In Focus: Chris and Ruth’s Journey From Wedding Photography to Hatmaking

By Kyle Wilson

Dynamic husband and wife photographers Chris and Ruth are based in Spain but they travel the world endlessly chasing the sun and celebrating the love between couples. Outside of wedding photography, they have a unique hat-making business that came about during the Covid pandemic. They chatted with Kyle Wilson about being small business owners, their photography philosophy, and the vital role of teamwork. 

Entrepreneurs beyond the lens

KW: Chris & Ruth, tell us about yourselves. Is it just the two of you, or do you have associate shooters?

C: Basically, it’s just the two of us. We have an office assistant who does invoicing and back office stuff.nar

KW: What other business are you doing? What other routes are you taking?

R: We are hat lovers. During Covid, everyone had a little more time to reflect, and so we started making hats.

C: It started as a hobby and became a small business.

R: Before we started the brand, everyone associated us with wearing hats. I always wear them during weddings because I cannot shoot with sunglasses. We bought so many hats and were never satisfied. We just wanted to create a better product. That’s how you start the best companies.

C: It was fascinating to learn the craft and to see how it all comes together.

KW: Are you selling them locally or online?

R: One local store sells hats for us and the rest is online. We took it slow, it’s a cute brand and we want to keep it local and high-end.

KW: Do you see a world where your hats take over your career trajectory? Or do you plan on being wedding photographers until the end of time?

C: We don’t consider ourselves only wedding photographers. We are self-employed business owners, so we will always create something. Right now it’s a lot of wedding photography. We did a lot of fashion stuff as well. I wouldn’t say we would stop doing wedding photography, but maybe switch in a different direction at some point.

R: I could not imagine living without taking pictures. I started when I was 15, so it’s more than half of my life. When I’m not taking pictures, I am searching for a project. Right now I would say I will go as long as I can with the weddings because I just love it. I would rather shoot a wedding than a commercial campaign. The commercial campaign is super fun and I love the process and working with professional models. But at a wedding you feel the connections between people, something so meaningful. 

KW: It's a rewarding job to be invited to people’s most incredible emotional day.

Post-shoot anxiety

R: We had a wedding five years ago where we had to sign a lot of clauses, like it was secret. So they did not give us a lot of information, and when we arrived the day before the wedding, we realized how big the event was going to be. What we imagined was maybe 3% of what it was. So I got nervous and was looking for another photographer at the last minute.

C: The ceremony was half an hour before sunset so there was not a lot of time.

R: If the bride was late, we were dead. But in the end, it was okay. I was looking at that gallery a week ago and thought we did so well. But for the month after the wedding, I was still stressed because I thought it was not ideal.

C: With a bit more time we could have done so much more stuff.

R: But in the end, it is how it is. They can’t compare it because it just happened once, and everyone did everything possible.

The Photographer's Problem: A Narrative Podcast streaming now

KW: We leave a wedding with a kind of guilt sometimes.

R: But it’s also a good sign because you want the best of the best for them.

C: It means you’re attached to what you do and really want to get the best out of every situation.

On client relationships

KW: Do you guys form a bond with your clients? Do you speak with them a lot throughout the wedding planning process?

R: When they reach out, we send them our package, and they don’t have to call us before they book, but 95% of our couples do. I want to make sure they like us and feel I can have fun with them. Then, when they sign they get a booklet with tips for the day which I send in the post because I don’t like all this digital stuff. Because I value things like that, we also attract people who value that.

KW: You build a bond with your clients, are emotionally invested, and genuinely want your clients to have the best day.

R: In the past, I would have a vision for a wedding. Now I really want them to have the best day ever. I get annoyed when there’s a videographer who basically stages everything. It’s their wedding, I want them to be how they are.

C: You shouldn’t be pushing them into your vision of the pictures.

R: I stopped thinking too much about the wedding before and just gave it the whole day. The weddings in Europe are a little more fluid than when we, for example, shoot in the Philippines or Mexico. It’s a bit more structured, and that’s not our nature, so I feel like I don’t want to be part of that team.

KW: That is a big thing with weddings in America that has slowly changed from this super structured thing where they’re running from thing to thing all day without time to relax. I don’t let my couples do anything for the half-hour before their wedding. Go sit in a room together because you’re best friends and about to get married. 

Working in harmony

R: I always chat to the videographer and say, ‘hey, can you let things just happen longer and not crash the scene.’ I want the emotions.

C: It’s important to be a good team because it’s not about the vendors on the day. 

KW: Working with other vendors should be talked about more in educational spaces.

R: I feel the same. Everyone could deliver better. We have a referral list of videographers that we enjoy working with and that match our philosophy. The guests don’t know who is photo or who is video, so you are the photo-video team. In the end, it’s about the reputation for all of us. There should be a workshop teaching how to work as a team. 

KW: That’s a really good angle. Wedding team collaboration: the Chris and Ruth workshop.

R: I alway say to the client, if you have the money, book a good video team. Two weeks ago, we were watching my parents' wedding video. I know the pictures because they are around my parents’ house, but watching the video I cried because I could see how they act. I never expected such a simple video to do so much to me 35 years after they married.

C: It takes you back to the day more than a photo could because you see them, hear the voices.

Focusing on the craft

KW: Do you have any workshops coming up this year?

R: During Covid, we were like, what do we want to focus on? Let’s focus on that and then don’t do the rest. So when we get asked for workshops, we just say we are not doing any this year.

KW: That’s amazing. You guys obviously have so much you could speak about and educate people about, but the fact that you want to focus on the craft rather than get distracted says so much about you guys as a whole.

R: Yeah, it’s just our couples, us, their weddings, some hats, and then the beach in Mallorca.

KW: That’s the life. I’m going to go buy a hat now. Where can we find your hats?

R: It’s called Crown of the Vagabond.

Follow Chris and Ruth (@chrisandruth) on their breathtaking travels and get your own trend-setting handmade hat at Vagabond the Brand.

This interview has been edited and condensed. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for the full, unedited interview and more epic photography content.