In our first interview of the year we chat with Nabeel of NabeelCamera, a London based wedding photographer.
How long have you been photographing weddings for and how did you get into it?
I’ve been shooting weddings full time since January 2012. I think my story is fairly common in that I’m self-taught (the internet is a truly wonderful thing), learning from a mixture of watching endless youtube videos and reading, reading, reading blogs and discussion boards, all while working a full-time job. I’ve always worked in Media and Production and I think that being around so many creative people and projects has had only a positive effect on my own creativity.
Anyone reading this that is learning photography, try not to look around at other people’s work and think you’ll never get there – as lost as you may be feeling now, I’ve been there, along with every other photographer out there. Just shoot as much as you can and learn from your successes as well as your failures. It’s the only way to do it.
I’d shot about 5 weddings before deciding to go full time, based the decision on the great feedback I’d received. I had actually never second shot for anyone until halfway through 2012, I guess I was a bit gung-ho about it and jumped straight in to the deep-end, but it seemed to work… thankfully.
I really enjoy second shooting now though, aside from seeing how other photographers deal with the mixture of situations you find yourself in on the day, it’s also great to just meet other photographers. You can learn so much from just one conversation.
What do you particularly like about photographing weddings?
Aside for the fact that I am my own boss and that I get to work most the week from home, both amazing blessings in my life, I just love being a part of all these great days. A wedding is obviously a fun environment to be around, everyone’s looking sharp and everyone’s just happy. I’ve also always been a very social person and genuinely enjoy meeting new people; I meet people from ALL over the world in this job, so the amount I learn about different cultures is great.
Getting to know the couples is a lovely part of it – An obvious but important point is that a wedding is a huge part of someone’s life, and to be chosen to portray it through your lens because they love your eye is a very flattering position to be in.
The final thing I’ll say about why I like shooting weddings (I could go on) is that I’ve always had a pretty quick gag-reflex when it comes to things that are too cheesy/over-sentimental/whatever you want to call it, so I was a little worried that I’d just be over the industry in not long… but quite the opposite.
Every wedding I shoot I find truly life affirming, making me especially thankful for being in the wonderful relationship that I am.
What was that about,overly-sentimental??
How would you describe your style and approach?
No idea! Reportage? Documentary? Vintage?
I’ve been told over the course of this year all of the above. I’ve never been good at categorisations.
I try and sit back and let whatever’s going to happen, just happen and capture it, I’m not a fan of intruding too much as it can ruin the flow and make people too aware of you I find.
I also always try to have a laugh with it all, not just with the couple but with the whole wedding party, this attitude really sets you up well to take naturally happy, smiling pictures – there’s nothing worse than forced awkward smiles, both for the subject or the photographer.
What advice would you give to couples looking for a wedding photographer?
Above all else, find someone you love the work of and whose images fit with the aesthetic of your day, there isn’t a shortage of great photographers out there at the minute. And I was getting more and more couples asking to see a full wedding deliverable, not just the select images on a blog post, so now as standard I send out a link to a password-protected full set of images of a recent wedding, with that couple’s permission of course. I feel that any photographer should do the same if asked.
Also make sure you either meet up or have a good phone/skype conversation with them, it’s the only way that you can truly tell if that person will fit in to your day or not – it wasn’t until I started shooting weddings that I realised how much of the day revolves around the photographer, so if you have someone that’s even slightly rude, short with guests or just has rubbish people-skills, it can make for uncomfortable parts of the day and that is what you’ll remember when looking back through the photos. It’s definitely worth taking the time to make the right decision in the beginning.
What tips would you share with couples to help their day go more smoothly?
Delegate! Don’t be the one running round organizing stuff on the day. It sounds like something that goes without saying but some people just can’t let go of control, as they want everything to be just right, which I totally get but it can cause big stress. Build a buffer around you of helpful bridesmaids and groomsman. A wedding planner on the day can also be priceless but of course not always affordable.
Another thing I always say to my couples is to just stop and take it all in as much as you can, enjoy the moment as the day can absolutely fly by. This is most apparent when I take them to do the couple shots, this is usually the first time they’ve had a chance to be together alone since the ceremony, so I really try to get them to enjoy the peace and consider what has just taken place.
Then it’s back to the madness to polish off the champagne.
Finally… Whats the best moment you’ve had as a wedding photographer?
There are few feelings better in this job than getting the email from the couple after they’ve first seen the whole set of images. That’s always nice.
I’m also a big fan of chatting to the elder wedding guests on the day, maybe because I didn’t really have many grand parents around when I was young, but they nearly always have something interesting to share… and if not interesting, then at least something hugely inappropriate and hilarious.
There was one particular couple that had been married over 50 years, barely left each other’s side all day and were more than happy to kiss for the camera when I asked. I wanted to know what the secret of such a long and happy relationship was, so I asked him… he looked off in to the distance for a second, considering the question, then bent over to whisper in my ear, “Lots of patience”.
Food for thought.
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