The elements of a wedding–like the dress, the flowers, the location–come together to express what a couple is all about, and some photographers intuitively understand how to tell that story through images. We recently did flowers for a wedding photographed by Anna Powers, and she is exactly the kind of storyteller I’m talking about. To understand more about her approach to shooting weddings, I asked her a few questions about her background and inspiration, and I’ll share our conversation with you here.

How did you get your start as a photographer?

Before I opened my photography business, I taught English literature and writing on the college level and freelanced as a writer. One of my major projects was creating, a style and shopping blog that I sold to in 2009. Through all of these career transitions, I always considered myself a photographer; it’s the one hobby (besides reading) that I’ve sustained throughout my entire life, starting from my first camera, a Le Clic (remember those, children of the ’80s?) that I bought from the drugstore with Christmas money. After I had my daughter and throttled back on my teaching and writing, friends started noticing my photos of her, and asking me to capture their own families. And thus, a career was born. Photography is actually the perfect alchemy of my love for telling stories, helping people find their voice, and preserving the fleeting moment.

What is it about weddings that you find to be compelling subject matter?

For me, and I think for many photographers, weddings are the ultimate test of our skill set. They are family portraiture, fashion shoot, still life, and documentary all compacted into a few hours, during which the light constantly changes. So from that perspective, I love the challenge; I love knowing that a couple has entrusted me as the collective memory keeper of that day, which is a huge responsibility and honor. But from a more sentimental point of view, there is something so rejuvenating about watching two people step off into the world together, blind to what the future might hold. It’s romantic and terrifying at the same time (sort of like shooting a wedding!).

How does the location impact your approach to photography?

As a photographer who got her start on location, only shooting outdoors in natural light, location is crucial to my style. It shapes the light, making it haze or blaze, and adds depth and character to a shoot. For instance: I’m not going to take a very introverted couple to pose in front of a graffiti wall with harsh sidelight; that’s not their personality, and it would show in their facial expressions and body language. I shot a couple in a secluded grove recently, and it was their perfect fit: quiet, thoughtful, natural, private. And I’ve also had the reverse happen: I’ve had couples request that I take their photos in their favorite bar, which happens to be the place where they first met. So a totally different look, but still perfectly reflective of that particular relationship. Regardless of the couples’ likes and inclinations, I lean toward dramatic, sweeping locations; big, bold backdrops with soft light are my favorite, and I like to think, my signature look.

Do you have certain techniques that help you reveal the bride and groom’s relationship in the photos?

My best technique for capturing the bride and groom’s relationship on camera is simply to listen carefully, and watch closely! I like to meet with my couples before the engagement shoot, to get a feel for their dynamic, and to hear their vision for the shoot. This also provides us a level of comfortability before that first shoot, so I’m not whipping my camera out 5 minutes after we first meet. We do a lot of walking, a lot of chatting, and I often tell very stupid jokes to make myself less nervous! I have my thoughts for where we should stop and take a few shots, but I always ask if the clients have any ideas as well. And I always, always keep my camera ready to capture tender moments that happen before or after ‘the shot.’

What should engaged couples know about your wedding photography that sets you apart?

I have a very definite vision of the world, one which celebrates gorgeous, glowing light; rich colors; the amazing locations we have in Orlando; and the particulars of a couple’s relationship. I know what I like, I know my strengths, and I’m not afraid to shoot to them. And the more time that passes, the more I realize that wedding days—when different generations dance on the same floor, and hundreds of details have been so carefully considered—are so fragile and rare, that they must be treated with the ultimate thoughtfulness and care. As someone who came to this business after another career, I know how lucky I am to be entrusted with such an incredible job, and how hard I have to work to honor each couple whose images I capture.