Behind the Lens

Heather MacEachern-Tarasick of HRM Photography chats about evoking emotion, the printed keepsake and iPhone selfies

HEATHER MACEACHERN-TARASICK, 37, owns HRM Photography, which specializes in wedding and portrait photography in London and Toronto.

She got her first camera at age five and was hooked. She went to Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School and photographed bands at Call the Office and The Embassy in her spare time. She followed her passion and earned an honours degree in photography from the Ryerson Image Arts in 2003.

“After I graduated, I panicked slightly and wondered how I was going to make a living with a fine arts degree,” she recalls. As a backup plan, she enrolled at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. “While I was doing my teaching degree, my photography business exploded.”

HRM employs two other primary photographers—Lindsay Ross in Toronto and Niki Patel in London—as well as seven freelance photographers/editors.

Married to Eric, she has two children, Iris, nine, and Walker, four.

Your firm recently photographed its 1,000th wedding. When you started in 2003, did you specialize in weddings right away?

When I was shooting bands in high school, my life plan was to be the next Annie Lebovitz and move to NYC. When I was at Ryerson, a classmate of mine suggested I apply for a job assisting a wedding photographer and I immediately fell in love with capturing a couple’s big day. The energy and excitement of photographing a concert seemed to carry over to all aspects of a wedding day. As soon as I started HRM, weddings were the primary focus, and after I had my own daughter I began to photograph many more babies and families.

You also do portraits. Are weddings still HRM’s primary activity?

Every year, we photograph approximately 70 weddings and 350-plus portraits. So, technically, we do many more portraits than weddings, but a wedding from start to finish is a much more involved process, so they actually take up more of our time.

For weddings and other occasions, people still like to hold and share a traditional photo album, right?

Absolutely! We think it’s so important for couples to have a printed keepsake from their wedding day. A wedding album is a family heirloom that will be passed on to future generations. All of our wedding packages include a custom designed album to encourage couples to have one. Your grandchildren aren’t going to be saying, “Come look at this beautiful USB with me.” Technology changes quickly, but having something tactile will ensure your wedding day memories will last forever.

Do you all specialize?

We have three main photographers, and we all have different strengths. Aside from weddings, I really love photographing newborns in the studio. Lindsay excels at lifestyle family sessions, and Niki’s favorite type of session aside from weddings are promotional images for businesses and professionals.

It’s an all-women office. Was that a conscious choice?

Not at all. We never planned to be an all-woman office, and we all come from very different backgrounds. We do have a few male photographers we use as backup assistants if ever needed. However, as women we seem to have a particular fondness and excitement for weddings and babies that is contagious to our clients.

Are you partial to a camera brand?

Everyone who works with us uses high-end Nikon cameras and lenses. I’ve been using Nikon for over 20 years now and it makes sense for us all to have interchangeable gear.

When you travel, do you shoot all the time or do you like to put the camera down when on vacation?

My family loves to go on road trips, but with two young children pulling me in every direction while travelling, at this stage in my life it’s hard to do leisure photography. Typically, I leave my professional gear at home. It always makes me laugh when we are on vacation or at local events and I see families with great big cameras, while I’m bribing my kids to take iPhone selfies.

Is there a wedding moment that was rescued from disaster and sticks in your mind?

Many years ago, one of our couples realized on their wedding day they had forgotten the CD with their first dance song on it. Lindsay was shooting with me that day, and I knew her ex-boyfriend was a fan of the band and lived nearby. So I suggested she call him to see if he had the CD. He said he did and showed up 30 minutes later to save the day. Little did we know, he had gone out to buy it when she called so he would have an excuse to see her. They met later so she could return the CD to him, had a coffee and now are happily married with three children!

What are the keys to taking great wedding photos?

Everyone has tried as wedding guests, but few really succeed. I feel that a truly great image is one that captures a moment in time and evokes emotion in the viewer. I feel that the most important quality for us to have in order to make great wedding photos is the ability to anticipate moments before they happen.

Since everyone takes pictures now, how do you differentiate yourself from the amateur crowd?

What differentiates us from the amateur crowd is our consistency. We’re able to work under pressure, with unpredictable weather and lighting conditions, all while managing unique family dynamics. We aren’t just photographers—we are part meteorologist, part therapist, part wedding coordinator. Every wedding is different, but to be successful, a photographer’s work needs to be consistent, yet uniquely creative, wedding after wedding. Behind the Lens 10 Questions

Interview by Christopher Clark

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