The Secrets of a Fly on the Wall Wedding Photographer: Neil Walker Photography
15 Sep 2015
We go behind the lens with a West Sussex wedding photographer who makes you look your best, because you don’t know you’re being photographed – nothing looks better than natural happiness…
It’s not days and it’s not weeks, often not just months, but years are spent planning a wedding. Yet within a matter of hours the deed is done, cheeks ache from smiling and couples are left with memories of the day they were joined in marriage. For this reason, Bride believes in the importance of wedding photographers – choosing the right artist to document your attention to detail, the emotions and the many things you’d miss is invaluable.
In recognition of the people making memories a tangible object, Bride goes ‘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 Neil of Neil Walker Photography.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I would say my style is summed up by the words ‘I truly believe people look their best when they don’t know they are being photographed.’ Not very snappy, but I go into each couple’s wedding with no preconceived ideas other than to not only document their day, but more importantly to capture the fleeting emotional moments that really show how people feel. A hand on a shoulder or a glance between a couple standing in front of their closest friends and relatives to show them how much they love each other. Those are the images that will remind couples how they really felt five or 10 years later when they look through their photos from the day. Even when I do shots of just the couple, I back off and leave them alone to talk and just be together while I float around them capturing that moment.
How did you start out in wedding photography?
I knew I wanted to be a photographer when I was 14. I worked with local photographers and then did my ‘apprenticeship’ in London with fashion and advertising photographers. I think the way I shoot is a reaction to and in direct contrast to the ‘set up’ way that photography was then, and still is now to some extent. I shot my first wedding for a relative and couldn’t believe how much I loved it. In advertising I used a lot of models, who were great, but not ‘real’. At the weddings I shoot all the emotion is real, nothing staged. I knew during the ceremony of my relative’s wedding that weddings were what I wanted to shoot from then on. I started the move from advertising to weddings straight away. It took about a year to move over, that was nine years ago. I continue to love shooting weddings as much as I did that first one.
Who are your ideal clients?
Anyone who loves what I do. I seem to get a specific type of couple, who want to see themselves in the images. That may sound strange, but in quite a lot of wedding photography the photographer will be going for a certain look or feel that isn’t necessarily who the couple really are. I am trying to capture them, so when they look at the images they really see themselves. If you look through ten of my weddings, they’ll look different each time. That’s because the couple are different every time.
Can you choose a picture that encapsulates everything you want to achieve in a wedding photograph?
I caught this totally unscripted moment of Michelle and Leigh as they left the church (above). To me, these private moments, brief and poignant, are what they will forget after their wedding day, and yet are possibly the most important time in their lives together. Those moments when they look at each other and acknowledge in a glance or a touch, what they mean to each other. So easily forgotten. If I can capture those images, then when they look through their wedding photos in years to come, they will remember what they meant to each other on that day.
How far in advance should those interested look to book you?
I never know one year to the next which months will be the busiest. One year I’ll be flat out in July and then the next I’ll have some dates available in July but be fully booked in December. Always worth trying last minute, though the further ahead you book, the more likely you are to get me.
What’s the most challenging part of photographing a wedding?
It’s being in the right place at the right time. It’s definitely the most important thing to a wedding photographer, and definitely the most challenging. Patience and planning mean you are in just the right spot to get that great shot when it happens.
How can couples help to ensure your best work?
Planning - I love the planning process. I like to meet couples a month before their wedding at the venue to go through the day in detail. That way I have a clear plan on their day, making sure I’m in the right place at the right time and with backup plans for anything that can happen. On the day that gives me the freedom to think about the photography and not where I should be. The couple can help me with this by having the rough timings and locations all sorted and also let me know about anything that might be a surprise.
What are the three most important questions for couples to ask their photographer?
Ultimately your decision should be made on a gut or emotional feeling. However, it’s important you only consider photographers who can answer the following questions well:
1. How many weddings have you shot? – you might be surprised by the answer. It’s easy to put together a website from just a few weddings.
2. are you the photographer that will shoot my wedding? – it’s very important you meet the actual photographer who will shoot your wedding and see lots of full weddings they’ve shot.
3. Have you ever shot at the venue before? If not, what plans do you have to visit? – a good photographer will always want to visit the venue with the couple about a month or so before their wedding even if they’ve shot there before.
What’s your opinion on the controversial ‘group shots’ – can you give us an example of yours?
I think a few group shots are important. They can be fun if handled well and smoothly. I also enjoy doing a few casual groups that I get together spontaneously, they can be good fun and much more relaxed.
What’s the most common misconception that you have to correct with couples?
Less is more……couples often think that getting more photos is better. Not every aspect of the wedding needs to be covered, documenting the day is important, but it is also important to capture the feel and essence of the day, the emotional moments that will be missed if the photographer is trying to capture every novelty sock the guests are wearing.
What’s been your most memorable wedding to photograph, and why?
I shoot a few weddings in Italy each year. I particularly enjoy them I suspect mostly because they push me creatively as I don’t have the usual amount of time to check out the venues and locations, I have to make it up as I go along… always a good thing every now and then.
Can you tell us why you think wedding photography is worth the investment?
It’s easy to forget how we feel about someone as we get caught up in the stress and strain of everyday life. Looking back at those emotional moments that make up a couple’s wedding day remind us why we are where we are and how many good friends and family we have. Only great photography can do this – well worth the money.
Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?
I’d be another type of photographer… I really can’t imagine being anything else. I’ve loved being a photographer all my working life and hope to be for the rest of it.
Price range: £1395 to £2500