Tanner & Sarah

Someone asked Tanner & Sarah to shoot their first wedding in 2009 and people just never stopped asking.

Take us back to you as a kid.

Sarah: I was a pretty big adventurous tomboy back in the day. Believe it or not I played the tuba too. ;) I took nerdy to the extreme. 

Tanner: I spent most of my time being in as many groups, activities, and sports as I could in my small town of Garner, Iowa.

Walk us through the days leading up to starting your own thing. Tanner and I started ZTS in 2009 while attending college at Buena Vista University. Someone asked us to shoot their wedding, and honestly people just haven’t stopped asking since then. We never really intended to be wedding photographers or for it to take off like this. Had no idea it would turn into this. It was purely a hobby between Sarah and I that turned into something more. Pretty cool though! Thanks to everyone for all your wonderful support over the years!

"I’m pretty proud to run a successful business with my best friend."

Take us back to your wedding day, especially with being on the other end of the lens. Tanner proposed in March 2013 on the day we closed on building our house together. We were entering our 5th wedding season photographing together. We often talked about what we want and didn't want someday so I feel we already  knew what was important to us. I highly suggest to each couple to really make each day about you two, and about celebrating you love together. You don’t have to follow the norm!  We knew what was important to us and what we felt mattered most, which was just having a celebration of our lives with the people we loved. 

We booked a venue that fit our style for Sept 27th, 2014 (Sticks Studio Warehouse here in Des Moines). Which gave us plenty of time to plan and not be rushed. Plus paying for a wedding is a HUGE undertaking, I still don't know how people get married in a few weeks! 

We ended up booking our date and venue around our wedding photographer’s availability schedule (Ryan Brenizer, voted one of the top in the world). Which of course was a huge priority to us and hiring a local videographer Israel Lopez (incredibly talented) to do our video.

We asked Tanner’s uncle Doug to marry us, our bulldog Dexter was part of our ceremony. We had food stations with food we loved including tacos, a bacon station (bacon wrapped goodness), and a state fair food station. There was an open whiskey bar all night for our guests and doughnut bar. We hired the vendors we loved working with the most in the area. Honestly we had a great time with our family and friends and a day we will truly cherish celebrating our love with the people we love the most. 

My absolutely favorite moment of the day was at the end of the night. The last song played and our friends and family (that still were around due to an open whiskey bar, ha!) signing to us as we slow danced. I remember thinking how lucky we were to have such a great support system, and we truly had the best day ever together.

Being on the other side of the lens did teach us so much as well and what matters most from the couples perspective. It was truly an eye opening and fun experience, and it was great to meet one of our long time wedding photography idols from New York. Brenizer even stayed late into the night and broke it down on the dance-floor with us, I’m sure coming to Iowa after shooting weddings all over the world was a fun experience for him as well!

"Really make each day about you two."

Why weddings? You know it was never really planned, someone asked us to shoot our first in 2009 and from there people just never stopped asking. It’s been a fun adventure! 

We do shoot a considerable amount of small business commercial work as well and our landscapes of Iowa photos have really taken off. It’s fun to see our photos of Des Moines around in offices all over the metro as well as various company websites.

What have been the challenges? Who and what has helped?

Sarah: All the legal stuff. Setting up a bank account, insurance, taxes, sales tax, filing for an EIN. For college kids that was a real adventure! Honestly we did a ton of research. These were the days before FB Groups (I think that is a WONDERFUL resource to new photogs.) Back then we joined something called the B-School. It was an online forum from wedding photographer Christopher Becker in California. It was much like FB groups are today but with categories. We asked, we learned, we read, we watched. He had weekly video guests from people in the industry, he talked about hard topics and how to solve them. We soaked it all in. Becker is the man! He’s still out there mentoring. Great guy! PS B if you are reading this, thanks for all that advice back in the day!

Tanner: The logistical back end of everything. Trying to maintain the high level of commitment for every client. Sarah spends a lot of time working with all of our clients to ensure the day runs smoothly. I swear she basically plans 15+ weddings a year. It incredibly challenging to keep all of those details straight for such an important event.

"Being flexible was a hard skill to learn in the high stress environment of weddings."

Talk to us about one of your good days this week. We booked two wonderful 2018 weddings this past weekend, that always makes for a good day! 

Tell us about the strangest or unplanned moments (dark stories).

Sarah: Honestly we don’t really have any horror stories, but we’ve seen quite a few very interesting things shooting weddings together the last 9 wedding seasons! HA! 

Tanner: Honestly, there are way too many times when people are late for weddings, but we always seem to make something work. Being flexible was a hard skill to learn in the high stress environment of weddings.

Why Des Moines?

Sarah: I’m from Indianola, Iowa so I just moved back to the area after attending college and Tanner followed when he was done at BVU. Des Moines is awesome, we love the supportive community, the vibe and the small but big town feel. And shutout to the wedding photographer and vendor community in DSM. We truly support each other, share referrals, etc. It's an awesome positive vibe here!!! It's great we all support and are happy for one another and everyone's own successes. 

Tanner: Even though Des Moines is rather large, it still invites that small town vibe. Everyone still kind of knows everyone. The ability to network in Des Moines is amazing.

Convince someone new to DSM your favorite place to go on your day off. In the summer we love going to the Farmers Market. Though with weddings we only get to make it a handful of times each season if we are lucky. Hands down worth a trip on a Saturday morning!

"The ability to network in Des Moines is amazing."

The most underrated thing in DSM is ________. Why? SAKARI SUSHI! OK I’m not just saying that because I’m obsessed with sushi. We had the pleasure of photographing their entire food menu a few years ago and I can’t tell you what better dream come true than to photograph your favorite restaurants menu, then get to eat it all!!! They let us invite 20ish of our friends to share the entire menu with after photographing it. Probably one of our coolest commercial gigs to date. But if you haven’t been, get there. Sakari on Ingersoll is beyond!

What are you most proud of and why?

Sarah: Honestly I’m pretty proud to run a successful business with my best friend. I don't think many people can say that! Tanner and I have learned a lot together with ZTS the last 9 wedding seasons. We've shared a ton of awesome moments together and made some wonderful friends along the way in our couples and in the industry. I think we will always look back on ZTS as something we built together and are proud of. It truly is an extension of our friendship and marriage, it's been a great adventure! 

Tanner: Beyond what Sarah wrote, I am proud of the notoriety we have been receiving over the past couple years. With the amount of exceptional photographers in the area it is an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence with them.

Someone is starting a project for the first time, what would you want to say to them?

Sarah: If you do something you love it’s like you are never working a day inyour life. Put in the hard-work. And don't let others hold you back. 

Tanner: Become comfortable being uncomfortable. Make sure you and your client have the same expectations.

To other couples out there wanting to start something what's your advice? Shoot all the time. I literally used to carry my camera everywhere in college. You need to know your camera settings like the back of your hand. 

Be sure to start your business right once you start charging clients. Get a bank account, apply for an EIN number if needed, register for a sales tax permit, and acquire the proper insurance. I know it can be overwhelming and costly right off the bat but ask others for help and advice. Go see a lawyer if need be. It really pays off in the long term if you plan to be serious to do it right. It’s a ton of work, but you can do it!

"Be sure to start your business right once you start charging clients."

What’s one thing people need to know you really care about?

Sarah: Our Olde English Bulldog Dexter! (Yes he’s a killer dog those fans of the TV show) @DexterBulldogge on IG and Twitter. Don’t worry he has over 10,000 followers now! Pretty proud of our sassy fur child. He even has some new toy sponsor on IG, Jolly Pets this last week. The partnership is going to allow him to give back part of the profits of sales through his account to local shelters of his choice too. We are pretty excited about that! 

Tanner: As a business, Sarah and I really care about client relations. Most of our business is with weddings. This is an incredibly important day for people. We feel it is our job to make things go as smoothly as possible. We take pride in our ability to communicate promptly to share our expertise. 

Photo credit: Amanda Basteen

Derek Jensen