Brett Butterstein is a photographer’s photographer. Calm, kind and unobtrusive, he is a brilliant teacher and consistently award-winning artist, who is adored by the couples he works with and sought-after by the leading curators of wedding photography. We’re thrilled to have him the Junebug community of the World’s Best Wedding Photographers and delighted to share his images and his insights with you here today. Read on, and see why Brett Butterstein’s work stands out from the crowd.
Blair: How did you get into wedding photography?
Brett: I was a newspaper photographer for several years, and I was looking for a more rewarding avenue for my photography.
In my early 30’s I worked with my friend, Ben Chrisman, at a very small newspaper in New Mexico. We consistently pushed each other to do our best work. I went on to shoot for the AP as a contract photographer, but it was that experience of shooting daily news assignments with Ben that really made me the photographer I am today. When I started my wedding photography business in 2005, it was a tipping point in the industry where you could make it as an artist and not have to shoot boring, traditional wedding photos and I was ready for that.
Blair: What is your favorite moment or tradition at weddings?
Brett: I really love the getting ready pictures when the couple is surrounded by the most important people in their lives and the emotions start setting in.
I also love the Hora dance at Jewish weddings, the crazier the better. It’s hard to beat that energy and level of celebration. It always gives me a permanent grin.
Blair: What really gets touches your heart at weddings? Makes you laugh or makes you cry?
Brett: I cry during ceremonies, but it’s usually speeches that get to me the most. I laugh all day, even if people are stressed. I try to be a calming force.
Blair: What are your favorite local wedding locations?
Brett: Obviously San Diego has many beautiful wedding venues. I tend to like the ones in La Jolla like Scripps Seaside Forum which is right on the beach. Also, the Valencia Hotel, which has a retro Hollywood feel.
Blair: What are your favorite destinations locations?
Brett: I love places like San Miguel De Allende and Oaxaca in Mexico where there is a passionate culture and an unbelievable beauty about everything. I’ll be shooting a wedding in Mexico during the Day of the Dead weekend this year, and I can’t wait to capture the depth of cultural traditions and parties that will be part of it.
Blair: How would you describe your wedding photography style in 6 adjectives or less?
Brett: Fun, real, atmospheric, vibrant, photojournalistic and pretty
Blair: Do you have a tip or two for couples who are looking for their perfect wedding photographer?
Brett: Some of the best wedding photographers in the world are not people you would want to spend one of the best days of your life with. Make sure you connect with who you hire and beware of egos. Look at several of their client websites to see full weddings and determine whether or not they are consistent. If you want great pictures, you will probably have to spend a little extra money on your photography. But it will be worth it.
Blair: A tip or two for couples on how to look amazing and feel comfortable in their photographs?
Brett: Be happy. A simple smile can make a good photo great. Forget about the camera and be yourself.
Blair: What do you think every bride and groom should know before their wedding?
Brett: Have fun, don’t over think everything and be willing to let go of certain expectations. Make sure you have time during the best light of the day for your couples' portraits. If this is impossible, consider a day-after portrait shoot.
Blair: How has being a wedding photographer made you a stronger photographer over all?
Brett: It’s made me much more technically proficient with light, both natural and artificial, and has catapulted my portraiture abilities.
Blair: When it comes to other artists in the wedding field, who do you adore working with right now?
Brett: Guadalupe Alvarez of Penzi Events, Ben and Erin Chrisman of Chrisman Studios, Huy Nguyen of Fearless Photographers, Ken Liu of Renaissance Albums and web developer Kristin Falkner.
Blair: What gets you up in the morning?
Brett: My two boys, who are eight and nine years old. Being with them before they go to school is always a great start to my day.
Blair: Who are the photographers who have influenced you most?
Brett: I’ve been exploring fine art and fashion photographers a lot lately but here are some early influences: Alex Webb, James Nachtwey, Balazs Gardi, David Alan Harvey and Sally Mann.
Blair: Is there something you would like to share that has inspired you recently?
Brett: Yes, Pinterest and Instagram. Pinterest is like visiting art galleries and helps me think of fresh and innovative ways of approaching portraits. Instagram has helped me fall back in love with snapshots and motivated me to shoot more every day. I am always trying to open my mind to new visual ideas and not get stuck in a rut.
Blair: What are you looking forward to most right now?
Brett: Later this year I’ll be teaching at workshops in San Diego, Spain and Brazil. Teaching has become a big part of my life and every year the number of engagements grows. I love teaching at the Foundation Workshops because they are intimate and rewarding and the assignments are really interesting.
I am a laid back and unobtrusive wedding photographer, and am touched by the constant support and attention of my peers and experts in the industry. It's always flattering to have couples connect with my work and trust me to shoot their wedding.
Thank you so much for your time Brett, it was a great to get a chance to talk with you!
To learn more about Brett Butterstein and his photography, be sure to visit his website, blog and Junebug Member Brochure.
And for more interviews with the incredible members of our World’s Best Wedding Photographers Hotlist, don't miss our Photographer Spotlight Archive!