Why I Came Out of Retirement as a Wedding Photographer

My heart has always been set on helping people since an early age. In 1992, I wanted to do overseas missions, you know, fly planes into remote areas, to the unknown. So, I set my sites on that. That led me to Chicago in the late 90’s where, upon graduation with a degree in Urban Studies which was not flying, but rather a deep love for the city.

Later in life, this went full circle, but in those days, Jenah, Malin (our daughter) and I moved back to Minnesota taking on a pastorate in a small town. The salary wasn’t much, in fact barely enough to live on. To offset that a bit, Jenah who was already a photographer, learning from her dad how to shoot film, was well accomplished. We had this wild idea about shooting weddings to provide a bit more for us. She began teaching me to be a wedding photographer.

I still remember the first wedding we photographed with a borrowed camera and a 50mm lens. I shot staggered group shots at 1.4, half the people were out of focus. Thankfully the bride thought they were artistic. The side gig was great, was something Jenah and I could do together, taking us away from our day jobs. We continued this for the next ten years. Printing books through AdoramaPix and even sending off canvases, brides loved our work, it provided a bit extra for us. As with my love for people, I fell deeply in love with photography.
Eventually, the pastorate fell apart, it wasn’t a fit anymore. At a crossroads, freelance was the only option as I was trying to collect the pieces and figure things out. Continuing with weddings, families, headshots and brand work provided a bit. The freedom was nice. Around that time, I joined Instagram, was amazed at the number of friends I met through the app. The creative community of IG pushed me in a different direction style-wise. Chicago is an amazing city, fell in love with the architecture, sunrises, sunsets, shooting my family. 4 years ago, I met Jason Peterson through a friend, he offered me a job at Havas here in Chicago. Around then, I stopped shooting weddings. A full-time job didn’t provide the time to continue shooting a wedding day.
Chrissy, one day approached me about the potential of shooting her wedding. I was flattered, but a bit apprehensive because it had been a while! I said yes. When the day arrived, it was like riding a bike. There is nothing like sitting back documenting a wedding day.
Of course, the responsibility is huge… I’ve met people who literally had their “Uncle Bob” shoot the wedding because they wouldn’t budget for a proper wedding photographer. Then, complain about it.  With printing, adding the extra expense is well worth it. There is nothing like receiving something tangible from the most important day of your life. For Chrissy, I printed a handful of 4×6’s, ordered a box off Amazon and shown them before she received any digital files. It’s a bit of a throwback, but find that couples respond with amazement when receiving prints. I always include framed prints for the wall. Lately, I’ve been shooting film, scanning and sending off prints. In a digital age, when people receive a print, it’s amazing to watch their expressions filled with amazement and joy.
I’ve officiated countless weddings, counseled couples, but I’ve never felt more comfortable than behind the camera on a wedding day. Chrissy pulled me out of retirement, I’m thankful for that.
adoramapix framed prints
Here is a look at the AdoramaPix framed prints I gave to Chrissy – the final product. Chrissy’s reaction to these framed prints was awesome. She immediately texted her husband photos with her excitement. For me, this is the most rewarding, providing tangible, tactile pieces go a long way in creating memories.

Craig is an AdoramaPix Ambassador,  a Creative Director, Photographer, and Micro-Adventurist. He calls Chicago home and you can follow him around the city and this big land of ours on Instagram at @thecraighensel.