"Couples That Say 'There Are No Rules' Make The Best Weddings": Behind the Lens with York Place Studios
17 Apr 2015
Yorkshire based wedding photographers, York Place Studios, give their tips on how to choose and get the best from your photographer
Not days, not weeks, often not just months, but years are spent planning a wedding. And within 24 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 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 Dom and Liam Shaw, of York Place Studios.
The best weddings come from couples who say “there are no rules”, who through tradition to the wind for a care-free day of fun, according to Dom and Liam. With 10 years of experience under their belts, they’ve seen their fair share of wedding days. “Try not to be too precious about your wedding dress,” Dom adds, in sage advice. “We know you don’t want to risk getting it mucky, but just remember you will never wear the dress again but you and your family will look at the photographs for the rest of your lives.” It comes as one of the sacrifices of good photography, it seems.
From the outset, Dom and Liam have ignored the traditional portraiture-based style that stigmatised the image makers of our parents, paving the way for a new wave of modern wedding photography.
Tell us how you would describe your style of photography?
Really our style is based around ensuring the bride and the groom can forget about us and just relax, have fun and enjoy the best day of their lives,” says Dom. “Aside from a few groups and portraits later in the day (if the couple ask for them) we prefer to simply get in amongst the action rather than instruct anyone in what to do and fully embrace the personality of each couple’s day. We don’t use flash so that we can remain discrete and we work as a pair with no time limits on the day to ensure we capture the full story. This is their day, not ours and it’s completely unique - we’ve never captured a day like theirs before and we never will again.
And who are your ideal clients?
One of the things we love most about weddings is how different a day based on such clear tradition can be for each couple - no two weddings are ever the same! Our favourite shots, though, often come at the weddings of really creative couples who are ready to leave behind some of the formality, let their hair down and put their personalities at the centre of the wedding. These are the couples who say “there are no rules” and are ready to embrace the madness of the day, relax and have fun!
Can you choose a picture that encapsulates everything you want to achieve in a wedding photograph?
This image, captured at our first wedding of the year pretty much encapsulates what we try to capture at a wedding: a perfect moment. Whilst originally from the UK, our bride Sarah had been living in the warmer climes of Australia for the last several years; when it started to snow, she was so unbelievably excited! Many of her guests had flown in especially for the wedding and had never seen snow in their lives. It was such a powerful moment and the composition just came together beautifully. Really though, I think Sarah’s body language just says it all - an image we could never have artificially created and a moment that the lovely Sarah will never forget.
How can couples help to ensure the best work from their photographer?
The most important thing is to trust your photographer completely. No two photographers will have exactly the same vision of how they want to photograph a particular moment. Whilst you, or your family and guests, may have seen another photographer do something one way at a previous wedding, that doesn’t mean it’s the right or wrong way to do things. Spend the time looking through different photographers work and make sure that you really connect with the images of whoever you choose, then just leave it to them and trust their creative vision. Oh, and try not to be too precious about your wedding dress - we know you don’t want to risk getting it mucky, but just remember you will never wear the dress again but you and your family will look at the photographs for the rest of your lives.
What are the three most important questions for couples to ask their photographer?
Only you can know what is important to you about your wedding photographs. Never ask a question just because you’ve read that you should, ask about the things that actually matter to you. Spend enough time looking through your chosen photographer’s images and any questions will come naturally, but hopefully the photographs will tell you all you need to know.
What’s your opinion on the controversial ‘group shots’ – can you give us an example of yours?
Whilst our work focuses on the non-directed shots, we feel that group shots (whilst not for every couple) can have a really important role to play. No-one (particularly the guests!) likes to spend their whole afternoon doing group after group so we always suggest keeping it to five or six at most, but there’s a reason group photos have been a part of weddings for so long: they are an important piece of family history, they are the same type of shot that was taken at your parents and grandparents weddings, they form part of a historical document and whilst they should not be the main focus they are a really special keepsake. Group shots don’t have to be boring, they can be just as creatively photographed as any other part of the day and you can end up with some super cool images!
In terms of trends, what do you think is the most interesting at the moment?
For us the most interesting development over recent years has been the emergence of a new style of wedding filmmaking and its ever rising importance to our couples. Where once wedding videos had a tendency to be long and, perhaps, not as creatively shot as the photographs, now they are really beautiful and a very exciting medium. In fact, after being asked so often whether we knew any good wedding filmmakers and wanting to find videographers that we could work alongside seamlessly, we joined forces with our younger brother Alex and my husband Matt, and they formed our sister company York Place Films, meaning that we can capture our couple’s big day in both photography and video with one consistent style.
What’s the most common misconception that you have to correct with couples?
I guess that, for us, at least one of the biggest misconceptions is that it’s really helpful for us to have seen a wedding venue or, ideally, photographed there before the big day. We’re often asked if we’re able to do a site visit to scout out the best locations to shoot, but the fact is that the best place to shoot on the day will be determined by the quality of the available light at the time that particular photograph is being taken. It will be determined by the way you’re looking at each other in the moment, the way you interact and the emotion in the air. When we are working in a venue that we already know well, we actually have to work harder to actively forget any preconceptions we may have about that venue and make sure we’re never settling for the safe shot or the tried and tested, but pushing to create something new and exciting. Knowing the venue may provide a safety net, but the most breathtaking of feats happen when the safety net is taken away.
What’s been your most memorable wedding to photograph, and why?
There have been countless unbelievable weddings that we’ve felt so privileged to be a part of, but Holly and Matthew’s wedding back in 2011 was not only stunning and undoubtedly one of the most relaxed and fun weddings we’ve ever attended but it also represented a real landmark for us in our work. Holly is a good friend of ours and an unbelievably creative and artistic person. When she asked us to photograph her wedding, she told us that she didn’t want anything “safe” or any images that we thought we “had to take”. She wanted us to just let our creativity run wild and capture images that truly excited us rather than worry about anything at all traditional. Her absolute faith in us was so liberating, and allowed us both to be more experimental on the day and some of the images we created at that wedding are still amongst our absolute favourites. After that, we vowed that we would never play it safe again and we’ve never looked back.
Can you tell us why you think wedding photography is worth the investment?
There are so many expenses when it comes to planning a wedding, but of all of them wedding photography is the one that gives you something to last not just the day but forever. Weddings photographs are not just pretty pictures, they are lasting memories of overwhelming emotions. They are precious heirlooms to pass to your children and your children’s children. Long after your dress has been forgotten about gathering dust in the attic you will still be looking at the photographs of your wedding and being transported to that special day surrounded by all of your friends and loved ones in the same place at the same time. My wedding photographs are my most treasured possession and for me that’s an investment worth making.
Do couples stand a chance of booking you last minute?
We often get bookings up to two or three years in advance, but we always love to hear from couples near or far away from their wedding date. It’s always worth getting in touch to see if the date is still free.
Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?
Whatever I did as a career I know I could only be truly happy if I was doing something creative. When I was younger I thought I might be a musician and I can certainly imagine Liam being some kind of digital artist but it’s almost impossible to imagine not having photography in my life. If I wasn’t capturing weddings I would probably still be pursuing photography in another form, even if only as an über keen amateur with my friends wondering why all of my holiday snaps featured people I don’t know wandering the streets instead of selfies at the tourist hotspots!
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