Little moments in time: Behind the lens with Denise Winter Photography
19 Apr 2016
Fascinated by people and storytelling, Surrey-based photographer Denise Winter's passion for her trade is clear to see. Here, we go behind the lens to find out more about her personal and professional life
How would you describe your style of photography?
A blend of documentary photography with stunning bride and groom portraits taken in a relaxed and natural manner.
How did you start out in wedding photography?
I met my husband 10 years ago when I was working as a Sales Director in the IT industry, I’d been in the role for five years and whilst the job was interesting, it wasn’t really 'food for the soul'. So my husband encouraged me to follow my passion. I approached a number of photographers who I admired and asked if I could second shoot for them. Thankfully most of them said yes! During this time, I attended various training courses, it was at one of these I met a photographer I truly revered; Gordon McGowan. His style of work is stunning and focuses on the small details to create those wow images you can only dream of. He very kindly took me under his wing and gave his time and support in helping develop my photography, for which I remain always grateful.
Who are your ideal clients?
My ideal client is a couple who appreciates the true value of photography and the importance of their photographic memories for years to come. I approach each wedding with a huge amount of energy and emotion to ensure I capture the little moments you may miss: a shared joke, a loving glance, a sentimental tear, raucous laughter. Working between the darkness of a church and the bright sun light of a summer's wedding - it’s so much more than having a 'good camera'.
When it comes to photography style, my ideal couples are those looking for storytelling meets stunning portraiture – it’s one day of looking totally gorgeous; 15 minutes is all it takes to create a selection of stunning portraits.
Can you choose a picture that encapsulates everything you want to achieve in a wedding photograph? Tell us what it is about this image that you love.
This has been a hard one as there are so many images from the last nine years to draw upon. I was torn between the emotional image of a brother, comforted by his mother and wife, after walking his sister down the aisle, I just adore the rawness of the emotion. However, I love a good confetti picture and this one just sums up a wedding; the bride and groom in the midst of a kiss with their family and friends cheering them on, being part of their beautiful day.
Photographers seem to inject a lot of their personality into their work… what are your inspirations?
Without sounding obviously sentimental, people inspire me. I am a great lover of people watching. It’s not just the way we look, every face has a different story to tell, but how we interact with each other. Acts of human kindness and emotions of love, capturing those moments are truly priceless. I also take inspiration from fashion magazines (I love the posing and trying to work out the lighting set up they’ve used) and music videos (3.5 minutes to tell a story – that’s creative work). With so many visual references always around us, it’s hard not to absorb something of what we see every day.
How far in advance should those interested look to book you? Do people stand a chance of getting you last minute?
The majority of couples who want to book me enquire 12-18 months in advance. There are lots of benefits of booking early; you get the suppliers you really want, it’s one less thing to worry about and you secure the current year's pricing. I do occasionally have last minute dates available, so it’s always worth checking, and if I’m not available I have a network of lovely photographers who I can recommend.
What’s the most challenging part of photographing a wedding?
Time. Allowing enough time to avoid any traffic, having enough time factored into the day's proceedings for the bride and groom to be relaxed and make the most of their day.
How can couples help to ensure the best work?
The best work is captured when couples kick back and enjoy their day, a relaxed couple is a happy couple, a happy couple make great photographs. Trust your photographer, if they come up with what sounds like a crazy idea for a picture, run with it. It is our job to make you look amazing, we would never suggest something we thought would make you look awful.
What are the three most important questions for couples to ask their photographer, in your opinion?
Can I view a few complete weddings?
It’s good to get a feel for a complete portfolio rather than just the “best ones”. Consistency of work is paramount. Also look at portfolios from the time of year which you are getting married, Winter and low light weddings can provide less experienced photographers with challenges.
Do you have sickness cover and who would it be?
This is really important to know. It’s never happened to me but you want to know that in the unfortunate event you are unable to attend their wedding, you have a contingency plan.
Do you carry back up equipment?
Again, super important. Cameras are machines and have a lot of parts that can and do go wrong on a wedding day. Spare cameras and lenses should form an essential part of every professional photographer's kit bag.
What’s your opinion on the controversial ‘group shots’ – can you give us an example of yours?
A wedding is made up of many family members and friends, and whilst story telling may capture some of these people and groups, it may not capture them at their best, or with you in the picture too! I have a guide list of eight pictures which encapsulates the key family members and bridal party, these take around 10-12 minutes, so still allowing you plenty of time to enjoy your day.
In terms of trends, what do you think is the most interesting at the moment?
Sneaking into this year is one of last year's trends of the 'First Look', but I’ve found this has really only been embraced by overseas couples who are less entrenched in tradition. Couples who book engagement sessions are also definitely placing more emphasis on a styled session, so the results look like a magazine editorial piece, which they then use in Save the Date cards or guest signing books. Photography itself constantly evolves in the way of different post production techniques and lighting techniques, which you may embrace depending on your photography style, company brand and type of couple you are trying attract.
What’s the most common misconception that you have to correct with couples? The thing you’d most like to communicate to the masses.
Posing is not a dirty word! Couples often visit my studio and say, “I don’t like posed pictures", then proceed to admire and request the natural looking bride and groom portraits displayed. I love telling them these are my posed pictures. My interpretation of posed is to place the couple in the best location and best light, and then have them interact with each other, resulting in natural looking images.
What’s been your most memorable wedding to photograph, and why?
Too many to choose from! From a sentimental point of view, I photographed a couple who met in the midst of the 7/7 London bombings. He worked for the emergency services and rescued his wife who had been injured by one of the blasts. I love that from something so hideous came love, which led to marriage and subsequently a family of their own.
From sheer fun and aesthetically pleasing view, was a wedding last year in Ibiza. A truly stunning location, a gorgeous couple (think Ben Affleck an Elle MacPherson) with family and friends who were as beautiful inside as out. And unbeknownst to the bride, the groom had flown in her favourite musician from Los Angeles; the look on her face when she walked down the aisle and realised it was the actual musician and not a CD, was completely priceless. At the end of the wedding day, all the guests (some 50 people) and suppliers, headed off a coach to continue the celebrations in Pacha.
Can you tell us why you think wedding photography is worth the investment?
I’m sure every photographer says the same thing…. Invest in your wedding photography because you only get one chance to get it right. It’s your big day, you will have spent months, maybe years, planning and saving for this day which you will share with your nearest and dearest. Once the flowers have faded, the dress dry cleaned and boxed away, the pre wedding diet a distant memory, your photographs will be the only thing from your day you will have to remember. Little moments in time frozen forever.
Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?
At the moment I would say a furniture restorer! Just enjoying reviving some old pieces of furniture which had been long forgotten about. However, ask me most other days and I would say a 'gift finder'. I love finding gifts for people that aren’t the obvious choice but have relevance or meaning to something in their life, past present or future. I recently found a vinyl record for one of my oldest friends that was playing at the school disco where we met, I mounted and framed it along with sweet wrappers and photos from the same time.