Photography—it’s all about passion, skill, and commitment. Ever wondered what a day in the life of a professional photographer is like? Every week, we ask a photographer to document and share how they spend a typical day at work, giving you an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at their shooting schedule.

This week, we’re spending the day with Ryan Brenizer, an acclaimed wedding photographer from New York City. As the creator of the Brenizer Method, he is hailed as one of the top photographers in the United States.

From the drama of a wedding venue down to the details of a bride’s gown, Ryan Brenizer’s images portray the timeless and the candid moments of modern-day weddings. And he has shot hundreds of them. Whether he’s shooting an engagement session in the pouring rain or newlyweds on the dancefloor, couples can count on Ryan’s expert technique and distinct style to capture the story and magic of their wedding day. Those looking to get into the wedding industry will find a lot of inspiration in Ryan’s body of work.

Read on to see how he spends a day’s work as a wedding and engagement portrait photographer.

24 Hours with Ryan Brenizer

It’s hard to describe a typical day in my life, because I’ve worked hard to ensure that my life doesn’t have a typical day. With weddings, I’m always shooting someplace new, telling a story about a new set of people. I have a packed shooting calendar for a wedding photographer, averaging 55-70 weddings a year for the past five years. This seems insane, considering that I also do scores of engagement shoots and some work for corporate clients. It helps that I’ve hired people to help me with the stuff that distracts from creating great photos for my clients, including second shooters like my frighteningly-talented girlfriend (and wedding photography’s biggest secret weapon) Tatiana Breslow, and I also have a full-time employee doing customer service and image processing, leaving me to only process images that are complicated. My days vary dramatically, and my weeks vary every season—maybe I’m shooting a 20-hour Indian wedding, or teaching a workshop in Bali or Dubai.

What I’ll present here is a day that represents the core of my business—those in-between days where we book new clients, and move others through various parts of the process. This is somewhat of an amalgam, but it’s illustrative of how I try to structure my life and work during wedding season.

5:15 A.M. I used to be a severe night owl. Sunrises were things that happened at the end of my workday, not the beginning. But I’ve made a point in the past year of waking up very early. I just asked myself, “How productive are you after midnight, really?” So I made the switch with the help of lots of caffeine. To paraphrase Tina Fey, here’s the thing about waking up at 5:15—five hours later, it’s TEN-FIFTEEN. That’s actually an incredible feeling, and it allows me to recapture the day. In the summer, it also allows me to beat the oppressive NYC heat. In the winter, waking up this early is mostly depressing, so I tend to stick to waking up whenever civil twilight is. Yes, I will set my alarm for things like 6:38 A.M. When I wake up, I hug my girlfriend Tatiana and pet the chihuahua sleeping between us. This is our favorite part of our day.

5:30 A.M. I make coffee. I adore the coffee of local Brooklyn roasters named Fortyweight. It is incredible.

5:45 A.M. I finalize packing for an engagement shoot. Generally, for an engagement session, I’ll bring just one D4 and three to five lenses in a simple backpack. It’s still nice and cool outside—high 60s or low 70s temperature, so I want to pack in a way that lets me ride my bike to the shoot. The most reliable way to travel in a city that can have traffic jams at any hour. I also pack a good lock, T-shirt, and shorts.

6 A.M. Check the weather. Weddings are about logistics, and I have a bunch of weather apps on my phone. I check them all routinely, okay…obsessively. I know what every cloud is doing in a 250-mile radius at all times.

6:30 A.M. I’m at a sunrise engagement shoot at the Brooklyn Bridge. I give a discount for sunrise photo shoots, simply because I love them. It lets me start my day right, interrupts my office day less, the weather and light tend to be fantastic, and most importantly, the sort of tourist-friendly, high-traffic places that most of my couples want to shoot in are only free of people at these times. Try to shoot at sunset on the Brooklyn Bridge, and brace yourself for a miserable experience of dodging hundreds of tourists and cyclists. Now we’re alone with just Crossfitters—bless their hearts.

7 P.M.My default engagement shoot lasts one hour, which is more than enough time as long as we’re sticking to locations that are close to each other. I allow couples to add time per the half-hour, so the decisions don’t have to be so big. Today, we tack on an extra 30 minutes to also walk down to the Brooklyn Bridge Park, and shoot some pastoral stuff.

7:30 A.M. I head to the gym. I want to keep doing this job as long as possible, and that means staying in shape. I try to go four to five times a week when I’m not traveling, but it usually ends up being less. I train specifically for the endurance and motion I need as a photographer. You wouldn’t believe how much squatting a good wedding photojournalist will do on an average wedding day. The best angle on a photo can be anywhere, and I also don’t want to give guests a memorable view of my back.

8:30 A.M. Back at home. The first thing I do is download the images to my laptop, and back them up to a hard drive. Then, I back that hard drive up to another hard drive. Then, if it’s Monday, I back that drive up to another drive. Meanwhile, the images are automatically backing up to a Time Capsule and Backblaze. If I have learned anything in nearly 450 weddings, it’s that there is absolutely no such thing as being paranoid enough.

9 A.M. I shower and a take little break with breakfast. I catch up on news, generally quick and informative stuff like NYT Now or I used to be very into political news, but, man, that stuff will kill you, so now I spend a lot of my energy on little stuff I feel like I can do something about, like efforts to make NYC streets as safe and friendly as we can. While eating breakfast, Tatiana and I will often watch a favorite pre-recorded TV show.

10 A.M. Settle down for computer work. First, I enter the shoot I just did into a careful spreadsheet I have that measures out all of my deadlines. This reminds me that, even though I may have just taken images that I’m excited about, there are other shoots that need to be taken care of first. I have a folder of bookmarks for the sort of stuff that ideally I would do every day, like respond to Facebook messages, answer questions on Tumblr, and post images to 500px and social media. During crazy season, I might get to them once or twice a week at most.

10:30 A.M. Figure out which image would be good to post to my Facebook page. I overthink this, which keeps me from posting as much as I should. Once this season dies down a bit, I want to dramatically increase my post count without caring so much whether the image is “Facebook-friendly.” I know what I like, but your tastes change when you have seen literally more than a million wedding images as I have. I interact with photographer friends on social media a bit, feeding some of the deeply-fulfilling relationships I’ve made with photographers across the world.

11 A.M. I start to cull a wedding. I try to do this the Monday after every wedding, but this is not always possible, particularly if I was traveling, or if I had shot two or three weddings that weekend. I use Photo Mechanic for culling, which helped save my life. I am about three times more productive if I do this at a coffee shop, away from news sites, TV, and video games, so I head across the street.

1 P.M. I sort the images into different folders. I put the rejects into a folder, extract the JPGs, and delete the RAWs. Just in case they’re ever needed, the JPEGs will work. I sort out panoramas, composites, and other photos I have a specific vision for so I can edit them. I put most of the images in a Lightroom catalog, which I export with smart previews to Dropbox. Then, I text my studio manager Wendy to tell her that the catalog is uploading, and that within half an hour or so, she can start processing the images wherever she is.

1:30 P.M. Feeling good now about my very productive morning. I put on a program in the office TV, fire up a video game. Currently, I play “XCOM: Enemy Within,” because those aliens have it coming—whatever helps me really relax for a while. One of the advantages of working for yourself is that when you relax, you can really relax. There’s no time spent staring at the computer, pretending to be busy. Then, you can get back to it.

2:30 P.M. I get back to it. Time to process that wedding. I batch process panorama pieces to autopano pro. And having a panorama portrait technique named after me, I can often have 300 or more images to sort into panoramas. I export any pieces of composites to Photoshop, and then I just use Lightroom on any images I had a particular vision for, such as images I want to leave dark or particular dodging and burning. If I see any show-stopping image that stands out, I’ll set them aside for posting or contest entries. I often forget to do this; contests are mostly just for fun.

4 P.M. I am corresponding with Wendy, my studio manager. All this time, she’s been answering e-mails, making sure that we get back to clients in a timely manner, but there are generally a number of things that I have to deal with, such as contracts, business decisions, scheduling, sponsors, and more. She’ll also let me know when urgent things come through. If any e-mail is left for me, it means that there is some sort of potentially time-consuming task attached to it, so even a list of 10 e-mails can mean a busy day for me. But this can make all the difference between a happy client and one with a a bad taste in their mouth, so we do our absolute best.

6:30 P.M. Prepare for a client meeting. I make sure the studio is clean. I run my studio out of my apartment in part to make sure that my apartment is always pretty clean. I set up wedding albums and slideshows on the TV, streamed off of my laptop.

7 P.M. I’m in a meeting with clients. I never take notes in these anymore—that all comes later. The clients already know my work well, because they know how much I cost. No one meets with a $7K+ photographer unless they like what they do. But I want to know more about them—what makes them, their friends and family, and the wedding unique, since that’s the story I want to tell. I show the ways that I try not just to tell stories, but to solve the problems that come up all too frequently on wedding days. I send them off with slideshows from every wedding from a year, because wedding photography is about what you can do every time, even when absolutely everything is working against you.

8 P.M. Dinner and time to rest. The main way I carve out time in a busy life is to have other people do most of the things that aren’t my area of expertise, so dinner is usually ordered from any of the amazing nearby restaurants through New York City is just an amusement park for workaholics.

8:30 P.M. I spend more time with Tatiana and our chihuahua. Since we work together, usually shoot together, and are disgustingly in love, we spend more time with each other than probably 95% of all couples. Like waking up early, for example. This is something that I wouldn’t stand years ago, but now I love it. It makes it easier to tell multi-faceted stories about love and connection when you feel these things so deeply. I have a pretty amazing life. I’ve been blessed with a deeply fulfilling photography career, but these are the moments when I truly feel lucky.

We hope you picked up a few insights and tips from Ryan’s jam-packed day as a wedding photographer. Want more gorgeous wedding and engagement session inspiration? Scroll down for a collection of Ryan’s images:

To see more of his photographs, follow Ryan Brenizer on 500px.

You can also visit his official website, and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ pages.

Got any questions for Ryan about his shooting schedule, photos, and process? Leave a comment for him below!

Check back next week for a new installment of A Day In The Life featuring another 500px photographer. Who would you like to see next? Comment below, and we’ll do our best to reach out to them!