Rochester native Liz Banfieldrecently earned distinction by Harper's Bazaar as one of the nation's top wedding photographers.
On its site, harpersbazaar.com, the magazine named Liz to an exclusive list. Nineteen photographers were featured, and Banfield is the only one based in the Midwest. (She is based out of Minneapolis.)
Banfield has been a full-time photographer since 1998, and in that time, has captured national attention since her first placement in Martha Stewart Weddings in 2001. Since then, her work has been published in Martha Stewart Living, Parenting, Real Simple Family, Worth and other publications.
She's shot some noteworthy weddings and has won the prestigious Photo District News "Top Knots" photography contest.
Banfield says her signature aesthetic is real moments with a timeless cinematic quality. Shooting 12 weddings a year may not sound like a lot, but it is the perfect amount for her.
"Some years, I've done more," she said. "The most I've ever done was 19, and that was too much. I value quality over quantity, and the weddings that I get hired for tend to be not only traveling weddings, but also multiday affairs, and with the traveling days bookending that, it can be a four- or five-day commitment, and the post production is a lot of work.
"I also combine my career with other types of assignments, so it's about at the max where it can be," Banfield said. "From the very beginning of my career wanted to be careful about burnout. It's a very emotional and physically exhausting assignment, so you just have to be careful — I won't do more than three weekends in a row, even in June. I don't think it would be fair to the client on that fourth week because I would be emotionally tapped out."
I asked if there is a perfect moment she always tries to capture at each wedding. "That 'moment' can vary based on the wedding because there are so many factors for what is emotionally significant to that wedding or when the light is so crazy beautiful," Banfield said. "I'll say as a rule I really love things that are in motion, so things like the first dance are very inspiring to me … but it depends on the wedding.
"I tend to seek out things that are happening that aren't staged," she said. "Sometimes when I'm taking group photos, I'll say OK we got it, and then everyone relaxes and then I keep shooting. You can catch when people let their guard down a little."
Banfield went to Grinnell College, in Iowa, where she earned a liberal arts degree and majored in art, but she never thought of photography as a career path.
"I'd always been interested in art," she said. "My mother was an artist, my grandmother was an artist, I was raised with a great appreciation for art. It was part of who I was, but I just didn't see it as part of my career or my future until I was just all of the sudden doing it."
Banfield started taking pictures at age 11 and learned to develop film at Willow Creek Middle School.
"One of the science teachers that was also charge of the yearbook taught me how to develop and print my own film," she said. "That is when I really started doing it as a hobby a little more seriously, and I did shoot for the yearbook and for friends and family all throughout junior high, high school, and college, but Grinnell didn't even have a photography class, and to be quite honest, I never considered it a career track."
Banfield left college for a career in advertising and worked for six years at the Fallon agency in Minneapolis.
"Everyone assumed I followed my dreams and became a photographer, but it was never my dream," she said. "In a backwards way I've been preparing for it my whole life, and what happened when I worked at Fallon were a couple things: I met all these amazing photographers and that was really inspiring. I'd never really had role models of photographers that I could visualize being.
"Portrait photography really changed around the mid-'90s," she said. "I happened to be surrounded by people getting married, and they would see pictures that I took and would say to me, 'I don't want a wedding photographer, I want that.'"
For more on Liz and to see her work, check out www.lizbanfield.com.