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How To Photograph People At Weddings! with Gary Phillip from One Love Photography

It seems obvious, doesn’t it! People are going to get photographed at a Wedding! But there’s an art to capturing all those emotions. Gary shares his secret!

Listen to Gary on the Wedding Espresso Awesome DIY Wedding Planning Podcast…


Gary Phillip, One Love Photography


James [00:00:03] Gary it’s lovely to see you. 

Gary [00:00:08] Hello, Hi James! 

James [00:00:08] Thank you so much for joining me for a virtual coffee. A very much needed virtual coffee this afternoon. This is really, really good.

So you are Gary Phillip and you’re from One Love Photography. Now the topic that I really wanted to approach with you today is “How to Photograph People at Weddings”. 

James [00:00:29] Now I actually pulled this from reading your blurb on your website because I was having a quick look through. We found your photography and just thought “Wow love this guy’s work. We need to get him on Wedding Espresso” and that’s why we reached out to you. And then I’m reading through your blurb and I see a recurring theme, and that recurring theme is that you really like to photograph people, and you describe yourself as a people photographer. 

James [00:00:59] Now whilst I realise that it’s kind of obvious, and I had a lot of trouble phrasing this topic to get it out right. Because it’s obvious that you’re going to photograph people at a wedding, because that’s what a wedding is, it’s all about the people. But digging into it there are obviously many layers…. sub layers of that where some photographers, may be their strengths are in landscape shots, or wider shots, or establishing shots, or some people do immaculate details.

And I just wanted to get your perspective on what it means from your perspective to photograph people at weddings.

So I’ll let you explain that and I’m very excited to hear about it. 

Gary [00:01:43] Yeah. It’s a process I think, I tried to do all the landscapes. I think when you first get your camera you’re out there, you try everything, you try landscapes and animals and people and coffee cups you know, just to see where the light is. 

James [00:02:03] Art Shots. 

Gary [00:02:04] Yeah. I found for me it was quite slow. So it’s all kind of tripods and setting things up, setting your lighting up. So that didn’t quite work for me. But then I found an outlet in studio photography and being able to manipulate people, less so objects, but more about people. And that kind of developed into my wedding work.

I’ve found that there was a process involved in building trust with people at a wedding. So I kind of built on that over the last 14 years really.

You know the client’s, you’re going to a wedding, so you already have that trust, so then it’s building trust with the bridal family. So Father of the Bride, Father of the Groom, you meet all those people in the morning. Then the Bridesmaids and the Groomsmen, you build the trust with them. And then that spills over into the guests, because invariably you turn up at a wedding and Auntie Betty in the corner will see you coming with your cameras on and go “Oh it’s the Photographer!”. 

James [00:03:17] Hide behind a handbag or something. 

Gary [00:03:17] Yes, “oh do I look alright, where’s a mirror?!”. My process is to put my camera down at that stage. She’s obviously very nervous about having a photograph taken so I put my camera down and I go over, I say Hello and I relax people, and that’s how I get the images that I get.

It’s that thought process of building trust with people so that they trust you and before long they forget you’re there and then I can work properly and get my work done that way. 

James [00:03:49] That’s really, really interesting because I’ve had it described to me, and certainly the process that we took when we were filming weddings would be basically to be as discreet as possible. But I love this idea. I think this is better that you approach people. Like you said you put your camera down, you turn back into a human being. You’re not just kind of like something weird happening in the background. I love that. 

Gary [00:04:14] Yeah, I’ve tried that in the past. 

James [00:04:14] Would you say that that’s really at the core of getting those emotions, those emotional shots? 

Gary [00:04:22] For me, yeah. I tried the fly on the wall approach. You know the photographer lurking in the shadows, kind of “Don’t disturb him he’s creating art”, but that didn’t really work for me, I’m a people person so I like to be around people.

I find it easier to be part of the wedding and gain trust from people by chatting with them. If I see somebody that looks nervous I’ll go over and I’ll say hello.

And then I’ll put my camera away. They forget that I’m a photographer. I walk away to another group. I’ll take some photos, I build trust with the Groomsmen. I’ll be taking photos… they will see me taking photos of the Groomsmen and the Groomsmen having a good time. And that instills confidence and that’s kind of how I work. I certainly do get stuck into a wedding. 

James [00:05:19] You can’t help it can you, you’re very hands on!

Gary [00:05:19] I think if you look at my reviews,  you’ll see a lot of people say how relaxed they felt and how relaxed I made the guests feel. That’s going through the process, I know some photographers are opposite – say Annie Liebowitz who will say, “it’s not a photographer’s job to relax her subject”. 

James [00:05:43] Right. 

Gary [00:05:45] For me, I’m not Annie Liebowitz, so I can’t walk into a room and gain that trust straight away, I have to earn that trust. 

James [00:05:54] At the end of the day I think there is a style and approach for everybody isn’t there? And this is why I wanted to approach this subject with you because I think it is a unique approach. It’s different maybe from the mainstream approach. I was thinking through this topic and thinking about a wedding coming up, we’re going to a friend’s wedding coming up in September. How am I going to feel as the guest there? And actually I think I’m going to be slightly weirded out by the photographer, because he’s going to be taking pictures of me and I’m not used to it.

Now if the photographer could detect that maybe I’m a little bit awkward or a bit strange or wooden in front of camera and he comes over he says “Hey James” and introduces himself. How relaxed would that make me feel? I think it’s a great idea, I think it’s superb. 

Gary [00:06:40] Yeah it’s taken me a while to develop my strategy and my process up until now. But I can confidently walk into a room, into a wedding room. I’ve got the experience to hold confidence and kind of chat to people and just talk to them you know, and they see you talking to Grandma, they see you talking to the Father of the Bride, they don’t see you lurking trying to get shots of them while they’re having a drink, that that builds confidence really. It takes a while but it works.

James [00:07:13] Are there any times when… because on a wedding day nerves are running really high aren’t they? Across the board for everybody! So are there any times when you have to mitigate those kind of nerves, or how would you say you bypass the nerves and still apply the friendly approach? 

Gary [00:07:36] Yeah definitely. I had an incident a couple of weeks ago where a Bride was standing with the Groom, she’d just entered the room, they were getting married.

The registrar was just starting to read the vows and the Bride just stopped and went blank and looked at me like “What the hell am I doing here, Help me! What am I doing”. So just a smile helps you build that trust.

So then you help them, I put my camera down and I just went “It’s OK”. Everything went away and she was able to get married and get through the time and that again is that trust thing. So you’re building on that trust and that starts at your very first e-mail from the clients, and then goes through the process of meeting them, because I like to meet most of my clients before they book me, just to make sure that we’re on the same page. We meet, we chat and you kind of know if it’s going to be your clients or not at that time. Whether or not they’re relaxed, if they’re looking for something a little bit more controlled or a bit more organised I suppose. That’s probably not me. 

James [00:08:49] Right. 

Gary [00:08:50] I kind of want my bride and groom to go out there, have fun, get married, enjoy being with their friends and family. And when I need to I’ll step up and kind of take charge at the Groups or whatever, but even the groups, it’s less controlled with me, I don’t bark orders, I think a smile goes a long way to getting what you want. So when Uncle Bill’s at the bar, rather than shouting “hey, Uncle Bill!” It’s more like “Can we just borrow you, Uncle Bill”. Can we have you in….” And they generally come. So I don’t have any problems with that and that’s all part of the fun. 

James [00:09:32] Now that we’ve talked it through actually I’m remembering a couple of incidents. It was the smiling at the bride story that you told. And remembering a couple of instances where especially during the meal, where I’d be bobbing about, I’d be taking a few shots of guests having a good time. And the Bride or the Groom would just glance over just to check that I was there. And sometimes there would be like a nice little wink you know, and there’s that moment between you, and it’s just reassuring isn’t it?

I think people forget, they really do forget that the photographer is someone that’s going to be around all day. Nobody else really has that much time spent with the Bride and Groom. So it has to be somebody that really works for you. 

Gary [00:10:14] Yeah without a doubt. 

James [00:10:16] On an emotional level. 

Gary [00:10:18] Yeah. Definitely. And then…. you know, the Bride and Groom going into the wedding, you may have done an engagement shoot, you haven’t built that complete trust, but by the end of the wedding, I always feel my Brides and Grooms are my friends. And that’s an important connection to make… you get a hug when you are leaving. It’s all been handshakes all along but then at the end of the wedding you get a big hug. 

James [00:10:43] Suddenly out of the blue. 

Gary [00:10:44] Yeah and that means a lot really. 

James [00:10:49] Cool. So if I was a Bride or Groom and obviously I’ve just become engaged, I’m starting to look out into the wide world of wedding planning. And I open up my computer and my brain explodes. And I’m like “I don’t know where to start. We need a photographer though. You know maybe a venue”. And so they’re shopping around for photographers and, I don’t know, like everything’s opened up now with the Internet, there’s so much information out there. And website after website after website can be quite tiring. So we’ve said or we’ve established that it’s a really good idea to have a chat, to see if there’s a connect. So is it best that people just kind of start ringing a few people?

How would they say the best way to approach you is… to find out if you’re the right photographer for them?. 

Gary [00:11:40] Yeah. I think first contact is generally through your Website. 

James [00:11:43] Yeah. 

Gary [00:11:44] That way if the contact form…. although I’m having problems with my contact form. 

James [00:11:48] I read that too. Yes. 

Gary [00:11:52] Oh did you! But yeah generally through the contact form and then you know actually that they’ve seen your work. 

James [00:11:56] Yeah. Okay. 

Gary [00:11:58] The phone call is generally somebody on spec that’s been recommended by somebody else, but may or may not have seen your work. So I always prefer that contact sheet through the Website. That way you know that they’ve seen your work and that’s a good starting point that they like your work!

James [00:12:16] Yes absolutely. So once you’ve received a contact from them would you generally email back, would you call them? How would you sort of start that engagement?

Gary [00:12:28] Yeah definitely it’s an email back to them. And an invitation to meet really. I send the brochure out which has a lot more details in than my website regarding prices and what have you. And then if that’s OK then generally they’ll come to my studio in Nottingham or I will travel out and meet them. And then that’s the start of the process.

And then once you can sit down over a cup of tea, a cup of coffee, bottle of beer, have a chat about the wedding, see what they’ve got in mind for their wedding, then it becomes a natural process really.

I think generally by the time the people have left, I kind of know if they’re going to book or they’re not. But I think the ones that made the effort to come to see me generally, more often than not, book. 

James [00:13:16] They’re pretty keen, yeah. 

Gary [00:13:17] Yeah, yeah. So it’s just that whether or not you get on I think and their vision is the same as yours. I can’t change the way I work, the way I work is the way I work.

So yeah. I’m very hands off at a wedding, I just want the guys to go and have a good time. Go and enjoy your wedding, if you go and enjoy your wedding. I get good pictures because you’re smiling, you’re happy.

And that’s the most important thing. If you worried about this and worried about the other then you’re going to look worried in your pictures. 

James [00:13:50] It is going to show, yeah that’s the truth of it. Yeah. So I guess choosing the right suppliers really is critical. and it’s what we say all the time. Very, very important. 

Gary [00:14:05] I’ve had lots of people at the studio come in and look at my wedding books and they’d go “the one regret for my wedding is I didn’t book a proper photographer” “We had Uncle Bill Do it”.And once it’s passed then you can’t take that back. 

James [00:14:22] We’ve had that story told to us from wedding suppliers.

This is the thing that shocks me, even professional wedding photographers have said they regret their wedding photography choices because they didn’t have it done professionally.

Yeah. So there it is folks. Well Gary thank you so much for sharing with us today. It’s been a really interesting chat. I think it’s a fascinating topic and I was very, very, very excited and interested to hear your unique spin on how you approach it, it’s something to think about for sure. 

Gary [00:14:51] It’s normal for me James! 

James [00:14:51] Yes, very normal for you obviously. Yes. But we like to peel up the carpet and expose the secret things for people. So they can see maybe other ways of considering what the options are. And this is something to think about. So thanks again. We really, really appreciate it. 

Gary [00:15:10] Nice to meet you! 

James [00:15:10] Yeah and you! And hopefully in the near future we might be able to get a chance to speak to you again. 

Gary [00:15:15] Yeah definitely. 

James [00:15:16] Awesome OK. Thanks a lot. See you later. 

Gary [00:15:18] Bye Bye. 

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