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The end of the year has me looking back on this beautiful late summer day in Pittsburgh when Leah and Brian held their Phipps Conservatory and Omni William Penn Wedding.

A bride and groom look at each other as they stand in the middle of the Roberto Clemente bridge in downtown Pittsburgh.

Leah and Brian are a terrifically nice couple. I’d been looking forward to their wedding for quite a while because they came to me via a recommendation from another wonderful couple, Kate and Will. They met in New Orleans while each was vacationing with their friends. Chance? Maybe. But I believe that magical things happen when we approach the world in an open way and are attuned to the possibilities that reveal themselves to us. So they met in New Orleans and when it came time to head home the fire was already lit. Several years later and here we all were at the Omni William Penn getting ready to head over to Phipps Conservatory for their wedding ceremony:

A woman is seen through an open doorway to a bathroom as she has her makeup applied before her wedding.

Leah and her girls had their hair and makeup done in their hotel suite. If there’s one thing that’ll keep you cool and calm on your wedding day, it’s having your hair and makeup professionals come to you instead worrying about the logistics of getting around town. Leah used the natural light coming in through the front window of their suite to check her makeup:

A woman holds a hand mirror checks her makeup in the window of a hotel suite at the William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh.

Leah’s mom Rose helped her get the dress on as her bridesmaids watched from the doorway:

A bride puts on her dress with the help of her mother as her friends watch from the doorway to the hotel suite.

Some of Leah’s details include these fabulous turquoise and gold shoes, a handkerchief from her grandmother and rings worn by her grandfather, and her pale blush rose bouquet:

Detail photos of blue shoes with gold trim, an embroidered handkerchief with two rings, and a bouquet of flowers.

Some of Brian’s details include some small-batch bourbon (in the guy’s messy hotel room 😀), a boutonniere, and some seriously shiny shoes (photos by Lisa):

Detail photos of a bottle of bourbon in a messy hotel room, a boutonniere, and a pair of shiny black mens shoes.

Brian buttons up his tuxedo jacket as he gathers his thoughts (photo by Lisa):

A groom buttons the jacket of his tuxedo while standing in his room at the Omni William Penn in Pittsburgh.

The guys share a laugh as they hang out before heading to the ceremony (photo by Lisa):

A groom laughs with his groomsmen as they stand about a hotel room wearing tuxedos.

The ladies walk down the hall at the William Penn wedding ceremony bound:

A bride walks through the hallways of the Omni William Penn on her way to her wedding.

Brian walks down a wooded path at Phipps Conservatory before their wedding ceremony (photo by Lisa):

A groom walks down a wooded path as he waits for his wedding ceremony to begin at Phipps Conservatory.

Leah’s dad Robert got a little emotional upon seeing how beautiful she was in her wedding gown:

A bride reaches out for her father as he wipes a tear away after seeing her in her wedding dress.

Robert walks Leah to the ceremony in the Outdoor Garden:

A bride and her father walk down a path towards the waiting wedding party outside at Phipps Conservatory.

Brian watches as Leah heads his way (photo by Lisa):

A groom waits for his bride under blue skies and puffy clouds.

Blue skies, white puffy clouds, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning make a stunning backdrop for the ceremony:

Puffy white clouds and the Cathedral of Learning form the backdrop for an outdoor wedding at Phipps Conservatory.

Emotions were on display:

A brideCloseup of a bride as she wipes a tear away during her wedding ceremony.

Leah and Brian celebrate after lighting the unity candle – not an easy task with a wonky lighter:

A bride and groom gesture with triumph after lighting their unity candle.

Brian kisses Leah’s hand as they walk together after the ceremony:

A groom kisses his bride

Sharing a rare moment alone in the shade beneath a tent as they wait to be joined by their guests:

A bride and groom stand beneath a tent after their wedding ceremony at Phipps Conservatory.

There was a Pirates game, so the Roberto Clemente Bridge was closed to traffic. Everyone was a good sport – I made them walk a lot during the photo session on the North Shore:

A large wedding party holds hands as they walk across both lanes of the Roberto Clemente bridge in downtown Pittsburgh.

A portrait in the lobby of the William Penn – one of the great spaces in the city:

A handsome young married couple stands close to one another while facing a large window in the lobby of the William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh.

Details, details, details. Neither Leah or Brian care for cake, so there was pie. Oh boy, was there pie!

An assortment of pies and cookies on a table at the William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh.

…and cookies:

Cookies and pies set out as dessert for wedding guests at the Omni William Penn in Pittsburgh.

The room was set and ready for the guests:

Views of the set dinner tables in the grand ballroom at an Omni William Penn wedding Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh.

Leah and her bridesmaids in the Speakeasy at the William Penn, one of Leah and Brian’s favorite spots:

Bride and her bridesmaids sit in the Speakeasy at the Omni William Penn in downtown Pittsburgh.A bride and groom sit on a red velvet settee in the Speakeasy at their Omni William Penn wedding

The couple enters the ballroom for the reception of their Omni William Penn wedding:

Bride and groom hold their hands up triumphantly as they enter their wedding reception in the grand ballroom at the Omni William Penn wedding.

A couple of photos from their first dance:

Bride and groom share a first dance during their Omni William Penn wedding.Bride and groom dance at their Omni William Penn wedding.

Leah’s mom Rose plays with her grandson Tristan:

Grandma chases her grandson around at an Omni William Penn wedding.

Robert hugged Leah at the end of their dance. Brian and his mom Linda share a laugh during their dance together:

Bride is embraced by her father during their first dance and a groom dances with his mother during their Omni William Penn wedding.

Leah and Brian together in the middle of the dance floor as their guests join them:

An overhead view of the full dance floor in the main ballroom at the Omni William Penn.A bride and groom smile as they dance during their Omni William Penn wedding in downtown Pittsburgh.

I followed Leah and Brian up to the balcony when they took a moment to check out the action:

A groom embraces his bride as they look over the dance floor at their Omni William Penn wedding.

Jessica and Jess’ Succop Conservancy wedding took place on a wonderful late summer evening. The couple traveled from their home in San Francisco to be married near her hometown of Pittsburgh. The wedding was attended by friends and family from all ends of the country.

Bride smiles as groom wraps his arms around her and kisses her cheek.

Jessica and Jess walk towards each other before heading down the aisle together.

A bride and groom approach each other before entering their wedding ceremony at the Succop Conservancy.

It was a sweet moment that really shows the co-equal nature of their relationship.

A bride and groom join hands as they prepare to walk into their wedding ceremony together.

The ceremony was held in front of the pond with big, beautiful willow tree as a background:

An overall photo of an outdoor Succop Conservancy wedding beneath a huge willow tree.

The couple watched as a couple of talented friends performed a song:

An Indian couple sings a song in the foreground as a wedding couple stands in the background.

Lisa’s photo:

Groom looks back over his shoulder as they listen to friends perform a song during their wedding ceremony.

This being Western PA, there’s always a chance that it’s going to rain during an outdoor ceremony. Jessica and Jess were prepared with an umbrella:

A couple stands beneath an umbrella as the groom sticks his hand out to test the rain during their wedding ceremony.

Their guests and bridesmaids just toughed it out:

Wedding guests and bridesmaids laugh as rain falls on them during a Succop Conservancy wedding.

Jess got a little emotional while reading his vows (Lisa’s photo):

A groom fights back tears as he says his vows to his bride as they stand under an umbrella.

The rain didn’t last too long. By the end of the ceremony the umbrella was put away.

A bride raises her hand in celebration at the end of their wedding ceremony. The background is filled with bright yellow sunflowers.

The light was beautiful:

Bride and groom face each other while standing in a field in the soft light of a rainy afternoon.

The cake cutting was inside the mansion (Lisa’s photos):

Bride makes a funny face at her groom as she holds a piece of cake out to her groom.A bride and groom kiss after cutting the cake at their Succop Conservancy wedding

Jessica’s mom gave a very moving speech:

a bride cries as her mother offers a toast. Then they embrace.

First dance:

Bride and groom share their first dance as a band plays in the background.

The grounds around the Succop Conservancy are so lovely. We went back out for a few more portraits around sunset:

A couple stands facing each other in a field during their Succop Conservancy wedding.

One of the great things about having a Succop Conservancy wedding is that there are so many possibilities for activities that guests can enjoy around the grounds. There was a fire for roasting marshmallows:

A young couple smiles as the man places a marshmallow on the end of a stick before toasting it.

…and lawn games:

A young boy and an older man battle with giant inflatable bowling pins during a Succop Conservancy wedding.

There was plenty of dancing after the sun went down:

Bride and groom embrace as they dance together at their wedding reception.

Such a beautiful evening out in the Butler County countryside. I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer weekend:

Dramatic night skies above the pavilion at the Succop Conservancy on a summer evening.

It’s been a busy, busy fall. Which is kind of par for the course when it comes to wedding photography. So while I had every intention to post this a couple of weeks ago, I’m happy to have finally gotten a chance to talk a little bit about my experience of speaking at the recent Fearless Conference in Charleston, SC. Even though I make an effort to talk with newer photographers when asked, the role of photography educator is kind of a new one for me. I’ve been a part of the community behind the Fearless Conference and the Foundation Workshop for several years. As a result I’ve made some of my best friends and my career has flourished from the commitment to improvement that is in the DNA of this group. So it was in a sense of gratitude for all I’ve benefitted from that I submitted a proposal to speak at this year’s conference.

Photography Educator Joe Appel on stage at the recent Fearless Conference in Charleston, SC


It was a thrill when Huy Nguyen accepted my proposal and asked me to speak, but that feeling was quickly followed by a little panic and anxiety. The realization was that I’d be speaking in front of 150 of the most talented and accomplished wedding photographers in the country and really from around the world. GULP! What could I bring to the stage that would be worth hearing? What could I add to the wisdom provided by the other speakers at the conference, but also the speakers who came before me that I benefitted so much from?

What I finally decided is that my experience in photography, life, and business was unique to me. But as varying as our experiences are, a defining principle in my life is that we’re all more alike than we are different. We can learn from each other no matter our background if we keep an open mind. So I decided to focus my talk on three related points:

  1. Finding Your Voice
  2. Finding Your Tribe
  3. Remaining Teachable

All three are central to how I stay fresh and even grow after a long career as a photographer. Finding Your Voice describes the process of figuring out what your viewpoint and strengths are and how to develop that into a vision that separates you from all of the other photographers out there. What fun is it if your photos look like everybody else’s? How does that serve your clients? The answer is that it isn’t and it doesn’t.

Finding Your Tribe is all about building a community that will help you to grow, to support you when times get tough, and who will call you on your BS when it’s necessary. “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” comes to mind. You know, the old African proverb that Al Gore says he made up in an episode of 30 Rock 😀

Joe Appel speaking at a photography conference in front of a photo of Al Gore


Remaining Teachable speaks to an essential element of growth: Recognizing that one doesn’t know all that there is to know, no matter how long your career has been.

It was a wonderful experience. I got to see so many old friends and to make some new ones, too. The level of openness and sharing from the outstanding lineup of speakers as well as the folks attending makes the Fearless Conference unique and a must-go event – I haven’t missed one yet!

Finally, thanks very much to my friends Kate McElwee and Crystal Stokes for the photos. You’ll see what I mean about this conference attracting talented and accomplished photographers when you check out their websites.


photography educator

Photos from Stacey and EJ’s Wyndham Grand Wedding in downtown Pittsburgh:

College sweethearts, Stacey and EJ got married at their neighborhood church – the beautiful St. Mary of the Mount – and had their reception at the Wyndham Grand hotel near Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh. That’s the overview. The details are where it gets really good. Both Stacey and EJ are the types of people who care way more about how other folks are feeling or are doing than their own selves. It’s so great to see, and it also shows just how wonderful it was to be around their friends and families because good people are surrounded by other good people. The weather wasn’t the greatest – actually it was a pretty typical late summer/early fall day in Pittsburgh that ranged from hot and muggy to rainy. But that didn’t slow them down at all. Check out the photos:

Shiloh St. is in their neighborhood, so Stacey and EJ wanted a photo there. Traffic was light, so they walked out into the center of the street for a brief kiss:

A groom dips his bride in the middle of Shiloh Street on Mount Washington in Pittsburgh.

Stacey gets a high-five from one of her bridesmaids as she checks out the results of her hair and makeup at the Wyndham Grand:

Bride high-fives a bridesmaid while looking in the mirror after putting her makeup on before her Wyndham Grand Wedding

Down in the relative quiet of her suite, Stacey takes a moment to straighten out the bottom of her wedding dress as it hangs on the wall:

A bride kneels down to straighten out the hem of her wedding dress hanging in her hotel room.

Meanwhile, EJ was getting ready at home (Lisa’s photo):

A groom rests his foot on the end of his bed as he ties his shoelaces.

Stacey’s super blingy wedding shoes:

Closeup photo of a bride holding her silver wedding shoes decorated with crystal flowers.

A bridesmaid holds the chandelier out of the way so Stacey can watch as her hairdresser puts the veil on for her:

A bride looks in the mirror as her hairdresser puts on her veil. The other women in the room smile and one holds aside the chandelier so the bride can see in the mirror.

There was no sitting in that dress on the way to the church, so Stacey stood as her bridesmaids made sure that she didn’t fall:

Bride stands up in the limo bus on her way to the church. Her bridesmaids keep her steady.

Flower girls and ring bearers wait for the procession to begin:

A young flower girl holds her hand in the air as she waits to go down the aisle with a ring bearer.

Stacey’s bouquet had a touching tribute to her late father:

Closeup of a bride

Stacey’s uncle walked her down the aisle. They were silhouetted in the doorway of the church (Lisa’s photo):

Silhouette of a bride and her uncle in the back of St. Mary of the Mount as they wait to walk down the aisle.Bride is all smiles as she walks down the aisle of St. Mary of the Mount.

A flower girl shushes a younger flower girl (Lisa’s photo):

A flower girl holds her finger to her lips as she shushes another flower girl.

EJ gives his bride a wink:

Groom winks at his bride as they sit on the altar during their wedding ceremony.

The lovely bride smiles as she looks out at her guests:

Smiling bride in the foreground and a colorful stained glass window in the background.

Like I said, it was hot in that church.

A flower girl cools herself in the breeze of a fan and a woman in the pews fans herself with a program during a wedding at St. Mary of the Mount in Pittsburgh.A bride and groom hold their hands up in triumph at the end of their wedding ceremony at St. Mary of the Mount in Pittsburgh.

Shots of Fireball were passed around on the limo bus. Now that song is going to be stuck in my head 😀

A woman in a purple dress makes a face after taking a swig of whiskey in the back of a limousine.

Rainclouds approached over top of the buildings of downtown Pittsburgh as we made our way back down Grandview Avenue from the photo session on Shiloh St.

Dramatic storm skies above downtown Pittsburgh as a bride walks in front of her groom who holds her dress up.

The rain meant that outdoor photos were out of the question, so we improvised a photo studio in Stacey and EJ’s suite. We moved some furniture around and found a nice background:

A bride smiles as her groom kisses her on the cheek.

Teenaged Stacey seems to approve as the couple shares their first dance:

Bride and groom share their first dance as a video screen shows a photo of the bride as a young girl.

EJ and his sister and brother-in-law look on as Stacey and her mom dance together:

Three people embrace as they watch the bride and her mother dance.

EJ resisted the temptation to smash cake into Stacey’s face. Stacey did not reciprocate:

A bride smears icing on her groom


A bride

Lisa’s photo:

A woman and her daughter laugh as they dance at a wedding reception.

Guests of all ages filled the dance floor:

A little, old lady dances with a much larger man who wears a vest and a white shirt during a reception at the Wyndham Grand Wedding.A long-haired groomsman crawls along the dancefloor as the bride laughs and claps at a Wyndham Grand Wedding.A bride and groom dance during their Wyndham Grand Wedding in Pittsburgh.

Photos from Maria and Jonathan’s University Club at Pitt Wedding:

With a planter filled with hydrangeas in the foreground, a bride and groom embrace and share a laugh on the rooftop of the University Club at the University of Pittsburgh.

Labor Day weekend is upon us and school has started. That means summer is winding down. I love this time of the year and it was the perfect setting for Maria and Jonathan’s wedding at the University Club at Pitt. Here are some of my favorite photos from their lovely wedding:

Maria checks her hair in a mirror:

A black and white image of a beautiful bride checking her hair in the mirror of a room at the University Club at Pitt that is illuminated by dramatic window light.

It was a hot one, but thankfully a helpful bridesmaid came to the rescue with a cold bottle of water:

A woman laughs as she holds a cold bottle of water on the back of the neck of her friend in order to cool her down. The friend is a bride who has a sun and moon tattoo on her shoulder.

Jonathan’s brother helps him out by adjusting his yarmulke:

The face of a handsome young man is framed by his arm as he adjusts the yarmulke on his brother

The first look took place on the rooftop patio:

A groom smiles as he stands with his hands crossed in front of him just as his bride touches his shoulder during their first look prior to their wedding at the University Club at Pitt.

A bride smiles at her groom (seen from behind) as she shows him how beautiful she looks in her dress as they have their first look on the room of the University Club at Pitt before their wedding.

A bride and groom embrace on the roof of the University Club at Pitt prior to their late summer wedding.

After the formal photos, the bridal party and families gathered to sign the ketubah:

A groom signs the ketubah at the left of the photo while his bride looks over his shoulder. Family members stand in the background at right as they watch what

Maria’s parents both walked her down the aisle:

A view from behind as the parents of a bride walk her down the aisle during her wedding at the University Club at Pitt. The mother has her arm around her daughter and the daughter links her arm around her father

A bride and groom stand beneath a light colored chuppah as they exchange vows during their wedding ceremony. The officiant looks on at right.

Lighting the unity candle:

Illuminated by candle light, a bride and a groom use smaller candles to light a unity candle during their wedding ceremony in Ballroom A at the University Club at Pitt.

Jonathan makes sure that the glass is broken:

Framed by a chuppah, a bride looks on as her husband stomps on a glass to end their wedding ceremony at the University Club at Pitt.

After the ceremony, I found their handwritten vows on the table by the unity candle. They were elegant and meaningful promises:

Three candles, two small and one large, illuminate a table where a bride and groom

We walked over to the nearby Cathedral of Learning for some portraits while the guests enjoyed the cocktail hour:

A bride holds a bouquet of white and pink flowers in her left hand as she holds her groom

The low-scooped back and short train of a beautiful bride

A bride and groom look at each other while standing in the middle of a paved courtyard. Their shadows are cast on to the patio by the evening sun.

The first dance:

A bride and groom are framed in silhouette as they share their first dance during their wedding reception in Ballroom B at the University Club at Pitt.

The speeches were funny and moving:

In a black and white photo, a young best man smiles as he offers a toast to a bride and groom seated to his left. Another groomsman smiles as he looks on.

A black and white photo of a bride and groom laughing heartily at comments made during a toast at their wedding reception in Ballroom B of the University Club at Pitt.

A bridesmaid raises her hand above her head and points at a second bridesmaid as they toast a married couple seated in front of them at the University Club at Pitt.


A bride sings as she dances with her hands in the air in the middle of a circle of smiling wedding guests.

Wedding guests on the dance floor at a reception in Ballroom B of the University Club at Pitt are dramatically lit by a spotlight projecting the bride and groom

While the dance floor is filled with guests a bride and groom dance close together, the bride with her hand on top of her groom

A groom dances with his younger brother, who was the best man at his wedding at the University Club at Pitt.

A wedding guest on the dance floor at a wedding reception smiles and raises his hands shoulder high.

The hora! (Lisa’s photo):

Seen from above, men raise a couple up on chairs in the middle of a crowd of people as they dance the hora at a wedding reception at the University Club at Pitt.

A low angle view of a couple dancing during their wedding reception at the University Club at Pitt. They lean back as they join hands and swing each other around.

A woman in a bright red dress raises her hand in the air and sings along with the music during a wedding at the University Club at Pitt.

Jonathan’s dad owning the dance floor:

An older man takes a knee and raises his fist as he holds the hand of a woman while they dance during a wedding reception at the University Club at Pitt.

A portrait at the end of a lovely evening:

A silhouette profile of a bride and groom in front of a magenta light cast on the wall of Ballroom B at the University Club at Pitt during their wedding reception.

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