Today we catch up with Bristol based photographer Sam Gibson as part of our series of interviews with Wedding Photographers from around the UK.
Welcome Sam, so where did it start? Whats your background and how did you get into wedding photography?
Well, we had a darkroom in the house when I was growing up, so I’ve been taking photos since a pretty young age. I’ve been doing it professionally now for around a year and a half, although I’d been building up to that for a few years beforehand. I worked at the BBC for 10 years making films, mostly observational documentaries. The one constant throughout everything I’ve done is my interest in other people. People inspire and fascinate me, whether it’s filming them or photographing them. If I wasn’t interested in people then I definitely wouldn’t do this job. You have to be engaged with your clients, whether you’re shooting a wedding, taking someone’s portraits or just meeting them for the first time – if you’re not interested in them and their story then you’re in the wrong profession. Beyond that, capturing someone in their natural state is something I always aim for. What I really like is to record those moments when people are un self-conscious, relaxed and truly being themselves. What better day to be able to record a range of emotions than a wedding day?
From your experience at the BBC what is a standout moment for yourself?
Well I was exceptionally lucky in the places I visited and the people I met. I travelled to South America, Asia and Africa through my work. I sailed up the Amazon, trekked through the Himalayan foothills in Bhutan and I got to climb Mount Kilimanjaro too. Whether as a photographer or a film-maker there is one constant thing that I am grateful for (and always slightly amazed by) – the fact that people allow you into their lives to see some exceptionally personal and intimate moments. I think the most memorable moment in terms of personal achievement was seeing the sunrise at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. We’d spent 6 days filming and climbing the mountain with Gary Barlow, Cheryl Cole and other celebs and the cumulation of all that effort was fantastic.
What things from your time at the BBC have helped you with your photography today?
I developed my style of shooting and my understanding of storytelling through making films. It was a great training ground in the visual side of things, but also in working and communicating with people. My style of wedding photography is relaxed, natural and observational. I don’t believe you can get honest, emotionally powerful photographs by standing away from the action. You have to be comfortable getting close to people, and they have to trust and relax around you. That’s why working with people and putting them at ease is such an important skill. And you don’t have long to make those connections at each wedding. I would spend months getting to know my subjects when I was filming!
What do you particularly like about photographing weddings?
The range of emotion. As a visual storyteller that is invaluable – you just can’t get that easily in other situations.
How would you describe your style and approach?
I view a wedding day as a story – it should have a beginning, a middle and an end and that’s what I strive for. I can’t understand photographers who don’t want to cover the entire day. If I left after the speeches I’d feel like I had an incomplete story. It would be like putting down a great book 5 chapters before the end and never finishing it.
What advice would you give to couples looking for a wedding photographer?
Meet more than one. You should make sure you are really going to get on with your photographer on the day. Look at a printed portfolio. It’s very hard to judge the actual quality of images from just viewing websites. Ask to see a whole wedding. Anyone can capture a few good moments during a whole wedding day, but to have a consistent level of quality and skill displayed throughout 10-12 hours of work is the difficult part. There’re lots of checklists out there that you can use but I think the important thing is to find someone who you’re at ease with.
What tips would you share with couples to help their day go more smoothly?
Don’t do things on the day because it’s tradition, do something because it’s what YOU want to do on your wedding day. If you want to have traditional aspects then that’s great, but don’t feel as though you should. The best moments come when a day is truly reflective of the couple.
Finally… Whats the best moment you’ve had as a wedding photographer?
The way I work is to capture those moments when people are lost in their own private world, almost oblivious to the events happening around them. Shared looks, a small glance or smile, something that they won’t even be aware of on the day but which shows the tenderness and love between people. When clients look at the photographs for the first time and cry at a particular moment, then I know I’ve done my job well.
Many thanks to Sam for his time and insight, you can get in touch or drop him a message via his profile page.
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