Kicking off the new year we chat to Jessica Withey, a wedding photographer based between Hereford and London, specialising in fashion and bridal photography.
How long have you been photographing weddings for and how did you get into it?
I have been photographing weddings for 4 years now, and I really am so in love with my job. How did I get into it, you ask? Well, honestly – I was working for a guy in a financial advisers firm who was studying photography and through his passion for photography I somehow found mine. I wasn’t very good to start with, but I was passionate about learning. I started out thinking that maybe creative kids photography was what I eventually wanted to get into – but the more I shot, the more I experimented with different types of photography, the more I moved towards wedding photography – through the process of elimination.
Now, wedding photography was not something I ever thought I would get in to. The more I looked into typical wedding photography, the more I realised that I kind of hated it….
I know… I’m being a bit risky here.
But allow me the luxury to explain myself. I hated the lifeless, forced, awkward nature of them. I hated the lock-jaw smiles and eyes that gave away just how bored the groom was in the moment that shutter snapped.
And so it became my mission : I was going to shoot weddings. But I was going to capture real honest moments, in a beautiful way – the kind of photographs you actually want to hang on your wall. I document through eyes that love to tell stories – and refuse for anyone’s ‘one day’ to be undervalued by cookie-cutter photographers. Your day is unique and SO important, and it should be captured like it matters.
What do you particularly like about photographing weddings?
There are so many awesome things about a wedding day – but i love the charged emotion of it all. It’s a big deal!
Give me those personal vows EVERY DAY. I realise that photos don’t capture every single word of those vows, but i love when a couple allows themselves to completely forget everyone else in the room – and totally engages in the ‘big’ness of the commitments they’re making to each other. I’ve been known to get a little TOO emotionally involved – but honestly – those are the kind of moments you WANT to remember!
I love getting those behind the scenes glimpses into someone’s biggest day of their life. These are the days we all dreamt about as kids, and to get to watch and capture people living them out – THAT’S the dream.
What is your favourite part of the day?
I LOVE the moment a daughter walks down the stairs, as a bride, in the most gorgeous dress she’s ever worn, to her father whose waiting at the bottom – nervous and holding his breath. Precious moments that I get to freeze in time.
How would you describe your style and approach?
I would say my photography is feminine. But not in a way that would alienate the groom and make him look like a prop in the whole situation.
I create ‘beautiful’ photos, in an intimate documentary style. I have an eye for ‘beauty’ and I like to think my photos capture that.
Plus, I’m not weird! Sounds like a strange thing to point out – but for real, I’m not going to freak out your guests. I’ll have a laugh with your bridesmaids, and I might even dance with your grandma too – I try not to treat it as a job, but for the special day that it is – and that means – getting involved as one of your own. I know on my own wedding day, I didn’t want a bunch of strangers hanging around treating my big day as ‘work’. I wanted people that genuinely cared – and that’s my promise to you. I get it, and I care about what you want.
Who, or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by so many different styles of photography, but also I’m inspired by love. When a couple are undeniably infatuated with one another – there’s nothing more inspiring. I’ve shot a lot of weddings in my time, and i’ve seen some of the most stunning venues and decor – but if the couple is so stressed out that they can’t even enjoy the day, and live in the moment together – it’s really meaningless.
What advice would you give to couples looking for a wedding photographer?
I’d say, go with your gut, not your budget. I can say this with confidence, having just got married myself 12 months ago. You’ll know when you find the photographer of your dreams. No matter what their price tag is – you’re always going to regret going for the cheaper option, purely because they weren’t your first choice. Photos are the ONLY thing that last forever once the day is over – and you don’t want to look back at them and see a compromise.
What tips would you share with couples to help their day go more smoothly?
You’ve GOT to be fully present on the day. If you’re wrapped up thinking about whether the caterers are going to get the food out on time – it’ll be midnight before you know it, and it’s all over.
Forget about the planning – that part’s over. Trust your suppliers to do their job, and you do your job; be the bride and groom who just promised their forevers to eachother! That’s a BIG deal, and too often I see brides and grooms let it pass them by in the name of ‘wedding day stress’.
If there was one place in the world you would love to capture a wedding where would it be and why?
Urm…. well, of course it’s New York. I love shooting in big cities, and I’ve recently just got back from there (I fell in love with it entirely). I’m just waiting for an opportunity *cough cough* from a rad couple.
Finally… What’s the best moment you’ve had as a wedding photographer?
Honestly, my job is FULL of so many wonderful moments. It’s a big deal, a wedding, and you get to see people right in the midst of their love story – about to embark on a brand new adventure together. It’s emotional for everyone, and i’m no stranger to a few tears at a wedding – even if I don’t know the couple that well.
For me, my favourite moments are always when I take a bride and groom off for some photos of them alone. You see them realise for the first time that day, that they’re actually FREAKING MARRIED. They’re alone for the first time in what seems like weeks – and they get to just be together – it’s really special.
Apart from that, it’s always Dad seeing his daughter for the first time, all grown up, in a wedding dress. UGH! All the feels.