Behind the lens with wedding photographer Paul Keppel
01 Dec 2016
Conrwall-based wedding photographer Paul Keppel travels all over the world documenting weddings and capturing "beautiful and emotive images that naturally unfold"
How would you describe your style of photography?
What’s most important to me is to capture beautiful and emotive images that naturally unfold. Having said that, I can create cool dramatic images to make your friends jealous.
How did you start out in wedding photography?
I did photography at school and college but that was back in the film days. 15 years later, while I was working as a ski instructor in Switzerland, I used to take photos for the ski school alongside teaching. Quite a few friends were getting married and asked if I could bring along my camera to capture photos after their main photographer had left. I really enjoyed it, and with ski instructing be seasonal work I thought this would be the perfect marriage (pardon the pun). Having not run a business before, I underestimated how much work goes into wedding photography and how it requires all year round commitment. After completing a degree in Photography I now work as a full time wedding photographer and still manage to capture a couple of weeks here and there updating the ski school's website with new photographs.
Who are your ideal clients?
Ones that love and value my photography
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 was an amazing wedding, which I had to the pleasure of being a witness for. This was the most intimate wedding I’ve ever photographed, with only the bride and groom, myself and the taxi driver as the other witness. This photo screams 'love' to me: no frills, no clever lighting, no dramatic landscape, just simply two people lost in each other.
How far in advance should those interested look to book you? Do people stand a chance of getting you last minute?
I feel that if you have your heart set on a photographer I cannot emphasise enough to book them early. I’ve had brides/grooms booking me two years in advance for their wedding, but I do get quite a few leaving it right to the last minute 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?
I think there are actually two challenges; the first is time constraints. On the wedding day you have to work quickly, trying to work to a timeline of the wedding - such as the ceremony starts at 1pm or the couple have to be back for 3pm for the wedding breakfast. The second is lighting. A wedding at 4pm in November presents photographers with the most challenging lighting due to the most failing light you will ever face, as opposed to 4pm in June.
How can couples help to ensure the best work?
I think allowing enough time for everything they want to capture. Normally, if things are over-running, it has a knock on effect throughout the day and thus takes away from other photograph opportunities.
What are the three most important questions for couples to ask their photographer in your opinion?
- To either meet or Skype their wedding photographer before the wedding. On the wedding day I can spend 12 hours with the couple, even though most of the time I will blend into the background. I feel you need to have a rapport with your wedding photographer.
- Find out exactly what is/isn’t included in the package you have booked and have it documented in your contract. I booked a bride recently who paid a lot of money to another photographer for her wedding only to find out after the engagement shoot she had only paid for his time and any further editing would be at an additional cost.
- If the photographer has photographed at the venue before, ask if you can see a detailed gallery from previous weddings to show a selection of photographs and see if they meet your expectations. When I blog about a wedding, I submit between 70-100 images so you can see a variety of images from the whole day and not just five of my favourite.
What’s your opinion on the controversial ‘group shots’ – can you give us an example of yours?
I understand the importance of taking group shots at a wedding as it’s not just a photograph of a big group of people, but more of a visual legacy to look back on for years to come. I have a really quick and easy process, allowing me to fly through 15-20 groups in 20 minutes. I start with an upside down pyramid system; the big group shot of everybody first, working my way down to the bride/groom with parents.
Pet hates at weddings are photographers that take to long to do the group shots. A helpful tip to speed up the process is to have one family member from each side that can round up people if needed. I would rather take 5 minutes extra taking a few more group shots that may never be used than a bride coming back after the wedding asking for a group shot that wasn’t on her list.
What’s the most common misconception that you have to correct with couples?
I think the biggest misconception is couples are not allowing enough time to fit in everything they want capturing or under-estimating how long certain aspects of a wedding can take. I would say a high percentage of weddings I photograph never run on time and it’s the photography time that suffers.
What’s been your most memorable wedding to photograph, and why?
It has to be the wedding I photographed under the snow-capped Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. I was very excited to be asked to photograph a ski instructor friend’s wedding that had chosen to get married in a ski resort. I spent a week with their family and friends skiing in beautiful sunshine. Luckily, the night before the wedding it snowed and didn’t stop until the about two hours before the wedding. The highlight was donning skis and boots and skiing with the bride and groom in full wedding attire, taking photos of them skiing down to the restaurant on the mountain.
Can you tell us why you think wedding photography is worth the investment?
I think a good photographer is worth their weight in gold. It’s more than turning up with a fancy camera, taking posed photographs. A good photographer will not only be able to deal with different lighting on the day, from harsh sunlight to the darkest of castle ceremonies, but also work with various types of people. From nervous brides to make them feel at ease, to communicating with children to smile for the camera and having the people skills to organise large group photographs. We have photographed many weddings and know the running order which helps with knowing to be in the right place at the right time, capturing emotions and anticipating them before they happen. Dealing with a variety of weather conditions, that can affect the running order of the day and still managing to capture all the images that are expected.
Yes photography can be a huge investment, but I feel it’s the one aspect of the wedding you should not scrimp on. After your cake has been eaten, flowers have wilted, your dress put in a box, your wedding photographs are the lasting memory of your big day to recreate the nostalgia of your wedding. The photographs will be looked back on and enjoyed for many years to come, thus making the investment worthwhile.
Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?
I think I would still be taking photographs while teaching skiing in Switzerland. I am really thankful for being a wedding photographer as it has enabled me to travel and photograph at amazing destinations with a lot of amazing people who have chosen me to capture their special day.