Forbes' Essjay Photography in Australia's Brides Choice top 10

Sarah Hodge and Essjay Photography have been named in the Top 10 in the wedding photographer category of the Australian Wedding Awards 2021.
Sarah Hodge and Essjay Photography have been named in the Top 10 in the wedding photographer category of the Australian Wedding Awards 2021.

Forbes' Sarah Hodge has been named in the top 10 in her industry in the Australian Wedding Awards 2021.

It's an incredible honour for the local behind Essjay Photography, who considers her job in itself a privilege.

Essjay Photography was voted number one in the Central West by Sarah's clients last year, taking out the Central West Brides Choice Award for wedding photographer.

Now she's been named in the top 10 at a national level: her passion for her work and her attention to detail rewarded.

The regional awards were based on client votes; but for the national awards the businesses were put through an audit.

"They did secret shopper phone calls, they checked your voice answering system, your phone manner when you called, they audited your website to make sure they could find where you were located, your contact details, about yourself, and all your social media accounts," Sarah explained.

Not that she knew that at the time: the full process was only revealed at the recent awards ceremony, online due to the different COVID travel restrictions on different states.

Being entrusted to capture the special moments of someone's wedding is a real honour, and not one Sarah will ever take lightly.

"It's like I get to become part of their family because I'm there the whole time with their families," she reflects.

"I feel really sentimental about it all: I know how much, in years to come, people will cherish the photos.

"They'll love them when they get them and they'll hang them on their walls, but in generations to come they'll still be loved and that's really special."

There's been a special joy in the gatherings she's seen since COVID-19 caused so many cancellations and so much isolation.

"When (people are) sitting there with all their family and friends ... you can feel everyone's so grateful in the room, to be together, COVID's definitely brought joy in being able to have a celebration together," she says.

There's a sense of relief, a readiness to celebrate and have fun.

For an increasing number of couples, there's been a refocussing: Sarah is covering more elopements and micro-weddings than ever before.

"COVID has made people happy to have just their 10 loved ones there, or just themselves and then a party with everyone later," Sarah said.

It has certainly brought about challenges for the wedding industry: Sarah's 2022 calendar was full before the pandemic caused further cancellations in the second half of last year.

She's working with her clients and other vendors to reschedule as she also balances her family's needs as a mum of two young children - and yes, 2023 is already looking very busy.

Again it's a case of traditions shifting with mid-week, Friday and Sunday weddings being booked.

No two weddings are alike but every one is beautiful and it's Sarah's incredible privilege to capture the essence of the day for each couple.

"They're so different for each individual - I love that," she says.