March 01, 2010 — A bride on her wedding day is pictured to be the most blissful, relaxed woman, set to marry the love of her life.
But underneath that veil, the most stressful questions are circulating in her mind. Have the caterers arrived? Does the band have the right song cued for the first dance? But one question she doesn’t have to ask herself is if the photographers are capturing each moment—not if she’s booked LCD Photography and Videography Studio to do her wedding.
Clients can always depend on LCD to provide quality of product and services. It’s the promise that husband-and-wife team Lauren Petrella and David Cartee founded the studio on seven years ago. “Our goal is to always create the best possible image that we can,” says David. Lauren adds, “To continue connecting with our clients, fully understanding and knowing what they want, and always trying to exceed their expectations.”
LCD is an acronym made up of Lauren and David and David’s last name (Lauren made a childhood promise to her father to never take a boy’s name!) to create Lauren Cartee David Photography. The high school sweethearts set up home base in Mentor, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland) and have worked the wedding scene from New York to Spain to India to California. Their staff of photographers, videographer and graphic artist includes David’s sister and brother-in-law who have helped contribute to the success of LCD from the beginning.
A Familial Bond
At LCD nothing could be better than having family working together. “If we have multiple weddings in a day it reduces the stress factor because I know my sister is going to be there,” says David. “I don’t have to worry about the quality of the work.” Regarding his wife, he says, “I’m working with the person I love most in the world.” Lauren says, “I’m comfortable with David. I know if I didn’t get the shot, he got it. I can just look at him across the room and know where he wants me to be and what he wants me to do.”
For Lauren, David is more than a husband and coworker; she credits him with mentoring her in the field and honing her skills as a photographer. Before LCD, Lauren owned a small boutique in which she created and sold a line of cosmetics. But her relationship with David took her down a path she hadn’t considered before. “I helped him at weddings and I’d find it rewarding when I saw how excited clients got [about his work]. I continued learning from him until I got the confidence to go out by myself.” Years later she still reads articles and books to enhance her skills and has fallen in love with the art as much as David has.
For David, there’s been nothing but photography. He remembers the days before LCD—working mundane jobs where he couldn’t concentrate on the tasks at hand because his mind was focused on getting back behind a camera. He also worked with different photographers and studios shooting wedding videos, but dreamed of having his studio one day. In order to live out that dream, he followed his heart and married Lauren, and opened LCD a year later. “I’ve got the best job in the world,” says David. “There’s nothing I’ve wanted to do more than be a photographer. We really love what we do here and are fortunate we can do it all the time.”
Catering to the Clientele
Business was decent the first year the studio was open. But after Lauren and David employed new marketing tactics, their studio went from decent to overwhelming with more than 140 weddings in a year! The first tactic they used to boost business was giving great quality with low prices. Next, they reached out to the wedding circuit. “About three or four years ago we did a commercial piece that we made ourselves and sent [it] out to wedding coordinators all around the world and they’d contact us to do weddings,” says David. However, a large volume of the clientele came from referrals. “We’d do weddings for brides who’d now live in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles and they’d come back home [to Ohio] to have their weddings. They’d go back and show their friends in those areas who would then want to use us.”
David says the staff had to work 80-hour weeks to keep up with the overflow of weddings. While this may sound ideal financially, it was conflicting with their goals. They wanted to assure the same quality of photos for every client without rushing the work. Still wanting to keep their staff at an intimate size, Lauren says they opted to consign a limited number of weddings each year. David says, “We wanted to focus on the art and not just the business.”
Last summer they set their focus on the now-married Ashley and Rob Dascoli (see right, and top right, pg. 88). Typically when hired by a couple, LCD hosts a free engagement session that allows the couple and the photographers to become acquainted and creates a level of comfort for the wedding day. The Dascolis decided to forgo this part, feeling immediately comfortable with David and Lauren. Their intuition was proven right on the big day. “He wasn’t doing typical wedding shots. It was more fashionable,” Ashley says. “They were so skilled and [David] was so confident. He was with us from the time I was getting ready until the night ended. I didn’t have to think about what to do because he was doing it all.”
The duo believes that stepping out of their role as photographers helps to snag the right shots. “If a bride needs water or help carrying her flowers and no one else is around to help her, we jump right in to do it,” says David. “What that does is get the bride into a comfort zone. If you help to relieve the stress, it helps you get your images.”
David finds that many brides he talks to want photojournalism-style pictures. “True photojournalism style is to not talk to them at all,” David explains. “But at the shoot they want some kind of direction.” He compromises by giving direction when needed, but focusing on the natural shot. He says he uses a long lens and waits for the moment to unfold. “Not being right up in their faces gives them that natural feel. You can see the way they’re interacting and talking and they don’t feel like you’re right on top of them taking pictures.”
LCD photographers are usually hired as a pair, which is recommended to get more images and angles. Plus, there’s plenty of equipment on-hand. In their photographer’s bag there are two sets of cameras and flashers including two Nikon D700s, SB800 Speedlights, a Lowel id-light, and lenses (50mm f/1.4, 24–70mm f/2.8 and 70–200mm f/2.8). “We use as much natural light as possible,” says David. And if they have to use flash, he says they never have them directly aimed at their subjects. “Lighting is the key
After the wedding, LCD hosts a champagne party for the newlyweds and a few of their friends and family members. While sipping champagne, the party sits with LCD’s graphic artist and views the images on a 60-inch flat screen TV as they decide on the 60 images they’d like in their album. Each album is specialized for the couple so that no album is ever alike. LCD outsources album design to Capri Album Company, which offers a variety of papers and covers.
Another unique feature that LCD offers is its blog site, which hosts “The Society,” a link through which brides and grooms can check out everything from cake recipes, florist shops, the newest trends and tips for creating a dream wedding.
Wisdom with Age
Over the seven years LCD has been operating Lauren and David have gotten about as much out of weddings as they have put into them. It’s brought them closer as husband and wife. “When I’m [photographing] in a church and I hear a minister or a father speak, it reminds me of my vows. It’s special,” says Lauren. “It’s great knowing I have David, and it makes me miss him when I’m not working with him.”
It has helped them grow as entrepreneurs. “David has grown not only as an artist, but also as a business owner,” Lauren says. “He has realized that in order to run a successful studio it takes more than just beautiful images. There needs to be a balance between your art and your business.”
And it has helped them grow as artists. “David will never be satisfied with his images because he is always passionate about the next great photo that may be taken.”
David says the lesson he’s learned and passes on to other photographers is to always strive to do better. “From the best to the worst photographer, you can learn from just watching them. The minute you think you know everything, that’s when you’re going to stop being creative as a photographer. Never become complacent.”
Visit David and Lauren’s Web site: www.lcdphotography.com.
Tiana Kennell is a Detroit-based freelance journalist. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2005 and has since contributed to various publications including African American Family Magazine and www.michiganhiphop.com.