polaroid photography vegas desert

That incredibly dreamy, fantasy based forest photo above? It was taken by Gaby J, a contributor to Little Vegas Wedding from the early days.

I remember seeing her photos and just thinking “these are so great – there’s something different about them…” but not being able to describe what that was. Turns out, it was partly because many of the photos I was looking at were not the usual digital pictures I’m used to staring at, they were actually taken with a film camera! It’s such a rarity these days, I think the photos really stand out.

In her work featured on LVW, I think one of my favorites has to be this downtown Vegas retro wedding, where the bridesmaids wore dresses from ModCloth and the prints – both photo and fashion – looked fabulous. You can see a few more weddings by her as well, including a modern mansion ceremony and a sea-inspired lakeside wedding. And get this – every one was shot with film.

Today in an interview, Gaby talks a little bit about what it’s like to love the desert, specialize in film cameras, if she she’s a coffee or tea lady and what it was like on Polaroid lover’s Black Friday – the day they stopped making instant film!

gaby j
Gaby J (self portrait)

For those readers out there who may not know who you are, please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your photography business.

I’m Gaby J, a wedding photographer out here in Las Vegas, NV. I started my business late 2010 in a city where people fly into Las Vegas to just get married by Elvis at a fun but cheesy chapel. That being said, it’s hard to establish yourself here in the wedding business when people are constantly traveling in and out of your city forgetting there’s life with gorgeous sceneries outside of the Vegas strip.

One thing that sets me apart from wedding photographers out here is shooting my sessions with film cameras and not digital. When people ask me why film and not digital I usually say there’s a beauty to film that digital cannot emulate no matter how much time you spend on Photoshop. there’s just no comparison in my opinion. I also like to throw in that I was born in the wrong era haha!

Are you originally from Las Vegas?

I’m not originally from Las Vegas. Growing up I was a navy brat and was able to live in absolutely exquisite islands with nothing but perfect weather all year round and somehow ended up in the desert. I’ve been here about 16 years now. I’ve grown to fall in love with the desert and it’s wonderful vast sceneries. I feel like people who live here don’t realize there’s so much beauty in nature that surrounds them and just get caught up in the city life.

How many years have you been in business and did you get into photography?

I got into photography as soon as my mom gave me a 35mm point and shoot camera when I was around 10 years old. I loved that camera and I still have it till this day. I took several photo classes in high school but didn’t become serious about until college when I realized, HEY I can make a career out of something I adore doing!

In five or less words, how would you best describe your shooting style?

In four words I can describe my shooting style as natural, airy, timeless, and dreamy. However, there are times where I just want to shoot everything dark, moody, and haunting. I blame it on my indecisiveness.

What were you doing before you got into photography?

Before I became serious about photography, I was a stay at home mom. I loved it and wanted to do it forever but of course, you cannot survive on kisses and cuddles unfortunately.

What is your preferred way to work with clients – email, in person, telephone?

My preferred way to work with my clients is through email and phone on account of many of my clients being from out of town and overseas!

polaroid photography vegas desert

Do you have a favorite part of the wedding day to photograph?

My favorite part of the wedding day is when I’m able to be with the bride and groom for an hour or less just taking intimate photos away from their party. When it’s just the two of them, (besides me and my assistant) they’re more relaxed and oh-so-cute with each other.

What do you find inspiring these days?

These days my inspiration comes from Tumblr, Flickr, wedding blogs and of course Pinterest {Gaby’s Pinterest}. I spend quite some time just daydreaming of planning my own wedding ;)

polaroid photography vegas desert

polaroid photography vegas desert

You like to work a lot with film – which I LOVE! Can you tell us a little about the challenges and surprises you have from working with that? 

Mostly, film is so scarce… I cannot find it anywhere in Las Vegas, not even in the two professional camera shops we have here. It kind of scares me that film might be obsolete in a few years. You should have seen me back in 2006 when polaroid discontinued… I was SO DEVASTATED! {editor’s note: me too!}

When I let my clients know I shoot the majority of weddings with film, they sort of shun away from the idea of even hiring me. But I know they personally contacted me to photograph their wedding because they liked the photos they saw on my website. When I let them know every single photo on my page was shot with film and not digital and absolutely zero editing involved they’re surprised and are way more understanding…

succulent wedding bouquet vegasgabyj_interview008

You don’t have to divulge any trade secrets, but do you have any favorite outdoor location for portraits?

Some of my favorite outdoor locations for photos are Red Rock, Floyd Lamb Park, any desert filled with joshua trees (you’ll see them a lot in my photos) and abandoned houses which is completely unsafe but beautiful at the same time. In all honesty, anywhere away from city life is my favorite place to shoot at.

polaroid photography vegas desert

What is the one thing you wish couples wedding in Vegas knew?

One of the things I wish all the soon to be married couples in Las Vegas knew is to turn up the creativity when planning a wedding. I know it’s time consuming and sometimes not even necessary to some couples but as a creative person myself, it’s totally worth it – especially if you hire a killer photographer. The more you put into your wedding thats “you” and your hubby the more it feels like you’re not at some everyday venue. It lets your personalities shine through and of course it makes for beautiful memorable photographs.

Fill in the blank fun! 

On a typical Sunday I’m usually at work but I’d rather be with my baby and family eating a delicious hearty breakfast prepared by my mother (who’s an amazing cook by the way) and enjoying their company.

If I wasn’t a photographer, I’d probably be … if I really didn’t need money to pay bills, I’d probably be working at Anthropologie. I once told my sister I wouldn’t mind working as a toll booth person working graveyard. I was actually joking but being serious at the same time. Can you imagine how many books I’d be able to read omg!

Coffee or tea?

If I had to choose between coffee or tea, I’d definitely have to say tea BUT if we were to go out on a lunch date, I’d say lets get boba tea at Chinatown!

Favorite song at the moment:

detlef schrempf by Band of Horses… It’s so pretty and calming but I get emotional when I hear it so I don’t play it too often haha!

Thank you so much, Gaby! I can’t wait to talk (and take!) Polaroids with you sometime!

If you are eager to see more of Gaby’s Polaroid and film work, head over to her website and blog. She also posts many photos that don’t make it to her site on her Flickr account.

{all photos by Gaby J Photography}

Leave a Reply

  1. Gaby J

    Thank you again for the awesome interview Kelly.. you’re amazinnnn!!! & when you come down here we’re definitely going on photo adventures XOX

  2. Kelly

    I can’t wait! Thanks for being interviewed!

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