The Art of ‘Different’ Wedding Photography
29 May 2015
Bride goes behind the lens with Cheshire wedding photographer, Adam Johnson
Do you stop and consider what your photographer’s challenges are, his goals and aims? Adam Johnson places the creation of art high on his list of priorities, but here we take a closer look at what it takes to create ‘wedding art’.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I try not to describe it myself. I ask brides and grooms to describe what they see/feel in my work in three words when they enquire with me. ‘Different’, I guess, is my favourite word that comes up regularly. They also say ‘creative’, ‘artistic’, ‘emotional’, ‘natural’ and ‘warm’. So I guess a mixture of all that sums me up and the way that I see weddings and the way I capture them. I’m very instinctive and experimental in the way that I shoot, so although I have a style, it can vary slightly from wedding to wedding depending on the conditions and the couple’s personalities.
Can you describe your ideal clients?
My ideal couples (hate the word ‘clients’ – it makes it feel like a business transaction!) are just lovely people who are hugely in love with each other and love what they see and feel in my work. And they just want me to ‘do what I do’ at their wedding. I see myself as a guest at the weddings I’m lucky enough to be a part of and often my couples just make me feel like an old friend. I do my best work when I feel completely trusted and when I know the couple are enthusiastic about the photos.
Choose a picture that encapsulates everything you want to achieve in a wedding photograph.
I guess I always feel like I have two concurrent goals at every wedding. The first is to be able to tell the whole story of that section of the day in a single photo, or as few photos as possible. So using composition, light, and feeling to really capture in a single image everything it was to be there at that moment (rather than just taking a million random snapshots). My second goal is to make art. To make images that nobody expected – whether that’s a documentary shot or a portrait. I want to take the photo(s) that I feel like no other wedding photographer would’ve seen or taken. I want my clients emotions to be stirred not only by the obvious memories I’m capturing for them (the people, the environment, the events) but also by the images that I stumble across that are out of the ordinary that transcend wedding photography hopefully. This image of Katie’s veil blowing in the wind through a shard of sunlight on a summer’s afternoon is exactly that sort of image.
What’s the most challenging part of photographing a wedding?
I think stamina is the most challenging part of photographing a wedding – both mental and physical. Staying switched on from the morning preparations through to the party and being ready for the little in-between moments as well as the obvious key ones. Being prepared to work just as hard at 9pm as you were 10 hours earlier and putting the same level of effort, thought and creativity in throughout the entire day.
How can couples help to ensure a photographer’s best work?
I often get asked by my couples this exact question – how can we help you to make sure our photos are amazing? And I always say the same – have a great time. If they have a great time, and let go of the stresses of wedding planning and hosting then they make my job easy. Because if they have a great time and relax, everyone else will feed off that and do the same. Then real moments of pure emotion will be allowed to happen and that’s where the magic lies. And don’t worry if your dress gets a bit dirty or your shoes a bit grubby – the photos will outlast both.
What’s your opinion on the controversial ‘group shots’ – can you give us an example of yours?
I don’t understand why group shots would be controversial. Of course I never want to be booked based on my ability to take a group photo so I don’t show them in my portfolio as a rule, but group photos are important long term so I always do a few of my couples with their key VIPs – parents, immediate family, bridal party, grandparents, that sort of thing. I think I’m always trying to balance what my couple want from their photography before the wedding, straight after the wedding and – crucially – in 10 years or more. Because those needs can be very different. Group shots’ importance grows with time, and I’m certainly not so precious about my ‘art’ that I’m going to refuse my clients this important family record. On the flip side, I advise them to keep their group photos to as few as possible for their own benefit because they don’t want to stand for 30-60 minutes of formal photos, missing out on the best bits in the middle of a day that disappears in the blink of an eye. I do try to advise against the ‘everybody’ photo because I just don’t think it’s a necessary shot given the amount of time it eats up! And I certainly don’t do any cheesy groups like the bride being held in mid air by the groom and ushers!
In terms of trends, what do you think is the most interesting at the moment?
I don’t pay any attention to trends. I’m just there to take photos of what I see in front of me, the way that I see it. As a photographer, if you get caught up in trends you’ll always be a step behind I think. Because my main job is to tell stories and make art, that can never be a trend and I try to actively avoid gimmicks in my work. In terms of wedding trends, again I would have no idea. My focus is only on people and their relationships with each other. Of course I take photos of the ‘things’ at weddings too, in the context of the story usually, but they are always just ‘things’.
What’s been your most memorable wedding to photograph, and why?
Too many to mention! The obvious choice would be one of my destination weddings but there was a wedding last year up in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales – Helen and Rob – they got married in Byland Abbey, and planned an outdoor ceremony. On the day it rained, actually it poured so at the last minute Rob and his groomsmen hat to help put up a canopy for the ceremony. Suddenly this picture perfect outdoor ceremony in the ruins of an ancient Abbey became a soggy ceremony under a white canopy and I wondered how Helen especially would react to this. Her reaction was perfect, the canopy was hardly mentioned and she smiled and laughed her way through the entire day without a care in the world, knowing that it was their wedding day and rain or shine, canopy or no canopy, it was perfect and I’m sure that they wouldn’t change a thing. That attitude made it, and them, a joy to capture with some really unusual moments along the way, like the epic journey Helen and her bridesmaids had to take through the soggy, freshly cut grass to get to the ceremony!
Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?
I’ve actually no idea. Photography is what I do, it’s what I feel like I’m supposed to be doing and it affords me a life which makes me very happy. Why do anything else?!
Adam Johnson is based in Cheshire, but "loves to travel around the UK and Europe" for his work.
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