Behind the lens with Buckinghamshire wedding photographer Natasha Thompson
29 Mar 2016
Natasha Thompson believes we invest in what we value and what makes us happy. For some of us, that is timeless wedding photography we can look back on in years to come. She talks to us about first wedding shoots, a chance career and how weddings are a ‘good kind of showing off’
How would you describe your style of photography?
I combine two approaches – reportage and fine art photography. I believe that it's important not to interfere with the natural flow of the day, so I remain an observer most of the day and this is when the best natural life photos are coming from. I also believe that such an occasion as a wedding implies some sort of showing off (otherwise why bother with all the prettiness?). And it's a good kind of showing off. I think it's important to capture it in a slower pace to make sure it's done elegantly. That's when I do more set photos and direct people to create natural portraits. It doesn't have to take a long time.
How did you start out in wedding photography?
I studied photography and I am a fully qualified artistic and technical photographer. Despite this fact, I only became a wedding photographer much later in life and I'd say by chance. I shot a wedding of a friend's relative, after which I rediscovered my passion for photography.
Who are your ideal clients?
People who share similar visual aesthetics and therefore trust my vision. More precisely that would be professionals (young or mature) who are independent and have some sort of interest in art, design or in fact any creative involvement (dance and music too). I've noticed that these are the kind of people I connect best with.
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 don't think that's possible – I will try though. I love wedding photography for the variety of angles it can be looked at. I chose this one purely because shots like this are down to total luck and coincidence. I was not supposed to be in the room when this very intimate moment between the mother and daughter happened. A very pure and unstaged moment.
What are your inspirations?
I am hugely inspired by work of other photographers. I love both fine art photography and wedding photojournalism and I follow a few from each category. I also love food and interior design photography. Apart from photography I get my inspiration from art. The Impressionists, Monet in particular, are my favourite.
Do people stand a chance of getting you last minute?
Typically I get booked from six to 18 months in advance. Sometimes there is a chance of last minute availability and I like it when it happens. The shortest notice I had was two weeks. The couple actually organised their wedding in this time. Being two MBA students from Russia, at the end of their course they suddenly realised they wanted to get married in the UK and invite all their new friends before everyone separated after the course. I love spontaneous things myself.
What’s the most challenging part of photographing a wedding?
It can be challenging to fit all planned shots into a time slot that happened to be shorter on the day than originally planned due to whatever reasons (things running late, etc). Often caterers are not able to offer flexibility time-wise (they have to feed 100 people with hot meals after all) and as a photographer I am responsible for not delaying the meal time. Traditionally, time after the ceremony and before the meal is the main hour when formal and other shots are taken. So if the time is short and it's obvious that all that was planned cannot be fitted, I would talk to the couple explaining this, then would suggest we prioritise shots and do the rest after the meal if possible.
How can couples help to ensure the best work?
I say to my couples: prepare and let it go. Prepare for the wedding the best you can, but please don't let the worries ruin it. If you are enjoying yourself on the day there is a better chance of awesome photos.
What’s your opinion of group shots – can you give us an example of yours?
My clients require group shots in 95 per cent of the cases. They don't have to be rigid and formal; they are about making sure that the most important people have a chance to get photographed in a way that it will be nice to see in an album or print. I'm not a big fan of long group lists, but I think mums and dads, and bridesmaids and groomsmen deserve a decent shot looking all smart and happy.
In terms of trends, what do you think is the most interesting at the moment?
Oh gosh. I had to Google wedding photography trends as I wasn't sure what they were. One website suggests Instagram and #hashtag as one of the hottest trends. I love that as I love Instagram. In terms of different visual approaches I think it's important to have a balance of timeless photography and not get carried away with all the temporary trends such as vintage post processing, for example. Yes, we are all different and some people like it traditional, some like it edgy. But to me it's important that photography remains honest and non-pretentious.
What’s the most common misconception that you have to correct with couples – the thing you’d most like to communicate?
I didn't have to correct any misconceptions with my couples. But I think overall there is a general misconception about wedding photographers being overpaid. It's a long conversation, but my belief is that photographers provide more than just a picture, they provide a way to preserve memories.
What’s been your most memorable wedding to photograph, and why?
My most memorable wedding was my second wedding. I did a good job, I thought. There were some very arty pictures I was so chuffed about. But unfortunately I massively failed with the formal photographs. I will remember the unhappy parents of the couple for a long, long time. On a serious note, people do take a risk when they hire an inexperienced photographer. There is nothing wrong with being a beginner, but if you are one, make sure the couples who hire you completely understand the risks.
Can you tell us why you think wedding photography is worth the investment?
I believe that people decide for themselves what's worth the investment. Some would want to buy a Bentley or another expensive car, because they like cars and because it's tangible. Others would invest into travelling the world, seeing places and having experiences, because that's what they value. I believe we invest into what we value and what makes us happy.
If you value experience such as having one of the greatest occasions in your life with the people you love, all in one place, all happy and looking good; maybe seeing each other for the first time in many, many years, or some of them meeting for the first time; bringing the families and generations together, all having a good time. You, marrying the person of your dreams, the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Then this person right there with you, looking the very best, having the spark in his/ her eyes, looking with all his love at you and also having one of the best days in his/her life. If you value this kind of experience called a wedding perhaps you would want to invest into keeping and preserving the memories from this amazing day so that you can bottle those feelings and emotions and have a way to relive this day again and again. And this is what photography is all about – keeping the memories.
Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?
As a child I dreamed of being a cartoon animator. If I wasn't a wedding photographer, I'd probably be one.
Natasha Thompson Photography, Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire