We’re lucky to have Bendigo based photographer Photography by Sarah J join us today on Polka Dot Wisdom! Sarah travels the country to photographs weddings and creates such a fun atmosphere with her beautiful wedding photographs! I’m excited to dive in and learn more about what makes Sarah tick today!
Please introduce yourself to us.
Hello there, I’m Sarah (Jayne) Nalder.
Do you have a mentor, or someone you admire, who has influenced you in your career?
Yes! Though he would prefer to be seen as a friend helping out than a mentor. I met Pete Dobré 7 and a half years ago, he stumbled in to my parent’s gallery in Swan Hill while promoting his new book on the Murray River. Pete is South Australia’s premier landscape photographer and has been for many years. If you ever see a man out amongst a beautiful landscape topped with a great sky holding a camera while wearing a red hat, red T-Shirt, blue shorts and odd socks, chances are it’s him. Pete has served as my mentor, someone I admire, a huge influence through my career to date and most importantly he has been my friend.
Pete has a huge heart for people and when he is not working hard which is a lot of the time he spends his free time helping out people who have the same interest in photography. Not only is his work inspiring, but also his dedication and passion towards people and helping them to achieve their goals in life.
How did you learn your photography skills?
My camera knowledge and skills stems from two sources mainly. The first from Pete through photographing landscapes. I would go on little trips with Pete and South Australian wedding photographer Nick Bracken. We planned a couple of landscape trips while I was on uni holidays to places like Kangaroo Island and The Great Ocean Road. How I miss going on shooting trips with these two hilarious, lovable larrikins. Unfortunately these days, time and everyone’s busy lives make it hard to organise more trips away. These trips were full of plenty of laughs and great times. Now that I look back I feel like this was a huge turning point for me as a photographer, where I learned so much and also decided this was something I wanted to do for a long long time.
I also learned plenty from my mum who is a wedding photographer and has been since I was in mid primary school. We have been shooting weddings together on and off for 8 years and are always learning together. What I loved about learning from mum is that she always gave me the freedom to shoot weddings how ever I wanted. She would be first camera while I moved around trying different angles and different lenses. This gave me the opportunity to grow and develop my own style. Mum has always been so wonderful like that throughout life, being there if I ever needed but still stepping back far enough to give me the confidence to discover who I am.
I learned my foundation of photographing weddings from her.
What is your favourite camera at present (and what would you use if money was no object?)
That’s the thing - when you are photographer money can’t be an object when you are buying your camera. You really need to weigh up the options of what is the right camera for you and what you photograph.
These days there are some pretty fancy cameras coming out and though they would be great to use some just wouldn’t be practical for weddings. Keeping in mind even though I am primarily a wedding photographer I also love shooting other things in my time off.
If I could I would have a trove of cameras and lenses that I could select from depending on what I was shooting for the day, that would be great! I could just walk in to my little camera vault and grab a Nikon D800 because today I am going to do some landscapes.
I am still waiting for what I personally perceive to be my perfect camera. When learning I used Nikon, now I shoot with Canon, though both have great features. If I could take my favorite features from all of the best cameras and make something of my own, that would be the camera I would get!
Where are you based?
Central Victoria in Bendigo which has roughly 100,000 people. Even though I am based in Bendigo I shoot fewer weddings here than I do away.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
So a day for me looks like Lightroom, Photoshop, book and album making and many pots of Peach and Green tea, and maybe….. definitely a chocolate here or there! This is the up and down side of having an at home studio.
Do you travel to shoot weddings?
Absolutely!! This is one of my favorite parts of what I do! Going to new and exciting places is always a huge buzz for me, it’s so much fun! Getting in the car or getting on a jet to go somewhere to shoot a wedding is like embarking on a new and exciting adventure full of amazing possibilities. It’s the best feeling!
What does being a photographer/story teller of one of the most important days in someone’s life feel like?
It’s wonderful! Outside of this it’s very hard to put in to words what it is actually like. The fact that I can share in the day is something that is really special to me, add this to the fact that I am able to tell my couple’s story to others and back to them through my photos, it’s beyond words!
Do you have a particular style (or distinctive style) that is your signature?
I have a bit of eclectic, whimsical, natural style this is accented by each couple I photograph, their surrounds and personalities. When I meet a couple I ask them certain questions so I can work out what they are like as a couple and how they would respond to being in front of the camera. This is an important part of my process because for me it’s all about letting couples be themselves and feel totally comfortable in their own skin in front of the camera. I want to give them images which are naturally them so that when they look back they can feel that same feeling of excitement they had on the day. Each photo is a reminder of a feeling they had at that point of the day.
What is your best advice to brides and grooms?
1. Don’t forget to take in the significance of what the day is all about while it’s happening and enjoy it, it’s over in a flash! This also applies to the days leading up to the wedding. Couples can get a bit lost in planning and preparing they forget that this is the first time their whole family has been together in years.
My dream wedding shoot would go something like this….
For me it wouldn’t be the big out there wedding people might expect. Of course something like a nice relaxed beach wedding in Hawaii would be great fun, and a wedding in the Mediterranean wouldn’t go astray. For me a dream wedding shoot would be:
A beautiful simple handmade wedding in the middle of a field or on a hilltop with plenty of gorgeous details for me to photograph. A relaxed, quirky couple who are absolutely crazy about each other surrounded by a bunch of loving happy guests. A handful of brilliant locations for the shoot with some beautiful dark overcast skies (no rain of course). Finish the day with a balmy clear night under the stars with again with beautiful personalised touches to the reception.
If you weren’t a photographer what would you be?
It would have to be something creative, I couldn’t imagine my life without creativity. I think anyone who is creative couldn’t imagine their life without creativity. I love the idea of a furniture maker at the moment, but not your usual carpenter, someone who makes all kinds of quirky pieces out of existing recycled materials. That would be amazing!!!
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
If I have a weekend free I love going down to Daylesford and dropping in on the Daylesford Mill Market followed by a visit to Lavendula. This is a gorgeous old Swiss/Italian lavender farm which has a fabulous little café. Picture old rustic setting with cobble stone paths, lush 100 year old vegetable gardens, a beautiful bubbling brook with bocce a few animals and great food! So taking friends here and sipping Lavenade and eating lavender scones for a number of hours is a very simple way to enjoy a day off.
Favourite hangout for coffee and cake?
T’Hooft! This is a great little quirky, Retro flavored cafe in Bendigo. It’s almost as if they went and borrowed all of my Great Aunty Gladys’ furniture for their cafe. What’s even better is the food! I never get sick of this place or their waffles!
Thank you Sarah for sharing your ideas and a little of your background with us today. To find out more about her photography, please visit Sarah’s website to view more of her work!
Images by Photography by Sarah J
Portrait by Glenys from Essae Photography