Every wedding is different, but each one is full of its own candid moments, fun, drama and emotion. Documentary wedding photographer Paul Rogers specialises in capturing these moments in beautiful, natural images that tell the story of that extra-special day. We caught up with him to find out more about his unique approach to wedding photography.
“I’ve always been drawn to storytelling photography.”
How did you first get into photography?
When I was at school a good friend showed me the basics of SLR photography. I built a darkroom at home and taught myself black and white printing. At university I was studying Physics, but spent more time taking pictures for the student newspaper, then ended up on the Photojournalism course at Cardiff. That led to a job at a news agency in Birmingham for two years before I headed to London and started working for The Times in 1998.
What appealed to you about wedding photography in particular?
I’ve always been drawn to storytelling photography, and that’s essentially what I did at The Times for nearly 20 years. Though a lot of the work was portraits, my favourite assignments were having a free reign to illustrate a news story in the way I saw best.
As funding for original news photography got increasingly tight, I looked at other avenues where I could continue to work in that way. Though all weddings have roughly the same format, the infinitely different variations between the couples, guests and locations mean there’s always an interesting story to tell at a wedding. The trick is to be able to find enough clients a year who want their way documented in the way that I work without having too much of the traditional set photography.
What do you enjoy most about photographing someone’s big day?
Every wedding day has hundreds of little gems to photograph – sometimes it’s more obvious than others. But even a small wedding with a less lively atmosphere than a lavish destination wedding will have an abundance of emotional connections and tender moments. What I love is hunting those images out, and recording them in a way that adds meaning and context to the couple every time they look at the image.
“Any time there is raw emotion on display, I get pretty excited about photographing it.”
What’s the most memorable wedding you’ve shot?
I don’t think there is a single particular wedding that comes to mind. Any time there is raw emotion on display, I get pretty excited about photographing it. One of the key things for me is to remain very much in the background – I couldn’t get the kind of relaxed images I get if it were any other way.
When I see a great moment developing from the other side of a room, I have to force myself to slow down, and calmly move into position without disturbing the very thing I’m trying to capture!
How do you help couples to relax and feel at ease around the camera?
As a documentary wedding photographer, I work very hard to have little, or no influence on the couple at all. If they’re tense and nervous, that’s going to come out in the photography. Now as long as I’m not the cause of that then I’m perfectly happy to show the tension as an accurate representation of their day. I’m not interested in couples who want a sugar coated version of their wedding. Of course I want them to love the pictures, and I’ll work with the light, framing and lens choice to make some gorgeous photography. But on the whole, my clients aren’t booking a photo shoot – they want me to document and record the emotions, relationships and atmosphere.
“Eventually, a viewer should be able to pick out your work from a lineup of various photographers because you have a definite style and look.”
What are your top tips for anyone who wants to take better photos?
First, to find a focus for their work. Discover photographers whose work inspires you, and immerse yourself in their books, films, locations, etc. Then restrict the amount of gear you use, and get to know its benefits and limitations well.
Once you’ve mastered a single focal length for example, use it only in really low light, or from an elevated viewpoint. Anything to focus what you’re doing. So many portfolios are a random collection of styles, processing and subjects. Eventually, a viewer should be able to pick out your work from a lineup of various photographers because you have a definite style and look.
Is there anything couples should bear in mind when they’re choosing the best wedding photographer for their big day?
Remember your photos are the legacy of that day that will keep on giving for the rest of your lives. And your children’s lives. Experience and quality costs money – don’t cut costs on the photography. You know I’m bound to say that, but if you compromise on who you commission, it will be a decision you’ll regret.