Weddings have changed. What was traditionally a merry but relatively predictable affair has been transmogrified into an occasion where couples increasingly want to put their stamp on every element of the day. A glance at Pinterest’s most pinned confirms this, with strings of handmade origami cranes, hand-lettered signs and homemade favors consistently trending.
To complete the aesthetic, couples want their wedding artistically documented by not just any photographer, but one who is cognizant of their vision – be it rustic glamor or southern charm – and can snap creative, quirky portraits that look natural and un-posed.
The three entrepreneurs behind George Street Photography were ahead of the game on this.Named after the basement apartment they shared in Chicago after college, Michael McMahon, Tim Muller, and Dan Creviston had all fallen in love with the reportage, photojournalism-style early on.
The old friends – two videographers and one photographer – decided to work together rather than freelance. Over the past decade they’ve quietly built out their brand, allowing brides to quickly source photographers that shoot photos this way.
“I remember looking at books famous photography – take the sailor and the nurse in Times Square, it takes you right back to that moment,” says Creviston. “What people want from their wedding isn’t a lineup of all the people that were there, they want to remember what it felt like on their wedding day.”
“I think that when we realized that we have the same aesthetic and the same vision for storytelling that’s when we started to grow,” he says.
“We quickly decided back then we needed to grow teams because we couldn’t do everything and we needed to do it so we weren’t tripping over ourselves,” says Muller.
The company recruits talent and pays them a flat rate to shoot weddings, while others sort out bookings, editing and prints. Revenue was $20 million last year, up from $12 million the year before and the company’s now active in 40 U.S. cities.
They put this growth down to paying attention to key styles and trends from the very beginning. At first, brides were sending in mood boards made from magazine cutouts as well as faxes of images they’d seen. “We were on Pinterest way before what it is today,” says Muller. “That’s the language of our brides.”
The idea is to give photographers the freedom focus on what they really want to do – take photos rather than get bogged down running a small business. “We never wanted our growth to outpace the quality,” says Muller. “We’re extremely selective in terms of who we work worth – we only take on 1% of who apply.”
“We’ve always treated everyone that works with us as part of the family,” says Creviston. “You have to like them and have to know that they’re good at their job.”
The warm and fuzzy images George Street snaps set the mood for how the three work together. They’re all godfathers to each other’s children and “we all sound and act very similar,” says McMahon.
“Our friendship is how we tackle problems and work with employees,” he says. “Being open and honest in terms of our own strengths and weaknesses as well passions to deliver the best to the client has made the model scalable by default.”
Clients are given a style assessment by a consultant who matches them with a photographer who’ll keep in mind the details, making sure the photos tell a story in unguarded moments rather than staged shots.
Aligning themselves this way has ensured their photos appear on high traffic wedding blogs, as well as prominently on The Knot and WeddingWire. Creviston especially likes to comb the blogs eying new trends.
“The big trend is a very rustic feel to things something that’s very organic and very DIY,” he says. “People want to let their creativity shine.”
The company has been entirely self-funded, with all three seemingly unconcerned about a hardnosed strategy. “I don’t think we sit around talking about profits,” says Muller. “I feel like those things take care of themselves.”
They’re happy to have sacrificed some short-term growth by not taking outside capital. “We do grow every year but it’s been at the right pace – it means we haven’t made large mistakes,” says Muller. “I think about the amount of headaches we’ve saved.”
This article was written by Hollie Slade from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.