We catch up with wedding photographer Kevin Belson in our latest behind the lens interview.
My first wedding was in 2009. It was my wife’s Aunt. I was the family member with a camera. I went along full of confidence but really didn’t know what to expect. I hated it. It all seemed to be getting away from me and I wasn’t in control. Unfortunately I had two more weddings booked that year so I wasn’t going to get away with ditching wedding photography. It was on my fourth wedding a year later that I fell in love with it and decided that was what I wanted to do. I now work with my wife full time and we shoot around 40 weddings per year.
There are a couple of things. Meeting and working with real people who aren’t used to being in front of a camera. Making creative images. It’s always challenging to make interesting images. Weddings usually go along the same lines so we need to show the uniqueness of each couple. It’s a constant flow of technical and artistic problem solving and I love it.
Prep. There’s no pressure and there’s usually a lot going on so it’s easy to make great photographs. There’s still a challenge to make something different as we’ve all seen makeup being applied and hair being sprayed.
I’ve called it Fine Art Photojournalism because I do two things – 1. Document the day without getting in the way or setting things up and 2. making creative portraits. I see them as two separate things. I want the couple to remember their day as it happened. To relive the day for themselves and to see how their guests were feeling. To see all the little things that they missed. The day goes so fast and we are there to record it and to make as good and interesting images as we can. With the portraits I try to balance artistic vision with empathy. I don’t want to force the couple into something just to show off my chops. I want to represent the couple so that they look back and see themselves looking amazing.
Music, street art, movies. When I started out I read every photography magazine going and went out trying to learn new techniques and make interesting images. I got into lighting and followed David Hobby’s Strobist site and practiced at the weekend using models from Model Mayhem. I was into editorial then. Photographers like Annie Leibowitz, Joey Lawrence, Dave Hill and Joe McNally really inspired me. When I got into weddings I went on a course with Stu Cooper who really turned me on to natural light. I discovered Yervant, Jerry Ghonis and Cliff Mautner and those dramatic styles. I think my biggest influence in wedding terms has been Jeff Newsom I think he’s a genius and still inspires me now. More recently I have been into more documentary styles as it’s a truer representation of the wedding day so people that I know like Simon Atkins, Paul Rogers and Martin Bedall who are all fantastic documentary photographers. Right now I’m trying to find a middle ground between pure photojournalism and artistic portraiture.
Look for someone whose work you like. Check their portfolio for consistency. Look at the people in the images; Did the photographer capture a feeling or did they just take a photo. Contact them and see if you get on. Make sure that what they do is what you want.
What tips would you share with couples to help their day go more smoothly?
Relax. Don’t expect the day to go to plan. There’s three things that happen on time. The time we turn up, the start of the ceremony and the wedding breakfast. Everything else is fluid.
Weddings aren’t about locations, they are about people. We often get asked what our favourite venue is and the answer is always the same, the ones with the nicest staff. Of course we do need nice locations and beautiful couples for our portfolio so if I had to pick it would be on a beach somewhere like Hawaii where we could spend a few days with the couple recording their entire event. That as well depends on the couple and how we get along so it’s probably 80% couple 20% location. We recently shot a wedding in Wales. The couple were over from Australia and they were both lovely. It rained the whole day of the wedding but we got amazing shots because we put ourselves out to make sure that they had as much as we could give. I think that’s the holy grail, beautiful location and friendly, relaxed people who are excited about what we do.
We had couple come to see their images. When they arrived the groom leapt out of the car and was making “shhh” noises with his fingers to his lips. The bride was in the front seat with a sweatshirt pulled over her head. He guided her into our viewing room and sat her down. She had no idea where she was or what they were doing. She even had a bikini in her bag so she was prepared for anything. She was amazed that he had brought her to view their wedding images. He then cried all the way through the viewing.