Wedding Week 2017: Meet Dawn Charles

Wedding Week 2017: Meet Dawn Charles

Hi, Dawn! Tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you interested in pursuing wedding photography?

I was born and raised in Southern California, and recently moved to Oregon with my husband. We just had our first baby and are so in love! I’ve always had an interest in art and have always wanted to pursue a career in a creative field. I took my first photography class in high school, and fell in love. My parents bought me my first camera for graduation and I decided to get my degree in photography. Toward the end of college, I was blessed with an internship with a wedding photographer where I was able to turn my formal education into a practical business. After lots of shadowing, second shooting, and promoting my work, business started coming in and eventually evolved into what it is today!

How would you describe your style? What differentiates your wedding photography style from others?

Candid, documentary, moody, authentic, timeless.

I try to be different than the traditional wedding photography style by capturing the day as it happens and encouraging raw emotion to unfold in front of the camera. I hardly ever stop shooting and focus on capturing the in between moments when most might not be paying attention.

What inspires your photography?

I’m hugely inspired by film. I originally wanted to be a cinematographer or set designer and I always watch movies in awe of the creativity that goes into making them. I’m also inspired by so many other photographers. There is such an amazing community of so many talented artists. I’m honored to get to work alongside and become friends with so many inspiring people.

What are your top 3 tips for wedding photographers?

  1. You’ll attract what you promote so share what you want to shoot more of and eventually your calendar will be full of your ideal style of work.
  2. Use social media to your advantage. Instagram is a huge advertising tool and help your business tremendously if used correctly. Think about your followers as potential clients and post work that entices them to hire you.
  3. Embrace the community of photographers. I’ve never really viewed other photographers as competition, and it’s become a fantastic community to be a part of, that has fostered many friendships. This industry is so much more enjoyable when you have a strong community of like-minded people to lean on.

There’s always so much happening at weddings, but you manage to capture such incredible moments! What’s your process like when you view a scene before you and snap that shot?

The first thing I look for is light. I’m usually looking for backlighting or shade to give that soft, ethereal look. Secondly, I’m looking at the background and how that will work with my subject. Usually I look for a background that isn’t too busy so that my subject is the main focus.

The posing in your photos seem so effortless. How do you capture those moments? Do you have to give suggestions or pose the subjects or does it all come naturally?

I will typically give my clients “instructions” more so than “poses”. Usually I’ll give them an action to carry out and shoot non-stop in order to capture candid, in-between moments. The actions will get more complex throughout the shoot as the subject gets more comfortable. Usually it will start with something like “walk slowly towards me and look at each other” and will progress to something like “run towards me and then pick her up and spin her around”, etc.

What are the 5 items you’d never be caught without while shooting a wedding? 

Besides my regular gear,

HoldFast Money Maker – I shoot with two camera bodies and this camera strap makes it easy to have a camera on each hip, and it makes it more comfortable for your back!

Comfy shoes – being on your feet that long in uncomfortable shoes can make your whole day miserable so comfy shoes are a must!

Back up cards and batteries – I always have way more backup than I need for peace of mind! Weddings can be stressful enough on their own so I always try to be overly prepared with extra gear.

A timeline – I work with brides to create a photo timeline before the wedding. I keep this timeline as the wallpaper on my phone so I can access it easily and make sure everything is on track!

Snacks and water – sometimes we arrive in the morning and don’t get a meal until dinner, so it’s important to have easy snacks on hand so we can be on our A-game!

What’s the most rewarding part about being a wedding photographer?

Being able to experience someone’s most important day right alongside them. I strive to be a friend throughout the process and not just there to take pictures, but to make their day less stressful and more enjoyable. I’m usually holding bouquets, wiping tears, fluffing dresses, fixing hair, and hugging brides before they walk down the aisle. I cherish that part of my job so much and am so honored to be able to play such a huge role in someone’s wedding day!


I’m Dawn Charles, a California girl living in Oregon with my husband and baby girl. I love art, traveling and coffee. I’ve been photographing for 9 years, and a full time wedding photographer for 4. It still blows my mind that I can call this work, and truly believe it is what God created me to do! I love the in between, authentic moments, and couples who are down for adventure!


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