In just about a year, my fiancé will be an attorney (pop that champy!). When he hits an important milestone on his next birthday, he will have managed to squeeze two, full-fledged careers into a decade making him (a) my hero and (b) superman. Even though we’re on two very different career paths, I have a not-so-secret wish to one day work together. I haven’t quite figured out how that will happen, but I suppose that’s the beauty of it. Take Tiffany and Robert — when she decided to pick up a camera, he thought he’d learn Photoshop (um, perfect husband much?) and before they knew it, they had opened shop together as wedding and editorial photographers. They’re ridiculously good at what they do and clearly, make one heck of a team.
NAMES Robert & Tiffany Peterson
LOCATION Atlanta, Georgia
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND Robert | BS Media Communications // Tiffany | BS Early Childhood Education
COMPANY Rustic White Photography
Tell me a bit about your company & how you got started. We certainly didn’t grow up thinking we would be wedding photographers. Tiffany was working in the education field as a pre-school teacher and I was working in the movie industry as a film editor. After our wedding, Tiff was inspired to start shooting photos – mostly families and kids. I picked up Photoshop so I could edit her images, and soon found myself stepping out and shooting alongside her. When the first wedding came our way, we actively tried to scare them off by suggesting a price tag we never thought that they would pay. We had no wedding work to show and had never second-shot at any weddings. They cut us a check on the spot and suddenly it was trial by fire – we had just enrolled ourselves in a crash course on wedding photography.
You can really feel the love between the couples you photograph and sense that they’re completely at ease. As photographers, what do you do to help your clients relax and enjoy having their pictures taken? This is a big one for us because we believe the experience of being photographed is just as important as the final product. The first thing we do to help our clients relax is talk a lot – not because we love our own voices, but because if our clients are listening to us and engaging with what we’re saying then they’re not busy being self-conscious. We share stories, make jokes, and most importantly we stay positive. To capture couples genuinely laughing and enjoying themselves, you need to create an atmosphere that allows them to naturally laugh and enjoy themselves. For us, this is really our favorite part of our job.
Location and weather conditions can be critical to a successful picture. How do you handle these relatively unpredictable factors? A shoot is always easier when we have control over the location and time of day. With many of our regular shoots we can manage these factors, but on wedding days we’re working with a set schedule and usually photographing around other events that are going on that day. So a wedding day is all about being prepared. This is where Tiff shines for us. Once a couple books us, Tiff will send them a questionnaire to gather all pertinent information. She then uses this info sheet to start building a photography timeline for the day. We always try to do this far enough in advance to have some input into the ceremony time. This allows us to really make sure we’ll have the best light possible for the couple’s portraits. We also make sure we scout or do online scouting of a location beforehand. Then we arrive early on the day-of to plan out alternate locations in case the weather changes on us. If a photographer really wants to be successful in the midst of cloud, wind, or rain, the best thing they can do is stay positive and keep a smile on their face. Tricky weather happens and it can be very stressful on a wedding day, but the photographer with a cheerful up-beat spirit and a plan for sheltered spots to keep shooting will be remembered fondly long after the wedding day is over.
As partners in life & business, have you set any rules pertaining to shop talk? We always joke that we went for broke together. We were married and then decided within a year to quit our perspective jobs and to go into business as a couple. Then we just threw a house and our first little one on top of that to keep things entertaining. Managing all of this simultaneously is hands-down the toughest part and the best part of working together. We both say we could never imagine doing this with someone else. The work is in many ways non-stop, but at the same time we love what we do and we get to do it together so it doesn’t really feel like work. But we still have to be able to step away from it all and just connect as a couple now and then too, and with our daughter as a family. If we’ve had a particularly long stretch of workdays one of us will usually call for a day out of the house and away from the computers.
When you photograph a wedding, what does the day look like from behind the lens? Our wedding days are meticulously organized, and this goes back to all of the work Tiff does in advance with our brides. We keep a printed timeline on us at all times, and as we’re shooting Tiff will give me little time warnings, i.e. 10 minutes left, or in 5 minutes we move to the first look. This keeps us on track with everything we need to capture in order to tell a complete story. Tiff is truly the left side of our brain on wedding days. She’ll style the detail shots, make sure everyone is ready for the next shot, and capture the majority of our candid images during portraits. This frees me up to focus on the technical aspects of a great photo as well as the energy of the shoot. Keeping things happy and as free of stress as possible is key to capturing those genuinely relaxed and joyful moments.
Has there been a particular moment where you felt most accomplished and validated in your career together? We’ve experienced a lot of growth as individual artists and as a husband and wife team this year. This is really thanks to our incredible mentors, and to our own ability to take the time to talk with each other and focus on what type of imagery we want to capture, what we want Rustic White to be. Like all creatives we’re the hardest on our own work – I still haven’t captured my favorite image – but we’re so grateful for the wonderful brides we’ve been able to work with and the amazing vendors we’ve been able to team up with. Signing on as the cover photographers for Occasions Magazine was definitely a peak moment for us. We’ve captured their last three covers and also had a number of shoots published in national magazines and on some of the top wedding blogs. We’ve been very fortunate this year!
Let’s travel back in time a few years. What advice would you give yourselves on taking the plunge into entrepreneurship? Take bigger risks. I would still give myself that advice today. When we’re caught up in the moment everything seems so daunting, but few of these things are really as frightening as we make them out to be in our minds. And the greatness that can come from taking risks can be life changing in the best possible way.
Fast-forward five years. Where do you hope to see yourselves and Rustic White Photography? I can give you the bullet points of what we’ve talked about: living in Colorado, two kids, Rustic White is thriving, a small house on some land, home-schooling the kiddos, and spending more time in the great outdoors. It’s a simple dream, but it’s one that continually inspires us.
Cake or Pie? Robert | I genuinely don’t know the last time I had either // Tiffany | Cake
Guilty Pleasure? Robert | Hard Cider // Tiffany | Our daughter’s organic animal crackers
Color vs Black & White? Color
Favorite Corner of the World? Robert | The Rockies // Tiffany | The Mountains
Last book you read? Robert | The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler // Tiffany | The One and Only by Emily Griffin