Extremely high stakes ride on wedding photography being of the finest quality, with enormous pressure placed on the photographer to capture top-notch images of the ceremony, reception and of course, the bridal party. Proffesional weddings photographer, Craig Mason, tells us about the tricks of the trade for taking breathtaking wedding photos.
Wedding photography is a specialist industry. How much experience should a photographer have before they can truly call themselves a wedding photographer?
In my opinion, a photographer should have approximatley 20 full weddings, under different circumstances. Assisting a professional is the best way to gain experience in the industry, which will not only entail bag and camera carrying, but also include helping clients, as well as some shooting from different angles to the photographer.
It’s no big secret that great photography is all about capturing the moment. To exceed as a wedding photographer, is it important to be able to predict a moment before it actually happens?
Yes. Typically, weddings follow a certain timeline and event sequence, but more importantly, you learn to keep an eye on the main people involved in the day and on how they are reacting. Also, being ever ready, with camera set to take a grab shot. You learn to grab a quick shot – then if able, recompose and shoot off more. Sometimes things can happen so fast that you don’t have that time to recompose.
Do you take the approach of acting as the silent observer to capture interesting and candid images?
Yes, very much so. Over the years, I have had many brides say that they did not see me during the service or at certain moments on the day. I do feel that this is advantageous, as not only am I capturing more true to life events and expressions, but to me, being unobtrusive on the day is important.
Is it a general rule of yours to get to know the couple and their family before the wedding day?
Usually I have had two to three interviews with them by the time the wedding day comes around. This builds a great relationship with my clients and helps all of us work together on the day. By getting to know them, their backgrounds and personalities helps me interact with them – helping us all have a good time during the day.
Not everyone likes having their photos taken. How important a role does the photographer’s personality play in getting people to relax and warm to photographs?
Being a wedding photographer, you need to have a good personality and be a people person. There are certain times throughout the day where you need to be a strong person and take control a little, but most of the day you need to be diplomatic and a great interpreter. There is so much more to photography than just picking up a camera and pressing the button. Highly skilled professional photographers are ‘people people’. They’re able to engage with guests, be unobtrusive, work in any light or weather, cope with other service providers being late, compose beautifully lit, artistic images and photograph the subject so they look gorgeous.
What sort of disasters or mishaps have you had to deal with the years?
A few come to mind, but one in particular stands out. We had a wedding where the bride’s parents had recently separated and the mum had a new boyfriend. We arrived at the reception to find dad leaving in tears, as they’d all been seated at the same table. I took the father to one side and had a chat, while my assistant went into the reception and arranged for him to be moved to a table of friends – thankfully everyone then had a great night.
How paramount is it to know your equipment inside and out?
Don’t get me started on this one … I had a person in my studio only two weeks ago who was shooting a wedding the next day – he hardly knew the front of the camera from the back! I am sure I could set my camera up blind folded! If a potential wedding photographer doesn’t know the difference between 1/250sec @ f5.6 and 1/1000 @ f8, then they shouldn’t be charging for their photography. To use professional gear is one thing, but knowing it is another. I once had an aperture mechanism malfunction on a lens during a wedding and was able to quickly compensate for it and continue using the lens during the day. No one knew, not even my assistant, who processed the images. The P setting on a nice new DSLR does not stand for ‘professional’.
What sort of advice do you give to the bride and groom on the various forms of memorabilia available, such as DVD slide shows, scrap books or full wedding albums?
A wedding album provides a tangible memory and something people can reflect on over and over. Also, a disk of images may be important to brides and grooms, who may just want low resolution images to share on Facebook. But the most important advice is that it’s not the money saved on cheap wedding photography, but the lack of quality images and lost memories.
Interview by KF.