Sean and Melanie, based out of Western Washington State, have been photographing weddings locally and internationally for many years. It all started when Sean took Melanie on a wedding in New Orleans as a second shooter (although she had never used a camera before), because the person who was supposed to assist him had to cancel. After a quick lesson of how the camera works and setting it to Aperture priority on a 5d with a 24-70mm lens, he just told her to pretend it is a big iPhone. Melanie was fearless and got right into the mix. Several of her photos from the wedding were published in a magazine. That was in 2012, and now 7 years later they are working full-time together. Most of their days are spent chasing their toddler around the house, responding to emails, and doing post-production in the evenings. It isn’t conventional, but it works for them.
A huge thank you to Sean for taking the time to answer our questions.
How did the name A Fist Full of Bolts come about? What does it represent?
After Melanie and I joined forces, I wanted to rebrand. I closed my photography business and we opened A Fist Full of Bolts. Which we are co-founders. Because light is the most important element of photography, the hand holding the light represents that we are light chasers.
After being in business for 14 years, how have you observed the wedding photography industry change? What has kept consistent?
It has changed a lot. Photography is more accessible than ever and photography education is readily available for anyone who is looking for it. This has bred a new wave of wedding photographers. Wedding photography is the easiest photography arena to enter, because most clients have never hired a professional before they don’t know exactly what to look for. What I see now is there are more “wedding photographers” than ever. And what this means to be sustainable is one has to really try to separate from the market in anyway they can.
How do you keep yourselves freshly inspired and excited for the upcoming wedding season?
For me, this comes easy. I’m always chasing a better picture. I always want to be better and do better. I think when I lose that drive I’ll quit.
“We let the things in our life that make our hearts beat become the wind in our sail” is stated on your website. Can you expand on how your life experiences influence your photography?
Yeah, that’s an original quote. It means we try to do inspiring things. It’s important to us to do what we love and we hope that momentum carries us. Life is wild, nobody has the exact same life experiences. I think everyone has their own unique vision, the problem is that a lot of people alter their vision for trends and become less themselves because of it. It’s so important to shut of the noise, trust yourself, and to be you, because the beautiful thing about it is, there is only one you. So be you fully.
Working together as a couple, are there times when you need to compromise your creative point-of-view in order to maintain harmony and consistency in your work? If so, how do you handle it?
Not at all. I think us having different perspectives has made us more dynamic.
Your love for black and white photos stands out in your portfolio. How do these images better express what you aim to convey?
I think it is much more difficult to have a successful black and white image than a color image. You strip away a very powerful element from and image so it has to shine by tone, composition, and feeling. Its a challenge, but it’s worth it.
In addition to your digital photography work, you also produce stunning images using film. What are the qualities of film that draw you to pick up your analog cameras?
What I love about film is feeling more connected to the moment. I know I’m not going to see what I made for weeks. And obviously film is more beautiful, it just is.
On your personal travels, what do you love to photograph the most? How do your travels influence your creativity?
We travel A LOT. But I wouldn’t say any of it is personal, it’s always for work. On occasion we will take an extra day somewhere, but now that we have kids we just want to get home to see them. We aren’t as nimble as we used to be. That said, we feel more inspired by a place we haven’t been before just because it’s new. I think that helps with curiosity of a scene.
What advice do you have for photographers who are new to the wedding industry?
If you want success. It isn’t going to happen overnight. It’t like push-ups. You can’t read about push- ups and get the benefits from them, you have to do the work. There are no shortcuts.