This week we chat with Mark of Xpect Photography, a wedding photographer based in South Wales, in our interview series.
How long have you been photographing weddings for and how did you get into it?
I started photographing weddings after assisting a local wedding photographer. He let me bring along my camera and when not busy helping him I was allowed to take some photographs during the day. After a couple of weddings he told me that where as usually he expected to only have about 10% of an assistants images usable, in fact 75% of my images were usable. From then on I didn’t assist but became a second shooter for him.
As time went on the photographer handed over more and more of the important moments to me, such as bride arriving in the car with Dad, Bride or Groom preps alone and so on. After about a year and 25 weddings later he told me in a nice way that I was making him lazy and that his own motivation at weddings was reduced when I was around because he now let me do so much. Also he couldn’t pay me what he thought I was worth so that was that. All very amicable, we are still friends to this day. On one of the last weddings I photographed with him he received an enquiry from a couple at the wedding who were looking for a wedding photographer. He was already booked on the day so they booked me instead.
I was careful to explain that theirs would be the first wedding I had done alone but my inexperience was reflected in the price. That was that, and at the end of 2007 I struck out alone and haven’t looked back since. I now work with my lovely partner Sandra who herself started by assisting me and now is my invaluable second shooter. We love working together.
What do you particularly like about photographing weddings
What I like most about photographing weddings is the relationship with my customers. It may sound a bit clichéd but I feel like I could be good friends with almost all of my customers even though I never knew them before and I really enjoy the people side of the business. I was chatting to a visitor a few weeks ago out on my driveway. Coincidentally in the 30 minutes that we stood talking several people walked by and said hello or drove by and waved. They were the parents of couples whose weddings I had photographed or the actual couples themselves. It was awesome to feel part of my local community like that and I was actually surprised and it made me reflect how many people I knew through wedding photography. There is a long list of other things that I love about photographing weddings but the question was about what I enjoy most so that is my simple answer.
How would you describe your style and approach?
My style is to create contemporary yet classic images that will stand the test of time and look as good in 20 years as they do today. If the photography itself is the craft and the post production is the art then I would say in my craft I seek to take images that show the emotion of the day in as natural a way as possible. I get into a ‘Zone’ on a wedding day. Many experienced wedding photographers will I think agree with this point that your focus is so finely tuned and your concentration so focused that you get to the stage where you can anticipate things happening before they actually do. You get a feel for a wedding and for the characters that are there on the day. That allows you to be in the right place at the right time to capture the emotion when it happens. I also love to work with natural light and off camera flash to provide the couple with the kind of images that only a professional photographer could.
With regards to the art of the post production I prefer to not run actions or add looks to the wedding photographs that will one day age them. Instead I produce images that are Classic, clean, solid, images that will look great in any era.
Style also adapts with regards to the wishes of the couple. For example, I love to incorporate great architecture in the photographs but recently a bride told me she wanted greenery. As many images as possible with trees, green leaves, flowers and so on. Therefore I tailored the photography for her to reflect her wishes.
What advice would you give to couples looking for a wedding photographer?
The advice I would give a couple looking for a wedding photographer would be this. Granted that the photography has to be of a high standard but I want to focus more on other aspects that are important that the couple may not have initially thought of. A good wedding photographer needs a clear set of personal qualities to ensure they can work during a wedding and come out at the end of the day with a great set of wedding photographs along with a happy couple along with a happy group of family and friends. They need to be calm under pressure no matter what; they need to be good managers of people, especially of large groups. They need to be brave of character; they need to be good decision makers.
How do they handle pressure? Wedding photography can be the most challenging thing to do. Many things can add to the pressure; inconsistent weather, absent guests, limited time, to name a few. If a photographer cannot handle a high pressure work environment then they are going to get stressed and in all probability will act in a way that has a negative impact on the day. I have heard so many stories of this happening and no matter what happens on a wedding day the photographer must have the ability to remain calm and courteous no matter what happens.
Can they manage large groups of people in an assertive but always courteous way so that the photography proceeds in a timely manner? Can they make good informed objective decisions on the day no matter what the pressure?
A bad photographer doesn’t just mean one who produces bad photographs. A bad wedding photographer is also someone who spoils the day. A lady whose wedding I photographed previously recommended another customer to me. I was already booked and so they went and booked a photographer whose work I greatly admired. After the wedding I enquired how the day had gone and of course particularly the photography. I was told the photographs were nice but that the photographer had spent the day upsetting the couple and their guests by their behaviour. So my message is that a good photographer isn’t all about the images as important as they obviously are. A good wedding photographer will enhance a wedding day and will never have a negative impact by their presence.
How can you know if the wedding photographer you are thinking of booking has all of these qualities? Simple, take the time to speak to their previous customers and ask them how they worked through the day. I have many brides and their parents who would be happy to speak with anyone thinking of booking me and they are surely the best source of unbiased information available to a couple.
Ask the photographer you are thinking of booking to be able to speak with some of their previous customers.
What tips would you share with couples to help their day go more smoothly?
For a relaxing wedding day I would recommend the following. Allow time. Time = Relaxation. A Lack of time = Stress. It really is as simple as that, not just with photography but with every aspect of the day. Time is the one overriding influence on how the day goes. Everything takes a lot longer on a wedding day. Walking across a room may physically take seconds. When you are a bride and groom on your wedding day however, with everyone wanting to spend time with you then it will take a whole lot longer.
Finally… Whats the best moment you’ve had as a wedding photographer?
The best moment I have had as a photographer. Well during one wedding the Bride and her Mother had seriously fallen out (That was not the best moment by the way, but what followed was!). The timings of the day had gone completely awry as they tried to resolve their differences and the bride was in tears. Needless to say the planned agenda for their photography was blown out of the water. In response,I reassured the bride, her family and other guests that whatever, we would manage and I gave her an alternative set of options to re assure her we could manage and get all the photography she wanted done. I was careful to ensure that I in no way added to the existing pressure on the bride and her family. We subsequently had a very protracted day of photography but we got everything done in the end.
Later during the quiet time between the reception and the start of the evening party, both the Father of the bride and the Father of the groom came over to me and shook my hand. They told me that I had actually provided the solution to the problems because the bride had actually been stressing so much over the effect the row was having on the timetable for the days proceedings that she felt unable to sort things out with her Mother. The Fathers told me that by taking that pressure away and without my knowing it, I had allowed breathing space and had provided the time the bride and her mother needed to resolve their differences. The day actually balanced on a knife edge and could have easily been a complete disaster.
The delays were of course a huge logistical problem for me during the day but I had never allowed that to show. Knowing that the way I had handled that difficult situation had such a positive impact on their day was amazing and was such a revelation for me on the day.
There have been numerous times when people at weddings have asked me how I have managed to stay calm under different stressful situations during the day. Just being asked that question is in itself very rewarding.
I know I am there to take great photographs. We all know that is what is expected of a wedding photographer. Perhaps what is not so considered is the impact the wedding photographer can have on the wedding day. Getting both of those right, the great photography along with a positive impact on a couples day is my goal every time and getting it right makes this the best job in the world.
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