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Photography at weddings, why it differs from wedding photography? with Ian Weldon

Photography at weddings, why it differs from wedding photography? Ian Weldon, professional photographer shares his unique project for recording wedding days.

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


Ian Weldon, Photographer


James: [00:00:03] Ian thank you so much for joining me today it’s a pleasure to have you here. 

Ian: [00:00:06] Thank you very much for having me. 

James: [00:00:08] Yeah. Good stuff. So you are a photographer at weddings. And I’m going to make that distinction quite prevalent because the question coming up for you today is…

“Photography at weddings, why it differs from wedding photography?” 

Ian: [00:00:27] I think we all have an idea of what a wedding photographer is, and what a wedding photographer does, on a wedding day.

Recently I’ve been to weddings that have had, what I would call, a typical wedding photographer.

Now for me that photographer is running through a set of steps, to achieve a desired result. And he does that the same at each wedding. People are paying him to come and record the group shots, to take pictures of the food and the setup. And as we would expect the wedding photographer to do. I’m not really interested in that kind ot thing. 

James: [00:01:10] Like a checklist? 

Ian: [00:01:12] Like a checklist! Yeah, yeah, yeah. Indeed. And we can class that as photography. But it all depends on how you define photography. For me, I used to lecture on history of photography. My kind of background is more documentary photography.

So I approach each wedding as it’s own thing. And I photograph it as it happens, rather than running through a desired set of steps.

So for me I am a photographer that photographs a wedding event, rather than a wedding photographer. And I’m not saying one is better than the other, or what I do has more value than somebody who photographs it in a different way. It’s just a different way of doing it. And I suppose anybody looking for a photographer, or anybody to photograph, or document their wedding, should be aware that there is more than one option. 

James: [00:02:13] That’s brilliant, and I’m so glad that we’ve met actually because I would consider our wedding photographer to be a photographer at weddings, as opposed to a wedding photographer. In the sense that he refused to do the same thing twice. He would turn up and read the tone of the day. And more often than not, find something that suited the bride and groom. A style, or maybe a little trick, or a little tweak to the photography that would then provide something that was legitimately bespoke for the bride and groom. Which I think is something along the lines of where we are here, isn’t it? This is approaching the day as a unique event. 

Ian: [00:02:52] Yes. Yes indeed. But it comes down to…

I don’t think the terminology really means anything in the wedding industry anymore. Because if something is deemed popular, then that is just adopted by every other photographer.

So they come across as popular. I would say the term documentary wedding photographer, it doesn’t really make any sense, in the way that it’s being used. They might be making documentary style photographs. But when you see a documentary wedding photographer who has a portfolio that is predominantly couples and group shots, that’s not really what we would call documentary photography. From my perspective, I started shooting weddings maybe seven years ago to earn money to work on another project. It turns out the weddings became my project. So for me it’s every wedding, and every event, although it’s individual to each couple, that is adding to my body of work surrounding weddings in my time.

So if I approached every single one with the same checklist, I wouldn’t be getting a varied amount of images, that kind of give us a story of different types of weddings and different scenarios.

And although I have become aware that I live in the north of England, and I photograph weddings in backyards, in County Durham. I’ve also photographed weddings in the Hollywood Hills, in mansions in the Hollywood Hills. It doesn’t really matter where it is, who the people are, how much they’ve paid. When it comes down to it, a wedding is a wedding. And wherever you go in the world, the people are all the same. And these are the things that I’m getting from my project as far as weddings are concerned. So yeah I mean, it all comes down to what people want.

You know, for me, if it was me, I would want somebody to document the day as it is, rather than a contrived idea of what they think it should be. 

James: [00:04:50] Fantastic. Would you say that there is a specific type of bride and groom that is attracted to your work? Because I mean, when I was browsing your Website and your portfolio, obviously, I can see that your work is different. I guess that speaks to me as a person. It’s something that I deliberately seek out when I look for things. So is there a typical bride and groom that is attracted to your work? 

[00:05:14] Mostly it is people who understand what it is. First of all, what it is that I’m doing. And they have an idea about photography. They understand photography more than somebody who has never come in contact with photography in their whole lives, and all of a sudden they are getting married. And that is an issue for couples, because there’s just so much out there. And how do you know what is good and what is bad? You know. But then again that’s all subjective anyway. So I think it’s people who understand what it is they want, and they know at least about photography.

And I’ve had artists and graphic designers and musicians and actors. And these are people who are kind of actively involved with, I suppose, within the arts. And they can tell the difference. And obviously the difference means something to them. 

James: [00:06:06] I’ve teased the answer out of you there on purpose actually because our photographer said exactly the same thing. In fact most of his clients are in fact other wedding photographers. 

Ian: [00:06:15] I’ve never shot a wedding photographers wedding before. 

James: [00:06:20] Yes it’s interesting that you brought up the point about them knowing about photography. I mean that’s a really good point. Cool. So we’ve just got a fun quick question, just to round things out for you. If you’d be so kind. And that is…

“what’s the most surprising thing that’s ever happened to you at a wedding?”

Dig deep! 

Ian: [00:06:39] That’s a good one! What’s the most surprising thing? You know to be fair, I’m surprised by some of the images that I get. People have done jumping in swimming pools and throwing the cake at each other. Or people dropping the cake, or fireworks going off at inappropriate times. Or set up to go off at a certain time, but then going off when they weren’t supposed to be going off. Just daily life, and things that happen to people on a daily basis, all around the world. And that’s what I’m interested in. So it’s all a surprise. 

James: [00:07:24] So can we take from that then that you are actually encouraged by the surprising? As opposed to afraid of it? 

Ian: [00:07:30] Indeed. Yeah, yeah. If something…

It’s always good when something unexpected happens. Because you have to think around that, and you have to be able to capture that.

And if nothing really happens during the day, then it makes it more difficult I think to find those photographs. But they’re always there. Sometimes you have to try harder. Yeah but unexpected things happening is good to keep you on your toes, and keep you learning. 

James: [00:08:00] So based on the concept of embracing the unexpected, how much input do you actually require from the bride and groom in terms of what’s going to happen? Or are you happy just to turn up and let it flow in front of you. 

Ian: [00:08:12] Yeah I think my kind of approach is turn up on the morning and see what happens. Sorry I’m bouncing around there with my camera? 

James: [00:08:21] Only a little bit. I can bounce too to level it out. 

Ian: [00:08:25] Yes so just turn up on the morning and see what happens. Obviously I speak to couples beforehand, and I get a rundown of what’s going to happen and if there’s anything important. But I’m there all day. I’m not going to be somewhere where that I can’t be where I need to be, if that makes sense. You know, I’m kind of always there. I’m involved. So I know when things are happening, and what’s going on. But for me it’s a more realistic document of the day. But again, as I said, that’s all subjective. If people want to stand in lines and have their photograph taken. And if people want loads of bride and groom portraits, then that’s their reality, and that’s what they choose for their day. I’m not interested in that, and I’m not trying to fill a commercial need. I’m filling an artistic need. So although I do make, I suppose, the majority of my income from weddings. That is not why I shoot weddings.

I don’t shoot for an income, I’m not chasing the money. I’m making photographs. I approach it as a photographer, rather than a business owner that shoots weddings, or a photographer that is in the business of shooting weddings.

That leaves me free to be able to pretty much do what I want. 

James: [00:09:48] So do you ever use a second shooter? Because obviously if a bride and groom are getting ready at different locations. Is that logistics that you just arrange with them beforehand or use a second shooter? 

Ian: [00:09:58] Yeah. Mostly. In seven years I don’t think I’ve shot a wedding where the bride and groom are too far apart, that I can’t get to them both. And I’m there most of the day. I’m around from 9, 10 o’clock in the morning, and you can only spend… How much can you do with a bride and two bridesmaids and a makeup artist, in three hours? Even if the groom or the bride are an hour apart, I can still get between them, and see them both, before I have to get to the ceremony.

I don’t use a second shooter because I don’t want to be responsible for that. I’ve got enough to think about. I’m thinking about making photographs. And it all works. I’ve got a good system, you know. 

James: [00:10:40] Brilliant! No need to micromanage. 

Ian: [00:10:42] No. 

James: [00:10:45] Fantastic. Ian that’s been incredible. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, your innermost thoughts and strategies with us today. Really appreciate that. 

Ian: [00:10:53] No problem. My hair’s a mess. It’s raining up here and I’ve had to walk the dog. 

James: [00:11:02] It’s obsoletely chucking it down here as well. 

Ian: [00:11:06] Yeah. Hey man thanks. Cool. 

James: [00:11:08] Awesome. Really appreciate it. 

Ian: [00:11:10] No problem. 

James: [00:11:12] Yeah like I say hopefully we’ll get the chance to speak to you again soon. 

Ian: [00:11:15] OK no problem. Just let me know. 

James: [00:11:18] All right take care Ian. Thanks a lot. 

Ian: [00:11:19] Cheers mate! 

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