Earlier this year I got a very surprising email that I had been nominated by the editors of Rangefinder Magazine for their 2019 30 Rising Stars. I was needless to say, shocked I had received this email! If you don’t know Rangefinder, I would say it’s the equivalent to photographers as Architectural Digest is to designers. I read on about the nomination and found out that under 300 people across the world had been chosen to submit. I soon learned it would be the most difficult 30 images I would ever curate! I had about a month to get the images chosen and submitted. We were heading to Wyoming for the month of August so I had to scramble to pull images together to begin the process of elimination remotely. With the help of some trusted people (we were sworn to secrecy about the nomination so nothing was posted or mentioned about it), I pulled together my best images that reflected different types of shots on a wedding day. I actually found this to be the most challenging part of the process. When looking through my images, I definitely have my favorites but I had to show a huge variety from details, bride getting ready, reception, groom, wedding party etc. I think in hindsight I would have been less concerned with this and would have focused more on picking the best shots overall..but who knows if that would have helped. The competition is crazy , just take a look at the final 30! I knew it was a serious longshot but gave it my best effort and waited two months to hear the news. Fast forward to September, I sadly learned I did not make the top 30. Well, even though I knew it was a longshot, I wallowed in my sorrows for about a day, then thought about this: I had been chosen out of about a gagillion photographers who are in the market today along with under 300 people in the world.. that’s nuts! I know what a HUGE honor it is to even be in the small group selected. I’m so thankful to Rangefinder for even giving me this opportunity and since you have to be in business as a full time wedding photographer for under 5 years, I actually have one more year to give it a shot.
I have to mention how thankful I am to all of the couples who have trusted me to capture their day, made me a part of their lives and truly made me who I am as a photographer today. They have gone along with crazy stuff I ask them to do, scaled narrow stairs to get on roofs, walked in circles over and over , jumped, run in high heels and that list goes on and on. They have trusted me to take them away from their receptions for “a cool shot” and allowed me into very personal moments, giving me their full trust along the way. Weddings are not something I ever thought I would be shooting. I was happy as a clam for all of those years shooting in the studio just photographing product, food and pretty much anything that didn’t talk. I was shy and introverted. Wedding photography has forced me out of my shell and I realized brides were not something to fear. Each one of my couples have been such a gift in my life, every wedding reminds me of what love is and I still tear up at certain moments of the day. I get the most beautiful notes from my couples, they make me smile, they give me hope in life and I love watching their lives grow into families and love being a part of the beginning of their future. Wedding photography has made me a romantic and has been the most fun type of photography I have done in my 25 plus years as a photographer. I also have to thank my mentors and friends ( Curtis, Blair, Zach , Huy and Erin), my second shooters, assistants and friends who have cheered me on and taught me things along the way. I’ve learned so much this year and can’t wait to bring it on in 2020!! Here are my 30 images submitted this year.
Kelli Wilke is a wedding photographer based in Wilmington, Delaware, Philadelphia and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.