Today I’m excited to bring you another interview with two very incredible photographers.
Chenoa and Pilar Casamayor are sisters as well as portrait photographers who specialize in engagement and wedding photography in and around Calgary, Alberta. Besides sharing the same last name, they both possess a passion for photographing life, beauty, and gorgeous light. Their true desire is to remind people of the blessings of love and family, and to bring joy to others in and through their work by capturing the moments that people never want to forget. Read their story below or click the link to listen to the entire interview.
Thanks again Chenoa and Pilar for doing this interview with me!
Listen to the interview below or download it here.
Follow the links below to view more of Chenoa and Pilar’s work:
Greg Hahner Studios: How did you both get started in photography?
Chenoa Casamayor: I think that the love of photography came from going through boxes of family photos, and being completely captivated by the memories they held. And then that really just transitioned into me being the one behind the camera always taking photos, because I felt like my younger siblings were growing up way too fast, and I realized that I didn’t want to forget any of those moments. So it truly stemmed from being sentimental and wanting to hold on to those memories and really savor life.
Pilar Casamayor: For me, it started as a need that I could fill for Chenoa. Coming out of high school I was dealing with a pretty hard sickness, and couldn’t pursue a lot of the career options that I had thought I would. So when Chenoa offered me the opportunity to work with her, it allowed me to explore the world of photography and discover that I really love the creativity behind it. Having always been an artist at heart, it just became a natural expression of that for me.
CC: We like to say that we are in the business of capturing the moments that people never want to forget. So for us, taking pictures is really about reminding people about how richly we’re blessed with the love of family and each other, and it’s a desire for us to produce images that will be treasured be future generations.
As part of the fundamentals of what we believe, we want everything we do to be motivated by love, because we believe that people matter infinitely more than money. We know that nothing in this life is ours to keep, and only what we invest in others human souls will endure for all eternity. It’s such a privilege to capture weddings because the commitment made in the covenant of marriage is so beautiful, and as far as portraits go, each individual is such a work of art and so beautifully made by God, and it’s our desire to make people feel treasured.
PC: We also believe that work is a gift from God, so we want to put excellence into what we do. In every picture we take we like to work to make it a beautiful expression of what God has created. So it’s really about just enjoying the work we do and spending our days creating.
CC: I fell in love with wedding photography after shooting my very first wedding back in 2007, but for the first few years of having the business together we primarily shot portraits. It was long road leading up to 2012 which was the first season that we began shooting mostly weddings and engagements. Because of that time in between, we really see every wedding as a huge honor for us to shoot.
Our favorite thing to do is engagement shoots. The opportunity to hang out with couples and sit down over coffee and hear their love story, that never gets old! Every single time it’s an amazing thing to see how two lives come together, and it’s a privilege to be so closely involved in a couple’s journey to marriage. On the wedding day, the photographer is one of the few, if not the only person who is with the bride and groom through every aspect of their day, right from when they get ready in the morning through to the end of the reception. It’s really an incredible privilege to show up and love and support people in a practical way. That’s just thrilling every time.
PC: We’re definitely driven by a passion to document stories of the lives we love the most. We always say our favorite subjects to shoot are members of our own family, because we know them and we can tell an accurate story about them. But we’re definitely inspired by the people we photograph, and we want to tell their story and capture the beauty and uniqueness of each person we get to work with. We feel that taking pictures of people is one of the most blessed jobs on earth. We just really love what we do.
CC: I think that that moment when you know that you caught the real them, whether it’s them laughing or just a look that a couple gives each other, those are the moments where we just get super excited. Being able to look at the back of the camera and say, “Yes! Yes!” and knowing that we’ve captured that moment forever, and it’s just really exciting.
GHS: What kind of a dynamic does you being sisters create during a normal photoshoot? Do you work differently together than you would individually?
CC: I think that it really helps that we can read each others’ minds, not literally, but almost. Some days it feels like having always been close and sharing so many life experiences we can usually know what the other one is thinking without needing to verbally communicate – which can be pretty handy on a wedding day. I think we’ve really come to rely on each other and know how to work together without having to really think about it.
I recently had the opportunity to see what it was like going solo when I shot Pilar and her faince’s engagement photos. Honestly, my hat’s off to every photographer who has to work alone because I was totally feeling at a loss not having her there to back me up. We like to joke around that Pilar’s alter ego is reflecta-girl, but I think she really does have super powers when it comes to creating beautiful light!
PC: We also love working together because when we do, there’s a uniqueness that comes from our perspectives as individuals. Just looking back and reviewing our pictures from a wedding day, it’s neat to see that although we’re shooting with the same style and the same moments, the other person’s perspective is really refreshing. Often I realize that Chenoa saw something completely different than I saw, or captured a moment that I totally missed, and it’s really relieving and almost a comfort knowing that we can go into a shoot with different perspectives as sisters.
GHS: Where do you go to get your inspiration?
CC: Personally I am very inspired by beauty, especially beautiful light. There is a reason we called our business Let There Be Light Photography. There are times in the evening around golden hour when we don’t have any shoots booked, I feel like paying complete strangers to let me take their picture because the light is so inspiring.
I definitely get excited being out and seeing beautiful light and knowing that everywhere I look there is such beauty in this world beyond description. That’s probably our greatest inspiration when we need our batteries recharged, being able to go and sit in the mountains or go out on the lake, and just soak in the artistry that God has created and put in this world, it’s pretty incredible.
PC: Another big inspiration for both of us, especially in the beginning of our journey, was other photographers – just looking at their work and getting to see another perspective. Seeing how someone else views life and views the world around them, and seeing the different angles and uses of light, it was these sorts of things that inspired us to go out and try new things during our shoots.
Rebekah J Murray – http://www.rebekahjmurray.com/
Chris Burkard – http://www.burkardphoto.com/
GHS: What would you say is the purpose of photography?
PC: I think it’s really the same as the purpose for our lives. We know that we exist to bring glory to God and desire to do that through our work. Our objective is to bring peoples’ eyes back to the focus of God and what He’s called us to do and the fact that He’s created a beautiful world for us to live in. Ultimately our goal is to love and honor God first and foremost, and then to really love our clients in practical ways as well as taking their pictures.
Chenoa and I love being able to bless brides and grooms before their wedding. It’s a crazy time of life, and being able to remind them to take time for each other and love each other, whether by going out to coffee together or sending a gift before the wedding, is hugely important to us. We believe that God has intentionally brought them into our lives, so we want to bless them with the work that we do.
CC: I love seeing the passion of people starting out in photography. I think that the biggest advice I would give is to keep practicing more and more. The best way to build confidence is to shoot as often as you can until you can operate your camera without having to think about it. I think once you past that level where you can just take pictures, then you can start to be creative and not have to think about fumbling around with the technical side. It’s definitely worth putting the time in to becoming familiar with your camera.
Do anything you can to learn – take classes, go to workshops, read books, read other photographers’ blogs, ask more established photographers if you can assist them. I have this theory that the greatest photographers are good friends of other great photographers, and I think it’s true that we make each other better.
If you are serious about making this your business, we wouldn’t encourage you to make a habit of doing work for free. That’s one mistake we made at the beginning, and unfortunately it is really hard to break that reputation once it’s established. Not that you can’t choose to take pictures for someone as a gift, but that’s a choice you need to make and not let people just expect that of you. You don’t have to charge a lot at the beginning, but be sure to put some value on your work as you get started.
Lastly, buying an expensive camera won’t qualify you to be a wedding photographer – the experience is really what matters. Weddings only happen once, and there’s no chance to do-over. We’d encourage people to not start shooting weddings right away, but build some experience first. Portrait shoots are great because you can take your time and try again if it doesn’t turn out. At a wedding, however, you have to be prepared for the unexpected and be able to work with extreme time limits that don’t allow much margin for error. We’d encourage beginning wedding photographers to second-shoot first to gain experience, or at least evaluate and make sure that they are prepared for the responsibilities of photographing a wedding.
PC: Definitely social media. We have found a Facebook page to be a huge promotional for our business because it’s such a great avenue for connecting with other people and their friends.
We’ve also found that having professional business cards really helps give a good impression to our potential clients. We use moo.com and highly recommend them!
Ultimately our favorite way of promoting our business has been through client or friend referrals. It’s word of mouth, other people telling their friends about us, and we just find that when we work with past clients’ friends, or friends of friends, we can go into it with a better understanding of who they are. It’s just really fun to work with other peoples’ friends.
GHS: What is one of the greatest challenges you face as photographers?
CC: Learning to be content while still pursuing excellence. It can be so hard not to compare your work or your business’ success with that of other photographers and let that steal your confidence. It is so true that comparison is a thief of joy, and discouragement can get in the way of us doing the best job we possibly can for our clients. So, I’d say choosing to stay focused on learning and growing, and not comparing with everyone else and what they’re doing.
PC: Working in an industry that is very seasonal has been very difficult, especially where we are located. The wedding season is only about 5 months long, and for the rest of the year there is snow on the ground, and not a lot of people get married in the snow. When there is no guarantee that you will have a paycheck, we’ve found that we’ve had to go out and be flexible and be willing to work at different things and take on other opportunities to diversify our income.
PC: I think that the time crunch is extremely challenging. When you’re working with a couple on an engagement shoot, or a family on a portrait shoot, you have a lot of time to be creative and to explore and look for light and different angles. But with wedding photography, you’re working with about 3 hours where you have only so much time for the wedding party, family shots, etc., so being flexible and going into it with a good idea of what you want to come out of the shoot with is key. Chenoa and I like to scout out the location before-hand so that we have a better idea of what we can accomplish with what we have so that less time is wasted and we have more time to be creative.
CC: I think a big thing is being willing to go to Plan B. As much as we love to plan ahead, weddings never, never, ever go according to plan, and that’s ok, that’s part of what we love about them. Being able to adjust to the situation, and still do the best work we can is what’s important. The biggest challenge for me is walking away because we’ve run out of time and didn’t accomplish what was on our checklist and knowing that that’s still ok. It’s not possible at every wedding to get every shot on your list, just do the best job you possibly can do and be able to walk away.
PC: We just have to go into it knowing that we’re not capturing a specific list of images, but rather we’re capturing the day as it unfolds. As long as you walk away with images that accurately display the couples’ day, that’s what you’re there for.
GHS: In looking back over your journey as photographers, what is the greatest take-away for both of you?
CC: I’ve learned that photographs appreciate in value over time. The moments of this life are so fleeting, and sometimes I get caught up in the day-to-day of business and lose sight of the fact that what we do is really important in capturing these moments. Babies don’t stay babies for very long, and a lot of the people that we love might not be with us forever, and so we have to realize that those pictures that we take will mean so much more a year from now, two years from now, especially ten years from now. Those photographs will increase in value as time goes on. We’re not just taking photos for today, we’re taking them for tomorrow.