Behind the Lens with Hampshire wedding photographer, Robert Burress of Shootinghip
15 Mar 2018
"While weddings share many common characteristics, I never set out to replicate the same images for each wedding" - wedding photographer Robert Burress of Shootinghip offers access to his world of work
How would you describe your style of photography?
I’ve always tried to steer clear of clichés surrounding describing my style. I’ve never felt that one style truly suited everything that I’m interested in delivering for my clients. Instead I’ve adopted an ethos. Simply put, I deliver wedding photography ‘in the first person’. My aim is simply to take someone who has never met you and has not been to your wedding, show them a slideshow and make them feel as if they were there. Every emotion, moment and feeling encapsulated in my images. If I can do that, then imagine the power when you see your own wedding.
How did you start out in wedding photography?
A bit of an accident if I’m honest. I purchased a digital SLR and felt I needed a way to pay for it. I posted a card in a shop offering to do parties and events. My first enquiry was for a wedding. My clients were keen to deliver a different feel to the images and felt that the wedding photography on offer at the time was staged and unnatural. I took the job, got seven more bookings from it and never looked back.
Who are your ideal clients?
My ideal client is one who has spent some time reviewing my work and understanding that what they are seeing is organic. While weddings share many common characteristics, I never set out to replicate the same images for each wedding. So having the faith in my work to simply let go and enjoy their day is the best characteristic of my ideal client.
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’ve always tried to find something that sets my images apart from my competition. Whether that’s the composition, the light, the tone or the location. A unique location (coupled with some pretty intense light) is perhaps my favoruite. So when I went on a wander with this couple I was keen to find somewhere new, somewhere unexpected, to take a unique image.
I love when a couple have a portrait that no one else has. In a world where some venues have 3-5 weddings a week, it's even more important. So for my submission I’ve presented this image taken in Surrey. I found an open door in a service shed. The rustic feel of the door and the random items on the workbench coupled with the directional light all sent my mind on overdrive. The picture nearly took itself.
Photographers seem to inject a lot of their personality into their work… what are your inspirations?
I go through phases. There are days when I want to emulate the candid and ironic images of Martin Parr followed by the stage produced, intricate details of Gregory Crewdson. It's a wide gamut of thought but one that keeps me focused and balanced.
How far in advance should those interested look to book you? Do people stand a chance of getting you last minute?
Most of my clents book between 15 and 12 months in advance, but there is always the odd weekend when the call never comes. So yes, it's always worth a call or email.
What’s the most challenging part of photographing a wedding?
Motivating families to complete their family formal photographs. I set no expectations on my clients for this part of the day and generally spend more time discussing it than anything else. It's the one part of the day when many different parties feel they have something to gain from it. It’s often political and sensitive but so far so good.
What’s your opinion on the controversial ‘group shots’ – can you give us an example of yours?
I think they are necessary. I say that not as a photographer but as a member of a family. However, I don’t think they should take up too much time. I suggest to my clients that they do between 8 and 10 group shots and to keep it to immediate family. However, if they want to expand that I’m there to serve them. I do, on occasions, get asked for a more interesting group shot. When that happens I’m clear that the image will take longer but that the result will be rewarding. So I only recommend it for either the bridal party or a combined shot of immediate families.
How can couples help to ensure the best work?
If a couple do their research, find a photographer who delivers the style of images they love, then the best way is to simply let go, enjoy their day and be genuine. The images that come out will reflect this.
What are the 3 most important questions for couples to ask their photographer, in your opinion?
I feel that social photography of any type, weddings especially, is perhaps more about the photographer's people skills than their photography skills. Of course, it's a double bonus if they are amazing with the camera. So, in that mindset, I’ll go with:
- How do you deal with ‘determined’ guests and family members? (that can be 'determined' to try and take every photo that you take or a mother of the bride 'determined' to take the upper hand.)
- What happens if the timeline slips dramatically? (how determined is your photographer at getting the story and not making it home for The X Factor)
- How do you make us (the couple) feel comfortable for our couple photos?
In terms of trends, what do you think is the most interesting at the moment?
A trend is just that. Today it's cool, tomorrow it's cheese. I’ve tried to stay away from trends but invariably they work their way in as your brain gets conditioned to see them as a norm.
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 is that I’m there to drive their wedding day forward, that I’m meant to be controlling what’s happening and keep it all on time. I whole-heartedly disagree. The most important supplier on the day is your caterer. They have a solid target that they have to meet and my day is always about liaising with the caterer to make sure that my plan suits their plan. I always fit all of my jobs in around the day they have created with the couple. I have awesome relationships with loads of caterers as a result.
What’s been your most memorable wedding to photograph, and why?
I’ve shot nearly 500 weddings in my career. I’ve been proud to work with all of my clients, so many great memories and good times. I could list many weddings as my most memorable. However there is one that really springs to mind.... I was hired to photograph a wedding in the Lake District many years ago, a referral from an existing client. What made this wedding so unique wasn’t necessarily the location or the venue, it was the guests - all seven of them, three of which spoke no English at all. It very much became a study in documentary photography in a room fully aware of my existence. I had to rely on body language and subtle glances to understand what was happening. A true challenge of both my skills in photography and sociology. A day I will never forget.
Can you tell us why you think wedding photography is worth the investment?
There are no second chances. Going cheap is certainly a way to save money but often it leads to bigger problems later on. You want a photographer who is committed, experienced and personable, someone who is willing to let your wedding happen and to record it. An experienced professional will let that happen, knowing they don’t have to make your day but rather experience it with you and record it in their own unique way. My hunch is you’ll only get that kind of reassurance from a top quality photographer worthy of your investment.
Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?
I’m afraid I don’t have a great answer for that, but rest assured it wouldn’t be office based.