“It’s the People that Make a Memorable Wedding”: Behind the Lens with Stephen Bunn
14 May 2015
Kent-based wedding photographer, Stephen Bunn, tells us how there are times that aren’t for clicking… they’re for memories alone.
In recognition of the people making memories a tangible object, Bride will be going ‘behind the lens’ with the country’s wedding photographers. As guests at hundreds of weddings a year, they offer unparalleled insight into the highs, the lows and the lessons to be learnt at weddings… today, we set to glean from the experiences of Kent-based Stephen Bunn. And it’s all about the individuals at the wedding, says Stephen – they’re the ones who make the most memorable weddings.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I would describe my style as creative wedding photojournalism. I shoot portraits at most weddings, but I am certainly more creative with the documenting rather than directing.
Who are your ideal clients?
My ideal clients are the ones who connect with my work and allow me the freedom to embed myself into their day without the need for direction. They say “we love your photos, just do what you do.”
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.
It would be easy for me to choose a wedding photograph of obvious emotion here - I have hundreds of those, and whilst I do strive to capture the emotion and atmosphere of every wedding I am lucky enough to shoot, I have chosen a portrait of a couple that brings the unpredictable nature of wedding photojournalism and street photography together (another influential element to my style) into the frame. This image (above) was taken at outside The Gilbert Scott bar at the ever busy St. Pancras station in central London. With my portraits I will try to make the process of having a picture taken as natural and relaxed as possible, this normally means me asking the bride and groom to go stand somewhere and just look into each others eyes, I then move around looking for an interesting composition. I believe if you work hard enough then you can create your own luck, this was the case with this image and also a lot of photojournalism. This portrait has many parallels with my documentary work. I could not reproduce it is set up to a certain extent, but it’s a real fleeting moment. If it’s missed, it’s gone and forgotten. I was waiting for something interesting to walk into my frame and got lucky with a group of business men all in dark suits. This is exactly the way I work with my documentary approach throughout the wedding day; I observe and shoot by intuition as much as possible.
Photographers seem to inject a lot of their personality into their work... what are your inspirations?
I am inspired by many aspects of photography outside of the wedding genre. I love photojournalism and fine art, so I try to merge the two within my style. I would say that I strive to create a photograph that my clients can hang on the wall and be proud to call it art. I want people to remember how they felt in the photograph not how they looked.
What’s the most challenging part of photographing a wedding?
I personally find the most challenging part of a wedding day is managing the expectations of friends and family. I know that the bride and groom have booked me document their day as I see it, however I do find that sometimes other members of the bridal party are expecting other things from a wedding photographer. Spending an hour doing group shots or requests from guests is not really how I work.
How can couples help to ensure the best work?
My best work is always achieved when I am forgotten about, and with the excitement and emotion of a wedding day it’s not long before the couple have forgotten I’m around and enjoy their day without worrying about the photography. That is my job!
What are the 3 most important questions for couples to ask their photographer?
1. How many weddings have you shot?
2. What excites you about photography?
3. Do you like cake?
What’s your opinion on the controversial ‘group shots’ – can you give us an example of yours?
I understand the importance of a couple of family photos. I only take a couple of groups, I am not a fan of group shots, almost everyone at a wedding has a camera these days and I think the guests can take really good group shots because the people in them are far more relaxed when a friend is taking them. This image has a couple of family members in and it was a complete documentary moment. I would class this as a group photo.
What’s the most common misconception that you have to correct with couples? The thing you’d most like to communicate to the masses.
Documentary wedding photography does not have to be black and white, moody, dark and miserable. Documentary can be bright colourful and vibrant... and maybe a little black and white.
What’s been your most memorable wedding to photograph, and why?
Weddings are all about people, aside from the great venues and food and imaginative favours, it’s the people that make a memorable wedding. One of the most memorable weddings for me was one I shot a few years ago in London. The bride’s mother was Catholic and from Northern Ireland. She got married at a young age to a Protestant boy during times of trouble in Northern Ireland, they had gone through some tough times over their religion, as would her daughter today. The bride’s father had recently passed so emotions were already running high on this happiest of days. As the speeches began, the groom explained how proud he was of his family and what a happy childhood he had had with them, he then raised a glass for them and expressed his love and respect for them. My eyes began to well up behind the camera, as with the rest of the room, he became emotional himself and the room fell silent. I shot one photo before the room fell silent. After that, I couldn’t take another photo - it was far too personal to be clicking. It was a moment for memory alone. His brother was the only member of his family there on the day‐the rest of the family’s religious beliefs meant they had not attended the wedding. It’s the emotion of a day that I embrace and it’s the warmth of the people that make a wedding memorable to me.
Can you tell us why you think wedding photography is worth the investment?
It’s the only thing that will stand the test of time; it’s all been said before that the dress and the cake don’t last and when memories have all faded away. The photographs live on way beyond the day, even the lifetimes of the individuals… so why not invest well in them?
How far in advance should those interested look to book you?
Some couples book a year or two in advance, certainly for Saturdays during the middle of summer. However, I have taken many bookings close to the wedding date in the winter and spring. It’s always worth getting in touch but as with anything, the sooner you get in touch the more chance there is of me still having availability for your wedding date.
Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?
A rock ‘n’ roll star oh no, wait... that was the first choice.
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