Love behind the lens: Hope Allison ‘19.5 on the charm and challenges of wedding photography

By MICHAEL FRANK

Since graduating Middlebury in February, Hope Allison has focused her professional efforts on a full time career as a wedding photographer. Her work has brought her all over New England.

Hope Allison ‘19.5 never thought of herself as a romantic. After graduating from Middlebury last February, Allison took on photography as a fulltime career. Operating out of Allston, Massachusetts, Allison launched her ​website and began picking up freelance work. However, her outlook on photography changed when she realized her passion for capturing moments that were emblematic of love and romance: weddings. Since then, she has been specializing in small wedding coverage, shooting receptions and ceremonies across New England and beyond.

“I kind of had an epiphany a couple of summers ago, trying to think about what I wanted to do with my life,” Allison told ​The Campus​. “I realized that I wanted to do photography … I just kept coming back to that.” 

Before graduating, Allison garnered experience in the field, trying out one style after another. While abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, she worked for a travel website, writing and contributing her photography. She took photos for a local boutique and an architecture firm while managing her own projects on the side. As she dabbled in different styles, she reaffirmed her passion for photography.

Allison initially wanted to focus on sparking global change with her work.  “I was thinking, ‘You could be a war photographer, you could photograph the impacts of climate change,’” she said. “I think I had this idea of wedding photography as being kind of superficial. I wanted to do good with my work.”

Then, she looked at the photos her family had digitized of her grandfather’s life. “I saw photographs of my grandmother and grandpa’s wedding, and it kind of clicked for me,” she said. 

After her first few shoots, all doubt was gone. “I actually ended up really loving it,” Allison said. “I realized that naturally I’m a hopeless romantic … I kind of surprised myself. I never thought I’d get into it … But now I’m like ‘just kidding, I love it.’”

As Allison would realize, this new playing field came with a new set of rules. 

“Architecture photography is about photographing things that are staged. And I’m a perfectionist, so it’s great to photograph beautiful, perfect things. But wedding photography is about anticipation and knowing to capture the unexpected always being one step ahead.”

Despite these new sets of challenges, wedding photography also offers its own set of rewards. “It’s always satisfying when you can anticipate the moment and capture it the way that it felt. It feels like a gift to give that to a couple,” she said. Allison explained that she lets events happen as they unfold, capturing big wedding days as they actually were. “If a bride is hugging her grandmother,” she said, “I’m not going to stop it because I don’t have the best lighting.”

As a photographer, Allison pulls back the curtain on one of her clients’ most cherished days.

“The wedding photographer is one of the few people who is with the couple for basically every moment of the day. So when the bride is getting her dress on, it’s her, her mom, her maid of honor, and me.”

The balance between making the imperfect appear immaculate and crafting staged moments that look candid has been its own art form for Allison to master.

“When you’re taking the staged photos of the bride, the groom and their families, it’s kind of hard,” Allison said. “You can’t just say ‘Say cheese!’ You have to work with the crowd and read the room. I’m always saying things like, ‘In your sexiest voice say what you had for breakfast’ to get a natural laugh.”

Having traveled the East Coast for a summer capturing weddings, compiling newlywed blog entries and schmoozing with couples, matrimony has become something of a fixation for Allison.

“I’ve never been the kind of person who dreams of a big wedding. But you go to [12 weddings] in a summer and you can’t help but think about them all the time.”

With a dozen wedding shoots under her belt from the previous summer, Allison is lined up to do 16 more in the coming months. While the outbreak of Covid-19 in New England has shaken the foundation of the wedding photography business, Allison continues to keep the wheels of her work turning. “Right now I’m doing a lot of back-end work — creating pamphlets for the couples and working on [brand] logos.”

Many of her clients that originally scheduled their weddings for this coming summer have decided to shift to smaller alternatives for the time being. However, Allison expects that most will follow through on a complete ceremony once the opportunity arises. For many couples, the event itself is an irresistible part of the experience.

“The whole thing about a wedding day is hope. That’s the thing that’s so energizing about photographing them — it’s so joyful. Why wouldn’t I surround myself with people like this?”

Once the time comes, Hope Allison will be there to capture every moment.