Behind the Lens with South West wedding photographer, Mark Shaw

18 May 2017

We get to know South West wedding photographer, Mark Shaw, a little better in another edition of Behind the Lens

What geographic area do you cover?

South West England. I mainly photograph weddings in Cornwall, sometimes over the border into Devon. 


How would you describe your style of photography?

Creative, natural storytelling. I’m drawn to the happy stuff, the laughter and interactions, the colour and fun; and creatively photographing the rollercoaster of emotions and moments on wedding days without any posing... simply capturing it all as it happens.


How did you start out in wedding photography?

I was a keen documentary photographer already and was asked by a friend to photograph their wedding and the feedback from the photographs made me want to do more. So I did and the rest, as they say, is history.


Who are your ideal clients?

Couples getting married in Cornwall who love and value my photography and want the minimum of fuss allowing me capture their day naturally. Mostly, I attract couples that want to celebrate with their family and friends without the intrusion of a photographer, but still want to have lovely photos to look back on and share.


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 wedding photograph taken in Falmouth, Cornwall, is one of those moments where everything comes together perfectly – the weather, the location, the timing and the couple. It was a lovely still evening with a full moon. I suggested the couple sneaked out for a minute, having spotted the moonlight and the beautifully lit bandstand from a window, to have a moment together before the evening party started. They romantically rehearsed their first dance together moments before the big moment in front of all their family and friends.

I love this photo as it’s unposed, creative and tells a story; the three main components that encapsulate my style of wedding photography. 


Photographers seem to inject a lot of their personality into their work… what are your inspirations?

I put my heart and soul into every wedding and my driving force is for couples to be moved by my photography every time they look at it. To this day, I am constantly inspired when photographing weddings in Cornwall with the differing coastlines and weather conditions, the beaches, the countryside, the buildings and the people. 


How far in advance should those interested look to book you? Do people stand a chance of getting you last minute?

You should enquire at the earliest opportunity. I’ve had couples booking me two years in advance. Occasionally I do get enquiries a few months before a wedding day and more often than not, I’m already booked which is a shame as I hate to disappoint.


What’s the most challenging part of photographing a wedding?

The organisation of group photographs is the only part of the wedding I find slightly challenging, especially when there are a lot of guests who all want to be enjoying themselves rather than looking at a camera for a few minutes. Uncle Bob has gone to the toilet, the best man is having a cigarette – you get the picture. Having the ushers help with this task makes the challenge a whole lot easier.


How can couples help to ensure the best work?

By simply relaxing and enjoying the wedding day and 100% being themselves. The best weddings I have found are the weddings where couples let their day flow and don’t get too hung up on strict timings.


What are the three most important questions for couples to ask their photographer, in your opinion?

  1. How many photos can I expect, and can I see full gallery for a wedding you’ve taken in the past few months?
  2. How many posed group shots are you prepared to do?
  3. How do you cover in the event of equipment failure or being unable to attend due to sickness or injury? 


What’s your opinion on the controversial ‘group shots’?

I understand the importance of taking group shots. They are a visual legacy to look back on for years to come. I recommend keeping it to no more than eight as it can interrupt the flow of the day and becomes boring for the guests and the bride and groom get face ache. I make sure I cover everyone over the course of the wedding and if guests want to stop me for a posed group shot, then I’m more than happy to do it.


In terms of trends, what do you think is the most interesting at the moment?

Aerial photography using a camera drone, as I’m a total gadget geek. I do know a professional camera drone operator here in Cornwall that I can call on if a wedding couple are looking for something a little bit different by adding some aerial photos to their wedding photography album. I look forward to working with them in the near future.


What’s the most common misconception that you have to correct with couples? The thing you’d most like to communicate to the masses.

I don’t ever recall having to correct a couple to be honest. It’s their special day and most importantly they should enjoy it. What I would say is time flies, everyone says it, but it really does.


What’s been your most memorable wedding to photograph, and why?

I photographed a memorable wedding at River Cottage in 2016, made famous by television chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on my favourite cookery programme. The surroundings are truly beautiful along with the food (one of the perks of being a wedding photographer). The day had a very relaxed, fun atmosphere and we were blessed with a stunning sunset to end the day.


Can you tell us why you think wedding photography is worth the investment?

I feel it’s one aspect of a wedding you shouldn’t look to save money on, because the wedding photos are the thing that truly stand the test of time and trigger those memories of one of the most amazing days of your life. When everything is packed away, every last piece of confetti picked out of the church hedgerow, it's this collection of photographs that you’ll be left with to look back on. They’re a record of a special day in your life, surrounded by the people that meant the most to you. These are photographs that live on not just for a few years, but often for decades and generations.


Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?

Before I became a full-time professional wedding photographer in Cornwall, I worked as a freelance online marketing consultant. In the quieter months during winter, I still do some ad-hoc freelance work in this field so I imagine this is the job I would be doing if I was not a wedding photographer in Cornwall.


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