoes and settling new islands in the south Pacific. Such a mix of hardship, beauty, fear, and excitement! Would make for some great images no doubt!
Every month we will showcase a studio that is challenging the norm in the photography industry by doing something new and interesting. They could be an established studio that has innovative ideas on how to stay on top, or a brand new studio that has managed to break through and present themselves boldly.