Interview: Mick Cookson
This afternoon we catch up with Manchester Wedding Photographer Mick Cookson.
Firstly how long have you been photographing weddings for and how did you get into it?
I’ve been a wedding photographer for over seven years – with a fifteen year break in between! I worked in TV commercials as a director/producer with my own production company, then decided, almost overnight, to return to my first love – photography. MCP is now in it’s fourth year ‘back’. I got into weddings the usual way – I photographed a few friends’ weddings as wedding presents, because I ‘wasn’t bad with a camera’. Perversely, I quite liked the pressure and hassle of it all, so decided to ‘go for it’. I was getting a bit jaded with TV anyway, so a career change was required.
What do you particularly like about photographing weddings?
Wedding photography has to be one of the most difficult and demanding subjects in photography. It really isn’t for the faint hearted, and anybody who says it’s easy is either lying or doing it wrong! At a wedding I am my own director, art director, cameraman, editor and producer. I love the challenge of working live with the whole day, shooting in my natural documentary style. There are no second chances, and everything has to be right, first time, every time. I still get butterflies in my stomach on each and every wedding shoot. If I didn’t, I’d go and do something else. I’m very big on post production, from the TV days, making my images look film-like and cinematic at times.
How would you describe your style and approach?
I’m a documentary wedding photographer. I shoot like a photojournalist – being there and being discreet with minimal equipment, but I’m not a photojournalist. My style is a little more relaxed than a pure photojournalist approach; I admire photographers like Ian Bursill whose work is stunning, but different to mine. Long gone too, are the days of large bags stuffed full of lenses and flashguns – I use two cameras and four lenses, and flash as a last resort. Unlike pure photojournalism (which I love), I spend more time on my images in post production, creating the MCP look, which my clients really love and appreciate. For the couples out there – actually appreciating a photographer’s images is important. Don’t just hire somebody on price…
What advice would you give to couples looking for a wedding photographer?
My advice to any couple looking for a wedding photographer is to firstly decide on the style of photography they’d like – be it traditional, reportage, documentary. These terms are so diluted these days, that even some ‘reportage’ photographers can be very ‘hands-on’ on the day, setting up shots to look natural…all of which eats into your valuable time away from your guests, and it’s a bit late on the day to find this out. Once decided, they need to look at three or more favoured / recommended photographers and view their work, looking at complete weddings, not just the ‘greatest hits’ album. It’s important to see how a photographer handles themselves in good and bad weather, low winter light etc. They also need to make sure the photographer is a full time professional and not somebody looking to supplement their income at weekends. Check that they also have full and proper insurance, both for Public Liability and Professional Indemnity, and that they use professional equipment, with backup should anything fail.
What tips would you share with couples to help their day go more smoothly?
Once you have your photographer chosen, a pre-wedding meeting, often at the venue is an important part of your wedding planning. Here you can go through the day’s schedule with your photographer and planner, make notes on any specific requirements for your photography, and walk around the venue looking at areas for the formals etc. At this point you could have an engagement, or test shoot. This is an ice-breaker, a chance to get used to the camera and your photographer…and they can get used to seeing how you react too. Sometimes an image from this (or other organised session) could be supplied as a large signature board, on which your guests can write well wishes on the day – makes a great keepsake too. With regards to group shots – give a list to both your photographer and a trusted usher to help them round everyone up. DON’T leave your photographer desperately shouting at a hundred strangers with a scribbled list in his/her hands!
Finally… What is the best moment you’ve had as a wedding photographer?
I wouldn’t say it was the best moment I’ve ever had as a wedding photographer, but definitely the most memorable, and for the right reasons. I was asked to photograph a couple’s wedding where the bride’s father was terminally ill. I chose to photograph this particular wedding over two others that were pencilled in the diary. This shoot was very difficult – emotions were high, and I had to be especially discreet to not draw any attention. Dad got through the day OK and even managed a speech, but it was almost overwhelming. I managed to get the shots I wanted, plus a special image of bride and dad sharing a moment, on which a value of importance can never be put. Dad sadly died five months later, and the simple, heart-felt thank you message I received spoke volumes. This is one reason why we do what we do…
Thank you to Mick for taking time out to chat with us, you can find out more about him on his profile here.
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