Photography by Steve O'Donnell » Clermont and Orlando award winning professional wedding, portrait, senior and family photographer serving central FL

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Photography by Steve O’Donnell – Best of 2014

Best of 2014

Here it is, my self imposed tradition of my personal photography year in review.   Here I present the memorable moments, journeys, and images that stood out to me as 2014 comes to a close.  Enjoy!

So, you may ask yourself ” what in the world is this first image all about”?  Well, that is me on the left and that dude on the right is my friend, fellow photographer, second shooter (and I second shoot for him as well), he’s my sounding board when I need to vent my photography frustrations, he’s the guy  who puts me in check when I am my own worst photography critic, that guy is Wesley Finch of Finch Photography.  When clients add a second shooter to their wedding photography package he is my go to photographer.  We push each other at every wedding we shoot together, we back each other up and keep each other laughing after we’re tired from a 12 hour wedding shoot.  We make an awesome team for sure.  Photo courtesy of Wesley Finch.



As primarily a wedding photographer, the above shot is a pretty common scene (photo courtesy of Jim Ludwig).  I often attempt to find the angle that will get the best shot possible, and sometimes that means I have to do things that seem little bit crazy like standing on a wobbly chair, 8 stories up on a balcony roughly 2.5′ wide,  along with 47 mph wind gust.   OK….it’s not usually so dangerous I’ll admit,  but in my opinion as a photographer you simply just can’t stand on your feet and shoot from eye level all day long and expect your images to stand out.  You need to explore options and you need to create something different during the day.  Weather it be finding a different angle, climbing a tree or laying in dirt, or kneeling in a patch of sticker bushes only to bleed from both knee caps (true story), sometimes you have to consider the possibilities of getting out of your comfort zone in photography and that is just one thing I love about the art.

What a Year!!!

In March of 2011 I picked up my first DSLR camera.  I knew absolutely nothing about photography at the time.  I figured a big honkin camera would make better pictures….but I was sooo very very wrong at the time and learned quickly that the thought just wasn’t a reality.  Those big DSLR cameras will take a horrible (read as crappy) picture just as well as take a decent picture.  I set out on a quest to learn everything I could about the camera and about the art of photography.  In Sept. 2011 I shot my first wedding and that is when things took off for me.  I simply fell in love with photography.  A few things happened this year that seemed so far out of my reach back in 2011.  I shot my 20th wedding this year, I won The Knot’s Best of Weddings 2015 award thanks to my wedding clients who wrote rave 5 star reviews.  I was nominated for the Orlando’s A-List Best Wedding Photographer of 2014 and landed in 4th place out of 183 nominees.  Back in 2011 these things were so unobtainable to me and as I sit here and write this, what happened this past year is truly surreal and hasn’t quite sunk in yet.


In the past my “year in reviews” primarily consist of personal photography work.  This year I wanted to share more client work that was memorable and stuck with me the most.

The Rings…

I love capturing wedding ring images.  I often try to create a unique shot of the wedding rings for each client.  At times I’ll even shoot 4 or 5 different scene scenarios of the rings to add a little variety for the bride and grooms to choose from.  The following shots are my favorite wedding ring shots that I created for some of my 2014 wedding clients.




The Client Work…

I had an amazing year with some amazing clients… doubt about that!  Each and every wedding has truly been a blast to be part of and I am honored to capture the important memories of their wedding day.  Thank you for trusting me.


In no particular order I wanted to share some work that just stood out in my mind as some of my best work, or moments that stood out in my memory.

The following shot of Stephanie is one of my favorites.  Stephanie had just finished her hair and makeup trial run so we decided to take advantage of the time and do a photo shoot.  Her now husband Jon, a friend and fellow photographer, assisted with lights on the shoot.  Stephanie is a natural in front of the camera.


Andrea in the following image had just finished her senior year of high school .  We decided to visit a local recreational area at Lake Minneola and had hoped for one of those epic sunsets but the clouds were a little too uncooperative.  We made the best of the situation and I just loved her look of confidence in this image.


The next shot is from an engagement session couple from New Hampshire who were visiting Disney while on vacation.  They decided to have their engagement photos shot while on vacation because the weather in New Hampshire was a bit undesirable at the time.  Ironically they called me in a bit of a panic as the photographer they had previously booked was not “communicating well” with the couple and as they were only going to be here in FL for a limited time they became uncomfortable that their needs would be met.  That is when they called me.  I asked that they give their previously booked photographer a little more time (hey…everyone gets busy) and call me back if 3 more days passed without any communication from their 1st photographer.  Well, they called backed and booked a session with me.  If you own a small business this just goes to show how important it is to communicate with your clients in a timely manner and provide the best customer service possible.  I just loved the framing and composition of this shot with them at Disney Boardwalk._MG_4637

Brooke, a long time client from when I first started my photography business called me for a “just because I want new pictures” photo session.  Only this time she wanted to include her boyfriend Kyle in the session and make it a couples session.  This was one of my favorite shots from her shoot.


Emily is a very patriotic high school senior who wanted to incorporate the American flag into her photo session.  Her session is one of my latest sessions of 2014 and she knocked it out of the park.


Natalie, another high school senior, had her session along with her best friend Emily above.  I shot both seniors at the same time.  At the end of the night after the sun had already set we rushed to a final location and although it was a bit dark we managed to pull of a few shots with added off camera lighting.  It was a very last-minute rush to set everything up to see what we could get but I just loved the feel of this shot of Natalie.  One thing I worked hard at this year was matching the off camera flash with the ambient lighting conditions of the scene.  It paid off with this shot._MG_5142

Melissa and Jaden, a mother and son family session.  Melissa requested a down town Orlando shoot as the urban setting better suited their personalities.  We met very early on a Sunday morning to avoid pedestrian crowded streets and it worked out wonderfully.  It was one of my favorite sessions of the year._MG_7071

A shot of Amy getting ready in her bridal quarters that just brings a smile to my face every time I look at it.  No I did not barge in on her….she is however this much fun to work with.

Another shot from Amy and Kevin’s wedding.  The sun setting was quite harsh on her wedding day…but that harsh sunset along with the composition of the surroundings pier and her beautiful dress and bouquet just pushed this shot into my favorites of 2014.Cicero_530

Courtney and Tommy!  One of the nicest couples I worked with.  They were so laid back and down to earth.  They had the quickest ceremony I have ever shot.  It was literally under 4 minutes total.  We also had limited time to shoot their personal formal shots and the following shots was one of my favorite.  Their reception was one big party and was so much fun!  They even had a few tailgate parties in the parking lot at one point.  Every time I think about their wedding I grin from ear to ear.  It was just simply a very  fun wedding!  CT_Dougan_194

The following shot of Cassie looking directly at me and smiling also makes me smile.  Cassie doesn’t even remember the moment happening.  Something was said during their ceremony that caused her to crack up and she just happened to look in my direction and I was focused and ready so I took the shot.   I always try to explain to my potential clients that the day will go by so darn fast that you just won’t remember it.   Explaining the importance of hiring a competent photographer that will anticipate moments and nail it in the split second they happen is sometimes difficult.  This is proof.

The following two images are from Cassie and Nick’s formal shots just before they were announced for their reception.   I just loved these two images from their wedding day.Finney401Finney413

This shot from Stephanie and Jon’s wedding is one that I have been attempting to somehow get for a long time.  It is one shot.  There is no Photoshop trickery here in this shot.  The dresses were hung on the headboard of the bed to my left.  I noticed that the closet door had a full length mirror on the back of the door….so I stood in the closet and swung the door open enough to reflect the hanging dresses behind me and to my left while getting the shot of Stephanie having her hair styled for her big day.Galindez_117

Stephanie and Jon’s wedding was planned to be outside….but freakish 47mph winds that lasted the entire day determined it would take place inside.  Notice how deserted the beach is?  Yeah….it was cold by Florida standards and no one wanted to be sand blasted that day.  They were determined to have a beach portrait that day so we braved the strong winds and while they walked away to the location I dropped back long enough to snap this picture of them.  The light was just stunning and it was a beautiful moment watching them walk alone on the deserted beach.Galindez_353

and after I caught up to Jon and Steph…..this happened.  An absolute favorite shot from the entire year._MG_4859

Brittany and Jethro’s wedding was fun no doubt.  These two are just so much in love with one another. Hengst_135

….and then this moment happened in the middle of it.  I’m not sure what happened exactly.  Maybe one of those weird Florida bugs landed on Jethro’s nose….who knows….but it caused Brittany to burst out laughing.  It is moments like this one that make my job as a wedding photographer worth it.  Her cracking up is one of my favorite images of 2014.

Jennifer and Jason’s wedding.  As I mentioned before you just cant shoot on your feet at eye level.  You find the angle that helps lead the viewers eye to the subject.  In this case I was laying down between bushes and halfway in a mulch bed.  Maybe that is why photographers always wear black.  I love the composition of the following shot from Jen and Jason’s wedding.


Angles are always great….but a great moment will trump everything.  Marital bliss and cutting it up on the dance floor at Jen and Jason’s wedding.  You can tell just how happy they are within this moment.JJMoses_346

Jennifer and Jason’s sparkler exit.  Wedding sparkler exits can be difficult to coordinate.  Lighting the sparklers without half of them burning out before the bride and groom start to exit and generally getting all the guest outside and all lined up in an orderly fashion after a night of partying can be challenging.  They however had the perfect exit.JJMoses_411

Epic silhouette wedding picture coming right up.  Susan and Mike wanted sunset pictures for their bridal formal shots.  I love sunset portraits just as much as any bride and groom that want them….but I have no control over mother nature.  Luckily the mother nature cooperated on their wedding day and we got the shots they wanted.  MSBatz_544MSBatz_552

Susan’s bouquet toss!  I just love the symmetry of this shot, the perfect moment of toss, hand placement, and the look on her face.  Yes the bouquet did hit the chandelier!



The Personal Work…

Caitlin in the image below sporting her baby bump and finally her precious little girl is a former wedding client.  When I heard she and husband Mike were expecting I called to see if she would be willing to participate in a photo that I have been dying to try for quite some time.  Having never attempted it before I had no idea if I could pull it off properly.  I wanted to push myself photographically into something that honestly made me a little uncomfortable as I just wasn’t certain if I could pull it off, but I know I wanted to try and it would make me better as a photographer.  It was quite the commitment for Caitlin and I both to schedule a session each month (she was already at her 3 month mark when we started) and she drove an hour to my house each month, and I transformed my living room into a photo studio every month.  We attempted to nail the same pose every time and duplicating the light set up every month was more challenging than I thought it would be.  The final shot was something I was certainly proud of.


Landscapes!  Who doesn’t like a pretty landscape picture?  The next 3 images are a few of the landscapes I shot in 2014.  I enjoy doing these, despite the pesky mosquitos that eat me alive and have me itching for days.  I honestly would love to get out and shoot more than I do as Florida has some of the best sunset’s and clouds ever.


Vacation photo session with my step-daughter CL.  This year we decided to go to the Georgia mountains for summer vacation.  My family left a few days ahead of me for vacation as I had to stay back in Florida to shoot a wedding.  The day following the wedding I drove straight to our vacation destination to catch up with my family and since all my equipment was already in the trunk I decided to take it with me.  Boy am I glad I did!  A very shallow section of the Chattahoochee River flowed directly behind our cabin and I never have the opportunity to shoot in a river…so that is where we headed.  I set up two light stands with speedlights in the river (picture of the entire scene following), weighed them down with plastic shopping bags filled with river rocks and had an awesome session with CL.




While on vacation we met a really nice family also on vacation from Ohio who we would often run into at the pool towards the end of each day.  I told them that CL and I would be shooting in the river and invited them to join us for a mini family photo session of their own.  They took me up on my offer and I ended up getting a few shots of their family that I sent to them once I returned home.  They were beyond thrilled that I gave them a great photo memory of their vacation.  The following is one of their family shots.


I honestly think that people often forget that I not only  photograph weddings, but I also photograph families on occasion.  Every year I shoot a family session for my friend and second shooter Wesley.  This is one of my favorite images from his very own family session.


I practice a lot.  I am always shooting around the house.  My baby girl Lil C is usually my most willing subject, although in very short stints of 5 minutes max.  The following shots are some of my favorites of Lil C from this past year._MG_3105_MG_1560_MG_3115_MG_5825_MG_1414B_MG_3046


As I mentioned earlier, practice practice practice!  The following two images of Lexi and Katie were from practice sessions.  First up Lexi…shot in the back yard of my in-laws house while we were visiting for Thanksgiving break._MG_4797

Next up Katie, Lexi’s friend.  With Katie’s shoot I wanted to practice using the smallest modifier I had.  Even though the largest light modifier like an umbrella or softbox will produce a soft pleasing light, I decided to use the smallest light modifier I had ( a small Rogue Flashbender) to make it more difficult and push myself.  We got out early for a sunrise shoot on the east coast and I was pretty pleased with this shot of Katie._MG_4871

The little green frog in the tree.  I came home one evening and noticed this little green frog in the palm tree (not really sure if it is a tree or a shrub honestly) but I scared him away.  Much like the dragonfly in “best of 2013” I chased after this little guy for a few days until I got this shot of him.  I also had to get out our 6 foot ladder just to get the proper angle of him.  Again….sometimes just standing at eye level isn’t enough._MG_2338

Finally, a few days ago, on December 22 my family lost our faithful loving pet Daisy Dukes.  We rescued her when she was around 2-3 years old and she’s been a member of the family for over 10 years.  She was a great friend, companion, guard dog, and family member.  It’s hard to write about her without tears as we are still mourning her passing, but the memories of joy she brought our family will always be in our hearts.  Of course I am so glad I snapped pics of her which drives home the fact of how truly important it is to have pictures of your family members to remember them by and reminisce over, whether human or furry.  As you can tell…..we love her dearly.  RIP Daisy. 🙁



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