Love, in the professional sense, brought three University of Findlay alumni together this summer in a way that allowed them to showcase their creativity and visually impactful careers.
Months of complicated logistical planning finally resulted in a successful July 2019 collaboration between Sierra (Heaton) Dyer ’15, Olysse Elkins ’14, and Nick Thompson ’16.
The project: a styled wedding shoot that, rather than involving an actual ceremony, used a model, props, and a desirable location to highlight professional skills. Such endeavors also serve to inspire couples considering aesthetic ideas for their big day. A styled shoot is a way for those in the wedding industry “to join together to collaborate in creating fresh, inspiring wedding content,” Dyer explained. For this shoot, Dyer, who owns Larue, Ohio-based CeeCee Photography, served as the primary coordinator; Elkins was the makeup artist; and Thompson secured the location at the special events venue La Navona in Gahanna, Ohio, where he served as event coordinator (he is now the director of marketing and admissions for Smith’s Mill Health Campus in New Albany, Ohio).
This additional enterprising work will add value to participant’s skills within the competitive, evolving, and burgeoning wedding services landscape. According to The Knot 2018 Real Weddings Study, the national average cost of a wedding is now $33,931 (excluding honeymoon expenses). “Couples are investing in super-personalized events infused with meaningful details…,” The Knot reported. Creating and capturing for posterity those vivid moments is, therefore, an imperative for many couples.
“The shoot went amazing,” said Elkins, whose Findlay-based business is called Beauty by O. “Sierra created a mood board for the shoot to provide some visuals. I went based off of that, but knew I wanted to put my own spin on it as she gave me full creative control.” Elkins’ artistic inspiration was fully realized once she saw the model in person. “I knew I didn’t want the makeup to take away from everything else. I also wanted this to still match my esthetic, so I kept it light and natural,” she said.
In a nod to the three alumni’s Oiler roots, Dyer chose an orange-hued theme.
Dyer concurred with Elkins regarding the shoot’s success. The weather and lighting were perfect, and several months of planning allowed for choreographed photography among several photographers. “This was my first time putting together a larger styled shoot and inviting other photographers to attend,” Dyer said. “I wanted the shoot to be well planned, have fine art details that myself and other photographers could use to build their portfolios or send off for publication, and be well organized the day of the shoot.”
La Navona hosts a few styled shoots each year, “but working with Sierra was so easy,” said Thompson. “She really is a talented professional in this industry and I’m excited to see how she continues to grow the business. There was such a great energy about everyone involved, and you can see that with the beautiful images captured,” he added.
The photos, Thompson said, convey the project’s success. La Navona has shared some of the images on its social media platforms. “It’s all about inspiring our clients to think outside the box,” he said. “Being able to actually see these trends in our space really impacts our client’s imagination for their own event.”
Dyer, Elkins, and Thompson are clearly applying the skills they learned at University of Findlay to enhance their emerging and promising careers.
Dyer, an agricultural communication major, began her photography business while at UF. “I started out taking photos of livestock and farms, but realized I liked working with people way more,” she said. A digital photography class she took at UF further encouraged her to pursue the craft. “I did my first wedding three years ago, and caught the wedding bug. I love the connection and joy couples have during their engagement and wedding. On a deeper level, my passion for photography stems from losing a good friend when I was a freshman in high school. We had one photograph together than became very special to me after he passed away. Photographs are memories.”
Elkins, who majored in marketing, has always loved makeup. “I danced competitively when I was younger, so I’ve been applying my own false eyelashes since I was 11!” she said. A part-time job at a makeup counter further sparked her interest in the profession. “Bridal makeup is my bread and butter but I also do event and special occasion makeup as well. My style is natural with a hint of glam. I don’t want anyone leaving my chair looking like a completely different person,” she explained.
At La Navona, Thompson focused on corporate and social event coordination, but assisted with weddings and coordination as needed. He began moonlighting on weekends as a banquet server and bartender to supplement his income as an advertising agency representative. “Graduating with my public relations degree, I knew I wanted a career with personal interaction and communication as a focal point for success,” he said. What he liked most about his wedding venue job, he said, was seeing the joy each client experienced during their event. “After all the planning has been done – when you sit back and see them smiling, welcoming their guests, having a great time – makes all the long hours worth it,” he maintained.