Keeping things fresh, staying inspired and bringing something new to each wedding are among the challenges wedding photographers face. By allowing more time in the wedding day proceedings, you’ll enable them to experiment and create something new says photographer Albert Palmer
The gift of time can transform wedding imagery from ‘nice’ to ‘incredible,’ says professional wedding photographer Albert Palmer.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I’m often asked to pigeonhole my style of photography and it’s a really hard thing to do, partly because weddings demand a little bit of everything. Landscapes, documentary, fine art, portraits, editorial, macro…but if I wanted to use a phrase it would be creative reportage as opposed to traditional wedding photography. The emphasis is really about capturing the story and atmosphere of the day. This way the viewer has an appreciation of what the wedding was like rather than a series of pre-determined poses. That said, it doesn’t mean any un-posed photograph or ‘snap’qualifies. I think carefully about composition, lighting, timing and emotional content to deliver beautiful images that are meaningful to the couples who hire me.
How did you start out in wedding photography?
Like many, I started wedding photography when a friend asked me to shoot her wedding. It was a small, intimate occasion and she couldn’t find a photographer at short notice. I don’t know why but I said yes. I was pretty excited at the thought of photographing a wedding. I had been photographing seriously for a few years and had grown more and more interested in photographing people. I didn’t have any big dreams of being a professional wedding photographer. I made them aware of my experience, bought a flash and a few bits of back-up equipment and prepared as best I could by visiting the venue and getting to grips with my equipment.
The wedding was a whirlwind of fun. I was amazed at the results and the couple loved them. The bride cried when she saw them for the first time and I had a huge sense of pride and satisfaction. It wasn’t the reaction I was used to from my day job that’s for sure. Seeing the joy people got from my work was a huge motivation. I pulled down the images of flowers and landscapes from my website and uploaded the images I had taken. It wasn’t long before I got another booking from friends who had seen these images and so the demand started to grow. I read absolutely everything I could about wedding photography and quickly fell in love with it.
Who are your ideal clients?
My ideal clients are those who hire me because they love what I do, as opposed to people who hire me because they need a wedding photographer. It’s a small distinction but an important one. Certainly I love going to weddings that are more personalised, or weddings that don’t blindly follow traditions because they think they ought to. There don’t have to be any rules. It’s great if the couple can relax on the day – as much as anyone can on their wedding day. Not everything always goes to plan (like the weather), so it’s great if couples are relaxed and happy to go with the vibe of the day.
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.
I feel guilty for including this one as it’s a little old, but it remains a firm favourite nonetheless. I love the beauty, the simplicity, the outdoors and the naturalness of this image. I hesitate to say that it is truly timeless, but I think the couple in this photo will look back in 50 years and it’ll remind them of how they felt on their wedding day. I love the light, the warmth, the quietness and expressions on their faces.
Photographers to inject a lot of their personality into their work. What are your inspirations?
My main inspirations are the couples who hire me. It’s cheesy but true. When I started out I decided I wanted to take photographs that best represent the couple and the vibe of their day. I tend to think that couples hire me for this, rather than me injecting my personality on to their day. While there is no doubt that it will always be the photographer’s vision of the day I like to think my images are a little bit more personal.
How far in advance should couples to book you? Do people stand a chance of getting you last minute?
Sure, I do get a handful of last minute people booking, but by the same token I do have to turn away a lot of couples. I aim to photograph around 40 weddings per year and I get about 600 enquiries a year. If only I could clone myself. I am pretty fortunate and get to go to a lot of weddings every year. It’s not uncommon to take a booking 24-18 months in advance. Even today I had to turn someone away at my favourite venue and she’s getting married over a year away on a Thursday. It’s just luck of the draw. But that said I’d say the majority of people book me nine to six months in advance.
What’s the most challenging part of photographing a wedding?
The biggest challenge I currently have is keeping things fresh, staying inspired and bringing something new to each wedding. While I’ve only been photographing weddings for five years I’ve attended around 270 weddings. The most enjoyable part of my job is coming up with new ideas. Most weddings are a whirlwind of activity and I love thinking on my feet. The job is full of challenging situations that need photographic problem solving. My biggest fear is going to different weddings and coming away with the same shots. I really like to challenge myself by experimenting with new compositions, new poses and different kinds of lighting. But when you shoot so many weddings it can be tough to find new ideas that work each time. It’s good to have ideas you know look good that you can default to –but I don’t want them to become a crutch that I reach for rather than create something new. When they do work you get the most amazing feeling. That’s probably the same for all creatives.
How can couples help to ensure the best work?
There are lots of tips but the biggest help for me is the gift of time. The more time I have during the day the better the photos. It really makes the difference between ‘nice’photos and ‘incredible’photos. It’s much easier to work with loose schedules that allow plenty of time for everything, for example, more time during the ceremony, reception and cocktail hour. Couple photos allow me to experiment, have fun and get the safe images before trying something new.
What are the three most important questions for couples to ask their photographer, in your opinion?
I’d recommend every couple ask their photographer to see a complete wedding from start to finish, maybe even two or three, not the best 10 images from the day, but the full Montgomery. It’ll be great to get an idea of the photographer’s style and you can see exactly what you’re getting (to a certain extent).
The second question would be: “what is your approach and how do you work to get images you do?”This way, you might get a better understanding of how interactive a photographer might be with you on the day. Some photographers will work very close to you so it’s important you get on. Others like to watch from the sidelines and capture what they see from a distance. There is someone for everyone.
The final question I would recommend people ask is about contingency: what happens if you fall ill? What happens if your camera breaks? What happens if your car breaks down?’Simple, but practical. Every professional will have given good thought to this and have a solution in place.
What’s your opinion on group shots–can you give us an example of yours?
Please don’t hate me, but I think they are really important. I’ve had a few weddings where the couple don’t want any and it freaks me out. I recommend couples choose a maximum of 10. Generally the fewer the better but small group photos needn’t take long. They don’t have to be fancy or hugely creative. But a simple shot of the bride (and groom) and her parents isn’t tricky to take and is really valuable. Don’t tell anyone I said this, but some of the most treasured photos from my own wedding are the boring family photos. My dad has his jacket undone and you can see his braces and my mum is holding a cocktail. They are relaxed, informal and perfectly imperfect.
In terms of trends, what do you think is the most interesting at the moment?
It’s interesting to see editorial fashion photographs making an appearance in wedding photographers’ portfolios. Some of them are very beautiful and tastefully done. While they aren’t something I do for a few reasons, some are timeless and I enjoy looking at them.
What’s the most common misconception that you have to correct with couples: the thing you’d most like to communicate to the masses?
Perhaps one thing to note is that a lot of work goes in to making the photographs look as good as possible after the wedding. Not necessarily changing them, but adding small touches, cropping, removing distracting elements, colour correction, black and white conversions etc. The actual time photographing the wedding is a small part of the time involved. While I don’t meet many couples who have this misconception a lot of other people do. The editing and album design takes a lot of time, energy and skill.
What’s been your most memorable wedding to photograph, and why?
Memorable weddings are those where the couple are head over heels in love. It’s cheesy, but when a couple are so in love you can feel it, it becomes infectious and is hugely inspiring. People show it in all sorts of different ways and some avoid showing it at all. I suspect the stress of the day for some takes some of the responsibility. But weddings where you can see how much a couple love one another never get old and I always seem to remember them more fondly.
Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?
A pro snow-boarder. For realz.
Albert Palmer Wedding Photography
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