Behind the Lens with wedding photographer Joe Josland
05 Jan 2017
Kent-based documentary photographer, Joe Josland, lifts the lid on his passion for photography and the world of weddings
How would you describe your style of photography?
Honest, real and emotional; I think those three sum it up pretty well. As a documentary wedding photographer, it's always my goal to tell the true story of the day in all its glory, from silly faces to the more touching moments. Some people would describe it as a ‘warts and all’ approach, but to be honest there’s rarely anything that bad at a wedding that you can’t look back and laugh at. It’s all part of the story of the day.
How did you start out in wedding photography?
I started out in wedding photography after buying my first digital camera and getting, let’s say, more involved than I ever thought I would. A hobby turned into an obsession, and I decided I wanted to do it for a living. Luckily for me, a now good friend of mine gave me the chance to assist him and second shoot for him a few weddings. After that I was hooked, and knew right then that it’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my days.
Who are your ideal clients?
I don’t have a preferred demographic really. You find that some people aren’t quite right for you (or you for them), but that’s why I always schedule an initial meet-up. Beyond that, I just want people to enjoy their day and let me capture their memories as they unfold.
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.
For me, there isn’t just one image that can encapsulate everything that goes on in such a busy day. It's about the whole story. Saying that, nothing can beat a tender moment between a father and daughter when he sees his little girl in her dress for the first time. As a father to one girl with another girl on the way, I look forward to experiencing this twice.
Photographers seem to inject a lot of their personality into their work… what are your inspirations?
My inspiration when I cover weddings is to pay attention to the big picture. I find that something that may seem very simple often means so much more, particularly looking back. I don't wander round with the camera on a continuous shutter though; I take a photograph when a moment resonates with me. It's important to empathise as a wedding photographer; be emotional and engage with the big moments along with the bride, groom and guests.
How far in advance should those interested look to book you? Do people stand a chance of getting you last minute?
Some couples opt to book two years in advance. Others meanwhile have called and asked what I'm doing in two weeks' time. It all depends on the time of the year really, but I do my best to be flexible. When you’re essentially working freelance, there aren’t too many excuses. I even have bookings on my birthday.
What’s the most challenging part of photographing a wedding?
The most challenging part is probably the odd guest telling you what to do and what photographs to take, rather than letting me do what the bride and groom have asked for. I wouldn’t want to get too deep into examples, but the crux of my work is taking natural photos on a whim throughout the day. I always make that clear, and it’s often why people pick me in the first place. You always want to be flexible and to keep people happy, but not being able to deliver that ultimately does a disservice to everyone.
How can couples help to ensure the best work?
The best way for a couple to ensure they get what they want is to just relax, and not have to worry about me. I’ll be around even when they don't think I am. You tend to blend in better when everyone’s got a drink in their hand. Simply breathe and relax….
What are the three most important questions for couples to ask their photographer, in your opinion?
- One would definitely be to find out if the photographer is fully insured. It seems like an obvious thing for a photographer, but how many drivers are there without insurance?
- "Do you charge for travelling?” If you miss it on the website, you might get stuck with an extra bill for travelling if it's further afield. Personally I don't charge for any travel.
- "Will it be you who shoots the wedding?” There are a number of photographers out there who will take a booking and then outsource it to someone else: a hobbyist, amateur or student. This is a big no-no for me. As the bride and groom, you want a good relationship with the one vendor who will be with you from the start of the day right through until 10pm or later. If you have someone you don't know, you don't trust them in the way you should, and that undermines the whole process. If you feel uneasy you won’t get good pictures, no matter how good the person turns out to be.
What’s your opinion on the controversial ‘group shots’?
I understand the requirement for group shots, I really do. Most of the time it's not for the bride and groom. My advice is to keep them short and sweet, 8-10 minutes max. With all the time spent doing group shots, the guests and the bride and groom invariably get bored, and would rather be off doing something else anyway. My ideal situation is when a couple say they don't want any group shots, but are happy to grab me if they want a shot with their friend or aunty.
In terms of trends, what do you think is the most interesting at the moment?
The ongoing trend that I'm still interested in is the rustic style. The relaxed and natural feel of it accompanies my photography brilliantly. Some of the other trends about are beautiful, but they can be a little too staged for my liking. You often find that there's no wiggle room as it just has to be perfect, and that throws up conflicts everywhere.
What’s the most common misconception that you have to correct with couples? The thing you’d most like to communicate to the masses.
The most common misconception with wedding photography is most definitely what equipment photographers are using. It's ridiculous, to be honest. I have actually lost a booking where the couple didn't view my equipment as professional because it's not a Nikon or a Canon. I use Fuji cameras; they're small, light, give great image quality and are, most importantly for me (and many other Fuji photographers I know), inconspicuous. It's not the camera that takes the photograph; it's the photographer. They're the one with the vision and the ability to capture the moments that matter. Give a professional wedding photographer an entry level camera and a basic lens, and they still can pull out the same style of images that they would shoot with a top end camera.
What’s been your most memorable wedding to photograph, and why?
That's a tricky one. This sounds corny, but I really do remember every couple and wedding as individually special. They all have incredibly precious, emotional moments that I hope to remember forever. One of my favourite weddings though was last Easter at a beautiful manor house in Kent. This is not just because the wedding was a blast (I had just as much fun as the bride and groom), but because I made two friends that I still talk to and meet up with on occasion now.
Can you tell us why you think wedding photography is worth the investment?
Wedding photography can be overlooked on your priorities, but I promise you it shouldn't be. Many people take the approach that “It's OK, Uncle Bob has a good camera,” which is kind of sweet when it comes down to it. But as I said earlier, it's not up to the camera to capture your memories forever. Memories can sadly fade, and the photographs are the only fool proof way you’ll remember the wedding. It will all happen so fast, and you will find yourselves reliant on the photographs to tell your story. If you've only got a handful of photographs before 'Uncle Bob' had one too many glasses of wine, you lose a bit of that story. Although, hopefully, it’s still a happily ever after.
Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?
If I wasn't a photographer, I like to think I'm good enough in the kitchen to be a chef. I love cooking and always have done. Luckily, I think photography has better hours and lower stress levels – particularly when it’s a field I love as much as this one.