How did you end up being a wedding photographer, and what made you choose photography as a career?
I’ve reached the half century mark and I still love photography! I started out with a box brownie at the age of four and progressed to a Yashica 124G (a poor man’s rollie flex) and discovered my love for black and white film. At the age of seventeen I brandished the latest Pentax 35mm ME Super and started documenting life and all that was around me. And then I discovered wedding photography, initially in sales, but I just knew I could do a better job than what I was seeing, so I staked my claim and went for it! I bought my dad’s dream camera, a twin lens rollie flex, a Weston Euromaster light meter and a Metz 45 flash gun, and with those pieces of equipment I went out to conquer the world of wedding photography.
Formulaic weddings rolled in with standard posed pictures which did not extend me as a creative photographer but did give me the opportunity to establish my core photography skills, perspective, lighting and how to construct a good images. I developed my rapport with couples understanding how best to get a bride and groom to relax in front of the camera and enable me to engage with them. Then I re-discovered 35mm and armed with a Nikon F5 and a few rolls of Tmax 400 to record the ‘real life’ events and emotions of each wedding I started on my journey to becoming a documentary photographer. I knew that I wanted to spend more time capturing those elusive moments as they happened, naturally and candidly, allowing a couple and their guests to get on with the business of enjoying their wedding day and allowing me to retell their story, with all their individual and unique touches in my photographs of the day.
I have now been a professional photographer for over twenty years, my brides know that when they invest in booking me they can trust on my experience and expertise to guarantee them a beautiful set of images that they can relive their wedding day though for many years to come. And so now I have the enviable life of not only running my own business but doing a job I love, that is my passion.
You are known for a documentary style. Can you talk a bit about your style and way of working?
There are many photographers pitching themselves as documentary and reportage wedding photographers, and equally as many definitions of what documentary wedding photography is. For me and my style, ninety-five per cent of my average wedding day is captured by getting myself in the right position at the right time, knowing about weddings and people, so that I capture the incredible events and roller coaster of emotions throughout a wedding day.
I do ask for about twenty minutes of exclusive time with my couples during the day to get some beautiful photographs of the two of them. I look for interesting backdrops, stunning natural light and the intensity of the emotion between the two of them.
Most of my couples, especially the Jewish brides, will ask for a number of more traditional formal portraits with family and guests. I agree to this with the couple before the wedding and limit it to around four to six groups allowing for 2-3 minutes per group.
My aim is to minimise the time spent away from the natural flow of the wedding and interaction of the couple and their guests.
Most brides request some getting ready shots which also allows for a few detail shots of the dress, shoes, flowers and the part that is really wonderful is recording the messages and gifts sent on the morning from the groom to his bride to be.
Also photographing the bride before the wedding leads to incredibly emotive pictures of the parents seeing their beautiful daughter in her gown for the first time, captured as the moment happens.
For my large Jewish weddings I have a second photographer who I trust to capture the right moments alongside me and we work with perfect synergy to capture all the elements of the wedding. This also enables me to have a second pair of hands to hold the lights.
I am known for my black and white images. I edit the wedding and supply my couples with a slide show of my favourite images and a disk of edited high resolution photographs, an average of 350 to 400 for a wedding. Most of my brides will select an album package so once they have selected their images I then enter the process of designing their album.
I am lucky enough to have an association with Loxley Colour who have a stunning range of albums from the modern art photo albums with acrylic covers to more classic leather bound albums with beautifully mounted prints on superior paper.
The other important aspect of my documentary style comes from my street photography and passion for capturing real people in their real lives. This takes me around the world photographing different religious and cultural events, and a commentary on how people live and what they are fighting for which I admit can mean I’m confronted by some experiences that have shocked and saddened me. More closer to home it brings me to the places I love to photograph in London including Brick Lane and Speakers Corner, as well as some personal subjects which are painful but I am driven to record, such as my father as he is effected by his ongoing illness of dementia.
These personal portfolios keep me at the top of my game, keep my passion alive and make me look at people and the world in ways that other people cannot see. The consequence is that it keeps me looking a fresh at my weddings as well.
Do you use Flash or Natural Lighting for weddings?
For me it is always natural light where possible. But I still look for light and position myself to give the best opportunity of capturing the moments that occur naturally.
For the evening I want to show the wonderful ambient colours provided by the lights in a venue so for this I use a LED light. This way I can adjust the colour contrast so my photographs are full of the spectacular lights but allow my bride to remain looking naturally beautiful.
Working in association with Manfrotto I am lucky enough to ensure I have great lighting equipment. Having a second shooter on a wedding day also helps to ensure perfect lighting.
Given the high ISO capabilities and constant improvement thereof in modern cameras, do you think that flash for the wedding photographer has become a preference rather than a necessity?
Flash is still a necessary tool for the wedding photographer as quality of light is still important. Although I try not to use artificial light unless totally necessary I do use Manfrotto flash modifiers when I’m photographing bridal couples formal portraits at London Hotels where there is often no outdoor areas to take advantage of.
I also use Manfrotto colour balanceable LED lights for the dancing shots which is a big part of a lot of the weddings I photograph.
You have been awarded a Nikon UK Ambassadorship. How did you become an ambassador?
I have been lucky enough to have a relationship with Nikon UK for over 15 years. Since becoming a professional photographer I have used the Nikon cameras because of their great quality. Two years ago they approached me about their new ambassordship programme and asked me to become their wedding photography ambassador. Although we had worked together for a long time this was still a real surprise and a complete honour. Without waiting to find out any more information of what they would expect from me I was proud to take up the mantle. Since then the programme has gone from strength to strength with some ambassadors coming and going in the other fields, but I am very happy to say that I continue to develop this role with Nikon.
Working with Nikon puts me in the privileged position of trying out their new cameras. It’s like being a kid on Christmas day as I open the box and pull out each wonderful new ‘toy’ to play with! I get to put the cameras to the test as part of my street photography and in my weddings so I can give honest feedback and reviews about how they meet the challenge of being the main camera for a professional photographer.
I have given talks at the Photography Exhibition about Jewish wedding photography on the Nikon stand and delivered some bespoke training on street photography in London.
This year I am launching my photography training web site called Shoot the Street where I offer courses from Italy to Istanbul and Edinburgh to London.
What has been your most interesting / extravagant / outrageous wedding so far?
I am lucky enough to be asked to photograph some of the most elaborate and extravagant Jewish weddings but also enjoy photographing the small, intimate or unusual events as well.
One wedding that really touched me was a smaller affair but one that was full of emotion. I was asked to photograph an orthodox Jewish wedding for charity. When I heard the story I was more than pleased to offer my skills to enable the couple to have their special day photographed.
One of my favourite weddings that was wonderfully quirky and unique was a wedding with an Alice in Wonderland theme. From the place names, to the cake, to the couples outfits, every details was thought through and the couples individual characters and personalities really shone though.
Whenever I meet a couple I always ask them about themselves as people, their interests, how they met, etc and really encourage them to find a way of making their wedding unique to them, that maybe only the two of them will know and notice. One couple had a fondant cat hiding on their wedding cake, a perfect representation of their pet.
Another was when two sisters approached me saying they would like their weddings photographed which were takig place one week apart as their father was passing away soon and it was one of his wishes to see his daughters married. A very moving ceremony.
How has the wedding industry changed for photographers compared to when you started?
Its changed beyond recognition in the last 20 years and the survivors are the ones that keep changing and moving with the times.
When I first started there wasn’t the volume of wedding photographers that are now operating and the price point was certainly higher, having said that the client now has an amazing choice of styles from the very formal to the very artistic and then the latest fad to the more traditional style where the wedding is purely documented.
What gear do you use, and which equipment do you use most?
Nikon, as I am an ambassador of their product. I have however always been using their equipment. I currently carry a couple of Nikon D4’s and the new Nikon D750 along with an array of prime lenses with my favourite being the Nikkor 28 mm f 1.4
Manfrotto lighting equipment is used where required and the images are presented in Loxley’s fine art albums.
Apart from weddings, you also do training. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
I have been developing the training side of my business over the last couple of years. I really enjoy the opportunity of working with other professional photographers but also inspiring the amateur who has a passion and wants to just get better.
The training I offer varies from one day to several days, workshops in some of my favourite venues and locations; Cliveden House and the streets of London, to further afield; like Italy and Istanbul. I offer training based on my knowledge and expertise in wedding photography and street photography.
My training is aimed at small groups so I can work closely with the photographers, getting to know them and their styles, so that I can tailor make the advice and information I give to meet their abilities and interests.
All my training contains a large amount of hands on and I encourage all my participants to edit and evaluate their images together – many pairs of eyes.
I also offer more bespoke 1:1 training which can cover how to get the best from your Nikon to what makes your wedding business work.
This year I am providing some training through my dedicated website but also I get invited to be guest speaker and train through different organisations including SWPP, Nikon and Loxley.
Mark Seymour's website : http://www.markseymourphotography.co.uk/