Interview with Steven Wheller of Art by Design
We go behind the lens and chat with Steven Wheller of Art by Design in our interview series with wedding photographers.
How long have you been photographing weddings for and how did you get into it?
I have been photographing weddings for over 20 years but started focusing on pushing the wedding photography around 13 years ago. I started photography at the age of 16 using a film camera (I am now 50) and like a lot of other people it started out as a hobby.
I used to drive around Wales in my mini photographing landscapes and seascapes and practiced portraits, photographing family and friends.
I got hooked straight away and I always spending money on film. People bought me film for birthdays, Easter, Christmas etc and I just photographed everything. I enrolled in photography courses and set up my own darkroom in my bedroom and developed black and white photos.
At the time I was working in a printing department and people knew I was a keen photographer and so one of the members of staff asked if I would be interested in photographing their wedding and they offered to pay.
This was something I couldn’t turn down. Wedding photography was a lot different back then. You would shoot rolls of film and usually it would just be the standard ceremony and group shots. You would then send the film off to the lab and cross your fingers the photos would turn out. In those days it was around 100 pictures you would give the client and not the the 1000s you would shoot today.
What do you particularly like about photographing weddings?
I like photographing the connection between people. I have always been into people watching and it fascinates me, watching and photographing the interactions between people. I also love the different styles you see at every wedding. Every wedding is different, every person is different and you never know what’s going to happen.
What is your favourite part of the day?
I guess its the wedding preps. A lot of photographers like this part of the day because this is where you can get a bit creative. The bride and groom are just focussed on looking good which means they are not aware you are there most of the time.
You get to watch and use the light to create interesting frames. Also I love the interactions and the chaos of the morning.
How would you describe your style and approach?
I have been described as a Ninja photographer, not because I am small but I just blend in with the people on the day. I like to document what is happening without any direction. Natural moments happen when you observe and anticipate the moment.
I also love to incorporate my love of landscapes with the couple portraits and I always try to create one WOW photo with the couple in the place where they got married. This is usually at the coast or up a mountain somewhere.
I Love adventurous couples who are up for anything. Stick your boots or wellies on and lets go create something special. So in a nutshell as it says in tagline on my website: ‘
Unique & Natural Wedding Photography for adventurous, fun loving couples who want unique iconic images that ooze raw emotion and beauty.
Who, or what inspires you?
Now that’s a hard one. I have been so focussed on my own photography over the last years I never actually followed any other photographers. It’s only recently I have started buying photography books and taking an interest in what other people are doing. Over the last couple of years I have only decided what my style and couple are.
I love photographing people, not the posing or lighting, capturing the pure raw emotions and interactions and moments that only happen once. So what inspires me are people. Street photography is about observing and documenting life so this is what I have been learning a lot more about and how I go about putting that into practice on a wedding day.
A few photographers that have inspired me are John Downing, Annie Leibovitz Martin Parr, David Hurd but to be honest the most important thing is to be yourself and photograph what you love and don’t worry what everybody is photographing.
What advice would you give to couples looking for a wedding photographer?
1. Find a photographer whose work you have an instant connection with and don’t get driven by price. When you browse for something you are buying you create a wishlist of the all the thing you like.
Do the same with your wedding photography. First of all decide what type of photography you like. Do you like fashion photography, are you happy to pose and have your picture taken. Would you prefer to not be aware of the camera and have natural photographs of the day, is there a particular style of photography you’re looking for?
Once you know create a list of those photographers whose work you are drawn to. Every couple has a budget but don’t eliminate that photographer on price as you never know as the photographer may be able to create a package/collection that comes within your budget.
2. Once you have created the list contact them for quote based off your requirements for your day e.g all day/half day photography, album included etc. Narrow down the photographers who are close to your budget and arrange a meeting. Also email back the photographers whose prices are not within your budget and don’t want to me meet just thank them for them time as always nice to hear back from a couple instead of hearing nothing.
3. Once you have narrowed down your photographers based off stye and price, meet the photographer or have a video call. That way you get to meet them and have an understanding if you have a connection and feel relaxed in their company. If you are going to spend a lot of time with your photographer you want to make sure you feel comfortable in their company.
4. Choose the photographer whose work you love, you have a connection with and the price is right. Remember experience is also essential. You only get married once and the photographer has one go to get capture the photos you want. Do not chance it with a cheaper inexperienced photographer if your wedding photos are one of the most important things. Let’s face it all you have are the photographs or video left to remember your day by.
What tips would you share with couples to help their day go more smoothly?
Discuss how the photographer would go about photographing your day. An experienced photographer is not there just to photograph your day. They will run through all the timings, help with working with other vendors and make sure that everything runs smoothly.
If as a couple you are relaxed and enjoying every part of the day then that will show in the photographs. I also advise and help with putting a couple in touch with other recommended vendors that will help their day run to plan.
If there was one place in the world you would love to capture a wedding where would it be and why?
Now that is really a hard question. I love dramatic landscapes so I think it would have to be somewhere up a mountain with an incredible view. I have always wanted to go whale watching in Antarctica so maybe integrating a wedding with that somehow.
Finally… Whats the best moment you’ve had as a wedding photographer?
So many moments. Photographing a woodland wedding and the bride arriving on a white horse up the mountain, squeezed in yurt with a 100 guests dancing like it was a rave and witnessing so many emotional moments that made me cry behind the camera.