This week, PortraitPro was lucky enough to get an interview with internationally acclaimed wedding and portrait photographer, Dustin Meyer. Dustin is sponsored by Nikon and has been featured in a range of publications including USA Today and Rangefinder Magazine. We asked him to share his story with us.
PortraitPro: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Dustin Meyer: I actually started out in the music industry. I was a singer since age 8 and it was supposed to be my life endeavor. I was an opera singer at SMU for several years and was about to relocate to NYC to go into the music industry. However, I had a sort of creative awakening when I bought my first manual SLR. A Minolta SRT-202. A piece of crap honestly, but a workhorse of a camera. I had to teach myself every aspect of shooting because of that beast. After I entered in a few images to a photo contest at Southern Methodist University, I won 1st and 2nd place in two categories, so I figured it was something I was good at. That’s when I realized that singing was always a part of me, but was I doing it because I loved it, or because it was expected of me? There was no doubt in my mind that it was actually photography that I loved. Making a career from it was only secondary.
PortraitPro: How did you come to photography and how did you come to make it your career?
Dustin Meyer: I’ve always had an interest in photography, but it really didn’t come to light until I got my degree in photography in college. The program covered every area imaginable, from studio to lighting, business, history of photography, fine art, darkroom and printing, to digital and film. Ultimately, my passion is working with people to understand their background and personality. I’m mainly a people person I guess, and my photography just sort of evolved around that. My career took off right after I graduated. Mainly because we just started our family and I needed to bring in some income. Fortunately, I landed a job as a wedding photography assistant with a former professor of mine, catering to politicians and celebrity weddings. Needless to say, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Over time, I started offering senior portraits, headshots, and other commercial work to my clientele. It took a while to get here, but eventually it became my full-time job and passion.
PortraitPro: Who are your inspirations?
Dustin Meyer: I get a lot of inspiration from other photographers. I’m always looking for new ideas and techniques when it comes to shooting. I think that’s true for a lot of professionals out there. One of my favorite wedding photographers is Jose Villa. I just love the look he gets from shooting film, the soft colors, the simple composition, everything about it. It’s not the exact kind of style I try to replicate, but it’s always refreshing to look at work that’s different from my own. Some of my favorite iconic commercial photographers are Patrick Demarchelier, Annie Leibovitz, Mark Seliger, David LaChapelle, and my all-time favorite is Dan Winters.
PortraitPro: You take only a few clients a year and specialize in creating entirely personal experiences for your wedding couples; working closely with them to come up with ideas. Why is this so important to you?
Dustin Meyer: I think collaborating with clients is key when it comes to creating unique images. I can’t be the only one to come up with all the ideas. Couples have a particular look in mind when they come to me, so I do my best to make that come to life. It allows me to look into their personalities and create something different from every other shoot I’ve done. I love new experiences and testing my knowledge every time I pick up my camera.
PortraitPro: Which of your photographs is your favorite and why?
Dustin Meyer: Oh boy, this is a tough one! I guess perhaps my favorite wedding photo of all time would be this one:
Over the years, I realized that a lot of my music background had come to influence my photography. Lighting, posing, staging, environment… all of it. This image was taken at a wedding in Houston, TX next door to the Hotel Zaza. The couple was truly amazing, with so many ideas but open to suggestions. Their wedding day portraits were the most important part of their wedding day, carving out an entire hour and a half dedicated to just pictures of the two of them. They really gave me a lot of latitude for their photos, so I pushed my limits accordingly. I was really happy with the results, but not as much as they were.
PortraitPro: What is your most treasured memory from shooting weddings?
Dustin Meyer: My favorite part of the wedding day is the portrait session. Especially if they opt to do a First Look before the ceremony. Getting to witness their first glimpse of one another is truly unforgettable. It’s charged with so much emotion, that I can’t help but get caught up in the moment. It’s a good thing my face is hidden behind my camera, otherwise they would probably see me crying right along with them!
PortraitPro: What is the most challenging part of being a wedding photographer?
Dustin Meyer: Timing. So much is going on during the wedding day, and they’re depending on me to get the best images possible. All while meeting multiple deadlines in the same day. Sticking to a timeline is tough, but essential for shooting weddings. My advice is to go in with a solid outline of the day, and literally make every second count. Visualizing ahead of time the kind of images to take is extremely important. Scouting the location and knowing your camera settings before the big day is a huge help to staying in the zone while shooting. I always tell photographers to get their head out of their gear and into the moment happening right in front of them. Otherwise, you’ll miss some of the best shots.
PortraitPro: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring wedding photographers, what would it be?
Dustin Meyer: Another tough one! My best piece of advice to aspiring wedding photographers would be to always remember what you’re passionate about when it comes to shooting weddings. Whatever it may be, whether it’s working with people, shooting beautiful details, creating dramatic shots, or playing around with gorgeous lighting. Keep your passion going. Protect it. Don’t let your business make you forget why you love taking pictures. Your business should support your passion, not the other way around.
PortraitPro: As well as being a busy professional photographer, you also create photography and photo-editing tutorials. How do you find the time and why do you think tutorials are important?
Dustin Meyer: I wish I had an easy answer for that one. I’ve always had a passion for teaching. Everything I’ve learned along with way was either taught to me, or I had to figure it out on my own. Either way, it takes a lot of time to learn and keep up to date with the photography industry. I guess my goal is to teach others from the mistakes I’ve made over the years as well as pass on what others have share with me. When it comes to the videos, my ideas come from issues or problems I face in my own career. Having time for my personal life is my ultimate goal, so I think solutions that help me save time are my biggest lessons to pass along. As far as finding the time to record and edit the videos, part of it comes from my filming training in college. It’s a fun alternative to just doing the same thing day in and day out. It’s a chance for me to show what I’ve learned, as well as get some feedback from others about their experiences and solutions. Honestly, I have no idea where I find the time to actually record and put together my instructional videos. But when I’m done publishing a new one, it’s just as gratifying as shooting pictures, but in a very different way.
PortraitPro: What’s in your camera bag right now?
Dustin Meyer: My must-have gear is a consists of my Nikon D810, three Nikon SB-910 flashes, and radio transmitter/receivers. My lenses consist of a Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8, a 14-24mm f/2.8, a Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, and a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8. Plus a ton of memory cards.