Interview: Neil Palmer
Today we chat with Reading based wedding photographer Neil Palmer who has been shooting for over 25 years.
So firstly how long have you been photographing weddings for and how did you get into in?
I have been photographing weddings full time for over 25 years. So I guess I’m quite experienced having photographed over one thousand!
My father set up our studio back in June 1983. This was initially just portraiture but there was a great demand at the time for decent wedding photography and within a few years were photographing around 100 weddings a year between us. No advertising or promoting – people just walked in off the street.
What do you particularly like about photographing weddings?
It has to be the variety and having complete artistic freedom (there are no art directors to deal with !)There is so much going on, often in very quick bursts and its the adrenaline and not knowing what to expect that is most satisfying for me. Its also an excellent way to get an overview of how people live, enjoy and celebrate life.
I’ve photographed Lords and Ladies, Celebrities as well as the ordinary man on the street and is fascinating to see the variety of lifestyles we have here in the UK. Perhaps I should publish a book – ‘Britain at play’.
How would you describe your style and approach?
My style is documentary. I only photograph around a half a dozen formal groups and some of the couple together, loosely directed. The rest of the day I just watch, observe and document. In the 80’s it was very much posed and set up photography to the extent you had to continuously stop proceedings throughout the day. That’s how it was in those days, no one questioned it. I never really enjoyed this, it just didn’t feel right. Around the mid 90’s the style became a lot looser with photographers moving away from medium format to 35mm and suddenly I began enjoying weddings again. In the last 5 years I have refined my style further to the extent that I just shoot what I want. I don’t follow trends and am determined to offer something different to everyone else. Fortunately I attract great clients who buy into this and just leave me to it.
What advice would you give to couples looking for a wedding photographer?
First and foremost decide what style you want and moreover what you will be most comfortable with on the day. Do you want a fashion, editorial coverage and if so are you comfortable posing for this and have the time to do so ? Or do you prefer a more low key, fly on the wall approach ? Whatever you opt for its important you meet or speak to your photographer beforehand. Personality is so important and you have to feel comfortable with them bearing in mind they’ll be with you more or less a full day. Ask to see 3 COMPLETE weddings as well and you choose which ones, not the photographer.
What tips would you share with couples to help their day go more smoothly?
Do not over organise, have some flexibility in the day. Weddings very rarely go to plan – delays, unpredictable weather especially here in the UK will often throw a spanner in the works. You want to enjoy your day to the full and not have to worry about things going wrong. A good toastmaster is worth his weight in gold and will take the pressure of you. With regards to photography try and keep group photos to a minimum.
Each group photo can take 3 – 4 minutes to organise and shoot. This can be even longer if done at the reception as guests tend to wander off. Its always advisable to do these straight afer the ceremony which will save heaps of time.
Finally… whats the best moment you’ve had as a wedding photographer?
It was photographing a wedding in Sydney, Australia back in December 2010. This was the ultimate endorsement of my photography especially when you consider the number of brilliant, arguably world class photographers over there.
I also did their engagement session a few days before on the beach with Sydney Opera House as the backdrop. It certainly beats working for a living !