Glorious flowers, dogs with bow ties and unforced smiles… these are just some of the things that make for great wedding pictures according to Sheffield photographer Ellie Grace. She tells us how a light bulb moment led her to a flourishing wedding photography career and a natural shooting style
How would you describe your style of photography?
Super relaxed and incredibly natural. I take a very journalistic and friendly approach to the day, with a lot of creativity.
How did you start out in wedding photography?
I did photography in college and at university, and I remember saying about five years ago, ‘I will never photograph a wedding, it’s just not me’. A year later I photographed a friend’s wedding as a favour and four years later here I am. I realised on that day that I just loved it. I loved being a part of such a wonderful day and being able to be myself and do the thing that I love most, taking photos. It was just perfect; a real light bulb moment.
At the time I had no real path. I thought I was destined to be a visual merchandiser, but one mental breakdown later I realised it was just not for me. I needed to get myself back onto my real path, which was photography, and specifically, wedding photography. As horrible as mental breakdowns are, that one was a blessing in disguise and could not have come at a better time.
Who are your ideal clients?
Friendly, laid-back, bubbly people with a passion for life. So many times at weddings people come up to me and say ‘so, how long have you known the bride and groom?’ To me that is just perfect. I don’t care how much money a client has, how extravagant or DIY a wedding is, as long as I gel with my clients personality wise, I think that makes an ideal client to me. Of course my absolute ideal client ever would be a couple who want their dog to be a part of their wedding day, but now I’m just being picky.
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.
This image is just perfect. No I haven’t picked the ‘perfect’ backdrop, I haven’t waited for the ‘perfect’ time of day and I most certainly haven’t told them to act like this. This is an image of four people having the time of their lives and having it with a sausage dog. A sausage dog who is also a part of the family, a sausage dog who is also wearing a bow tie, may I add. This image is family, friends, love and happiness: it’s honest and real. Exactly what I want to capture in every image. I want to be able to capture the personalities of the people and the atmosphere of the day. I want an image to remind me of the people and really feel what happened on the day, and I think this image does just that.
Photographers inject a lot of their personality into their work… what are your inspirations?
People. You lovely lot are my inspiration. A beautiful couple, personality wise, deserve a beautiful day and this will reflect in your images. If you have tons of people laughing and dancing at your reception this will be reflected in your images. I find creativity very inspiring, so if you’ve been creative within your wedding this will of course inspire me to be more creative with my images.
How can couples help to ensure the best work?
Let me get on with it. Just enjoy your day and forget about me. I’ll come and get you when I need you, otherwise it’s your day, so make sure you enjoy it.
What are the three most important questions for couples to ask their photographer, in your opinion?
Do we have full rights to the images? Do we get all the images? What if it rains?
What’s your opinion on group shots – can you give us an example of yours?
It’s your day so you have them or don’t have them. I will recommend only putting about 20 minutes aside to do them and get your ushers on board to round everyone up to ensure a quick turnaround so people don’t get bored. As I’ve said before, it’s such a wonderful day we don’t want to spend most of it standing around looking for Uncle Bob or doing 10 different variations of the same family. It’s important to get these group photos sometimes but in my eyes the more natural ones are the most important. The photo I’ve included was part of a beautifully relaxed wedding and we did about 10 different group shots in about eight minutes and just look how natural and beautiful they all look. Get them in, click, and get them out, then we don’t spend hours faffing around with which hand to put on which hip. Quick and natural is key. I’ve also included one from the same wedding. The youngest girl was being a bit mardy so how do you deal with that? Tickle them. Make it a fun thing.
What do you think is the most interesting trend at the moment?
I honestly do not keep up with trends. I would never change my style to match a trend, as then it wouldn’t be me. I’m enjoying playing around a bit with ‘free-lensing’. It’s a very niche sort of taste, some people like it, some people don’t, but when done well it can look truly beautiful.
If we’re talking about other trends apart from photography, I would just like to request that everyone have succulents involved in your wedding flowers. Succulents are just to die for, change the whole look of your flowers and just make everything so much more interesting. Oh, and gold pineapples.
What’s the most common misconception that you have to correct with couples: the thing you’d most like to communicate to the masses?
“I hate having my picture taken and I just can’t smile for photos.”
I won’t force you to do anything, but my style of photography means that absolutely everything is natural and there won’t be any point of your day where your smile is forced. I’ll make sure of it. Most people hate having their picture taken which is why my style is perfect. You won’t even know I’m there most of the time so chill out and get on with your day.
What’s been your most memorable wedding to photograph, and why?
I photographed a really good friend’s wedding in July and it was one of the best days of my life. Not only was I there to see these two incredible human beings get married, but I also got to be their photographer. What better wedding present than the photos of the best day of your life that you will keep forever? It was a truly beautiful day, not only did I get to see my friends get married, but I got to spend my day doing what I love most with the people that I love most. I was also able to put my slightly tipsy photography skills to practice.
Can you tell us why you think wedding photography is worth the investment?
I think it’s super important. If you don’t think so now, let me point you in the direction of some people who 10 years down the line of their wedding have some serious regrets about either not having a photographer or relied on their cousin who is just getting into photography. Just because someone has a decent camera does not mean they know how to use it, or that they know what makes a good photo. If you don’t think you can afford it you’d be surprised, as most of us only require a deposit at the time of booking which, depending on how far in advance you booked, gives you months, even years, to save up. I think the key word there is ‘investment’. These are images you’re going to have for the rest of your life. That moment your niece caught a butterfly you completely missed…we didn’t: if you get a good photographer that is.
Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?
Yikes, tough question. I’m really not sure. I’d either be struggling with severe depression working in retail still or have followed my path of my love for animals and be working in a rescue centre. Who knows, let’s just be thankful I am where I am.
Ellie Grace Photography, Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
Price range: £650-£1700