Richard Photo Lab

Richard's Photographer Spotlight: Audra Wrisley

Who better to photograph life's most important moments than your best friend? Well, that's the approach that photographer Audra Wrisley takes—capturing magical moments with the same compassion and dedication that a clients' closest companion would.

Based outside of Washington, DC, Audra has cultivated her passion for analog photography from the darkroom of her college to the fashion photography scene in New York to her studies in Barcelona for art direction. She's sharing how she ended up doing what she swore she never would (shooting weddings!) and why her journey from film to digital and back again has reconnected her with what she loves most about photography, today in Richard Photo Lab's Photog Spotlight!

Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?

Audra Wrisley: I’ve always been a bit of an observer, and I think this is what naturally led me to photography. I love being in nature and connecting with people through the camera, especially since I’m more of an introvert! I fell in love with the freedom of photography, and being able to capture fleeting moments has always felt magical to me. Before I started college, I followed my heart and at the very last minute, decided to change my major from from premed to photography. The darkroom amazed me, and I fell head over heels with the whole process of making photographs.

Photo by Audra Wrisley

R: Making the leap from photography as a personal passion to a paying gig is a big oneŠ... how did you decide to pursue it as a career?

AW: Although I’ve had some killer side-gigs as a nanny, waitress, and everything in between, I’ve had my heart set on photography since the beginning. I feel really lucky to be able to do what I love for my job!

R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?

AW: My husband and I love to travel frequently, and capturing new surroundings is always so inspiring. I also love shooting beauty and editorial work, and I really enjoy collaborating with other creatives on projects.

Photo by Audra Wrisley

R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and being able to pay the bills?

AW: When I graduated with my BFA in photography, I swore I would never photograph a wedding! Fast forward to today, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. Although I think it’s always a challenge to find that balance with creativity and making a living, I try to be selective with my work, and make time for personal projects. Shooting film has given me the freedom to spend more time shooting personal work and traveling, and less time behind my computer, which is amazing!

R: What is your favorite camera and why?

AW: Like many film wedding photographers, I rely heavily on my Contax 645. Its speed, reliability, and incredible Zeiss lens is unmatched. Although I'm sure I'll eventually fall in love with another camera, I wouldn’t dream of using anything else!

R: What's your first memory of shooting with film? Why do you continue to shoot it today?

AW: My very first memory of shooting film is from childhood, when I was finally allowed to borrow my dad’s 35mm Minolta. I fell in love with the process of shooting, and although having to wait to get my photos was torturous (and still is!), the reward when the photos come in felt like Christmas morning! My mom even blew up one of my first photos in a big poster print in my room (in case you’re wondering, it was of a butterfly).

Although I shot quite a bit of film when I was in high school and continued to in undergrad while studying photography (oh the darkroom days!), when I started to work professionally it made sense economically to switch to digital. After a few years of shooting and spending SO much time behind my computer editing, I realized that I had slowly gotten away from what I loved most about photography—being behind the camera and not my computer. Film has many incredible aesthetic qualities, which is why I continue to shoot it, but perhaps the main reason is because it hands down makes me a better photographer. The process of shooting film and having only 16 frames per roll, metering light, and really thinking about each frame has forced me to slow down, absorb a moment, and consciously frame each image with intention.

Photo by Audra Wrisley

R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?

AW: As a film photographer, the lab is such a crucial part of your workflow and has such a huge impact on the final images! Since my digital days, I've cut down immensely on my editing time behind the computer, but that is only possible when the scans I receive in my inbox look exactly like I want them to. Having a Color PAC with Richard has been one of the best investments I’ve made! I love that they ‘get me’—down to those nitty gritty details, like how I like my pinks and greens, and above all, those gorgeous skin tones. Being able to communicate easily and openly with Richard has been crucial to maintaining consistency in my style and my work.

R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?

AW: I'm a little OCD when it comes to prepping for a shoot, particularly when it comes to my gear. The night before, I spend an hour or so getting new batteries for everything, unwrapping film, wiping lenses, getting the MoneyMaker in shape... you name it, it's ready to go. I like to spend the morning of a wedding day or big shoot pretty quietly, with a great cup of coffee and a nice walk with our pup, Garcia.

R: What song/music do you listen to to get pumped up?

AW: I’ve got a pretty eclectic ‘pump-up’ mix! I love a little old school Jay Z, rocking out to Lenny Kravitz, and some great reggaeton is usually what’s on my go-to playlist.

Photo by Audra Wrisley

R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?

AW: Sweet.

R: Chocolate or vanilla?

AW: Chocolate.

R: Dogs or cats?

AW: Dogs.

R: Modern or vintage?

AW: Vintage.

R: Breakfast or Dinner?

AW: Dinner.

R: Warm weather or cold weather?

AW: Hot!

R: Early bird or night owl?

AW: Early bird.

R: Crossword or Sudoku?

AW: Soduko.

R: Batman or Superman?

AW: Let me ask my nephews!

R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?

AW: Historical non-fiction.

R: Comedy or Drama?

AW: Drama.

R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?

AW: I’m kind of an undercover hippie at heart, so I’d love to hang out with plants all day, or have a little shop with handmade natural candles, soaps, & products.

Photo by Audra Wrisley

R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?

AW: I’d love to be invisible! I think as photographers we spend a lot of time as wallflowers, waiting and watching for these amazing moments to happen. Although I love interacting with clients, I’d love to switch a little button and go incognito for awhile!

R: What is your favorite word, and why?

AW: “Gezellig” is a Dutch word I love, and it has no real English translation! My husband is from Amsterdam, and although I'm not the best at speaking Dutch, I'm very slowly learning enough to keep up with conversations. Although it doesn't quite capture it, the best I can explain it is that it's a mixture of cozy, intimate, and fun—imagine a nice backyard dinner with friends with lots of candles and wine. So gezellig!