No one knows when a moment worth capturing will come — unless of course you’re Sarah Bradley, owner and principal photographer of iShootEvents.
Bradley developed her discerning eye while managing a MotoPhoto franchise with her father in the 90s, way back when photos were shot on film.
What set their business apart was their attention to detail and offering a broad suite of services: they processed each photo individually ensuring top quality results while also running a portrait studio and selling merchandise.
The portrait studio is where Bradley learned how to connect with someone quickly in order to capture them at their best — even if it was a two-year-old in a terrible mood.
That skill no doubt helped Bradley navigate her career after developing photos was no longer a viable business. She pivoted more than once — from selling cars in Ottawa, to joining the federal government in Calgary, then managing her mother & step-father’s cleaning company when she returned to Ottawa in 2016.
What helped her throughout were lessons learned from her entrepreneurial parents. One of her mother’s adages is, “You never know until you try.” But it was the lesson she learned from her father’s death that was the toughest and perhaps the most valuable.
Her family lost him suddenly during the blackout of 2003, and it taught Bradley to cherish every moment. “One minute we are all sitting together on the veranda, looking at Mars through the telescope having a lovely evening in the dark — the next morning he was gone,” she said. “It really hit me that you never know when it’s your time to go.”
Today those lessons continue to fuel the passion she has for capturing the moments that matter to her clients.
If you don’t look good, I don’t look good
When you meet Bradley for the first time, it’s impossible to miss how dedicated she is to her craft.
But make no mistake, she likes to inject some fun into the experience. “Not only is it about capturing the story of the event, it’s also about connecting with the guests so I can photograph them at their best,” she said.
She got her start with event photography by volunteering to shoot at local charity events.
At the Mississippi Mills’ Relay for Life, the story included both tears of joy and sadness as they celebrated survivors while also grieving those who had passed away. “Capturing those treasured moments was very rewarding,” she said.
The Paul Rushforth charity golf tournament was another story altogether. “That one was a ton of fun — everyone was having a blast posing and joking around, there was never a dull moment,” she said.
Despite this work being unpaid, Bradley brought professional savviness to the table by getting great shots of the attendees as well as the sponsors. Maybe that’s why her friend, a successful real estate photographer, encouraged her to go into business for herself, specializing in event photography.
It seems to be the best career pivot she’s made.
“On my way home from an event I call my fiance with butterflies of excitement and say, ‘Oh my gosh honey, I really nailed it,” said Bradley. “He says, ‘Of course you did.’”
Knowing how (and when) to pull the trigger
So how do you capture special and significant moments among a sea of people?
“I’m constantly scanning the room, watching people’s facial expressions,” said Bradley. She even anticipates the next word in a speech to catch her subject at a flattering pose.
While it is mostly about blending in, sometimes taking the lead is how you get the money shot. “When I shoot an awards ceremony or a group shot, quite often there is a wall of people ready to take photos with their smartphones,” said Bradley. “I’ll say, ‘Everyone please look here first, and then you can look at your friends with their smartphones.’”
Opening event for Hub350
The Farewell Roast & Toast of Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Eli El-Chantiry in support of the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre
Luncheon in support of Perley Health Foundation's Answering the Call campaign for seniors and veterans
The Public Policy Forum’s Fall Lecture 2022: Getting Real on Innovation
Her approach is clearly a winner. Word of mouth has brought iShootEvents new clients in waves. Last year, shooting an event for the Mechanical Contractors Association of Ontario led to a job with the Mechanical Contractors Association of Ottawa, which then brought in another with the Electrical Contractors Association of Ottawa. Two have already reserved their 2023 dates.
Understandably, the pandemic hit iShootEvents hard, but Bradley survived by adding an “and more” to her brand (pivoting yet again) to promote the addition of corporate head shots, family photos and weddings to her services. That said, she’s happy to be getting back to her first love and sees the return of events as the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with new clients.
“It’s really a grand re-opening for me,” said Bradley. “I am super pumped for 2023. I think it’s going to be a very fun and successful year.”
Do you need a photographer for your next gala or event who will bring your story to life?
Click here to request a quote from Sarah Bradley at iShootEvents.