Meet Elyssa & John!

Elyssa & John Kivus are the husband & wife team behind Kivus & Camera,  wedding photographers in Durham, NC. Elyssa and John bring their enthusiastic, joyous, and fun-loving personalities to your wedding through their vivid and energetic wedding photography. Check out our interview with Elyssa & John to learn more about their business, and philosophy about wedding photography!

Tell us a little about how you got started in Wedding Photography

Elyssa: My background is in journalism. I went to college wanting to be a photojournalist and interned at great papers, just waiting for my opportunity to land a staff position. But, this was 2009 and the only thing newspapers were doing was firing people. I ended up in law school (mock trial had also been a passion), but I still loved taking pictures on the side. A couple years into my law career (which I hated), a good friend was getting married with basically zero budget, and I offered to bring my camera. I fell completely in love with documenting weddings, started the business, and was able to take it full time about 2 years later. My favorite thing about working in the wedding industry is experiencing vicarious joy. I love getting to be around so many happy people and learning what makes them smile.

Who do you love to work with?

The Kivus & Camera couple knows that weddings are meant to be enthusiastic and joyful. One of your top priorities is having a great time, whether you’re inviting just a couple witnesses to a courthouse ceremony or maxing out the occupancy allowance at a ballroom. There will probably be good beer available after the ceremony, definitely some yummy dessert, and, more often than not, dancing (good and bad). You’re probably super nerdy about at least one thing (comics, sports, biology, wine, whatever) and we can’t wait to talk to you about that thing.

How do you help your clients keep their chill?

Sending them to Bridechilla! But mostly I just make myself available to provide advice, be a sounding board, a joke machine – whatever’s needed in that moment. I’ve been to a lot of weddings. I planned my own wedding. I’ve got a lot of knowledge to share and I love to help. I also love to make people laugh, so I will always be striving to do that.

What do you feel makes you unique and different from other wedding pros?

Sometimes it feels like the wedding photography world is divided into two styles: “light and airy” and “dark and moody”. We’re not either of those. John & I have decided our style is “Vivid & Energetic.” So from a photos perspective, our look is different than a lot of what you’ll see. We embrace color, bring our own lights, aren’t afraid of bright sun or dark rooms, etc. Aside from the photos perspective, I think our backgrounds set us apart. This is a second career for me (I was an attorney first, a divorce attorney no less), and John is still a practicing intellectual property litigator. It takes a certain set of skills (dedication, problem solving, self-loathing, craziness) to succeed in law school. I’m recovering from the self-loathing part, but I am bringing some serious passion for the business of weddings.

Do you have a favorite wedding memory? 

My favorite wedding memories are always moments that really highlight who this couple is. When the groomsmen serenade the bride with Backstreet Boys and she joins right in, when the couple have customized their vows independently and both have the same pop culture reference, when “their song” comes on and it’s Who Let The Dogs Out.

What do you wish more people knew about wedding planning?

I wish more couples knew that they can make their wedding whatever they want. There’s no specific timeline you have to follow – have your “reception” from 4-10 with the ceremony somewhere in the middle. There’s no reason you have to have bridesmaids or groomsmen. There’s no reason you have to carry a bouquet or cut a cake. Just do you. From a photography perspective: Great photos take time. Those awesomely lit couple portraits are a lot harder to get when all we have is 3 minutes at the end of cocktail hour after all of the family photos are done.

Share 3 fun facts about you and your business!

  1. Kivus is our last name. It’s pronounced Key-vuhs. You can remember this by calling us Kivus & Butthead (you decide which of us is which).
  2. We shoot on two different camera systems! I shoot with Nikon equipment, but John uses a Sony mirrorless system. Depending on what Nikon comes out with toward the end of this year, I may be shifting to Sony too though.
  3. We go to Disney World as often as possible – multiple times a year. I may even edit your wedding photos from one of the parks. I’ve been known to pull out my laptop at Animal Kingdom’s Nomad Lounge.