Hey guys! I’m Safeena, a wedding and elopement photographer based in Malibu, California. I’ve been a love photographer since 2016, a year after graduating from college.
My interest in photography began as a child, devouring copies of National Geographic cover to cover. I worked internationally as a humanitarian photojournalist before falling into weddings. Becoming an elopement and wedding photographer has allowed me to fuse things I love about honest, photojournalist storytelling with cultivated beauty.
In terms of style, I err toward the outdoors and adventure and hunger for real over perfection. I love capturing a mix of both the editorial hero shots and discreetly documented truthful little moments.
My very first camera was a faithful little Canon Rebel T2i. I upgraded to the Mark III and IVs and L-series lenses as soon as I started getting hired for work. I recently made a big jump from Canon to Sony after many years, and don’t look back.
I’m not very emotionally attached to my gear or singular system. The Sony mirrorless system is much better for hiking with and carrying for longer periods of time. Any gear that allows me to focus more energy on my couple and the experience I’m giving to them rather than fiddling with buttons is the gear I want.
The one thing I am is a ‘gear loyalist’, so to speak, shooting on all prime lenses. There’s a quality in them that I love and don’t find in zoom lenses. It also helps an indecisive person like me not waste time picking the perfect crop.
Sony A7III – In addition to its lightweight (perfect for big hikes and long days), I also love its low-light performance, high accuracy focus, and how easy it is to nail exposure every time.
The fact that there are fewer moving parts to break is also a big plus for me because I’m pretty hard on my gear. Those things see sand, saltwater, snow, and everything in between.
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART – This is what I shoot at least 80% of my work on and never leaves its body. I love the colors and sharpness, and the perspective gives a great characteristic ‘real life’ feel. I also noticed any focusing issues went away when I switched to Sony.
Sony 20mm f/1.8 G Lens – This is my landscape and tiny-room lens! It’s wide without looking absurdly distorted. It’s also much smaller and lighter than my 35mm so I prefer taking it for personal hiking trips and adventures as a sole lens.
Sony 85mm f/1.8 Lens – I typically switch between the 20mm and the 85mm for my second camera body. The 85mm offers refinement and a richness that I can’t always capture in my wide lenses. I very rarely need to go tighter than this, and it’s perfect for catching candids without putting the spot on people.
Canon 135mm f/2.0 L USM – This is one of two lenses I kept from my Canon system, with the help of the MC-11 Canon to Sony adapter. It’s a super sturdy, incredibly sharp, fast lens that’s ideal for churches, large ceremony spaces, and honestly, Taft Point. I also love how much light I get shooting wide open with it. I rarely use it, but it creates consistent bangers.
Canon 45mm f/2.8 TS-E – This tilt-shift is the second of two lenses I kept from my Canon system. It’s my most creatively challenging and exciting lens – hard to nail, but when you do, those photos are gold.
Sigma MC-11 Adapter – This made the transition from Canon to Sony seamless! There are some lenses Canon just does better, and it’s nice to have the option of keeping them.
Godox TT685-s Flash Speedlite – I only ever use an on-camera flash for dancing reception photos. I love the vibe shift I get from it, going from my signature glowy, warm style to a vibrant, colorful one. It’s also perfect for making those epic dance party light trails.
MagMod Diffuser Kit – The kit comes with two easy-to-switch magnetic diffusers to switch from an ambient-light look to the contrasty light-trails-party vibe. I use it 100% of the time I use my flash.
NEEWER CN-216 Video Light – I keep this on-hand in case of terrible reception light or to add something dynamic to the dance floor. I rarely use it, but it’s been a lifesaver.
Holdfast Moneymaker Dual Harness Straps – These straps have me wielding my cameras like a pro on the wedding day. Especially for shooting all primes, it’s perfect for having two options of focal lengths and keeping the weight on my shoulders balanced!
ONA Bowery Bag – I value style and function equally, so the Bowery Bag was a must for me. The leather has gotten more beautiful with age, and it holds everything I need day-of – a couple of extra lenses, my phone, cards, emergency kit, etc. Unless I need lighting gear for a reception, it’s the only bag I take in with me to a wedding day.
Hardware & Software
Culling with PhotoMechanic – It’s saved me more hours than I know and taught me to ‘cull in’ rather than ‘cull out’.
All editing with Lightroom – I only do light retouching, and it’s perfect for batch editing. I typically use my own presets that I’ve developed, but I’ve used Mastin’s Portra Pushed and Tribe Archipelago LXC presets before.
Backup with BackBlaze – They’ve saved me a couple times in the event of missing files and hard drive crashes.
KUVRD lens caps. I am trash and lose all my lens caps almost immediately. These ones fit every lens and do a better job of protecting them from the shenanigans I put them through.
I was gifted a tiny little ‘Wedding Emergency Bag’ for Christmas one year and have kept it stocked since. I call it my hero kit because it carries everything I need to save the day – needle and thread, tweezer, ribbon, tampon, you name it.
I have a prism for getting creative during portraits. I also use my iPhone pretty regularly to create a mirrored reflection in some photos.
I included my Sutro Footwear boots because I wear them for the vast majority of my events – big fancy weddings to hiking elopements. They’re incredibly comfortable and have been through everything, while still looking good!
As a final note, I’ve learned a lot looking back on years growing from an amateur to a professional. One of the standout lessons is to take every photographer’s ‘How I Do Things’ posts with a grain of salt. There’s no right way to do it and no perfect magical camera system that you need to become a great photographer.
Anyone trying to convince you otherwise probably also doesn’t like Flaming Hot Cheetos, and that’s not the kind of person you want to trust anyway. We’re all doing it a little bit right and a little bit wrong and learning by our mistakes, even the best of the best of us. So get creative enough to make your own mistakes.