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Military Spouse Spotlight: An Interview with Photographer Heather K. Purdy

As a bride-to-be, I was so excited to interview military spouse and professional photographer Heather …


As a bride-to-be, I was so excited to interview military spouse and professional photographer Heather K. Purdy this week! Heather is an award-winning elopement and wedding photographer based in Big Sur and the Monterey Bay, California. She also specializes in maternity and boudoir. She was recently featured on MilSpoFan, and her photographs blew me away. She takes, hands down, some of the most exquisite and innovative photographs I’ve seen. As she says on her site, “Let’s shake it up and get away from the standard Pinterest poses.”

We got a chance to talk about fine art photography (a new obsession of mine), how COVID has impacted the wedding industry, and how she grew her business while traveling the world with her Navy husband.  

Tell us a little about yourself, your business and your military connection. 

My business actually got started when my awesome Naval Officer husband (he flies E2C Hawkeyes) and I first moved overseas! We were stationed in Madrid, Spain and then lived in Maastricht, Netherlands and were in Europe for six years! As a NATO spouse, getting a job on the economy wasn’t a possibility, so I had the idea to put my Film and Television Production Degree to use and open a business! I started out capturing mostly US Military and ex-pat families, and my business grew from there! It was an amazing place to grow and learn, and I even got to teach photography courses at the US Embassy in downtown Madrid!

Can you explain what fine art photography is? How do you (as you say on your site) capture moments, not poses? 

Fine art photography is not about utilizing a camera to record and preserve a moment for the sole purpose of documentation, and instead, it is more using the camera to create and bring to life the photographer’s artistic vision. Though the camera can be used as a tool for logistical purposes like with a passport photo, fine art photographer is can be about what I believe in delivering to my clients: “Moments and not poses,” as well as my emphasis on: “Capturing the way it felt, not just the way it looked.” When my clients look back on their images, I want them to be instantly transported to how they felt in that moment… To remember the softness of a wedding dress… The emotion behind their personalized vows… Fine art photography is about telling a artistic story, through imagery…

Also, like myself, many fine art photographers utilize tools outside of the camera and editing software to add depth and expression to their images. On any given photo session, you will see me pulling out pieces of broken glass, prisms, fabric, using harsh shadows, as well as directional light in unusual ways, in order to help me create a layered and artistic image.

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What was your favorite wedding you ever photographed? What is your dream elopement location to photograph? 

I love any wedding where my couple has stayed 100% true to themselves! I specialize in micro-weddings and elopements, and many of my clients hire me for weddings that are a bit off-the-beaten-path… Literally! I got to capture one gorgeous, totally unique wedding at an off-the-grid farm, tucked into the Mendocino coast. Only a couple on-site buildings had electricity, produced by generator, no cell-phone signal, and the venue was a working, sustainable farm! It was gorgeous and fit the vegan, adventurous couple SO well!

I’ve gotten to capture elopements in some amazing places in both the US and Europe, and as a Big Sur elopement photographer, I am pretty spoiled here on the Central California Coast… But… If I could have my DREAM elopement situation… I would probably vote for Morocco or the Faroe Islands! Both places have such unique and otherworldly landscapes, which would translate so romantically on camera.

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How has your experience as a photographer been different during COVID? Is it easier or harder to shoot a small wedding? 

So many of my couples had to postpone, cancel, or change their wedding plans entirely due to COVID. I was amazed at the resilience and flexibility they all showed! Wedding planning isn’t easy… Even in the best of times, and the fact this curveball was thrown to all couples made my heart break for them! But—They were truly plucky and I always say—”I get to work with the most amazing people,” and this hammered that home for me!

While I love big weddings, I do specialize in elopements and micro-weddings for a reason… I love the how personal and intimate they are… How intentional and focused solely on the couple, instead of trying to please random relatives. I often say: “Elopements are for the adventurous and uncompromising.” My couples have gotten married on tops of mountains, in the middle of redwood forests, with their toes in the ocean, or on the cliffs of their ancestors. There is something really exciting and sacred about capturing elopements and micro-weddings, because there is such an air of intimacy about them…

What inspires you? 

I am forever inspired by connection and light… I love capturing the connection between people. It truly is a magical thing to preserve, and always an honor when clients trust me to document the way they feel about those they love the most…

Can you give readers your top tip for how to take a better, more artistic photo on an iPhone? 

Definitely! The biggest tip I can give is to make sure your image is well lit and well composed! The iPhone even has a great grid on their camera app that can help you with this! Keep things to the rule-of-thirds. Try and keep your image free of clutter, and make sure the subject you are wanting to capture is the first place your viewer’s eye will travel.

I also suggest downloading an editing app. I like to use Lightroom Mobile, but there are many out there… VSCO is popular and comes with a lot of great preset filters to help make your image have the tonal quality you want!

Find Heather at:

Victoria Kelly is a former military spouse and the author of When the Men Go Off to War and Mrs. Houdini. She graduated from Harvard University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Find her at

The editorial team at Sandboxx.