Nashville, Tennessee — Known for his dreamy and ethereal wedding photography, Tec Petaja traveled all across the world to capture the most intimate and joyous moments. But when the coronavirus outbreak hit, Petaja found himself at home like many others, seeking a creative outlet and a way to give back.
"We're never going to forget this time in our lives ever. And for me, I mean, I have young kids, so they won't remember, but I know I needed to document it. And so that got me thinking like I need other people to have a memory of this," Petaja told CBSN.
He dusted off a drone that was sitting in his closet and launched contact-free portrait sessions in Nashville.
"People have been loving it. It's like kids and dogs are so hard to shoot anyway, but you pull out the drone, and they're, like, so mesmerized by it," he said. In about four days' worth of sessions, he said he raised $1,700 for Vanderbilt Health.
This isn't the first time Petaja has had to think outside the box. Last year he and his wife, Chelsea, launched a mobile portrait studio called Techel & Co.
"One night, I was, you know, lookin' at studios around town, and I just couldn't find the right studio with the right light, with the right price. And I was, like, 'This is crazy. There's gotta be something out there.' And there's not," Petaja said. "With Techel & Co, we've been doing family portraits and also corporate headshots. So I've been driving around to businesses in town, and just pulling up and shooting, you know, 10 to 20 portraits."
But in the era of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, Petaja had to put the brakes on his operations. He's also having to reimagine the future of weddings, as some of his clients postponed celebrations into 2021.
"When's the next time 200, 300 people are going to get together for a wedding? I'm not sure. So I've had to think, okay, how do I restructure how I shoot weddings from here on out? And what do I offer instead of an eight-hour package?" he said.
Starting in June, Petaja will be offering three-hour "Petite" wedding packages in Tennessee, which will include photography, venue, and floral design, and allow for up to eight witnesses.
In the meantime, Petaja said he's staying hopeful and finding beauty in his time with loved ones.
"I've learned that the essentials of life, you know, are in my home, in my family. So I've really taken that and appreciate that. And our schedule's really slowed down, which has really been nice," Petaja said. "So hopefully within the next year, I can take away that and just continue to focus on family, but also get back to working and seeing friends and hanging out again."