Courtney Lee is an unconventional, film-focused destination wedding photographer. She strives to create inspired, playful and elevated photos for the couples she works with. Courtney Lee is based in the Midwest of the United States and travels worldwide to capture weddings.
Tell us about Courtney Lee Photography!
I am a film-focused, destination wedding photographer based in the Midwest of the United States. I started photographing weddings during my time studying filmmaking at university. My falling in love with the craft came unexpectedly despite its basis in visual storytelling which is inherent in cinema, and I started my business right out of school in 2015. I continue to be driven by a love for human connection, trying to capture an essence of the energy between us and our surroundings, and a desire to honor the ephemeralness of each moment. I am a photographer for those who seek a sense of life in their images, those who want to be documented candidly as they are, and for those who want to create a curated, elevated, and immersive experience for their wedding day.
What would you like couples to know about you?
I am an unconventional film-focused wedding photographer. I strive to create inspired, playful, elevated, timeless, cinematic, nostalgic, curious photos for the couples I work with. I want your photos to feel lived in like family photos and intentional like art.
For us to be harmonious, I think it’s important that the couples I work with desire a photographer who is personable- not pushy, who wants the day to be about being immersed in the feelings vs. stuck on the timeline, and that they want someone they are excited to put their trust in. I find that this is how we best stay positively connected, and capture the magic.
Where are you based?
I am based in the midwest of the United States.
Do you travel for weddings?
Yes! I travel for most weddings, and I really enjoy getting to photograph in new locations with a fresh eye.
How would you describe your style?
I describe my style of wedding photography as combining a documentarian approach with a cinematic and editorial eye. I photograph candid moments in ways that feel honest, energetic and refined, while approaching portraits in a way that feels fluid, natural, and fun. My personal taste is what guides my style. My background in filmmaking, and love for cinema is a big influence on me. I’m inspired by cinéma vérité, and most in love with neorealism and French new wave movements, as well as avant-garde filmmakers like Maya Deren.
What is your most memorable career moment?
Honestly, every wedding is memorable with its nuance, but I’ll always treasure my first wedding far away from home. The feeling of arriving in cities and towns that aren’t my day-to-day experience, often places I’ve never been before, excites my senses, and lights up my spirit. I love that I get to bring a fresh perspective and a genuine curiosity to the places where I’m shooting.
What inspires you?
I’m most inspired by life-itself, and celebrating its beauty and complexities. I’m inspired by the richness of my personal relationships, the grief I’ve experienced, the landscapes of places I love, such as Sicily, where my husband’s family is from, language (I’ve studied French and Italian), the enigmatic beauty of film, and the unique ability of movies, with all the art forms it takes to make them, to make us feel something.
What motivates you to do what you do?
My motivation for being a wedding photographer is rooted in my amazement and love of human connection. I believe that we need each other in a beautiful, vulnerable, and thus deep way. I cherish being able to speak to and honor what it means to be together and to love each other.
How would you describe your working style?
My personality is naturally relaxed and thoughtful. As a part of the experience of working together, I want to embody a sense of calm, ease, and flow. I believe that if we are communicative and collaborative during the planning process, that we will feel peace of mind on the weekend of the wedding, knowing that we are in-sync.
My best work is done when there is trust, and I am able to be observant and curious throughout the day. While this documentarian approach often commands a quiet and gentle demeanor, I’m also a companion who enjoys being supportive to couples and engaging with guests. This allows me to become a part of the whole, and to capture people as themselves, having a genuine and unabashed good time.
Leading up to the wedding, I value staying connected either with planners, couples or both, and making sure that we have the important details ironed out.
During the wedding weekend, I work like a trusted friend. I’m present, curious, and have your best interest at heart.
Do you shoot digitally, on film or both?
I shoot a combination of film and digital photos. I believe that both mediums have their strengths, but I am partial to film.
Do you have custom packages according to individual needs?
I have a starting package that I’ve designed based on what I feel is the best starting place for any wedding day. From there, I work with couples and planners to curate a bespoke experience.
What is a favourite product or service that you offer and why?
I really believe in the impalpable magic of film. It is ethereal, yet grounded in material and process. Film is nostalgic, elevated, timeless, playful. It is dynamic and limiting in ways that forces photographers to stretch and explore. While I’m proud to offer thoughtful service, dedication, and a deep care for my art- I really just feel so lucky to be able to provide film photography for those who wish to be seen through that medium.
Where would you love to travel to for work?
Through my husband, I have family in Italy who we cherish spending time with each year. This part of the world has become dear to my heart, and I would love the opportunity to photograph weddings throughout the year there and in other parts of Europe.
Who is your dream client?
The greatest pleasure is working with couples who know themselves, have a loving energy between them, and who wish to be immersed in their wedding day. For me, these are really essential. Icing on the cake is photographing for those who care about the style and approach in which their day is captured, who are looking for an artful photographer, and those who appreciate film. The cherry on top then is getting to documenting celebrations that are curated, and conceptual, with elevated details. Ones that strive to bring people together for a connected and memorable experience.
What is your advice to couples getting married?
Dream up your wedding day/weekend by envisioning it together. How would you like to start the day and how will it flow from there? I’m not saying to create your day-of timeline, but to really dream about it as if you were thinking about an upcoming vacation that you’re looking forward to. How do you see yourselves, what are you doing, etc. Then, hire the vendors that will support you in this vision, and help you bring it to life. A planner is a great place to start. Once you have a team of people whose work you love and who you feel you can wholeheartedly trust, the ability to truly enjoy and feel present on your wedding day has the greatest chance of falling into place.