Quick links
Back to Newsroom

CUE alumna captures Best Canadian Wedding Photographer of the Year award

Among the countless talented photographers in Canada, one remarkable CUE alumna stands out for her breathtaking images and creative prowess. Bachelor of Arts in Sociology graduate Railene Hooper was named the 2023 Canadian Wedding Photographer of the Year by the Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC) . 

Railene became a professional photographer full-time eight years ago and decided on a whim to enter the photos in a national competition and, to her amazement, she was chosen. “I initially submitted photos for the regional awards and won Alberta Wedding Photographer of the Year, which was a shock for me, because there is such a high quality of photographers here,” Railene explains. “There is even more competition for the Canadian competition. I ended up being nominated against a man from the East who had won the last three years in a row. I just took a chance and I was surprised to actually win.”

Railene Hooper, CUE Alumna 2014

Prior to entering into photography as a profession, Railene was a sociology student at CUE. When asked how her sociology degree assisted her career as a photographer, Railene said, “It has helped a crazy amount. Photography is about capturing moments, emotions, and stories – whether it’s family, wedding or couple photography we incorporate storytelling.” A sociology degree helps students have a deeper understanding of human behaviour, social interactions, and the factors that shape individuals and communities. Railene said as a photographer, it helps her connect more intimately with their subjects, and capture authentic and powerful images that resonate with her clients and families. 

When asked to describe her artistic style, Railene contemplated for a moment then said, “I would have to describe my style as timeless romantic. Timeless photos are important to me because I want people to look at these photos on their wall for a very long time, and not see a trendy style that has passed. Sepia tones might be in this year, but will they be in style 5 or 10 years? I try to stay away from trends and I’ll even coach my clients on wearing timeless clothing, hairstyles and makeup.”

Railene says living in Alberta is the perfect setting for a photographer. “There’s something romantic and special about the mountains. There’s no limit to the amazing variety of wedding photos you can capture in the mountains – we are so lucky to have them so close by.”

Not all her winning shots were in the mountains however, in fact one of the shots she captured that won Best in Class was taken inside a white bouncy castle. “The couple were relaxed because the big stuff from the service was over. At the reception they were having so much fun.”

A degree can help you grow into your best self

Railene was the recipient of an athletic scholarship for basketball and was able to complete her three year sociology degree while playing for the women’s Thunder basketball team. Railene says what’s great about getting a degree straight out of high school is “it helps you transition into being an adult.”

“By putting in the work to get a degree you learn a lot – it helps you analyze data, to problem solve, to work well with others in groups, and has just helped me in reaching deadlines and getting work done.”

When asked if she had any advice for current CUE students, Railene says, “I think after you get a degree, if you don’t know what to do with it, just go with something you enjoy and see where it takes you.” 

Railene also advises students to take a chance at something even if you don’t think you can achieve it. “I didn’t even have the goal of being Canadian Wedding Photographer of the Year – it wasn’t even on my radar last year. I just thought, ‘why not apply, I have nothing to lose.’ Never could I have imagined I would have won – so just take your chances. You never know what you’ll get.”

Railene photographing couple in BC vineyard

Railene, who graduated from CUE in 2014, fondly remembers her days at CUE, saying “I loved my time at Concordia. I always recommend people to study at Concordia – I can’t recommend it enough. One thing I really valued is that all my professors knew me by name – I was never just a number.”

“Some of my absolute best friends have come from Concordia, and I keep in touch with them more than my high school friends. There’s small classroom sizes so you get to know your classmates really well.” – Railene

From graduate to full-time professional photographer

After graduating from CUE, Railene took professional classes in photography, with some classes being taught by photographer Robert Bray, an award winning photographer who was commissioned to photograph Queen Elizabeth ll for Canada’s official Royal Portrait. Robert saw amazing potential in Railene and he eventually took her under his wing. “Robert has been an incredible mentor to me, because of him I have learned so much,” she says. 

They now work side-by-side in his studio and many of Railene’s photos can be seen on his website at www.robertbray.com.

Below are more of the mesmerizing moments she has captured: 

Railene’s achievement stands as a testament to her exceptional creativity and dedication to her craft, and at CUE we could not be more proud of her achievements!

We are certain she will be an inspiration to CUE students to follow their dreams wherever it may take them. 

To see more photos, follow Railene on Instagram or Facebook.