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Wedding images can be pretty tricky to capture in the right way.

With factors like weather, lighting and location out of the photographer’s control, doing someone's special day justice is an art form within itself. It's an in-the-moment kind of shoot with one chance at getting it right - there's no room for error.

This is something Columbus-based photographer Susanna Poeffel said she knows all too well. She shoots about 20 weddings per year and said they require a lot of effort. Recently, her skills were recognized when she was named Nebraska’s Wedding Photographer of the Year.

Poeffel grew up in Arkansas, where her father worked as a pastor and elementary school teacher. Her mother was a reporter and photographer at the local newspaper.

When she went off to college in Chicago at Moody Bible Institute her mother gifted Poeffel her film camera. There, she studied communications and later moved to Columbus in 2003 after marrying her high school sweetheart, Jeremy Poeffel.

Not knowing what direction to take her career, she eventually took on a job at Photographic Memories by Kim in Monroe. She worked there for a year as a photographer and learned the ropes of the industry, sparking a passion for the art.

Poeffel then took on a job as a wedding videographer in 2005. After her employer passed away in 2011, Poeffel started running the business by herself at home. With three small children in the house, she said it was hard managing the two.

Looking for a larger space, her husband suggested they move into the former music store at 2409 11th St. The couple completely renovated the space, replacing everything except for the original antique ceiling, and in 2013, Creative Images Photography was born. There, Poeffel offered her services for newborns, seniors and families.

This year, Poeffel entered two wedding albums for judging at the Professional Photographers of Nebraska annual conference held recently in Grand Island. Each book contained 40 pages with hundreds of photos Poeffel took from two separate weddings. Albums that scored 80 points or above were then judged for special honors. Those scoring between 85 and 90 were named excellent. Poeffel scored 86 on both of her books.

When her name was announced for Wedding Photographer of the Year, Poeffel said she was taken aback. So much so that she forgot to take the trophy with her when exiting the stage and had to run back and grab it.

“I knew in my head that it was quite possible because I knew I had scored high, but just to believe that it’s actually going to happen just blows you away and just makes you grateful for how far you’ve come," Poeffel said about the award. "You remember when you started when you really didn’t know what you were doing. And to achieve that, you feel grateful for the people who have helped you along the way. But yeah, I started crying … It was very emotional.”

Poeffel said she doesn't have plans to slow down anytime soon. Last year, she became one of Nebraska’s 13 photographers who is professionally certified by the Professional Photographers of America. Poeffel added she will continue to cover weddings and other projects.

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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Eric Schucht earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 2018. He has written for The Cottage Grove Sentinel, The Creswell Chronicle, The Pacific Northwest Inlander and The Roseburg News-Review.

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