Spotlight Artist Chris Van Winkle, Photographer classic style..modern edge
Chris Van Winkle is a self-taught photographer, who came by the art by “accident”. While attending a high-end wedding in Mexico, he happened to see well-known photographer Elizabeth Mesina in action. Watching her shoot seemed to strike something in him, and he thought “it looked like fun.” When he returned from the Mexico trip back to California, he began working with a photographer as a “second shooter.” The experience taught him many techniques on how to capture those perfect shots that can become wonderful memories for years to come.
Chris attended college majoring in Fashion Merchandising and spent 25 years in the men’s neckware business in different roles including sales, design and licensing. Deciding to venture out on his own was a leap of faith. He began his professional photography career in 2002 and opened his business, Chris Van Winkle Photography.
Chris grew up outside of New York City and moved to Florida in 10th grade. He also lived in California for six years, and it is still his favorite place to be. Chris only ventured to northern Michigan after he was asked to help run a local hand-bag company.
Chris has traveled the world and the camera of course is always in tow. He has traveled to all 50 states - but more remarkably has visited 85 countries. His favorites are Morocco, Italy and Antarctica. His favorite states? Utah and California.
He is definitely “chill” in his demeanor which reflects his photography style as well, as he believes “there is nothing worse than a photographer barking orders at you” during your special day or event. Chris does love shooting candids and people the most, and is not ashamed at all to admit that his iPhone captures many of his great photographs. “The iPhone 11 is awesome and takes great photos!’
“Chris is a very talented photographer. He is organized and accommodating to photo requests. He works well under pressure. With large families and a long list of requested photos he made the day progress easily. He and his assistant did a phenomenal job of capturing our wedding day! Memories to last a lifetime.”
“Chris did an amazing job with our wedding! He is very easy to work with, and extremely efficient. We had some last minute changes on our day, and Chris was wonderful to work with. Very flexible, kind, and talented. We were blown away with the finished product! We would highly recommend Chris if you are looking for a wedding photographer.”
Chris shoots 30 - 35 weddings a season with his “second shooter” LeAnn Kieft who has worked with him for eight years in northern Michigan. He says they are a great team and she definitely gets a lot of credit for making his business what it is here. Wedding photography does not make him nervous at all, in fact he says, “it’s fun - you only get one chance to get it right.” He thinks meeting new people each week and capturing these amazing special memories for them is great because each one is so unique and special in their own way.
The summer season in northern Michigan also keeps him busy photographing homes for Harbor Sotheby’s International Realty. He enjoys creating images that “make people want to buy that particular home, so it’s important the photos give you a good sense of place.”
Photography is really just a six month job for Chris, who doesn’t sit still for long. He also helps in operations for a business in Florida including accounting, projections and market strategies for them. He also owns two homes in Mexico and will be running them as an Airbnb as his next fun project.
Where does Chris see himself in five years? “I will probably retire from the wedding business and LeAnn will take it over and I will kite board and travel.” I think we all need tips from Chris on how to live a great, exciting and well-balanced life. And of course, always capturing those memorable images along the way.