Brian Leahy is a Santa Monica-based wedding photographer, specializing in SoCal festivities and destination weddings around the globe. When he's not photographing huge parties, he spends his time lounging at the beach, strolling the Venice boardwalk, and enjoying all the killer weather we've got here in LA.
Everyone has a unique origin story. What’s yours? How did you get into this crazy business?
I first came to LA about 9 years while working part time for a high school and college graduation photography company. I have some family here in town but had never really been to LA before, so I immediately called them up to let them know I was in town for 24 hours. After getting shown around by my aunt, she introduced me to a good friend of hers who happened to be a food photographer in Culver City. I moved to the Palisades just a few weeks later and begin working in Culver. While I was only supposed to be here for three months, after only two weeks I knew I could never go back to Arizona, there was just way too many exciting things happening here! I basically photographed anything and everything people were willing to pay (or more often not pay lol) me for. I was literally photographing dogs, families, mitzvah's, weddings, Hollywood night clubs, you name it. After a few years of trying my hand at such a wide variety of specialties, I realized how much I loved photographing weddings (who doesn't look going to a huge party every weekend!), and about 6 years ago I cut out everything else to fully concentrate on weddings. I now shoot about 25 weddings per year, about half in Southern California, the other half destination weddings across the country and world.
What’s been your biggest source of inspiration? What was it like winning ‘Best Wedding Photographer’ two years in a row?
My biggest inspiration has actually been my couples. Having not grown up around photography, I’ve never really had any famous photographer crushes to stalk, and have found that people and the moments they create are my biggest source of inspiration. Weddings are such crazy things with so many moving parts, the massive number of fleeting moments of emotion and joy is insane. I love the challenge of heightened intuition to anticipate those moments before they ever happen, from a bride randomly bursting into tears when she steps into her dress to the sheer madness of a crowd of people singing their faces off during the last song of the night.
Winning Best Wedding Photographer in LA two years in a row has been such an incredible honor. Each year the top four write-in vendors in each category are put to a vote, but the only folks who can vote are verified local wedding industry folks. Winning this award is more than just the title, it’s actually a huge compliment from my peers.
What are your favorite kinds of subjects to photograph?
I don’t really advertise it, but I do shoot some fashion & editorial work on the side, and I LOVE shooting with models. It’s just such a different experience from working with wedding couples where I’m doing a ton of directing throughout the day. Professional models are so amazing at what they do and I always feel a little guilty that I don’t have to do much work to get some incredible photos lol. It’s also really fantastic working with pro models as I will often photograph them doing poses that might translate really well to bridal and will try to incorporate that into my wedding day workflow.
What’s been your favorite project to work on?
I’m a HUGE traveler and am now doing a significant amount of work outside of California. Combining work and travel has always been the goal and now I’ve got the opportunity for some really fun shoots, including recent gigs in Bali and Iceland. I’m actually in the midst of planning a fairly ambitious project, a European Wedding Takeover in summer of 2018 where I’m aiming to photograph 5 weddings, in 5 weeks, in 5 different European countries. So, I’m looking for some awesome couples who are considering getting married in Europe next summer!
How many weddings have you been to? If you plan on getting married one day, what would you do differently given that you’ve been to so many?
I’ve actually only attended a handful of weddings, mostly for family and a few close friends. One day when I do get married, I’m fully planning on doing a smaller destination wedding somewhere decently remote. Having shot many destination weddings now, I really love the vibe and energy of having all your guests with you for an entire weekend of activities. Single day, local weddings pass by so quick and often times our newly married couple really doesn’t have time to hang with everyone in attendance.
What’s your worst finding a location horror story?
I was hired years ago to photograph a marriage proposal in the hills of Hollywood. I was working in conjunction with a planner who was helping the groom with his planning for the proposal, and this planner had found a beautiful private estate property that looked perfect for what we needed. The planner forwarded me some images of the home to get my opinion on shooting spots and based on the photos we came up with a plan to make it happen. Fast forward a couple weeks and we all (except for our bride-to-be), showed up to the home, only to be incredibly disappointed when we saw the sad state of the property. Not only had the venue owners uploaded super old photos on the venue website, but the home itself was in pretty bad disrepair and had clearly not been taken care of in years. We made the best of what we had to work with and still managed to get some great images (she said yes), but those kinds of surprises are never pleasant on event day!
What do you like the most about Wrapal?
I love the absolutely user-friendly navigation of Wrapal. If you’re just looking to browse it’s a piece of cake to look around your city to see what broad offerings there are. For my personal searches, having the ability to get super granular in my search, basing the search results on number of rooms, location, price, square footage etc. When researching locations for my editorial work, I often times have a pretty good idea of what I’m looking for and having the ability to drill down the advanced search in Wrapal makes my life SO much easier.
You share the same name as our co-founder. Have you noticed all Brians sharing anything in common?
I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever met a Brian that I didn’t like (except for those guys that spell it with a “y”, so weird ;)). Most Brian’s I’ve met tend to be super fun and very outgoing, never shy to chat with a stranger. Co-founder Brian and I actually met sitting next to each other on a flight to Cuba recently. After hearing each other speak about photography, we stuck up a conversation and here we are now!
If you had all the money in the world, describe your dream equipment bag.
Oh now that’s a good question… While I’ve grown up in this business only shooting digital 35mm, I think I’d really love to have some of the amazing medium format digitals like a Mamiya or Hasselblad sitting in my bag. I’ve worked some product photographers who use these beastly cameras and the quality coming out of them is amazing. I’ve recently gotten into some drone work as well and would love to play around with the DJI Inspire 2, that thing is awesome!
*Click* *Click* That's the sound of some great photographers at work! The Wrapal Blog has many other interviews with talented creatives if you need your fix of creative inspiration! And as always go to Wrapal.com for your film and photo location needs!