April 21, 2020
Praise Santos, the founder of Ethical Weddings, is so much more than a photographer. She’s a solopreneur who takes a social impact approach to all her endeavors. Praise is the storyteller behind the lens for ComePlum. A photography brand that focuses on go-getter women who are impacting the world. She produces eye-catching content with photos that have been featured in Forbes and the San Francisco Chronicle. Keep reading to learn how Praise birthed a movement to popularize weddings that have a positive social and environmental impact.
My name is Praise (is that her birth name? is she a hippie? A person of faith? yes, sorta, and yassss). I founded ComePlum, a San Francisco photo studio for go-getter women who are impacting the world. Additionally, I help women who are starting businesses get a fresh headshot. I aid with creative direction for women who are producing content. And for brides getting married, I resource them with socially impactful and eco-friendly weddings through a platform called Ethical Weddings. The latter project has also evolved into a wedding vendor & small business social enterprise training called The Good Green.
I’ve been playing around with a camera since I was 16. I didn’t go to art school because I didn’t want to be a starving artist but surprise! After working a couple years post-grad in the non-profit sector, I decided to go full-time as a creative entrepreneur. I’m not starving, haha, but it’s not a job with a lot of safety for sure.
Ethical Weddings is a project that came about because I had just returned from doing a photojournalistic trip in Guatemala where I was able to tell the story of a cocoa farmer there named Pedro who was working diligently so that he could send his son to college. I was trying to get hyped to photograph a wedding back in California that weekend, an 8-hour event that averages $35k, enough to send Pedro’s son to a 4-year college in Guatemala many times over, but the economic chasm weighed heavy on me and I felt very uninspired.
I stumbled across a blog based out of Australia that encouraged engaged couples to get back to the heart of what a wedding was about, “Less Stuff, More Meaning”, and I immediately felt jazzed up. If I could resource couples with ways their wedding could be socially and environmentally impactful (i.e. if they were going to give chocolate as favors, why not Fair Trade chocolate from Pedro’s farm collective?!), it could be a win-win-win situation. Thus, Ethical Weddings was born!
There are many incredible creatives out there and I am honored to be able to carry the label of a photographer. From the feedback I get from my clients, they say they often choose me because I’m comfortable to be around. I do value how my subject feels in a shoot. I want them to leave with their chin up and spirit energized more than before we started.
I write this on April 14, 2020 – 4 weeks into the Shelter In Place order here in San Francisco because of COVID-19. This is a pandemic, a global crisis. And in these times I’m reminded of the illusion of control and how delicate and special life is. I did have to question myself: what am I doing? Is it worth it? Is this how I want to spend my life?
My personal mission statement is to honor God but honoring my strengths and my limits while enriching the lives of others with beauty, humor, and authenticity. And it’s in these times when I realize I am not on the frontlines as my nurse friends are in NYC. But I can do my part by staying at home and creating beauty, educating people on how to best use their phones to capture the sweet memories they are creating in this slower time. If I can resource people to live the fullest life they can, I’m going to do it. Building ComePlum and Ethical Weddings are two ways in my one wild life that I can do that.
Many often ask how I can be an ethical photographer: is the fact that my camera is digital the only way? I’ve discovered there are several ways!
1) Encourage my team to carpool, walk, use eco-friendly vehicles, or take public transport
2) Going paperless with client and team communication (no printed day-of timelines!)
3) Use products that are rechargeable (batteries) and reusable (stashed bags to organize camera gear) rather than disposable
4) Partnering with venues that are zero waste and that go local (with goods and staff)
5) Offering discounts or volunteering our services for worthy causes (one of my favorite local non-profits teaches young girls leadership and confidence through dance and we often photograph their recitals and do fundraisers with them)
I have a vision that in a few years the term “ethical weddings” isn’t surprising but rather a given; I want a bride to make socially impactful and environmentally-friendly decisions an obvious choice.
As I mentioned before, I have a very strong personal mission (and lead workshops on defining your own – more at www.comeplum.com) of honoring God but honoring my strengths and my limits while enriching the world with beauty, humor, and authenticity. This quest to enrich the world is what fuels me to keep going even when it feels like we hit walls and obstacles.
I enjoy good wordplay. I recently found my diary that I started when I was 12 (filled with mortifying stories of boys I had a crush on and shopping trips to Hollister and Wet Seal haha) and remembered that I’ve loved rhymes from such a young age. Actually, in reading this diary I remembered that I came up with the name of “ComePlum” when I was just 16! It delighted me because they were two words that rhymed but were spelled very differently. English has silly rules and I like messing with it. Puns and dad jokes are my simple delights.
Eucalyptus oil in a diffuser + prayer + mediation!
I just want to encourage people that although it’s a heavy time for event professionals right now in terms of income, we and our businesses have such value and we have the gift of our creativity to come up with innovative ways that we can contribute to the needs for our community now more than ever. Let light and hope be just as contagious!