MAKE A MOVE
There is some debate about what makes the perfect wedding photograph, but as with other forms of art, the most beautiful images are the ones that capture authentic human emotion. With camera technology surpassing unimaginable heights, there is no need to adhere to the rigid, unsmiling poses of the 1800s, when photographers can instead capture genuine, unforced moments. To find out just how this is done, Melbourne Wedding & Bride’s Katie Livingston sits down with Matt Hillman, owner and operator of HP Photography & Photobooths. Together, the pair discuss how to capture the perfect action shot, and how movement in photography can be used to tell a story.
For photographer Matt Hillman, the most rewarding part of the job is at the end of the day when couples catch up with him for the photo viewing session. “Seeing their genuine reactions to my work, happy tears, giggles at the fun, candid moments that we’ve captured – that’s the payoff for me,” he says. Although this comes as naturally as breathing to Hillman, immortalising the full scope of such an important day is no easy feat, and requires a careful blend of skill, knowledge and intuition. Here, under the guidance of a true expert, Melbourne Wedding & Bride explores just how this is done, and what factors need to be taken into consideration.
THE PRACTICAL MOVE
From a technical perspective, being able to capture a moving subject can really add depth to a photograph, and Hillman explains that doing so comes down to two factors: speed and creativity. “I use a lens that is capable of shooting longer distances but also allows me to capture couples at close range,” Hillman explains, “so I never miss a moment while I’m swapping out lenses on my workhorse beast of a camera!” Hillman also explains that in order to capture movement, he opts for faster shutter speeds, especially for moments like the first dance where movement is paramount. “Sometimes creativity creeps in and I’ll leave the speed lower, so that the sweeping movement of the dress is a slight blur like it’s literally in motion in the photograph,” he notes. Being ready at all times is crucial to capturing precious moments as they happen organically over the course of the celebration.
While it’s certainly important to go with the flow, a little preplanning never hurt anyone – especially when it comes to key moments like the first dance. Hillman explains that to achieve the perfect result, he employs a few tricks to ensure he’s in the right place at the right time. “I’ll speak with the venue staff to ensure I know when it’s going to happen, and where if the dance floor isn’t clearly marked out, I’ll [also] approach guests closest to the dance floor and let them know and ask them politely to ensure that they give me space to move around and through them,” he says. To avoid bumping into anything mid-routine, Hillman also makes a note of where things like dry ice or fog machines are located beforehand. And if the first dance is choreographed, then he will speak with the couple to learn part of the routine and ensure that the big, showstopping moves make it onto the camera roll.
SOMETHING IN THE WAY SHE MOVES
“It’s funny,” Hillman says, “you say ‘action shots’ and some couples instantly jump to pyrotechnics and explosions.” But as the photographer explains, an action shot is simply anything where there is movement, and capturing this movement in the pivotal moments of the day is the key to telling a love story. “I’ve found, in my experience, that the story of the day comes from the expressions that people make, that are immortalised forever in the photos that I capture,” Hillman says. “The way a bridesmaid or groomsman is finally able to let loose on the dancefloor after a long day, a moment between the couple after they’ve sat down at their table for the first time for their first meal as a married couple, the moment of sheer terror on a partner’s face when their girl catches the bouquet; those are the moments that tell the unique story of the wedding day.”
While it is all these little moments that come together in a photo album to truly capture the couples love for each other, for Hillman, the best shots always come just after the family photo session, when the bridal party and family members are dismissed, and he is left with just the couple on their own; a time where they can relax and feel comfortable without any outside influences. “It’s the first time that they get to celebrate on their own that they are now a married couple, and I get to capture that,” he says. “It’s just beautiful and humbling!”
YOU WON’T HAVE TO MOVE A MUSCLE
Brilliant photography aside, when it comes to capturing your special day, a big part of a photographer’s job is to make the whole experience as effortless as possible for you and your partner. “It’s no secret that I do adapt my personality to suit each couple,” Hillman says. “I might be more reserved and let them take the lead, or may even tell a few jokes or make social commentary about current pop-culture or anything else that might be topical, if that’s what makes them feel more relaxed and comfortable.” Hillman also explains that by being calm and comfortable himself, he can build trust with the couple, and help them feel more relaxed in front of the camera. “Once the photographer arrives, things can get very real for everyone, and therefore, I’ll usually start by photographing the accessories that each partner has, so that they can get used to the camera click.”
Despite all the best planning, sometimes there are just things that are outside of our control. But bad weather, suboptimal lighting or a cheeky guest running in front of the camera are just things that all seasoned photographers prepare for, and Hillman’s advice is to not worry too much about it. After all, there’s no way to change the weather for example, and Hillman explains that he always brings six transparent umbrellas to every wedding. “I’ve taken some great moments on rainy days with those umbrellas and they are staples for me now,” he says.
Every wedding is unique, and experienced photographers will be able to work with almost any venue, couple and weather conditions. Although your photographer will go above and beyond to ensure the final shots are perfect, Hillman does stress that editing ‘Uncle Joe with his iPad Pro’ out of images can be difficult and time consuming, so he asks guests not to stand up to take photos in the middle of the ceremony or when someone is walking down the aisle. “You never know where the pro photographer may be shooting from, and from what distance.”
The best images truly evolve from genuine, heartfelt moments, and those are something that can’t be forced, so Hillman’s parting advice is to put in the effort to find a photographer that you really get along well with. If you’re more relaxed, then your photographer will be able to capture you at your partner at your very best. This is your special day, so enjoy yourself and let your trusted photographer preserve those precious memories for years to come.
Image courtesy of HP Photography & Photobooths