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What Would They Know? Sarah Nalder of Photography by Sarah J

by | Photography Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom


Polka Dot Bride

photography by sarah j What Would They Know? Sarah Nalder of Photography by Sarah J

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.

Sarah J Image 2RS What Would They Know? Sarah Nalder of Photography by Sarah J

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.

Sarah J Image 1RS What Would They Know? Sarah Nalder of Photography by Sarah J

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?

 Most people think it’s all cameras and shooting but really I mostly spend 1 day a week shooting and the rest of the week editing couple’s wedding photos and designing their albums.

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.

Sarah J Image 4RS What Would They Know? Sarah Nalder of Photography by Sarah J

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!

Sarah J Image 3RS What Would They Know? Sarah Nalder of Photography by Sarah J

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.

 2. Allow plenty of time for photos together, not just for photography’s sake. During the day you spend so much time in the spotlight and with all your guests wanting a little piece of you and taking you away from each other, it can get a little overwhelming. It’s nice to have some quiet time out with your new hubby or wifey and giggle about when you couldn’t get the ring on their finger during the vows. You will definitely appreciate it on the day.3. Create a wedding day that is you and your fiancée and don’t be afraid to bend the rules. Anything goes these days so don’t let people such as parents or grandparents scare you in to tradition.

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!!!

Sarah J Image 5RS What Would They Know? Sarah Nalder of Photography by Sarah J

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

Top Ten Destination Wedding Locations

by | Photography Wisdom, Wisdom


Lisa Michele Burns Photographer
Find me on Ms Polka Dot's Directory |

As a destination wedding photographer and huge travel addict, I’m a big fan of gathering your closest family and friends and making a holiday of your wedding. There are so many amazing locations both close to home and far away so I’ve put together a little list of my top ten based on destinations I’ve photographed and places I’ve always dreamed of photographing weddings in!

1. Whitsundays, Queensland

Beach weddings, island landscapes and the perfect location for underwater bridal shoots

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2. Koh Samui, Thailand

Culture mixed with tropical romance

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3. Aix en Provence, France

Rolling country hills with fields of lavender and colourful city façades

Aix en Provence Top Ten Destination Wedding Locations

4. Whitesands, Vanuatu

Rustic coral cabins and white sandy beaches

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5. Santorini, Greece

White washed walls and deep blue water…a photographer’s dream!

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6.Marrakech, Morocco

Aladdin come to life and a dream of mine to shoot a wedding here since visiting in 2007


Marrakech1 550x368 Top Ten Destination Wedding Locations

7. Bali, Indonesia

Surf, rice paddies and laid back beach weddings

8.Venice, Italy

Canals, gondolas and so many incredible backdrops for images

Venice Top Ten Destination Wedding Locations

9. Kyoto, Japan

Bamboo groves, temples and imagine endless sushi at your reception

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10. British Columbia, Canada

The images of Banff National Park just ooze fairytale wedding scenes

All images courtesy of Lisa Michele Burns

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Ms Gingham says: A real visual feast!

Lisa Michele Burns Photographer says: “I love my dog and if she could carry a camera and not wag her tail and jump in a frenzy with excitement whenever someone comes near I’d bring her along to every single event as my furry sidekick.”

Selecting A Hawaii Wedding Planner

by | Wedding Planning Wisdom, Wisdom


Michelle of Michelle Garibay Events

Planning a Hawaii destination wedding can bring its own set of challenges and stress, but it also can be so much more fun, too! However, before you dive into all of the wedding blogs to find a wedding consultant right for you, there are five very important factors to consider first:

theresa justin 0445 550x826 Selecting A Hawaii Wedding Planner

Christie Pham Photography

1. Your Wedding Planner Doesn’t Have To Be “In-House” To Provide Amazing Service
Sometimes someone on the outside can better provide the assistance you need. Experience IS important but it doesn’t necessarily mean the consultant who works solely at your chosen venue can deliver what you envision just because they work there. Perhaps you prefer a more unique approach, even assurances you are not limited to a few service providers. If your consultant is a true professional, they will take care of all of the necessary due diligence to ensure your day runs smoothly and their portfolio should give you a good snapshot of their polish.

2. Make Sure You and Your Wedding Planner Speak The Same Language
No, I’m not talking about speaking English. I am referring to style, expectations and personality! Hawaii’s culture is much different and slower-paced. A lot of destination couples don’t understand this and it takes quite a bit of frustration getting used to it. If you expect prompt communications as a characteristic of your ideal consultant be sure you hire someone who fits the bill. Be very clear on your expectations and don’t be afraid to ask them to give you an overview of how the planning process will go. And, make sure you and your consultant have personality compatibility! You are going to be spending a LOT of time with them, so it makes sense that you need to click from the start!

3. Know What You Are Paying For
It is also really important for you to understand how your potential consultant structures their pricing so you better understand how they will go about the process of planning your wedding. There are typically two formats – flat fee or percentage. The flat fee format is more transparent where you see a flat retainer fee and the services that are included with that fee. The percentage method is based on the service providers you hire for your wedding and your consultant charges a commission or percentage based on the providers’ contract amounts. While there is nothing legally wrong with this method and it is the norm in some areas (Maui, being one), it is certainly less transparent for you in understanding exactly how much you are spending on your consultant and when they only work with “certain vendors” you have to wonder who really wins here.

website home page Selecting A Hawaii Wedding Planner

Rachel Robertson Photography

4. Package vs. Custom
It is important to ensure your expectations are being met during the planning process, meaning that the service you select meets your needs creatively, too. If you prefer your wedding to be tailored to your needs and vision, then a package service may not be the best option for you. Packages are predetermined with specific vendors and limitations in mind that fit the price point indicated. They are designed for ease and convenience for brides who may be too busy or not be interested in diving into the details and design of customizing their wedding other than passing along colors and menu selections. A custom service typically means that a proposal is put together based on your needs, vision and budget and allows for more control and collaboration over the design of your wedding. It is imperative that you determine for yourself which category most fits who you are and book the consultant who will complement your needs.

5. The Contract
When couples have never planned a wedding before, they may overlook the overall tone of the foundation for your relationship – the contract. Make sure the proposal and contract outlines exactly what services you are and are NOT getting. Don’t assume. If you are a detailed person, then a vague and generalized contract, and thus, that particular professional, may not be a good choice for you. If you are a little more relaxed in your wedding planning approach, then you might be more comfortable with someone who isn’t as efficient and detailed and goes with the flow.

While value and services are certainly important when selecting the consultant to assist you with your destination wedding, it is equally important to collaborate with someone who is compatible with your personality, communication style and expectations. This will ensure your planning process will be as fun and stress-free as possible!

Swirl divider1 Selecting A Hawaii Wedding Planner

Ms Gingham says: Sound advice here! If you want your wedding planner to be available to help you through the whole process then you need to specify or vice versa.

About Michelle of Michelle Garibay Events: “I am a California native but lived on Oahu for 5 years and even when I lived there, most of my clients were destination wedding couples. That is my speciality and who I appeal to. I am focused on destination weddings on Oahu, how to get the most out of your destination wedding planner, choosing the right venue and making the process simpler and more enjoyable for those couples planning from afar, and more. It can be overwhelming, but we are here to take the stress and uncertainty out of it!”

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