Nov 12, 2020
I’ve been fortunate to be a guest on a bunch of brilliant Wedding Photography Podcasts! Here’s a selection of them. Thanks to these incredible hosts for supporting both the photography and the wedding photography industry with these diverse and open Wedding Photography Podcasts. More to be added here soon.
Make Your Break is the brilliant wedding photography podcast from local scallywag Jai Long. We focus on not paying lip service to turning negatives into positives, but actual ways we can do it in our creative business.
Mason runs Getting Candid, and brings his hilarious and engaging natural game to his own wedding photography podcast. In and around heavy metal and all manner of ridiculous things, we had a beautifully deep chat about all things photography.
Anthony Cribbes, Melbourne Wedding Celebrant, founder of Celebrant Easy and The Celebrant A-List, and co-founder of Melbourne wedding venue The Altar Electric, somehow found time around these things to have me on his Wedding Photography Podcast, chatting all things wedding industry.
A chat with Agustin Sanchez of The Photographic Journal. The Photographic Journal is one of the most brilliant showcases of emerging photographers and bodies of work, so it was an extra thrill to have a chat with eminent curator and founder Agustin. On his Photography Podcast we chat a little about weddings, but more about general approach, personal work, and my trip to Antarctica with Homeward Bound Projects.
Kurt and I linked up for his Wedding Photography Podcast Up and Becoming. Kurt is a brilliant photographer in New South Wales, and his podcast focuses on Wedding Photographers journeys, challenges, wins, fails, and everything in between. We talk about sharing your work authentically in an ever more saturated industry, and how lifting others up is always the key. Thanks Kurt for having me!
What do you say about Bjorn Lexius? He’s an award-winning photographer out of Hamburg, and we first met at Way Up North years ago, where he somehow was able to pull some meaning from my talk on a stage in Rome after several sleepless timezone crossings. In his Wedding Photography Podcast, we chat about disconnecting ourselves from our brands in an industry where there’s a temptation to “be” our brand.
Morgan Roberts. Dark lord, raconteur, and Wedding Photographer. Where there are lots of Wedding Photography Podcasts out there chatting all things creativity, Morgan, in his usual way, bucks the trend and tackles all things dry and challenging: in this case, the backend of business. We discuss the merits of divisive, polarising branding, industry homogeny and more.
Another one with old mate Morgan, except this time from a few years ago. In this one, we scratch that esoteric itch, and manage to almost entirely avoid talking about photography.
One from way back, I caught up with the crew at Way Up North on their Wedding Photography Podcast, ahead of my appearance at the Rome edition of their conference series. What a treat. These marvels are doing great stuff for our space – that is, the nostalgia space. Thanks Cole and Jakob for having me.
Aug 8, 2020
How to take dark and moody wedding photos: a complete guide (apparently this is what i’m supposed to write, but more like my high-school exam output, it’s probably more the “enough to get by, hopefully” guide).
Something i’ve always loved to do is find ways of photographing things in a “moody” way no matter what the scenario. Usually though at a wedding, these sort of images end up representing about 10-15% of what the couple receives, because the “dark and moody” stuff in reality only ever represents a small percentage of a wedding day.
Typically it’s areas like moody preparation rooms, or sometimes indoor receptions with natural light, that sort of thing. Regardless, they’re super fun to make, and nice to celebrate.
Weddings are joyous! Full of fun and confetti! Why would we try and imprint some Tarantino, Wes-Anderson-esque painterly vibes into something supposed to be uplifting? WELL.
What qualifies as a moody feel can be just as uplifting as the bright stuff in it’s own way, and it can channel a whole lot of other ways of connecting to the set of images that we deliver. My job is to generate the widest amount of emotional connection with the images as I can. That means tapping not just into the bright stuff, but also providing some images that nudge our brain into another direction, because all of those moments and moods are present somewhere on a wedding day – and we might as well show them for what they are.
If something feels dark and moody, I want to photograph it that way, and edit it in such a way that the qualities of that feeling are brought out in the best way. If someone tosses charcoal-coloured petals in Golems cave lit by a line of candles, then it’ll be moody. But if theres a bright petal-toss with colours and glory, that should also end up looking as it felt.
In this shot above, two single points of natural light in a bathroom made for a beautiful soft vibe, and the real thrill is making that come alive in the image.
I wanted to use a photo shoot with Dan and Dre as a main example, who flew down from their hometown of Canberra to have a play over a couple of days for their couples shoot, in some of my favourite locations in Victoria (see these other favourite Melbourne wedding photo locations) as an example.
Before we crack on, this thread on Reddit is worth a look, as it hilights a common misunderstanding of what dark and moody is, and how it can be interpreted as a trend, which is a bit of a misnomer that we can say about anything, and kinda implies there’s a “right” or authentic way of making an image. If we go deep into the real esoterics of photography, pretty quickly we discover there is no such thing as authentic capture: not only that, but the rich, hazy, beautiful colours of overexposed Fuji film for example, look nothing like reality: just a (really pleasant) interpretation of it.
So everything is a trend, and everything isn’t: the key is to nail the vibe in a really careful way, sympathetic to point #2 below: we want our folks in the image to love themselves in it.
How our eyes interpret light, differs from the person next to us. How theirs interpret light and mood, differs wildly from insects and other animals. photography is an act of interpretation, not a way of “taking something as it is”.
The images in here mostly use chiaroscuro, and open-shade.
This is the MVP (most valuable player) of the dark and moody vibe. Chiaroscuro is, to put it simply, highly contrasted light and shade. This can be found in the most unlikely of situations. Hot tip – anywhere that you have a room with a small window – the smaller the better – you’ve got yourself an instant kit for Chiaroscuro light.
Expose for the hilights, and you’re good to go.
Keep orange out, and flattering tones in. Per the Reddit thread up above, we should probably be more worried about making our couples look like they’ve swallowed a stick of uranium or a bag of carrots than them being too moody necessarily: this means that flattering tones and flattering light are a higher priority than whether the image is too light or dark per-se.
A great way to stay on top of this is to constantly reference where we got colour tones “right”. And for me, that’s any of either cinema, or great classic photo books with anyone shooting on film.
Calibrating our eyes to the skin tones of what we see on Instagram is a bad, bad idea.
Slim Aarons on the other hand? Holy basted badger-balls.
We want to have full, or nearly-full, black and white point in your image to give us the most room to play with in nailing a moody vibe.
This means that our image has a full range of information in it, that translates to a detailed print. Any adjustments we make to the “s” curve in Photoshop or Lightroom immediately throws away information in the image, so it’s a delicate exercise.
There was a bit of a movement towards really flat shadows some years ago, but my experience with Lightroom these days is that it turns an image to mud, really quick.
By keeping the shadows rich, we can selectively dodge them out later while maintaining a solid black-point that will print out beautifully.
Dark and moody wedding images, if they’re shot in lower-light situations, inherently have a lot less hilights in them. That means the highlights that are there, stick out a little louder than they would otherwise, and can quickly dilute the power of an image.
This means that in order to have a beautifully powerful dark and moody image, we need to exercise a high level of care in spotting our image, and dodging and burning it: you can read about both of those in this post about photo editing.
Spotting is the gentle art of removing unnecessary bits of information in the image – this could be a rogue hi-light or a rogue fly sat perfectly in the middle of someones forehead.
The aim is to clear out unnecessary hi-lights. “If it isn’t lifting it up, it’s bringing it down”.
Gain a wide vocabulary in painterly tones, from the source. My two favourite painters are Jeffrey Smart and Zdiszlaw Beksinski – and in a roundabout way they inform my love of moody tones. Dig into some books and find some painters you align with.
Follow my free wedding photography workshop series, or make an enquiry about joining my mentor program.
Jul 17, 2020
Since Covid has put a stop to conferences and workshops, I wanted to give a little back, and so have created a free wedding photography workshop. This contains around 7 years of my workshop content, drawn from an award-winning background in design and photography, and I have separated the best bits into easy to consume, bite-sized chunks, and released them on Instagram as a 100 frame wedding photography workshop.
Yours, for free! Boom.
Each of the 100 frames speaks to one of those. The current climate of workshops I found doesn’t appeal to my style of learning personally, and it made me wonder if other folks out there were the same, so I tried to create something to fill that gap.
I remember thumbing through MAD magazine, comics, and encyclopaedias, and found that a curiosity-driven approach to learning, where you can open a book up at any page and take something away without feeling like we have to complete a full syllabus, the best way to learn for me personally.
So that’s how i’ve crafted this.
Using typography and a particular style of writing, I want this to be useful no matter what page it’s opened up at. Rather than me dictating the learning from front to back (there’s plenty of brilliant other options for that out there), this is something where I hope there’s a nifty surprise useful to wedding photography, and photography in general wherever it’s opened.
The workshop is available from frame 35 onwards on my instagram, and as new ones are uploaded, old ones will be removed, so follow along and catch them (save, screen grab) them while they’re available.
At the end, i’ll be releasing them all, along with a set of bonus annotations totalling 400+ pages. It’s the exact wedding photography workshop resource I would have liked starting out, and has been tailored for both new photographers and working professionals 5+ years in the game.
Some conferences i’ve had the brilliant honour of sharing this at:
Such a treat sharing with photographers such as Briggsy, Ashleigh Haase, Sarah Tee, and even interstaters like Cassie Sullivan at one of the most beautiful venues in Victoria. Here’s a mugshot of the last ones left standing after it was all done.
Jul 16, 2020
We all go into this strange old gig for different reasons, but never on that list is “to win xx award” (i’m pretty sure my couples don’t really give a shit about that stuff and nor should they). Regardless, it’s nice to be recognised by your peers as international wedding photographer of the year, and winning awards does help for visibility and for sharing of educational content that I enjoy putting a tonne of energy into.
So at the risk of compromising my desire to be a recluse artiste gnawing on my own fermenting dreadlocks (it turns out that celebrating the wins and actually talking about them is a necessary part of the capitalist empire we all find ourselves in), I thought i’d share some images judged at the International wedding photographer of the year (IWPOTY) competition last year, the same competition that i’m also totally rapt to be judging this year. It’s a ripper competition and has been doing tonnes to rebrand an industry that thanks to being associated with cheese and all that jazz, is generally the first thing folks think of when they muse “I wonder where all photographers go to die”.
For me it’s meant the most stupidly wild quests all over the planet, making stuff that matters for real humans.
Winning the analogue category is particularly special to me as i’ve got a huge love for shooting film, and as far as IWPOTY, have a tonne of respect for their judging panel and founder Luke, so it means a lot to be selected.
With this win I thought i’d share a selection of my entries across all the other categories, and I was fortunate to place as a finalist in nearly all categories.
Grandstand, grandstand, look at me me me, here we go.
Actually though, a special shoutout to all my bloody awesome couples who make this happen and (pre covid 19 anyhow) make me well aware i’ve stumbled onto one of the most bloody wonderful jobs on the planet.
I also love that I can look at all of these images and say they were made for them, and not for me, and that’s where it all starts and ends.
Thanks again to all the judges, and the IWPOTY founder Luke Simon who puts so much time and personal energy into making this happen, and sifting through the thousands of entries submitted from over 50 countries around the world.
Jul 13, 2020
Here’s a rundown of some of my favourite Melbourne wedding photo locations, organised by the mood they give, to show you what brilliant variety we have in our own inner city for weddings: from gritty industrial, all the way over to the most incredible nature within a stones throw of the Melbourne CBD. Included in all locations are Google Maps pins.
These are my top 15 Melbourne wedding photo locations (I have plenty more hidden gems, but you’ll just have to head out on foot and go exploring yourself to find them).
Be sure to tune in for the very last one – some of my favourite little slices of Melbourne alleys. If you’re getting hitched in the city or inner city or eloping in Melbourne, I know these like the back of my hand as well as a whole bunch of wonderful other little known spots.
These are somewhat more popular locations, but when looking at where to take photos in Melbourne i’ve found they’re ripe for putting a unique spin on each and every time, especially if you’re planning a Melbourne elopement.
The Melbourne Treasury building is the go-to photo location for registry weddings in Melbourne, and one of the most iconic spots for Melbourne wedding photos. With its incredible historic design and layout, it’s one of the best places to take photos in Melbourne. What people often miss though, is that the immediate surrounds of the building have the most brilliant wedding photo locations, perfect for rain-shielded photo sessions, sunset sessions, all of it. If you look closely, you can see some of these at this Fortyfive Downstairs wedding.
I take so many couples around here, and it can’t be overstated how beautifully soft and moody the light is around the structures themselves. Head down Treasury place and explore, it’s all an easy and quick whip around, especially if you’re then heading south to somewhere like The Deck at Circa.
Just west of the Melbourne Treasury building, is the Treasury gardens. While the gardens themselves are beautiful and lush, what I personally prefer from this photo location is to use them as context against the treasury buildings behind it.
Walk about halfway up Treasury Place, head down the paths inserting themselves into the gardens, turn around, and you’ve got beautiful lush greenery depending on the time of year, with the incredible heritage buildings right behind you as the backdrop.
The Collingwood and Fitzroy back streets contain some of our earliest historic houses, since they were the first suburbs inhabited when Melbourne did, well, what we did back then, clear everything and everyone in sight and build lots of stuff.
As a result some of the architecture in the surrounding streets is particularly cute and interesting in equal measure, and make for some of the best Melbourne wedding photo locations.
As a general area, this is a personal favourite and one of the best places to take photos in Melbourne and a go-to for all the best wedding photographers doing their thing.
Something more of a sleeper wedding photo location (ie: more classic, and not immediately striking), Carlton has some understated alleys that are beautiful soft backdrops without fighting the rest of the frame, and an ideal subtle place for Melbourne wedding photos.
Enormous stonework, subtle signage and fittings, the laneways here are worth exploring and just a small dash out of the Melbourne CBD.
One of the best lanes. Find this photo location on Google Maps here.
One of my favourite general areas in Melbourne, and a brilliant wedding photo location to explore. Further north we hit Thornbury, which has an endless amount of textures, historic structures, and all sorts of weird and wonderful signage and exteriors – oh, and Kenny Lover.
30 minutes here will be spent pretty quickly heading up, down and around High St, with art-deco design left right and centre.
See more of Sam and Pauls wedding on Instagram.
Northcote Town Hall is a must visit for simple Melbourne heritage vibes, beautiful columns and light. If Fitzroy Town Hall isn’t accessible, then this isn’t a compromise as a wedding photo location, and it provides the same kind of feel, shelter from rain, and beautiful soft light, with no chance of being disturbed, and super close proximity to bars, cafes, and all of the standard Northcote glory.
There’s also plenty of beautiful textures and walls to find on Eastment st and Westbourne Grove, down the side of the town hall.
This one gets a header all of it’s own. The incredible artwork on the side of the Fonda building is a joy to walk past and pop off some frames in front of, and one of the most distinct wedding photo locations around. Punchy, colourful, geometrically satisfying, this is located just off Smith st, with spades of bars and other historic streets right near it.
A great little stopover if you’re getting hitched at Panama Dining Room or Rupert on Rupert.
I’ve had so many couples stay at the QT Hotel on Russel St, and turning just around to the right of it’s entrance, down Portland Lane, is a no-brainer for some quick portraits when exiting the building to head to the ceremony.
The wall of the Portland Hotel is painted a rich black, and feeds down into deep bluestones below, creating something of an impossible infinity-wall, where it feels like the bluestone is a shelf at the edge of the universe. One of the more unique wedding photo locations in Melbourne.
As if we’re about to lean into the ether, or into Gandalf’s embrace, etc.
Until fairly recently, sweeping sections of South Melbourne have somehow managed to mostly avoid being exploited by our general lack of regulation around architectural design for a suburb so close to the city, and so unlike other heritage suburbs, still has plenty of great things to explore without yet looking like a second-year students first foray into geometric design elements.
As a result, as well as easily feeling like it’s a jaunt into the old world, the entire area around the Town Hall, Clarendon St, and industrial back areas have plenty of textures to explore, and is an ideal wedding photo location just 5 minutes out of the Melbourne CBD.
Abbotsford may just be our closest answer to anything resembling the back streets of New York or Brooklyn (see these Melbourne wedding venues). Abbotsford has it all: incredibly close proximity to Yarra Bend Park (which doesn’t seem like it should or could sit so close to the city), old heritage streets, imposing industrial buildings, and everything in between. Abbotsford is a brilliantly diverse wedding photo location.
A 30 minute session in Abbotsford can get chewed up very quickly, and that’s without stopping off at any of the beautiful little cafes littered around the place. One of the best photo locations in Melbourne, at just a short jump outside of the Melbourne CBD itself.
Looking at the map, Fitzroy Gardens almost sounds ripped out of a Tolkien book. The Faeries tree, Tudor Village, Temple of the Winds. These are all great, but the best parts of these gardens aren’t etched on the map.
Enter from the midwestern paths along Lansdowne St, and some of the more incredible tree-tunnels are visible, then head further in to a couple of “secret” little jungle areas with tight greenery, stone stairs and more. Gorgeous wedding photo location resembling a jungle.
One of my favourite places for Melbourne wedding photos.
Carlton Gardens join the Royal Exhibition building. Carlton Gardens are more known for the aisle of trees leading up to said building (and a water foutain) but the best parts of these gardens are actually around the northwestern edge of the exhibition building.
Architecturally there’s a bunch of textural options around there, but what I like most is the setting sun against some of the smaller characterful pieces of garden around there.
Prahran isn’t necessarily the first place you’d think of when looking for the best Melbourne wedding photo locations, but when I lived there, I made a point of taking any couples eloping here from overseas there, for two reasons.
Firstly there’s more than it’s fair share of architecturally stunning historical charm, and secondly, while there’s the allure of taking portraits in the CBD, in my opinion Prahran punches above it’s weight, and saves all of the regular hassles associated with parking in the city itself, while allowing folks spending a little bit of time here to explore a neighbourhood they might have otherwise missed.
First stop from the Melbourne CBD as we head west, Footscray is a gritty gem, and enormously misunderstood suburb (especially from our dear friends of the east). All the right ingredients for a subversive photo location.
Footscray has buckets of charm in it’s back streets, and as you head over to Seddon (i’d never heard of it either until I moved there), you’re hit with some of the most incredible cottage-style residences you’ll see in Melbourne.
The pièce de résistance. Melbourne has bucketloads of beautiful alleys, and the main choices become things like how much heritage do you want, vs graffiti, vs tourists, vs calm.
All of the major alleys have their own character as a wedding photo location, and at any quarter of the CBD there’s a good handful within walking distance, and are usually crowned as the best Melbourne wedding photo locations.
These aren’t necessarily the “main events” here (sorry), i’m instead sharing some of my favourite Melbourne wedding photo locations containing simple light, and simple texture.
For more of my secret ones, keep an eye on my melbourne wedding photography workshops.
Briars Atlas – Wedding Photographer Melbourne – enquire
Jul 10, 2020
Jul 6, 2020
An image of genius photographer Lucy, in front of a genius-designed mirror, stolen mid-application of lipstick midway through Lil and Jakes reception.
This image shot on Kodak film, and found amongst incredible company over here at IWPOTY.
Shot on Kodak Tri-X film.
Jul 4, 2020
I’m super pleased to be releasing my own Pic Time Art Galleries as an online print shop, through a new platform recently released by the brilliant mob over at Pic Time.
I’ve wanted to have a place to share and sell prints for going on 8 years, but the task always seemed to arduous and riddled with pain-in-the-ass complexities that stopped me from leaning right in.
Selling prints is a great way to give your bodies of work the respect they deserve! I guess a secondary stream of revenue doesn’t also hurt, but what I think is most important is that this is a way to let someone else create future-nostalgia out of something else you have made.
Additionally, selling your prints makes you lean into your own work more, and think more critically about who you want to be from an artistic point of view. There’s nothing quite as challenging or humbling as trying to reduce tens of thousands of your images into a concentrated body of work that might just contain ten.
For the last few months, Pic Time invited me to be a tester of their new gallery functionality.
This functionality is a part of their existing platform – so if you’re already using Pic Time as proofing software for your clients (as I am), this simply bolts on top via a separate subscription fee, and from there you can enjoy all of the additional functionality that an art gallery requires.
David Foster Wallace #1 will be available on my print store.
Find out more about Pic Time art galleries here
Find out more about my print lab here.
Jul 3, 2020
After a chat with IWPOTY on a livestream yesterday, I wanted to write up a post on the topic of editing, how I edit, and as a judge of the International wedding photographer of the year 2020, what little bits of TLC our judging panel will be looking at as we go over your submissions.
As our beautiful craft has become democratised and we can all be photographers, the by-product of that is a temptation to lean away from the craft-centered approach that held up all the photography that defined how the 20th century was recorded: one of careful capture, and attention to detail and the creation of the finished image, and that’s the reason those images stand the test of time.
This isn’t just a post about editing, as much as it is about the idea of “truth” in an image, because the whole industry seems to be in a little state of confusion at the moment, and left right and centre we’re hearing “authenticity” and “truth” screamed from the mountain as objective poles at the top of a single summit.
Actually, it’s been in this state of confusion for the better part of 5 years to my eyes, or as long as I’ve been invited to talk about the identity crisis of the whole “authenticity” thing with my big fat mouth.
We’re not in the business of “truth” or “authenticity”, we’re in the business of nostalgia: whatever truth we think is in an image is going to be interpreted differently by the person looking at the image, or the person that’s in the image, and that itself is going to change in 5, 10, 20 years as details get forgotten or change shape.
So our job is to be there and give to what’s in front of us, and give ourselves the best chance to make the most amount of future nostalgia for the couples.
Just look at any Magnum gallery, which is (rightly) considered the yardstick of photojournalism, or for a more prescriptive example, the Steven McCurry photoshop scandal, which gave a bad name to editing, while then distracting from the fact that it’s a very necessary part of what we do and what he does, and that the slamming was mostly unwarranted.
(But… maybe he could’ve just cleaned it up a little more).
So from an editing point of view, the things I’m looking for as a judge are the level of care made in bringing that nostalgia to the highest standard it can be on a case-by-case basis, and how that level of care is restrained enough so that it still stands out as a photograph, and not a piece of computer art.
What it comes down to is this: Are we gonna let a hunk of pixel-making plastic do the seeing, or our eyes and intuition?
Everyones got a DSLR, everyone can be a photographer. Nearly every photographer I meet is friendly, is invested in a great client experiences and uses down-to-earth in their marketing as a point of difference. So if everyone is creating good work and is equally good company, where does that leave us as more folks jump into the trade, and what are the parallels to making work that will stand apart in a competition?
There’s a whole bunch of answers that I’ll look into over time, but one thing that can’t be faked, is investing love and care into the craft of the finished images, and looking back to what it means to take a craft-based approach to the creation of the work itself.
First up, let’s delve a little more into why I’m interested in this, and why this is important as craft-centred photographers: this classic James Dean image.
Taken shortly before his iconic star blew up, some of the words that come to mind mind from this Dennis Stock photograph are “simple”, “romantic”, and that feeling, on the tip of our tongue, that there was a little bit extra fantasy back in the day.
All of this rings true, but it does so because of how simple and digestible the image is – in it’s purest, most concentrated self – thanks to an experienced darkroom operator, Pablo Inirio, knowing where to take it.
Specifically – removing the deep-shadows from everywhere in the image except for James and the leading-lines of the curved fence.
How a camera views a scene, is one thing. How we feel a scene, is another. And thanks to camera manufacturers (understandably) indulging in a race to the top for perfection, we’ve given away a few traits that we now associate with analogue photography: ambiguity, imperfection, and anything just a little bit “off”, that we can’t put a finger on.
And the goal with any great image, should be to bridge the gap, between how a scene feels, and how the final image looks. It’s not popular to talk about this gritty technical stuff. It’s especially unpopular amongst professional storytellers, who might have us believe that gear and editing don’t matter, but they do, and have an enormous partnering impact on our voice and point of difference as photographers.
That big header image draped across your website. Spotted it? If not, it might not be as strong as it could be, because while the person looking at it is trying to inhale the story and vibe you’ve created, their subconscious is distracted by all those little specks. I see it all the time, even on successful photographers portfolios, and it’s so quick to correct.
Not spotting our images is like being an opera singer and cramming sand in the audiences ears. Clean that stuff out: not only is that a very strange thing to do, but now no-one can hear what you’re saying.
And I don’t mean skin blemishes, or stars: spotting means removing spots of (usually) hard-light that show up in an image caused by random sun reflections, or micro-textures that can subconsciously dominate a frame.
Spotting isn’t about distorting reality or removing things that should be part of the image: it’s about making an image easier for the viewer to consume, and easier to understand the heart of the image (we’ll deconstruct that esoteric clap-trap in just a minute).
It’s hard to understand the benefits of spotting, until we see an image that has had a simple 10-15 seconds of spotting work, against one that hasn’t. And this is the part where we get to decide whether this even matters. One can argue it doesn’t – this is for folks who like myself can justify going the extra mile.
We feel the extra simplicity and strength of a correctly spotted image, because there are less small little pieces of distraction that dilute the main message of the image. Spotting needs to be done because when we’re looking at a real-life scene through our eyeballs, our brain is able to filter out the little hard spots of light, as the scene moves naturally in front of us: but when we take an photo, those little imperfections are frozen, burned into the sensor, and take the centre stage in the final image, which to me is less real than proactively spotting them out, and having the purest version of the image.
Spotting your images is the quickest way to tidy things up and have a great, print-ready image.
A correctly spotted image of a Newport Substation Wedding – all of those hi lights aren’t adding to the story of the image, aren’t clear what they’re attached to, and are taking away from the power of the image as representing a gathering in a majestic room. So, off with their heads.
Lean back from the image, let your eyes haze, and let your hand wander with the stamp-tool – it’s remarkable how quick you’ll autonomously clear little specks from one corner of the image to the other.
There are many reasons to dodge and burn an image, but start with the following as a foundation, and it’ll pretty much inform how and when you use this technique:
I used “a truth” rather than “the truth”, as there’s no such thing as objective truth in an image: every image we make is influenced by our vision, what we include, and what we leave out, but we rabbited on about that already.
By having conviction in our own vision, we can make each image align with our own version of the truth in that image – this is something I also wrote about last year.
Whatever that truth turns into once we’ve given it over is then out of our hands.
Back to our dear friend, James Dean: the reward for investing a little elbow grease, is the reward of a classic image. How a negative and a camera-sensor interprets both light and the key elements of an image is nearly always at odds with how we interpret it as a human: the goal of thoughtful dodging and burning is to bridge this gap.
Bring up skin that needs to sing, burn out hi lights that are taking over the airwaves, and gently make it so that the most intense points of contrast are happening at the main “story” areas of the image.
And more importantly, ensure this is just augmenting and reducing the natural light play that is already happening within the image.
This isn’t about creating unreality, or an unreasonable expectation of beauty: this is about showing up for our couples and putting in that little bit of extra elbow grease, knowing they’ll appreciate that little bit of extra work.
Here’s the other reason we clear blemishes and other kinks (within reason): the only reason we can see them, is because light is creating the shadow on them. And the biggest reason that’s happening, is because the light we’re placing someone in for a portrait usually favours the part of the portrait we connect with most (the eyes for example), and so everything else takes second place.
If you don’t believe me, put a beauty-dish, soft-box or some other highly diffused light directly in front of someone, and watch most of them disappear, as no shadows are created. Further, if someone is in the middle of an action that causes veins or other things to be augmented beyond how they regularly would, there’s no real reason for those to be taking centre-stage, so we should be happy to reduce them to simplify the image to the things that we want to be connecting with.
This can be done at the same time as the regular spotting pass.
For spotting and blemish removal, I find the Lightroom healing tool too slow and clunky. So what I do is, after I have my final exports out of Lightroom, I open up the library of finished JPG’s in Photomechanic. From there, it’s a pretty quick exercise of tapping through the collection, and hitting “CMD+E”, which immediately opens the image in photoshop. Tap the “J” key for the spot healing tool, hit “CMD+S” to save, then “CMD-Q” to close the image, then “Alt+Tab” to go back to Photomechanic. Practice the routine, and you’ll have the most efficient way to go over that final pass at your fingertips.
If composing in the moment to make the most of the situation wasn’t possible, then correcting course in the edit is nothing to be ashamed of.
This is just a general note to keep in mind whenever looking at an image, and in most cases by just asking the question of “how did this feel when I was there”, the small, gentle tweaks required to tell the best possible story of that image become self evident pretty quickly.
Now, if we’re delivering 1000 images for a wedding, it’s an insane proposition to spend 10 minutes on every single image, and not viable, unless we like the idea of not paying our rent and delivering our images to our clients 3 years after their day.
Some of these principles (spotting, etc) can be applied to nearly all the coverage. But these are mostly for the images where there’s a little something else in them that begs to be brought out. You always know it when there is, and it’s always worth spending that little bit of extra time: for you and for your couple.
We get to decide whether we’re going to be hands-off in our editing process, let the camera do the seeing, and let some arbitrary idea of “truth” be the driver. And maybe that’s ok.
Or, we get to impart a little bit of the original magic of photography, recognise the value of truth-bending and white-lies as a way to creating something that ironically creates a better and more relevant truth, and how through that, we give the people receiving our images a little bit of magic that comes closer to how it felt.
To see occasional image-edit time lapses, follow my instagram.
Jul 2, 2020
In all the flurry of things happening fast movement not stopping click click go go get it all don’t miss a moment…
It’s nice to hold back, strip it all away, and wait,
for just, one.
Jenelle and Parker, one frame each, one click each, on film that expired over half a century ago, and processed at Atkins lab.
Whatever happens along the way, I reckon it’s nice if everyone can come outta this little plane of existence with just one image like this.
And in case you were wondering, the rest of their day was as inversely colourful and upbeat as these were moody and sedate.
This post here goes into detail about why I shoot film at weddings.
Jun 28, 2020
Every once in a while at a wedding, you’re graced with a little moment where the thing happening in front of you, the environment itself, the weather, and the gear you’re using all come together in perfect harmony.
You can read more about being a film wedding photographer here.
Jun 27, 2020
How to spray a champagne bottle at your wedding: everyone’s seen it, everyone’s had a crack at it, and everyones experience ends with one of “nailed it”, “nearly took my head off”, or “fizzled out to a flaccid wisp like Creeds record contract” (I bought a few of their albums back in the day so this is all fair game, and I guess that makes me fair game).
Also file this under – things you can practice at home in a pandemic. Great for your serotonin levels, not so great for your lounge room walls, so maybe one to take to the streets.
There’s a gentle art to the champagne spray, and it’s both easier than you might think in the moment, while at the same time requiring of a bit of careful strategy and forward-thinking so that the proceeds don’t resemble the unfortunate scene of a garden hose with no pressure at a kids water-fight birthday-party in the middle of summer.
Because if we’re gonna have a day of beautiful debauchery and anarchy, contributing to the carbon(ated beverage) atmospheric trust-fund – and surrounding garments – is one of the cheaper thrills we can have on the day, with a mighty power-to-weight ratio as far as thrills gained, and dollars spent on cheap wine.
Fun for everyone – even me as my camera-gear gets gloriously soaked in the stuff (tips for photographers: if you want to get the best champagne shots, sorry – but you need to be right in front of it – and if you don’t come out needing a dry-clean, you haven’t shot it right).
In order to get a wild spray going that lasts as long as the winners ones do on an F1 podium, we need to consult our dusty “armchair teenage physicist” manual, and brush up on the “why” before we get to the “how”.
This means we need to press our thumb against the hole, as soon as the cork is removed. This in turn keeps extra pressure inside the bottle, which means it’s going to try and force it’s way through the available gap. If the champagne has pressure that is mostly kept in by your thumb, that means that in order to release that pressure, it’s going to have to push it’s way through that gap – and fast.
And when you maintain that while continuing to shake it – that’s where it all starts going beautifully bananas. If I had a dollar for the amount of times i’ve seen folks not immediately apply pressure and then watch the contents dribble out like Sam Newmans Twitter musings, i’d have enough clams to lift his face even higher.
Luckily for us, we have everyones favourite rainbow anarchist (well, the other favourite to this wonderful mob) Dee Brinsmead, wedding celebrant and co-owner of The Altar Electric, to help run us through how it’s done.
Bring yourself into a state of maniacal glee. This should be fun, you should have your crew around you (if they’re part of it), and you should be prepared to make a mess, take an eye out, blow a hole in the photographers expensive lens, all the good stuff.
Here, a friendly neighbourhood cat takes part.
Acquire champagne, twist and remove the wire cap, so just the cork remains.
With your thumb over the cork, pre-shake it enthusiastically.
Begin to undo the cork until it’s nearly off. Brace your thumb against the base of the cork, and flick it into the heavens above, or at your photographers head.
Tip: if the cork is tough to remove, grip it with #intention very tightly, and carefully rotate it and “unscrew it” out with your hand.
At this point, you should immediately cover the hole with your thumb: in fact, trying to completely block it – and shake the bottle like a maniac. I promise you the champagne will begin to escape, no matter how robust you think your thumb-bottle sealant game is. This is where a champagne-spray often fails, and this is the step to nail correctly.
Every second of champagne-exit where the hole isn’t blocked, is precious pressure lost.
From here, just gently remove pressure very slightly, in the direction you want to spray, being conscious of where it’s coming out as you pivot your thumb. Continue to shake with maniacal glee.
Tip: As the contents and pressure in the bottle deplete, you can squeeze as much out if it as possible by increasing the pressure you’re creating, and pressing your thumb against it more firmly and closing the gap. The little pressure that’s left in the bottle will be amplified by having the gap made even tighter.
Voila! You’ve successfully emptied the contents of a bottle in the manner in
which was truly intended by the manufacturer, but can’t be claimed as such on fancy champagne labels.
Just know that you’re doing your winemaker countrymen proud.
Jun 25, 2020
2017, overlooking the Cathedral of Porto: running a small portrait session for photographers at the Bodaf conference. Great time to pull out some gear well past it’s useby date in one of the most beautiful little cities I’ve been to.
This frame taken on a beautiful piece of 1960’s engineering (Yashica 635 twin lens reflex) on Kodak film.
If you like this, check out more black and white wedding photos.
Jun 23, 2020
Something I teach when lecturing about the strange bastard art of photography, is about segmenting our brains and our time when there’s a “thing” happening, so we can gracefully and intentfully photograph the “thing” from more than one angle, and in the process, gift that “thing” with more variety in how we see it.
Got it? No? Perfect.
A “thing”, is defined as a block of time where there is no deviation in the fundamental arc of the event by other contrasting events or alternative measures of some-such otherwise.
Canapes hour? That’s a thing.
First speech block? That’s a thing.
Portraits hour? That’s a thing.
Righto – glad we got that cleared up.
Case in point: the “thing” here, was about a 2 hour block, where Jenelle and Parker and all their guests were partying together on some ten houseboats that were tied together, off the eastern coast off the edge of Canada.
2 hours is a lot of time where there’s just partying, diving, and BBQ’ing going on. This means a lot of opportunity to intent-fully divide the time up, and try and extract some more wondrous things out of it that test both us and the narrative that’s there.
I’ll spend, for example, 25 minutes moving around doing photojournalism on digital cameras, and then, i’ll gift myself a calm lap, on a camera half a century old, to try and see this scenario (previously referred to as “thing”), in a different way.
In this lap, i’m extra slow, watchful, and, deliberately, not particularly worried about missing moments en-masse, but rather, more concerned with getting “a couple of good ones”.
Staying in a state of “fomo” and shooting like a maniac on digital is good for content creation and capturing opportunity in a sometimes thin way, but then the tradeoff is you’re watching less intentfully at what’s happening – and maybe missing the opportunity to show an event in a better light.
I walked along the edge of one of the houseboats, turned a corner, saw a bit of commotion, held this 1960s bucket of bolts to my eye, and breathed in.
One of my favourite images ever, let alone wedding ones.
Shot on Kodak Tri-X film, and developed by Atkins Pro Lab.
See their full wedding day featured on the USA’s largest wedding blog: Jenelle and Parker’s rustic week-long wedding featured on Wedding Chicks.
Jun 20, 2020
Atlas Singles is a little peek into some of my favourite images, along with some lyrical wax from the last bits left in the jar.
Here’s one from wayback.
A little cabin on a lake in the Blue Mountains.
A clunky, 50 year old camera, that just a few days later, i’d have to jam a stick into it’s front to trigger it.
Barely nailed focus.
Said god-knows-what to them which generated a reaction, took a wild guess as to when the right moment to click was (you only get one chance when you’re using a camera you have to wind-up).
Missed the “moment”, and got some ephemeral in-between.
For me, more perfect than perfect.
Shot on a Yashica 635G Twin Lens Reflex on Kodak Tri-X for Zoe and Adam, before they did the wedding thing out at the Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains, NSW.
If you like this, check out more black and white wedding photos.
Jun 19, 2020
The perfect wedding setting for thoughtful, contemporary couples who know how to appreciate a great piece of art, Heide Museum of Modern Art allows for both a stunning ceremony and an inspiring reception. The Museum boasts spectacular photography opportunities throughout the grounds and the Gallery. Let’s take a sneak peek at this amazing, artistic space and check out some photos from a recent Heide Museum of Modern Art wedding I was fortunate enough to capture.
Heide Museum of Modern Art brings an air of sophisticated creativity to Banksia Park in Bulleen, a north-eastern suburb of Melbourne. It’s not too far at all from the CBD – only around a 20-minute drive. It practically oozes convenience.
The Yarra River flows, snake-like, through Banksia Park, just a short walk from Heide Gallery. Bulleen Art Gallery and Garden is also within the vicinty. Another interesting point, Bulleen Hungry Jacks is only a short way down the road. Post-wedding burgs? Count me the hell in.
You’ve got a golf club nearby if there’s time to fit in a quick game with the lads (or ladies) the day before the wedding. And, as mentioned, Melbourne CBD is a short Uber ride away. You can get up to all kinds of mischief, eat some amazing pre-wedding noms and pick up any last minute bits and pieces for the wedding that may have slipped your mind.
As a wedding venue, Heide Gallery is the gift that keeps on giving. From the picturesque, natural grounds to the vibing Gallery and sculptures, this place is a photographers dream. Seriously. There are almost too many spots that are perfectly suited to capturing stunning images.
The Heide grounds and gardens span majestically across the 15 acres this Gallery calls home. The heritage gardens contain sprawling lawns, gorgeous flower beds and huge trees with trailing limbs that form cosy hidey-holes.
A river glade with towering trees and shrubs provides a shady spot for an intimate ceremony, or a wonderful photography or videography location.
The views from various sites throughout the grounds sweep across the surrounding park and provide a truly awe-inspiring atmosphere.
Upon gazing around the venue, your view will be obstructed slightly – for good reason – by contemporary sculptures and architectural wonders that are dotted throughout the grounds.
All your wedding catering needs will be taken care of by the Heide Cafe, the exclusive catering service for Heide Gallery weddings. Both the wedding ceremony and the reception are able to be covered. The cafe has an amazing range of seasonal produce with a huge variety of menu options to choose from.
The Cafe is also a great place to swing by for a pre-wedding brunch with the bridal party or a post-wedding coffee if you’re feeling a little worse for wear (horrifically hungover) after the previous night’s celebrations.
The Museum itself is an awesome place to spend any spare time and fight off any pre-wedding jitters. A range of indoor exhibitions including the Main Gallery and the Modernist House are home to some amazing collections of contemporary art. Wander the grounds to experience Rick Amor’s Running Man, Neil Taylor’s Theoretical Matter, and the rest of the outdoor exhibitions and sculptures that add an artistic, modern flair to the sweeping, naturalistic elements of the grounds.
It’s safe to say that this Melbourne wedding venue is the perfect place to celebrate love, serenity and an appreciation for delightful modern art.
Have you visited to the Heide Museum of Modern Art? What was your favourite installation? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
For more images of a decadent art space, check out this piece by Firecraker Event on grazing tables.
Jun 17, 2020
This is one of my favourite images from Lil and Jakes wedding. Up close and personal with my characteristically well-dressed friend John at The Diggers Store (nestled just over an hour outside of Melbourne) who probably thought he was the feature of the frame, who looked aside with furrowed brow, while I actually focused on old mate to the left, deep in a state of existential ponderment.
It was such a treat photographing this wedding on old, banged-up film cameras. This was the wedding of a couple of dear friends, and I somehow managed to high-tail it back to Australia the day after delivering a talk in Vancouver, landing the morning of their wedding, and catching a few hours sleep in my hire car.
And then at midnight, I hit the road again, to deliver another talk in Rome.
Small wonder none of the Italians could understand my blubbering, jetlagged Australiana, but it made the translators of Way Up North earn their fee.
I love this image, and it’s still strangeness takes me right back to that very odd few-day whirlwind.
Shot on god-knows-what camera, on Kodak Tri-X film.
Visit this post to see why you should shoot film.
Jun 15, 2020
Analogue Film Wedding Photography: this is a piece on how and why I drag around analog film photo gear that past it’s use-by date half a century ago, why I consider myself an analogue film wedding photographer, and the pros and cons of considering having your wedding photographed on analogue film.
For a brief moment there in the late 00’s, opportunistic young-things were meeting the cries of the old-guard lamenting “film is dead!” with “yes, i’ll take all that dead processing gear off your hands for free, thankyou very much”. All of the beautiful analogue film processing gear that had seen so much love, had been decommissioned and retired, before being snapped up by enthusiasts for a song.
As a result, more film-labs began to open than they did close, and now there has never been a better time to shoot analog at weddings.
Film has been a key part of my look and approach since I became a melbourne wedding photographer, and an ongoing reason why creative folks and even other wedding photographers book me – even if in some cases I just channel the look of film photos in my digital images.
In 2019, I was awarded the analogue international wedding photographer of the year award, and in this post I want to discuss why I shoot film, what it’s benefits are, and why you might consider the use of analogue film as part of your wedding coverage.
It slows you down, and costs you money. In a generation of excess, our freewheeling brains need to be reined in. Historical patterns show that the more Tik-Toks and short-form content (ie – catering to short attention spans) there is entering the arena, the more room is then created for long-form content, and things warranting pause and stillness, as we collectively look for a space to make us feel something again.
When something forces you to respond slowly and consider the cost, the by-product of that is that you give yourself to the medium more. Where there’s tonnes of advantages in firing off thousands of frames on digital, there’s just as many advantages to having the costly walls of constraint around us (constraint being the only true useful tool in creativity that continues to stand the test of time).
People throw the whole timeless thing around in association with analogue film, but I think that only really holds true for black and white (Tri-X) film.
Most colour stocks actually have their own distinct look and feel that, when processed by a modern lab, aren’t what I’d necessarily call timeless. I don’t say that in a bad way – but the timeless colour we’re perhaps used to, is more the Kodachrome, stuff from the 60’s-80’s that our eyes more closely align with timelessness.
The rich, punchy colours of beautifully over-exposed Portra film aren’t any more timeless than digital, and are actually very distinct in their own right.
The sheer variety of looks in analog film stocks, lenses, and camera bodies is staggering, and each link in the chain imparts it’s own little flavour on the end look of the image.
So for me, shooting analog film is less about timelessness, and more about variety.
In my own tests, shooting analogue film is an objectively better experience for the person in front of the camera – if for nothing else, because we’re slipping into a loss of generational memory of those old cameras: and so these crazy old things bring on a strange sense of removed nostalgia and wonder, simply because it’s assumed that they’re just mantlepiece decorations, rather than fully capable image-making machines.
Having someone use an archaic piece of engineering with all the romance of a past-craft makes them feel valued in a totally different way. Even if the whole shoot isn’t being done on film, having some gear in the bag to switch things up can completely change the tone of the shoot.
David Rees is a good point of reference for the question “can the intrinsic value of a thing be increased or amplified by wrapping some old-world artisan air of craftsmanship around it”.
Typically, there are two main approaches that a photographer will take when choosing to use film as well as digital during a shoot, and they are either hybrid shooting, or separatist shooting (I made that second label up, but I can’t think of another way to title it).
Hybrid film photography is when the photographer shoots analog film, but aims to have the feel and tonality of the images completely in tune with the digital coverage. Often the aim of the preset applied to the digital images is to have them look as close as possible to the film ones. In this way, hybrid shooting is a process-based approach to film photography, rather than an output based approach: which is to say that it’s used mainly to provide variety to the photographer, rather than to the couple. This is not how I shoot film.
Separatist shooting is when the differences in the two mediums are celebrated, and no effort is made to create consistency between the digital images and the analogue images, meaning that the photographer gets to enjoy the process of shooting with different cameras, as well as providing something unique to the couple, and extra variety in the images they receive. This is how I choose to shoot film.
Separatist shooting is my preferred approach, and this is why: over the last 100 years, we’ve had hundreds of beautiful, differing formats used to create images. Different analogue film-stocks, and different lenses that all interpret light and render a scene, differently. I think those differences should be celebrated. It also keeps me more entertained pushing to find the deeper uniqueness of a particular format, rather than agonising over getting a perfect match between analog and digital, which for me, defeats the purpose of enjoying analog film as a medium.
Mixing things up is probably the number one reason why I shoot analogue film at weddings.
I don’t necessarily think consistency is overrated, but I do think surprise and intrigue is underrated. And as a film wedding photographer, there’s no greater joy than delivering a set of images where couples get the chance to swoon over that sprinkle of images that seem to just have something… else, to them.
Sure, I could go into the all the impractical bits of it, but for me, they’re joys. The only prolonged implications of shooting this stuff, is that it costs. It’s easy enough to throw in a roll here and there, but with analogue film and developing costs, we’re looking at about $70 for a couple of rolls – or about $3 per shot.
That’s fine when it’s a small part of the shoot, but a full-day analog wedding shooting only film can run past $1500 in film and developing costs alone very quickly, and that’s where it has to be considered as an add-on, rather than something that can be thrown in.
If you’re considering having your wedding photographed on analog film, I can recommend a bunch of ways in which it can be approached: whether having your entire wedding photographed on film such as Lil and Jake here, or doing what I do much of the time, when I detect that the idea sparks joy: bringing along some weird, wonderful gadgets, and making some images on them over the course of the day.
If you like, you can see some of what’s in my camera bag over at Shotkit, although it’s in need of an update (i’m pretty sure all the kit there hasn’t survived my anarchist hands for half a decade).
The poor-mans Rolleiflex, this little beauty is quiet, a marvel of engineering, dream to look at, and a pleasure to carry around.
This is my “good afternoon, i’m making some serious work” camera. A little heavier, a lot louder, but due to having an enormous mirror inside it, what you see through the ground-glass is what you get: whereas with a Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) camera, there might be a very slight difference in what you end up with.
The grand-daddy of common press-cameras in the 1950’s. Extremely portable, lightweight, invites curiosity, and the looks of it alone are good enough reason to be a film wedding photographer.
If I had to take one to a desert island, it would be the Yashica. If I got to take a tripod too, it would be the Hasselblad. My favourite film stocks are Kodak Portra 400 and Kodak Tri-X, although these days i’m taking a leaning towards the rich colours of Ektar.
If you’d like me to shoot some analogue film at your wedding, you can connect with me here or on instagram, and maybe for a doubke-whammy of awesome, let’s get our analogue on at one of the best alternative wedding venues in Melbourne.
For more of my film-only work, you can follow my personal account here.
If you like this, check out more black and white wedding photos.
Jun 11, 2020
One of the constant themes in my enquiry inbox is a reference to Wes Anderson styled wedding photography.
Ok. So. There’s something a little (wildly) gratuitous about drawing any connection between a prolific director (for the kids playing at home, that’s Wes Anderson) and the owner of a humble wedding photography business in suburban Melbourne (that’s me).
Wildly, of the level of wildness entertained by 18 year olds who put racing stripes on their Toyota Corollas back in the 90’s thinking it boosted their engines horsepower (I wasn’t one of those, but I *might* have lowered and tinted a 20 year old family sedan). But since I’ve started photographing humans around the world at their weddings, folks keep drawing a connection between the two, without my prompting.
Which is really humbling, as he has a massive body of work, and excellent hair.
So because of that bring raised, I wanted to open up a post about cinematic shooting, symmetry, and how I “find the feel” in seemingly simple situations, show a few images, and cut through to breaking that down: what DO people mean when they say “yeah, that’s got a real Wes Anderson vibe to it”?
In a nutshell, it’s overwhelmingly about, simply, symmetry.
What Sony’s Walkman did to the CD-player back in the 90’s and what Apple’s iPod did to the “portable music player”, Wes Anderson has done with this one enormously broad, fundamental design element.
It’s usually, (nearly) as simple as that, and it’s what I look for at every wedding. In fact it exists, whether we like it or not – we might just have to crank our neck a little.
If we extend it all a little further though, for me, the elements that give something a “Wes Anderson Vibe” in a broader sense, are:
And that’s without even touching on the intricate ways he weaves a story or creates a particular sense of theatre out of the characters. We could talk all day about the level of formula that his imagination uses, but we’ll just stay in the symmetry & composition saddle for the moment.
For me, I want to bring in a little bit of unique cinema into my Briars Atlas images, without getting too complex. Just a dash of… “I can’t put a finger on it, but when I look at this image, I feel like i’m peering inside a movie”/.
That means having an eye towards what it means to photograph with symmetry and finding calm in the chaos, so that within the set of images I deliver, there can me moments of calm and beauty in seemingly mundane situations.
Here’s a small selections, of my favourite “Wes Anderson” style wedding photos.
Feb 1, 2020
I’m honestly at a loss for words trying to introduce this Blue Mountains wedding venue. The Hydro Majestic Hotel lives up to it’s name and is a turn-key wedding venue that really does offer everything you need to pull off the most extraordinary wedding. The hotel itself presents some phenomenal photo opportunities, with a refined art-deco style. The real magic though is in the view. It really does have to be seen to be believed. Luckily for you, I managed to snap a few wedding shots at this larger-than-life Blue Mountains wedding venue a little while ago and I’m more than happy to share. Enjoy!
Ok, this is the part where I blab on and on about how incredible this venue is. It is definitely for good reason though, there really isn’t a single downside. So, if you’re not thinking of booking The Hydro for your upcoming nuptials, maybe turn away if you don’t want to know what you’re missing out on.
This wedding venue is an absolute BEAST. It is a towering ode to the dreams of businessman Mark Foy and his drive to install Australia’s very first Health Retreat. That’s what The Hydro is, first and foremost – a retreat. And a mighty enormous one at that.
In 1903, Mark oversaw the construction of the Hydro, pulling out all the stops. A generator imported from Germany, artworks from all across the globe, a dome shaped roof that was built in Chicago and shipped all the way to Australia, and a Swiss health professional to run the joint. He even renamed the township The Hydro was situated in to “Medlow Bath” to make it suit the overall vibe of the hotel. If that isn’t a baller move, I don’t know what is.
The venue has hosted a plethora of famous guests over the years including: Dame Nellie Melba the magnificent Aussie Opera singer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Australia’s first Prime Minister Sir Edmund Barton who actually died in the hotel in 1920. Sure, it’s a morbid claim to fame, but it’s a claim to fame nonetheless.
If the grandiose of this venue isn’t apparent in its history, then allow the photos below to show you just how remarkable this place truly is.
If you’ve been pining after a wedding ceremony with a view, there’s no better way to do it than right here in the Blue Mountains. The Hydro Majestic boasts a breathtaking lookout with a viewing platform that’s perfectly suited to hosting a wedding ceremony in the natural surrounds of the serene Australian bush.
Honestly, whilst capturing photos for this wedding I was constantly picking my jaw up off the floor. I couldn’t believe just how ridiculously gorgeous the entire place was.
The ceremony was backed by a tremendous valley that held an expanse of native bush lands. The Blue Mountains really is one of the most naturally beautiful places in Australia – it’s no wonder this spot was selected to host the grandeur of The Hydro Hotel.
When you book your wedding venue through The Hydro Majestic, you’re basically covered for everything. And I mean, everything.
The list goes on, my friends. I truly cannot recommend this venue enough, not only for weddings but for other events, photography shoots, high teas – anything that requires a spacious site that oozes class and style.
I’m going to leave you with a few more photos from this gorgeous Blue Mountains wedding venue. Once you’re done browsing through them why not check out this post on the awesome I Do Drive Through?
For more beautiful rural New South Wales weddings, check out this Kangaroo Valley wedding,
Mar 30, 2019
When Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the Joker broke ground as one of the most radical performances in recent memory, you’d probably be forgiven for not believing that one of The Dark Knight writers, Jonathan Nolan, was, like the production studio and most of the population, in vocal opposition to the casting choice.
Originally published in pulp for the Rangefinder NYC February edition. Available also online.
Ledger defied critics in the loudest way, broke any subtle typecasts he had and built himself into a Joker that dismantled what it meant to revive an established character. This is what’s revealed when you test the edges of who you think you are, or are told you are, and lean away from one of the most popular pieces of recycled advice: “Just be yourself.”
We’re in a narrative-driven culture competing for ideology air-time, and we’ve never been bombarded with so many different ones at such frequency and so forcefully. It’s “be yourself” one minute and “always step outside of your comfort zone” the next, with a scarcity of roadmaps available to navigate how and when to switch on each of those oppositional states. A convincing counter can be found for just about any mantra out there at the moment, and mentally sifting through competing narratives is nearly a full-time job in itself.
One of the most charged narratives out there right now for creative professionals and freelancers is around the intersection of our identity and our craft. Identity, and therefore artistic voice, is often presented as that fixed construct and something that should be reflected in all parts of our work. But aligning ourselves with this narrative does two things that can potentially cause us grief: It makes the assumption that we’ve taken proper stock of ourselves and know “who we are,” and it can create unnecessary tension around the idea of being truthful to that identity in our work and telling truth in our images.
And now, this construct is supported by every digital touch-point in our lives. Without sounding like an apocalyptic defeatist, online social platforms are exactly engineered to create more confirmation bias and solidify your already-presented identity. Through a system of carefully engineered notifications and filtering, they bind us to this presented identity with a high rate of frequency. This has a profound subconscious effect on how we go about living in the small-business world and producing the work that we do.
The candid photography and authenticity movement that is driving the story heavily on social media currently is less an objectively good way of going about doing things and more of a response to our perception of photography in the ‘90s. Whether we like it or not, we all leave our own, new mark on the historical proof we’re creating somehow, and it’s near impossible to get an idea of how that will hold up in 30 years. This is an ambiguously freeing thing, and while we should celebrate that as makers, we should also do it with the context that this isn’t better. It’s just different.
Before, during and for a long time after the Industrial Revolution, we didn’t really consider concepts of our work and self being too intertwined. We got the damn work done because we had no other choice. We had to support our family. Thankfully, the general employment climate and standard of living is better, which affords us more choice, but an abundance of that choice has presented its own set of challenges. In this case, it’s the challenge of excess and that identity magnifying glass we’re placing on ourselves because we now have the time and space to do so.
In a world where you can do anything and be anything, we’re now told to be authentic, to wind things back to what’s real and truthful. And this is particularly potent in photography, where we’re tasked with keeping historical record of real things happening in front of us.
However, authenticity and truth don’t exist—not in the way they’re sold to us, anyway—and perhaps the pursuit of those things isn’t the most useful way of finding our curiosity. When the broader online think-tank promotes a thin, arbitrary idea of authenticity, it all starts bearing a striking level of similarity. We see this most obviously in how that authenticity is manifested into branding design, but that’s a conversation for another day.
So when engaging with the precious task of bringing out our voice into our work and brand, and being true to ourselves or our clients, in an industry heavily steeped in the idea that we have to “be” our work and live out binary authenticity through it, where does this leave us?
Various studies report that 70 to 80 percent of people lament not having their dream job, and a problem lies in the idea that we’re putting that dream job a yardstick ahead of a greater goal: exploration. Fundamentally, we are liquid, not stone—we just forget that as we go through school and the workplace, and find ourselves having to set a fixed identity relationship with everything around us, cemented with our job title stamped on paper.
You don’t have to “be” your work. Treat your business more like a pet piglet by your side. Walk it, feed it, let it roam. Give it a hot bath occasionally. Feed it a strawberry (no, seriously, Google “piglets eating strawberries”). Most importantly, be open to the idea that it can have an identity of its own. You can treat it like a game while still serving people in a beautiful way. That does not have to be a state of conflict for you.
I never hide the fact that I wouldn’t book myself, or anyone like me, for my wedding. This isn’t to say I don’t believe in the work that I do; I’m deeply engaged with my way of producing images and finding couples who like it. I’m surrounded by lush imagery, intimacy and end-to-end storytelling. But me? I don’t want that for myself.
I’d hire a gritty, jaded ‘90s photojournalist to photograph my wedding day on grainy film and a super wide lens. No prep, no portraits, no “storytelling.” I’m very present to the fact that our powerful imagination can fill in the gaps; I don’t need prescriptive images of every last micro-event doing the heavy lifting for me. There’s amplified value in scarcity, and that’s where my values lie for what I’d hire (subject to my wife’s input, of course).
Does that make me inauthentic in the product I choose to sell?
There’s a lot of power locked up in words, and even though we’ve passed the madness of the loud hipster application of authenticity (I’ve waited patiently for six years for the fad to pass so that I could grow this damn man bun currently sitting post-pretentiously atop my middle-class noggin), we’re still in the middle of an ideological gold rush to show our B-side instead of our A-side, to move against heavy curation and to be “real” with what we post. But curated A-sides were never disinteresting or damaging—they just got hijacked by #influencers and advertisers. There’s nothing wrong with someone’s work or personal identity being shrouded in curated mystery, with all the rest left private, for them, like it used to be.
The next movement will be a middle ground and our ability to induce magic in the people that view our work by turning how we live and how we craft into a character. Perhaps not the Joker or any other folks also sporting a Glasgow smile (your bookings might suffer), but something more in line with human anthropology and ritual in all of its forms—the real, the fake, the tacky, the authentic, the staged, the awkward. This is the wonderful human circus, and we owe more to it than gratuitously pretending we can capture its whole, objective truth.
Show me any wonderful, iconic body of documentary work, and i’ll show you a body of work by an individual, with a vision.
And never forget that there’s an enormously wide range of ways in which to reach the hearts of people through our identity and craft, beyond moose-antler logos and slideshows accompanied by the indie acoustics of José González.
Mar 20, 2018
I know this is all about weddings, about love, community and all that. But it’s not every day you find yourself shipped to the very bottom of the planet, on the Antarctic peninsula, sharing a month with 80 of the most brilliant minds in science, tech, education, medicine and maths. This was for Homeward Bound voyage #2.
The places this gig takes me. A huge thanks to Kodak for sponsoring me, and loading me up with what must have been the largest ever case of camera film hauled to Antarctica. More on this later.
Oct 25, 2016
In 2015, moose antlers dominated wedding photographer branding. It probably had honest, authentic origins: a PNW local, chopping wood in a forest Mon-Fri, and shooting weddings on a Saturday and Sunday, had an illustrative brandmark made, that hadn’t yet been seen in the industry. A few years and hundreds of similar brands later featuring antlers, and i’m not sure if many of the folks with antlers on their shopfront had quite considered what it was about their newly-antlered moose or deer, that represented them and the work they made.
And so we saw how quickly something different can spread, without being questioned.
This is a post for those wanting an insight into photography business branding: some tips, things to avoid, common mistakes, but most importantly – how to stand out and make an impactful brand in a time when as much as everyone’s a photographer – everyone’s a designer: and because of that, a professional designer will protect you from looking like the person next to you.
This is a post for photographers who are about to drop a whole lot of money on a rebrand, and want it done right.
While you’re here, download the Wedding Photography Brand Trends Report 2020.
So, you’ve started a photography business, the runaway train of the first few years of business enthusiasm has propelled you gloriously into a steady stream of work, and now you’ve finally found the time to put the brakes on, and seen that your brand doesn’t represent you.
Or is a little rough around the edges.
And now, you have to rebrand.
If you’re about to drop thousands on branding, this article will save you doing it twice, and help you stand out.
This article is primarily for photographers who are DIY’ing their own brand. Or perhaps you’ve hired a designer, and will be in charge of continuing the roll-out of the brand that’s been created for you: either way, we need to show the same respect to the intricate craft of design as we expect is shown to our own craft of photography.
This doesn’t mean we need to become designers: it just means that there are advantages in having a better understanding of the craft of design and some of it’s foundational concepts, so that as a sole trader, when we’re tasked on then taking a brand we’ve developed or had developed for us, we know some of the rules that exist within design.
And that also means we know when to break the rules, and how to break them!
What this article is:
This is an article for those who are at the point in developing their brand where they are focusing on the aesthetic side of things, and either in the process of finding and engaging with a branding designer, or doing it themselves. It’s an article for those that want their brand to stand out and stand the test of time (brands don’t have to stand out or be different to produce an income, if that’s your only metric for success).
What this article isn’t:
This is not an article diving deep into the holistic or esoteric side of branding. We’re not going to be discussing all of the elements that actually make up your brand: which includes who you are as a person, what you wear (!), how you build your email marketing, and how you curate the images you show to elicit an emotional response.
Those are all really important (actually – they’re way more important) things, but this article will focus on just the design of the presentation layer: your website, how you lay out text and image, and the type of elements you choose to represent your business.
The stuff people see.
The stuff people think is your brand!
The tip of the iceberg, if you will, and often their first touchpoint with your brand.
And the part that is really easy to get wrong.
Why I wrote this:
I wrote this so that there is an exhaustive resource that equips photographers with knowledge of the craft of design and how wide it is: i’ve seen photographers go through the process of rebranding, only to come out the other side unhappy, and not standing out from their competitors, and then wanting to change it two years later.
I’ve been that person myself, despite having a ten year career in design before my photography career, because I didn’t respect the craft of design in my own brand, and it’s cost me having a solid, consistent brand, for the entirety of my photography career!
And I’ve seen that understanding design, and building a wide vocabulary in design, can solve this problem, where woo and #manifesting is one of the biggest current distractions to the genre, and template shops are opening up left right and centre with the exact same, derivative designs and approaches to branding that are doing more harm than good to photographers, and the status of design as a craft.
I wrote this also because of that moose-antler conundrum: a point in time where moose-antlers dominated photography branding around 2010-2015, and what followed, was the realisation that photographers had been taken advantage of by negligent design practice: design practice that didn’t protect them from their own inexperience, or do what design should do: pull out the unique brand that exists in every one of us.
Where were the damn turtles when we needed them?
There needs to be an exhaustive resource on how to navigate design, and how to interface with your new designer, so that you can develop and love your brand in a way that lasts: and I hope this is that resource for you.
Load yourself up with wine, weed or wonder (or all three).
This is a highly detailed (or unnecessarily verbose – take your pick) article: firstly because I reject the trend of short-form soundbyte culture, but also because I believe that approaching your photography brand design should be a highly detailed, thoughtful process. I know first hand what it’s like to not respect it and just “bash it out” – and it looks like this: resenting your own brand, and changing it every 12-18 months.
In fact, as I write this, I am in the process of updating my own brand, properly, for the first time since I began photography, and about the 6th time in total within that period.
If you invest the time into learning a little about the branding industry, a little about the brand marketplace itself, I promise it will pay off in a brand that connects properly with your audience, is cohesive, and stands out from your market.
And that means trustworthy, and that means more conversions, and that means a better business for you.
The craft of branding design is as democratised as tools become available that allow everyone access. And as we’ve seen with photography, there’s a difference between having a 20megapixel phone camera, and having a deep, nuanced understanding of light.
Why listen to me?
Great question. Maybe you shouldn’t. And if you do, definitely get a second opinion. It’s always recommended. But for what it’s worth, I do have a background in design, and spent about a decade working in design agencies on award-winning projects for websites for small businesses and up into multimillion dollar websites for private and government sectors. As well as that i’ve been a branding designer, user experience designer, illustrator, animator, and e-learning designer, and i’ve got an enormous passion for the intersection of all these crafts, and in drawing from different things to stand out.
I designed cartoon characters for the largest beverage brands, made a game with racing Ponies for Atari with nothing but one other friend and some late nights around my day-job, used design to sell hamburgers, cars, help teenagers navigate elections (and we all know how wrong THAT can go… Cambridge Analytica anyone?) xx and xx, all through design.
I’m far from being a great designer, but I know what design should do and I was fortunate to be hired for some neat projects along the way: and I know that sole-traders, when commissioning brand design, are at the whims of a designer that hopefully knows what they’re doing.
And I’ll tell you now, a lot of them out there, don’t know what they’re doing.
This is called Elements of branding 201 because this is a bit of a freestyle on the concept of branding elements, and there are better articles out there for that. So here, i’ve made my own. When you are considering a rebrand, you don’t really need to know all the technical bits and pieces, however I think these ones here are important to get a grasp of.
dfsdfds performance as in language speaking clothing etc
When putting content on a page – whether it’s a flier or a website – the rules are all the same: one of the goals is to not confuse your audience about the flow of text, and what is important. go into science about rate for leaving pages here
Think back to
One thing we don’t see spoken about in our industry, is the concept of eras in design, and I think it’s really important to get a handle on, as it can help us consider them when branding our photography business, and have an enormous effect on the end design and feel.
A design era is a period in history where specific typefaces, colours, shapes, and layouts were, more or less, “on trend”. If we think of the 1950’s, we can immediately imagine what a 1950’s poster might look like.
Design is the powerful trojan-horse that if used correctly, can have enormous implications on defining an era. I want you to look at these images of the New York Subway signage, where the brutalist, simple forms were almost a rebellion against the
As time marches on and we leave one decade for another, every typeface, colour, or shape that we’ve seen doesn’t just have it’s own inherent character: it inherents character from the time in which it existed. It is impossible to separate the brutal, beautiful simplicity of Helvetica from the New York subway systems, and it’s impossible to separate the flowing, rich shapes of Coca Colas logo from the 1950’s.
What this all means, is that design is also a conversation. If we use a typeface that had a great amount of saturation in the 1950’s, then when we use that, we create a conversation between that decade, and our usage of it now. A really great designer can pull away from that connection, but it’s often impossible.
This has it’s advantages though.
Currently, there is an enormous trend towards 60’s and 70’s serifed typefaces. I believe this will reach it’s peak in 2021 and 2022. Pair this with mustards and terracottas, and we have the pretty much the main trend for 2021. If we imagine that around us we have the 1800’s through to the 2010’s, suddenly it becomes clear that in each of those, are distinct flavours of design that were used. If we lay out what was found in those decades, suddenly we have an enormous vocabulary at our fingertips to draw from: the challenge is simply doing the groundwork in laying it all out.
3 Tips for using eras in our branding design and research
Top 5 tips for your screen and print design
If you have no idea what a grid is or think it sounds like unnecessary design-lingo, this is how I would personally put it: grids are the single biggest thing in design that will make your work easy for your audience to consume and trustworthy. An understanding of grids is the difference between good design that converts and bad design that confuses. You can have the most revolting typefaces such as Comic Sans, but if they are used carefully in a beautiful grid-structure, they can take on a new life of their own.
Recently, I saw a photographer celebrating that the web platform they were using allowed them to put content anywhere, and freed them of needing to use grids. This is kinda terrifying, because they didn’t know any better and were just excited that they could move things wherever they wanted to on the page.
Not using grids harms your design, harms your work, and harms your chances of connecting with your audience (the people paying you to do what you love).
This isn’t a know-the-rules-and-break them scenario, either – grids are the bedrock of all good design. No if’s or buts. The phrase is actually this: know *grids*, and you can break them – a little bit here, and a little bit there.
In music, “keys” are used to create a sense of consistency and grounding, and, at some point in the song, a “return to home”. Music is probably the greatest manipulation of all! If we want a listener to feel a certain emotion – happiness, sadness, stability, or instability, it’s a simple case of using keys and melodies strategically.
There’s a reason a lot of pop music seems formulaic – because it is, and it works.
Design is the same: you can create work that is as risk-taking and abstract and rule-breaking as King Crimson, but it’s going to be a very delicate exercise, and potentially polarising if it’s not done properly.
In design, a strong grid underneath your website is that “Return to home”. It creates a bedrock of familiarity for where your content sits. This generates trust, and it creates ease for your couples using your website.
Your designer needs to ensure they’re creating your digital brand – your website and any other collateral – on a grid.
No ifs or buts.
Branding design as a whole, and especially web design, has seen a beautiful renaissance in the area of templates. A template is a pre-made design, that you can tweak to your own needs and audience. Templates are great, until everyone in your market is using them, without modifying them to stand out separately to the person next to them. This isn’t always a negative though – remember what’s in this article is all “best practice” stuff. It’s entirely ok to lean less on market separation in your design, and invest all your energy into word-of-mouth referrals (which you should do as well anyway).
I’m currently building my own new website on a template – it cuts out a lot of the work. The important thing, is ensuring my own language weaves through it.
I want to direct you to this photography design marketplace on Etsy, and I want you to consider whether this might all be the work of one designer, or multiple. https://www.etsy.com/au/market/photography_branding. As beautiful as they all are – if we squint – we cannot tell them apart.
You might not know it, but when you engage with a branding designer, you’re giving someone the task of representing you, and bringing you to life, through the wide and deep craft of design. They’re not there to make you pretty stuff and do as you tell them, because that’s not a designers job: they’re there to lead you into standing out in your market, and be proactive.
When hiring a professional, let the professional do what they are trained to, and don’t just get them to duplicate a set of Pinterest boards you’ve found.
A good designers job is to do the following three things:
Let’s dive into each of those.
A designers job is to serve you, not their portfolio. Much in the same way that as a photographer, our job is to serve our couples, and make images that connect with them, not serve our own love of dark and moody or weird compositions. I constantly have to remind myself with this in my own business and keep my ego in check, and, it’s a pain in the ass. It harms my chances of connecting to my audience and booking work if I forget that i’m serving them, not me.
There is always, with anything, a natural angle that contradicts that: the beautiful tension that lies at the intersection between making work for “us” (the experts) and making work for “them” (our clients). What I mean by that is this: I know that if i’m on a photoshoot, and making images that i’m drawn to, I know that, in theory, they will be good images. It’s me trusting my gut, and not letting myself be influenced by someone who is outside of my craft, and might not be aware of the nuances of what i’m doing. Trust your gut and you can’t go wrong, right?
With that said, my job is also to do what i’m told, and get the damn group shot. Because they are worth their weight in gold, quick to do, serve them and their community, and in many ways, are arguably worth much much more than any magnum-esque stroke of photojournalistic brilliance that my ego might place on a pedestal above it.
Doing great work always lives at the tension between serving our clients, and, as a professional who knows what they’re doing, serving our gut.
Design works in the same way. If you see a designer, their portfolio might all look the same, but click through to their own clients brands, and see if that same-ness is carrying out through the brands they’re designing for.
If their entire client-side portfolio looks the same (it’s ok if their instagram does, that’s their curation point), then you’re not hiring a designer, you’re hiring an artist, and that artist is serving their own vision over their clients brands by making work that benefits the consistency of their own portfolio.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, IF you have done your competitive market analysis, and come to the conclusion that A: that style will match your audience, and B: that style will separate you from your competitors.
There is something inherently wrong with that, if the designer is falling back on a particular style because that’s all they know. And this means two things: they are not there solving a problem for you and for your market, and it means they might not be trained and have an updated vocabulary in design themselves.
To reiterate – hiring an artist is perfectly fine and is often the best way of coming out with a potently brilliant stroke of genius. Just make sure that you’re doing your market analysis, and are sure that you gain a competitive edge by employing that artists style: a designer will solve your problem with your competition in mind, an artist will (by nature of the role an artist plays – a narrow, single-minded voice in their practice) skip that step, and assume you have already done that legwork before you approached them.
Both are valid, just know what you’re getting into, what role the person is that you’re hiring, and why they are the right fit for you and your photography brand.
Here’s where hiring an artist goes wrong: when a broad cross-section of your industry niche hires the exact same artist, as we saw with a very distinct white-on-black illustrative style around 2016 onwards.
Hiring the same artist that your industry peers hired, will dilute and hurt your brand.
Hiring the same photography brand designer, on the other hand, wont hurt your brand: if they are a branding design professional, then they will protect you from looking like their other clients, as part of your competitive market analysis.
Imagine this: someone has enquired with you to photograph their wedding: the first meeting has gone great, and now they’re enthusiastically presenting shot-lists for each section of the day. You know that this isn’t the way for them to get ideal coverage, and it isn’t the best way for them to use your services: because you’ll be missing important moments all day, trying to reconstruct someone else’s vision, instead of doing justice to their day as it it. But this question can often get asked because they’re inexperienced in having a wedding (it’s often their first time) and some magazines tell them they should do it, and because of that the photographers job is to guard them from their own inexperience and present a better way (which is – no shot-lists for each part of the day, and instead trusting you as a service provider).
Design is the same.
Design is not about creating pretty things. Design is the act of problem solving, with a specific end goal in mind. And that end-goal should always have positive implications for us as humans, our clients, and ideally the planet. Anything else is a flaw (the idea isn’t to be totally devoid of flaws, by the way, but instead just to minimise them).
Design is not the act of making something pretty, or making something we get addicted to (hello Facebook, you poorly designed platform).
This is worth saying again. Design is not making something pretty: that’s called art and craft.
Sidenote: this is why Instagram, Facebook, and Apple, employ, fundamentally, as much bad design as they do good design (believe it: in fact, they systemise bad design!). Ever gotten the Apple dialogue that gives you two options for updating – “not now” and “remind me tomorrow”?
Those aren’t options, they are coercion, and that is bad, by design.
I don’t want to be reminded tomorrow – I want to not see that dialogue ever again! They are bad design, and don’t actually give the user the options we think they do. Instagram and Facebook? Those companies employ engineers who’s job is to create more addiction in it’s users.
Good design does good for the world, it doesn’t lead astray, and it doesn’t take advantage of every cheap trick in the psychologists handbook.
This one is a little less obvious: you should love your brand, because if you don’t love your brand, you wont be an advocate for it. And if you don’t love it, people can smell it a mile away.
Here’s the tricky tension though: you don’t have to “be” your brand. A lot of the messaging around authenticity I feel has missed the mark, and leads folks into the false idea that our business has to double as our personal outlet.
Nope – it just needs to be the fullest version of itself: a service that a specific target market is hiring.
Something i’ve spoken about at conferences for years, is the art of separating your business from yourself, and letting your brand be a character.
In fact, that’s pretty much all we did with my arbour company The Arbourists, which as much a test of being characters on social media rather than a business, which no-one else in the wedding space was doing. For us it was a success, as it contributed to a bizarre amount of hype, front-page on newspapers and an inbox full with a higher ratio of interactivity than anything else i’ve seen. That’s the power of stepping into character, and giving people something that snaps them out of what they normally see on social media (also file this under – invest in a copywriter!).
What’s the takeaway here? A good designer should leave you feeling in LOVE with your brand – even if it’s an animal entirely separate to yourself that you’ve grown together.
Because THAT’s worth buying into.
Finding a designer is TOUGH. It’s tough, because unless you have a vocabulary in design and have done your research and invested the correct amount of time in understanding their craft (which again – is what we should expect of people engaging us – respecting our craft!), it can be tough to understand whether the designer is a great fit, and it can be tough to get a good understanding of whether they have the tools and the capacity to properly understand your audience and the heart of your business.
It’s hard, because it means engaging with a marketplace we are unfamiliar and inexperienced with.
Ringing any bells?
It should be – this is exactly what couples deal with when looking for a photographer: putting “photographers near me” into google, and trawling directories of wild wanderlusting authentic photographers, with no real idea on the things they should be looking for. If nothing else – this should make you place importance on the branding process and treat it properly.
Unfortunately though, i’ve lost count of the number of times where i’ve heard first-hand stories of photographers spending between $2k – $10k and ended up- unhappy with their brand, and re-engaging a designer shortly after to go through it again. Granted, what we actually think of our brand is secondary to the most important goal: It working for our customer and talking to them. When we separate ourselves from our brand, we understand that the brand exists primarily for our audience. Not us. But with that said, i think it’s important to love your brand.
If you love your brand, you’ll wear it with pride, champion it, and that means more visibility, more conversions, and a brand you’re less likely to want to change in 2 years.
When you engage with a good designer, they’ll spend less time referencing Pinterest boards, and more time actually diving into who you are and what your business is, so that the end result is more unique, and future-proof.
With that said, there are some great exercises you can do to widen your own design vocabulary, before engaging with your designer. Doing this will ensure that you have more context to the things you’re being shown, and can take a more educated role in the conversations you’re having.
Creating a brand that stands out in your market of photographers is
The “search” area of Niice.co is an intelligent library of branding.
Work out your target market
Work out what you love doing
Identify where those two overlap
Hire your designer or do it yourself. If you hire a designer, they might have their own discovery process – which is great, because you’ll already have thoughtful talking points prepared ahead of time.
When you create a brand, you merge all of the pieces of “you” together, into a unique formula that exists to connect with your target audience, and you present it to the world so that you can continue to do what you love, and pay your rent in the process.
What a beautiful thing!
This is worth protecting. Not in some antagonistic way, but gently protecting, because it’s better for everyone involved, including the folks that think imitation is a shortcut. Copying someone else’s brand doesn’t make our brand as good as theirs – it halves the potency of both brands: theirs included.
Given all the tools we have available now, brand-theft and imitation has never been more prolific or easily attainable. I consider my traffic to be low in my niche, yet I have to issue takedowns every other month for stolen content and design. Gaining inspiration from colour palettes is one thing, directly stealing copywriting, for example, is another. Read on to see how this is easy and pain-free to track.
I can also think of a specific photographer who’s Contact page, where they spoke gently about finding the photographer who’s work speaks to you, became directly copied, word for word, by hundreds of photographers – and remains that way. Cutting and pasting the text they crafted and putting it into google, reveals hundreds of other photographers using what they wrote. And when the same couple sees that on multiple web-pages, it’s bad for everyone.
When someone rips off your brand, not only do they dilute both your brand and theirs, but they skip the queue: they skip all of the things you learnt that make you, you, and they potentially skip the exhaustive process of either doing a brand yourself or hiring a designer.
Corporations protect their intellectual property through use of lawyers. We’re (most likely) sole traders, and so don’t have that kind of infrastructure to defend our brand honour.
So how can we ensure people aren’t stealing out work?
Identify things that are unique to your brand, and find ways of automating them being checked. For example: I love writing, and go to great lengths to ensure my copywriting is different in tone and in the arrangement of words to what is around me. Not better: different. Some photographers emphasize beautiful intricate design, where my tool is a specific style of writing.
I want their to be no illusion to potential clients that they’re speaking to me, and not the person they just looked at. Because of this, and because of the countless late nights spent crafting this, I protect it. I have a small handful of key phrases and terms in Google Alerts, and I get an alert if someone has duplicated my content for their own brand. This has occurred several times, even in my own local neighbourhood, in one case with a past workshop attendee (don’t be that… person), and this simple trick took all of 10 minutes to setup and then have the problem corrected.
A nicely worded email to someone afraid to use their own voice and using theft as an alternative is a good solution for your brand (as the duplicate is removed) and a good outcome for them as they’ll then be encouraged to find their own way with something authentic to them.
In a world of sole-traders and democratised education, a “qualification” is sometimes a dirty word, while being self-taught (which doesn’t exist) is celebrated. I’ve seen it championed at conferences. I’ve championed it myself! Then I realised, no, i’m not a self-taught photographer, i’ve drawn my education from other areas, and leaned very heavily on my formal design education.
In design, there is nothing to be celebrated by being self taught. There’s no such thing as self taught, anyway. It doesn’t exist (but it looks great on a t-shirt).
In design, you want someone who has had an education: be it formal, or informal. This is important because in design, context is important! If a designer doesn’t understand where a typeface has come from, or by what era or trend a shape was drawn from, then they won’t be creating a cohesive language for you, and you’ll be hiring them to make work that will damage your brand in the long run.
If a designer doesn’t understand the depth to which a rebrand needs to reach via all of the points in a rollout, then they’ll get you a nice shopfront, while everything else that comes after it falls apart.
Demand that the designer you hire has had an education of some sort, and isn’t simply throwing together tired, derivitive design elements on a DIY, build-your-own-brand template system.
They don’t need to have had a formal education, necessarily, but they need to have done their background work, and be in the business of being a designer, not someone who throws pretty things together to a mood-board you created on pinterest. That’s how you create a brand you end up wanting to move away from in 18 months.
Finding a good branding designer is hard. Finding someone that will respect your niche and do the job properly with sensitivity to who else they work with, is even harder. Here are three brilliant, educated designers who have done their homework, and are educated in the complex, layered craft of design.
Both is a design studio in the purest sense of the word, creating brands
If you haven’t seen her iconic work for wedding videographers Bottlebrush Films (check out their brand), you might have been under a rock (or perhaps you have your Covid mask pulled up a little too high). Her beautiful, varied, and highly detailed work aside, Leelou does what a lot of designers are probably afraid to do – that that’s drastically limit the amount of jobs she takes on. I know at one point early on, she was backed up for 12-18 months! I know this, because I asked if she was available for a referral. That’s bad for your instant gratification, but good for your brand: because you know off the bat that you’re given the attention and percolation time that good design requires, but other designers might be afraid to make space for. A good designer will be responsible in gifting the photographer with the proper percolation time required to develop a thoughtful brand.
Your photography branding designer will provide you with three things
Beck Rocchi’s photography brand is one of the more enduring examples of an innovative website shopfront that’s stood the test of time. I’m such a fan of her website, and it’s held it’s own for about half a decade now, through it’s use of typefaces, colours and design sensibility that’s different to anything else out there, and scaleable. Gorgeous wedding photographer branding
James Moe’s wedding photographer branding reminds me of some great food and beverage brands i’ve seen: strong typography, and a simple, beautifully blunt nature to it, with a unique photo-stack interactivity that invites exploration. Brilliant, timeless, understated, stands out from the pack and an incredible example of great wedding photographer branding.
Sorry, but this spot is reserved not for a wedding photographer but an industrial designer: Daniel Polevoys portfolio is one example of a totally different approach to portfolio design that exists in other design disciplines. Innovate use of full-screen, and zero clutter.
When you’re engaging with a branding designer, you want to have a little bit of an understanding of the language that will be used. Not so that you can jump over the table and tell them that you know more about waving a pencil around than they do, but so you have a little bit of a head start in the conversations and can keep things on a juicy track to the heart brands-ville, rather than learning about these key things for the first time.
All good brands start with having your ideal audience in mind, front and centre. Every branding decision you make needs to be informed by the audience you are aiming to connect with. Who are they? Where to they live? What do they like doing? What music do they listen to? Do they travel? What do they eat and drink, what are their spending habits?
This exercise isn’t kitting you up to be the perfect stalker – it draws you the perfect picture of your ideal client, so that you can make decisions that are relevant not to you, but to them. From there, you can get a better idea of what they will connect with: in terms of aesthetic, tone of voice, pricing, and more. Knowing your target market will directly influence your decision of typefaces, colours, and more.
Thoughtfully mapping out your ideal buyer will save you tonnes of ambiguous research when designing your brand. Your brand shouldn’t speak to you – it should speak to your audience.
As an extra tip, remember that you don’t have to “be” your work. Want to reach luxury clientele draped in Louis Vuitton bags? Then put your hipster ego away, and design your brand for those people, in honour of what we are: a service provider.
In an industry where we love what we do and don’t like to use words like “client” or “conversion” or “consumer”, it can be tempting to think these words conflict with delivering a human service.
But they don’t! In fact, I think they support it.
A conversion is someone in your target market who came to your website, liked what they saw, and you converted that thing – which they were going to buy regardless of whether it was from you or someone else – into dollars. Those dollars mean your rent is paid, food is on your table, and you get to continue serving people you love by doing what you love: the most human thing of all!
So we make sure that our brand and user experience is crafted with conversions in mind.
Every piece of real-estate on your website, every thing you put in front of another human, needs to be with the end goal of serving a conversion (unless you’re being bankrolled by royalty and doing it just for kicks). Bad examples of this include modern sales funnels on facebook with “limited” webinar seats that coerce people using false-scarcity (real scarcity is good – false scarcity is shit, and bad design leaking out of an insufferable hustle culture).
Good examples of this include using your work to elicit feeling and connection with you as a human – so the end user is buying into you from a genuine place, and not from having their anxiety levels raised by false scarcity.
A conversion is you being chosen to solve someones problem in a beautiful way, instead of someone else.
Design is the act of solving a problem through something that’s better for the world than what was there before it. Design is often confused with art, pretty things, and people wearing turtleneck sweaters.
True design, is far less sexy.
Good design solves a problem that your target market has, makes someone feel loved, and makes the world better. That’s about all that good design is.
In practical terms, design ties these goals together with the elements of your brand that people see. How your page
A bad designer puts the elements of design and sexy stuff first – AKA every high-school essay I ever did, drawing dragons and medieval be-headings in the page borders before I bothered to write a single word. A good designer works to understand your target market and the incredibly important pieces of yourself, and uses their knowledge of the craft of design to solve their problems in a way that is different to your competition.
Just as you have a wide photographic vocabulary and know about aperture, shutter speed, and know the difference between photojournalism and portraiture, a design vocabulary is a knowledge of the elements of design, and how they relate to creating a brand that’s impactful, and converts.
A design vocabulary is also about understanding how design has changed over the decades, and the ability to understand using past context in modern designs.
A shallow design vocabulary might only think of one era when thinking of “old” design. A deep design vocabulary will be able to draw from more influences, and create something more unique, in your market. A deep design vocabulary is also one that is aware of the state of the market and what trends are currently being used.
By building our own design vocabulary as photographers, we can more closely understand our own brand and where it sits within the broader language of branding design, across both past and present.
And this means we’ll hopefully avoid having moose antlers in our logo.
A font is the digital file that contains your typeface. The typeface, is the design of the characters themselves. When people say they are looking for a font, or want a font similar to another one, what they actually mean is they want a Typeface.
For example. Comic Sans is not a font, Comic Sans is a Typeface. Comic-Sans.TTF however is the font. The font is simply the digital file that contains the typeface. This might seem like a technicality, but your designer will be over the moon if you use the correct terminology.
The act of researching your competitors. I know community over competition is a thing. I also know that by not treating your business as a business, people that are treating it like a business, will book your clients, instead of you. The community over competition movement is great, until just being a great member of your community while being on the back-foot in regards to the business side of things doesn’t result in food on the table. Sometimes community is enough to get plenty of work in the door, and sometimes there are other market factors involved that will require other avenues – this is fact.
It can be both community, and competition (and, well, it is, whether we like it or not – competition isn’t a dirty word, when did that happen?).
There are a finite amount of jobs, and there are an even more finite amount of jobs that fit within my ideal customer profile. This isn’t scarcity mindset, it’s basic laws of economics and market density. If you don’t believe me, then look back to 1950, and try to imagine the wedding photography industry then being as full, thriving, respected and accessible as a trade as it is now.
We’ve got it good.
So, I want to book my people. If I don’t book them, someone next to me will – and deservedly! But, I happen to believe I can make beautiful stuff for them. That’s all part of the game. So, I need to work for my seat at the table, and that means creating visibility within my market, and a point of difference. This shouldn’t be dissuading, but a positive, exciting step in helping you reach your market and lead them in how they can think about things.
That means working out who my competition is, analysing them head to toe, and making sure what I offer is just as good, and is an attractive option for a client looking at both of us. My aim is for there to be no confusion between myself and the person next to me.
Bonus tip: what other industries do this: A: every single one… Don’t fall for the kumbaya-woo – you can serve your community, share, exercise openness and be a great human on one hand, and on the other, also future-proof your business in a fast market, by doing a competitor analysis, and ensuring that your branding design itself has a strategic relationship with what you’ve discovered about other operators within your market. It’s such a shame to see the value of a market analysis go out the window in service-based professions, but that’s born out of both privilege, and photographers confusing what we’re doing with art, when we’re in the service business, not the arts.
We do a market analysis so that we can make informed decisions on how we can bring art and strategy into our brand, to stand out in the market.
Do a market analysis!
A brand rollout is the application of a brand design onto all different elements that are needed. For example: you get a logo done, a colour palette, and a basic style-guide. At some point, you might need to “roll this out” onto a new application, such as a piece of email marketing.
You know in the news how there’s often people causing a fuss about a government logo costing $2million in some shitty tabloid? Preposterous! How could they spend so much money on a logo! The phone lines run hot, the opinion columns are full of thought-pieces on the tragic misuse of spending.
Well, “that logo” cost that much because there has been an enormous amount of human labour used in applying that logo and style into an incredibly long list of possible things – such as signage, websites, applications, and more.
And it is worth every cent.
You won’t have to do all of this as a photographer, but there is a natural point in the branding process where you might have to “roll out your design” onto some things yourself – and that’s where you will call on all of the knowledge of design elements listed earlier in this post.
Being aware of your designers departure point, that is – where you are no longer paying them to create things – is crucial.
Questions to ask: What am I being left with? Do I have a style guide from my designer that equips me to apply my brand to any new elements in the future? Is it detailed enough, does it cover use of colours, layout and typography?
I have created the first trends report on design and branding within the wedding photography industry. This trend report has detailed information on styles that are reaching peak saturation, recommendations on styles to avoid, and genres of design and style that have not yet been touched by the wedding photography industry. If you want some clear starting points on styles that will stand out and have done your own market research, this is the cheapest way to pair them together and begin formulating your perfect wedding photography brand.
It’s just $39, and you can download it here.
Text from Ross Flothemes to insert
In todays competitive creative market, being a general designer serves many benefits. Having a core understanding of design principles, typography and general trends will bring deep value across all external outlets for your brand be that through marketing, online or any visual aspects.
In product design and management, a vision strategy must be initially created. Consider this a business plan blueprint for what you are to create individually or as a team. This process requires you to dream and specify what the end result will be and then work backwards and fill in the middle. Imagine however that this process was started simply by comparing what others had built! While this unfortunately is common practice it stifles innovation including creativity. As Businesses that sell a creative service to customers there is a combined balance of building a brand that has trust pillars yet also allowing your brand to be memorable or distinctive. First craft your internal brand objectives, who your clients are and draft a brand story for that target client. What are the values you will provide (This does not mean great customer service, or a good experience as these should be standard). Reach beyond the standard level, for many of us being great and professional is not enough to guarantee ongoing work in competitive saturated markets. Now that you may have a general outline of what and who you aim for, you can start to plan your visual communication to attract that focused client target. In my experience the best form of brand design to communicate starts with typography and then everything else.
Tips to test your typography:
Distance Test. Ig you care about readability, make sure you can read it from a short distance from any device.
Test your elevator pitch, does your story work with the type you choose.
Many choose beautiful fonts however not all fonts work best for every business name or “description, elevator pitch”. Make sure that this part is perfected. Strong type on your main brand story is no different than an in person elevator pitch done right or poorly.
Type is communication, does it read as you speak.
In sales the laws of persuasion suggest to speak slower when others agree with you, and faster when others are unsure or disagree. Now, I am not recommending to be rude or interrupt others however if you are confident, and know your value and skill, you should be able to talk about your brand with confidence. In copywriting, your brand has to package and sell whatever service or product you offer. Some clients will skim your offering and others will read each word slowly to evaluate your offer for them. Make sure that your chosen type packages your key offerings correctly. It has been too often that brand designers package beautiful pair offerings only to find that when the client begins designing their website with copy that the chosen fonts are not the best fit.
I’m a wedding photographer, progressive photography educator, and recovering designer. I’ve designed for some of the biggest brands on the planet, and worked on projects from everything from healthcare, to military, to racing ponies. I believe in soft work over scaled work, and work that speaks deeper to less than shallower to more. I wrote this article for photographers who want to create a brand that brings something new to the industry they’re in.