When we tapped Derek Hough and Hayley Erbert to be the cover stars for our latest digital issue, we knew we needed to enlist photographers who would be uniquely equipped to capture their love story. After all, the record-breaking professional dancer and his fiancée’s relationship spans a decade, and we felt strongly that another husband-and-wife team would be best-suited to visually tell their story. With that in mind, we enlisted Amy Gayeski and Stuart Bunton, the married couple who runs Amy and Stuart Photography, to make the shoot—and Hough and Erbert’s unique dynamic—come to life. With nearly 30 years of experience photographing weddings together, Gayeski and Bunton applied their own professional and marital expertise to make these still images of the future newlyweds feel alive.
The Los Angeles-based photographers first crossed paths on their first day of college at a photography school in Santa Barbara, where they immediately hit it off. Not only did the two bond over their mutual affinity for capturing moments on camera, but they also detected a natural compatibility. After collaborating with one another in school, Gayeski and Bunton decided to start their careers side by side after graduation. They both began working in the commercial, fashion, portraiture, and film sectors, which then turned into shooting their own commercial projects.
Since the duo fell in love with the wedding world and the creative freedom it provided them after documenting their first one in college, they decided to photograph other couples' special days as a side gig. “As our experience grew while shooting commercial-type work, we realized that our hearts were in weddings, and we made a conscious shift in focus,” the couple shares. After working behind the lens together for almost a decade, Gayeski and Bunton became business partners and life partners in 2006. During that milestone year, the pair tied the knot and launched their own photography business, Amy and Stuart Photography.
Almost 20 years later, Gayeski and Bunton credit the support they give one another—plus their natural gift—as the foundation of their successful business and the fuel that runs it. “There is power in partnership, and we temper each other really well,” the duo expresses. The pair has mastered the art of living and working together in part because they feel comfortable voicing their vision, which creates a safe environment for their craft to thrive. “Neither one of us is shy to speak up if we feel that the other is approaching something from the wrong angle,” they note. This mutual respect and understanding trickles into their home lives as well. Additionally, Gayeski and Bunton divide and conquer other business-related tasks, so neither partner assumes the bulk of the responsibility. While Bunton takes on client interactions and edits photos, Gayeski runs the business and pieces together the albums. Since it’s easy to get bogged down in the details, the photography team regularly flexes their competitive sides by treating every shoot like a game. “We always declare a winner after every wedding,” they laugh. “This has always helped us keep pushing our work forward and keeps it really fun.”
Building their business from scratch and working towards a common goal is what motivates them to excel. Every time they shoot a wedding, they aim to create timeless images that will resonate with both present and future generations. Although Gayeski and Bunton scout the venue prior to the event to find the best lighting and photo locations, they let the couple guide the pictures that they take. “We feel strongly about not turning a wedding into a photoshoot,” they explain. “We cherish those little unexpected and imperfect moments and don’t like to direct too much unless it’s absolutely necessary. Our job is to document what is happening beautifully rather than setting up ‘moments.’”
The husband-and-wife duo were able to apply that same strategy while photographing our cover stars. Before the shoot, they toured the site, so they could conceptualize a plan of action and gather the right equipment. Instead of following a set agenda once the day came, Gayeski and Bunton let the subjects' love for one another guide each snapshot. “Their passion for each other was clear from the first frame,” they remark. “When possible, we just let them be them. We loved the quieter moments with Hayley and Derek, but capturing them moving together was undeniably impressive.”
Not only do Gayeski and Bunton have decades of experience as colleagues and romantic partners, but they've also collaborated on their own nuptials. To them, planning a wedding is a team effort that strengthens your relationship. “You learn how to listen and how to perhaps yield to an opinion that you may not necessarily share,” they mention. If you’re in the thick of mapping out your big day with your significant other, the photographers recommend acknowledging your future spouse's perspective and tuning out the other noise. “Figure out what is really important to you, but be willing to compromise,” they advise. “Weddings can be tricky when navigating everyone’s needs. Most importantly, stick together and make it your wedding.”