What is your favourite part of shooting a wedding day?
Taking a picture that I know no-one else has ever had before is fun. Every wedding I’ve ever done has a commonality; they’re walking down the aisle, exchanging vows or stepping on a piece of glass, or whatever. My job is to make these images theirs. To tap their spirit and show it in the resulting images.
Knowing that I’ve taken their pictures in this way…. and that no one else is going to have quite the same type of photo tells me that I’ve done my job. I don’t want my work to be samey. Every wedding I go to I try and do something new and something that I know no-one else is going to have. Something that is not a repeat. It is difficult to do each week! There is only so many things that you can do with shoes, (they need to design shoes differently do I can hang them on glass).
You have got to be unique, knowing that I’ve done a good job is the best part of the wedding for me. Knowing that they will love the pictures and the hugs from the mum that I often get when I leave a wedding spurs me on to doing even greater things. Some people say that I know how to work people and this is always a lovely compliment because you always undervalue yourself a little bit. When the compliments come they are greatfully accepted.
There are some people out there in the wedding industry with bad egos and people who shouldn’t be doing it because they have a bad attitude. It’s someone’s wedding day; they have lived all their lives for this day. You need to be respectful, loving and caring, you have got to hold dresses and tie cravats and all that kind of stuff for people. You have got to be part of the day as well as doing a job. You have to be ego free and open handed about everything you do.
People can get very nervous on their wedding day so what do you do to put them at ease?
Distracting them or cracking a joke. If people are getting a bit locked in front of the camera and nervous in group shot you go up to one of the guests and say ‘I like your tie, that’s amazing or you high five with kids and that relaxes people and takes their mind off of the photo fear which some have. It does pay to work fast though. To know exactly what you’re doing before you point the camera at anyone.
I say to people ‘you know when you walk down a dark street and all is fine when you start off but as you get half way down the road you think there is a man behind you with a hockey mask, an axe and a boiler suit chasing after you’?
It’s like that when you get in front of the camera, put a person in the same spot for too long then they start to lock up. You have to entertain them, distract them and not stay in one spot for too long. That is a technique that works really well. Ultimately it’s not about just taking a picture it’s about managing people to get the best out of them. You have to be a psychologist. You have to socially aware and a people person to do this job. This is how you crack the shell! On a wedding day people are in such high spirits that they welcome outsiders in and this makes them very responsive when shooting the day.
Why is it important to take pictures of the smaller things on the wedding day such as favours and wedding speeches?
They usually cost a fortune, seriously. People want to see them, if you’ve spent £300+ on flowers you’ll want a picture of them, if you have bought a new suit you want it to be included. The personal stuff like Nan’s ring on a bouquet is significant and it’s important to spot those things. Sometimes they are more important than the group shots. People expect it now, 10-20 years ago with film, you were limited to what you could take but now with digital cameras you can have everything, you can take ten shots of the cake, you can take unlimited shots of the bouquet, of people running around etc so because technology has moved on people expect it. A lot of people complain that they didn’t get that many shots in the 90’s, but they didn’t have a digital camera with a huge amount of memory. People’s expectations have gone up accordingly! Couples are having a lot more than they used to such as magicians, chocolate fountains, a creche, Brides are doing their speeches now. It all needs recording.
It’s good that they have a lot more because of the advances in technology but sometimes it can be too much! In some cases you will have a photographer, a videographer a photo booth a Polaroid camera set up and that is just the media side of things, sometimes it can work against you.
You choose to make some of your pictures in black and white, so how do you select which ones and what depth does that give to a wedding photograph?
I supply all the images in colour as standard then also again in Black and White, I have a bee in my bonnet about photographers that only supply some images in black and white and some in colour. I’m getting married next year and I certainly wouldn’t hire anyone who was dictating what black and white images I would be getting. I like to give as much control as possible to the bride and groom so when they receive their photos they can choose.
I sometimes do additional editing with traditional film styles and paper editing and film effects and those are additional to my package. Who is to say what’s in fashion now will be in fashion in ten years’ time? I am concerned about the photographers who deliver their images in a vintage style and nothing else. For me the concern is in 10 years time will they want the original colour versions? Will a blue haze over all the images still be cool?
Some people like to have their weddings at hotels, some in houses in the country, so do you have a favourite venue to photograph?
I quite like venues with open. I also like urban, from one extreme to the other I guess. A hotel in the middle of London would be amazing, as long as there is a photo opportunity nearby. For example, Shoreditch house in London is awesome, with all the graffiti around it you could really use all of it, or when there is large open space around. I don’t like weddings where there’s not really anywhere to be creative photographically. Photography isn’t cheap and I like to work somewhere where I have the potential to deliver. I do blame myself if I don’t deliver something creative and amazing. I have a wedding booked in Ireland next year and I know that I am going to be down in southern Ireland taking landscapes as well as wedding pictures; There is lot of opportunity there.
Looking on the internet there are lots of bold themes in weddings now like zombie weddings or fairy themed weddings, so is there anything as a photographer that you wouldn’t do for a bride and groom? Perhaps anything that you would be afraid to do?
I would not do spot colour, I wouldn’t do any dated styling, while I do vintage effects, I can’t stand spot colour, its horrid. A black and white shot with all the confetti in colour it gives me nightmares and I don’t know why, I think it may be because I have seen so many bad examples of it. I don’t want to be that guy, but I think a lot of photographers think the same. My attitude would be if it is going to going to work creatively, if it is going to work as a good picture and is believable and credible and are nice pictures to look at on the eye, then do it. If it’s something that is not going to work then I won’t take it on. A customer can ask anything of me. All I can do is say no if it’s not going to work but they are still the boss, it’s not an ego trip for me. I recently put on Twitter I was looking for a couple in Japan so I could evoke Godzilla fighting the groom amongst the Skyscrapers there. I was being perfectly serious.
What is next for you?
More international work, I’m reducing the amount of bookings I take on now, I used to shoot 40-50 weddings in a year which is ok in the winter, but this year in August I had nine weddings and I have about seven for next month. I am finding that whilst still delivering high quality it’s killing me. I want to concentrate on weddings more individually, I want to deliver a high end product and grow the business more, so I would like to halve it to 20- 30 weddings a year, which means putting the prices up a bit but ultimately I know that I will deliver a better quality product; I will still be working just as hard, but instead of working a week on editing each wedding I will spend twice as long. I want to concentrate on getting it right with more forward planning such as staying overnight locally the night before so I am fresher the next day. I don't just want to bang weddings out like a conveyor belt, I had three weddings back to back and they were 11 hours each. I edit all the weddings myself and I always remember the wedding day during the edit. To much of a gap between the wedding day and the edit impacts the final product and quality is really important to me.
Contact Chris on:
T: 07525 752823