Richard Photo Lab

5 Career-Defining Photos: Michael & Carina

In every photographer's career, there are defining moments. The moments that inspire an evolution in their art. The moments that open new opportunities for their business. The moments that remind them of where they have been and where they are going.

In this blog series, Richard Photo Lab asks film photographers to share the stories behind five frames throughout their career that most embody these moments. Today, photographers Michael & Carina Bethea share their journey, from their style-defining shoot on the coast of Italy to the wedding that reminded them about the importance of real moments.

Photo by Michael & Carina Bethea

Brand editorial shoot for Federica Beni, Offagna, Italy, 2015

This was one of our favorite photos from our summer in Europe. We had traveled to Offagna just to meet one of our biggest inspirations, Federica Beni (already a pretty defining moment, if you ask us). We spent days exploring medieval villages and the cliffs and coasts of the region with Federica. She even introduced Michael to his first glass of wine!

On the day of our shoot at an ancient, privately owned family villa, we discovered this beautiful library that exuded atmosphere. It was dark—very dark—but the little light we found took our breath away. This photograph represented history and romance to us, and went on to inspire our entire brand ever since. 

Photo by Michael & Carina Bethea

Workshop shoot in Italy, 2016

In August of 2016, we found ourselves back in Italy hosting a workshop for photographers that had traveled from across North America and Europe to join us. It was so much work, a huge creative investment, and exhausting. That said, it was also invigorating, energizing, and inspirational!

We learned so much about ourselves and from our attendees through this experience. We developed long-lasting friendships with other creatives,too—something that is really important in building & shaping our careers. Each time we look back on these photographs, we can't help but smile. 

Photo by Michael & Carina Bethea

Chris & Holly's Wedding, April 2017, Charleston SC

This image really exemplifies for us how important it is to still capture real moments at weddings. Yes, curate your work. Yes, direct your clients when and where it is needed. But, we always try to remind ourselves to watch for in between moments—real, unscripted moments. That, ultimately, is what we are there for. To create heirlooms out of memories that would otherwise be lost.

For this image, we had just finished photographing traditional group formals and we were returning with the entire wedding party to the groom's estate. Normally, we wouldn't think to look back; but Carina did that day and captured this beautiful, natural moment in the process. It became one of our favorite wedding party photos of our careers.

Photo by Michael & Carina Bethea

*Private boudoir session for Angela, styled by Emily Tucker, Summer 2018

This shoot represents so much of what we love about creativity and about what sets us apart from others in the "fine art" genre. Having a brand is important, but we hate getting stuck in a rut. We are big believers in loving yourself and body positivity (we may in fact be known to still go skinny dipping from time to time). Having friends/clients that share those opinions and that trust you with their vulnerability is such an honor.

Together with our subject Angela, we created something BOLD and sensual—words not often associated with the "fine art world." It represents our other great love affair in photography: boudoir. It is also a great reminder to push our expectations in this industry and find ways to be innovative that are true to our desires as artists.

Photo by Michael & Carina Bethea

Laura & Connor's Pippin Hill Wedding, Charlottesville, Virginia, August 2018

This wedding represents just how far we've come. This has been our full-time career for eight years as of 2019. We started advertising our services in Germany, putting homemade posters on the local community board in the Post Office (we booked a wedding that way, surprisingly), and after a lot of hard work, we are able to do what we love: photograph incredible clients, work with some of the best professionals (in this case, the incredible Stephanie Bradshaw) in the event industry, and capture some of the most beautiful locations.

From the Hamptons to Charleston, from the rolling hilly vineyards of Virginia to castles in Germany, our experiences the past years have been so incredible. Like the song in our favorite play, Hamilton: 'Look at where we are... look at where we started.' Not a day goes by that we don't count ourselves lucky to be able to do what we love. We can't wait to see what the future has in store.