What Would They Know? Jodie Clifford of Merge Photography

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


Polka Dot Bride

I once read that photography is painting with light, colour and perspective – all the things that a painting done in a studio possesses. But it is the immediacy and the moments that are fleeting, captured when they happen, that is the magic of photography. Jodie of Merge Photography talks about using the light to bring “depth and feeling” to her images and that experience is what allows her to produce painterly and emotive images through the lens of a camera. But it’s also her excitement and love of her craft that is so evident in her work. And photographing a celebration of love – what could be more heart warming than that! Join us as Jodie tells us her story.

Where are you based?

I’m based in Perth, Western Australia but I’m originally from a little town called Donnybrook in the South West (so I do quite a lot of weddings all around the South of WA as well as Perth).

How long have you been photographing weddings?

I’d say quite a while… I assisted on my very first wedding way back in 1999 (while I was studying photography at TAFE) & worked for several studios over the years but have been photographing weddings as Merge Photography (my own business) for over 9 years now.

What do you see as your ‘signature style’ of photography?

I’m a “moments” kind of gal. I like to keep things relaxed and real & I think my images truly reflect my couples love and personalities. I’m a natural light photographer so a lot of what I do on a wedding day revolves around the light I find and how I can use that to bring depth and feeling to my images.

How has your style evolved over the years since you started?

A lot, ha-ha. But then so have weddings in general. When I first started photographing weddings in Perth there was nowhere near the variety of venues and suppliers there are now and “rustic” and “boho” just didn’t exist.

My style is a lot more candid and natural than it was all those years ago. I’m so excited by the creativity & individuality of my couples now and I love the way my style has evolved to fit with that.


Why do you love photographing weddings in particular?

They are just so beautiful.

It’s a day when everyone is so happy and the elements involved are so perfect. When I’m photographing a wedding I feel like I’m getting to be up close and personal with two people in love & part of an epic celebration, what could be more fun than that?

Is there a certain quality about WA brides or weddings?

I think when it comes to WA weddings we do have the weather on our side. Our season can run from September to June so it gives WA brides the chance to have a wedding in any season really. I can’t speak for all WA brides but my couples in particular are so chilled and fun, and they are honestly just the nicest people.

How do you harness the natural light to take your shots? Are there parts of the day that the light is particularly good for photographs?

I always make sure I get the most out of whatever I’m dealt with on a wedding day (I don’t have a lot of control over the weather unfortunately). The best & softest light/colours occur more naturally in the evening – the “golden hour”, it’s that last hour before the sun sets. I tell my couples that if they can manage some alone time then, it’s usually worth it. The trick is to see where/how the light is falling at a location and to work with it (be it filtering through trees, reflecting off a surface or creating interesting shadows).

When creating the ‘story’ of the wedding what elements are important to photograph – are the natural surroundings part of the wedding story?

I think anything a couple has put their heart and soul into is by default a part of the story. The setting of where a wedding was held falls into that, so I often do what I call “overall scene” shots of the ceremony and reception locations.

The people who attended the wedding are also a very integral key, who came along to celebrate you both tying the knot? Looking back you’ll want to know who was there. I always include a generous helping each of details, overall scene, family & friends in what I capture – I like to think of it as a well-rounded collection of images.

Do you also aim to capture the bride and groom’s personalities through your images? How do you help them to be authentic?

Absolutely. I think building a level of trust and a relaxed vibe helps me to make people feel at ease, the more at ease someone is the more likely they are to be themselves in front of my camera. My couples tell me I have a very calming personality… Being able to simultaneously work my camera, chat and give a bit of gentle direction works to my advantage too!

Do you see the service you give each bridal couple as an important part of your relationship with them?

Yes, Yes and Yes. I know I can deliver beautiful images to a couple but we also have to have trust and we need to be organized… I’m all about being organized.

I tell all my couples they can call on me anytime for advice or tips. I do everything I can to be helpful, after all planning a wedding is not something you do every day and it can be quite stressful. I really just want to alleviate some of that stress for my couples so they can focus on other more important aspects of their day…. like getting their groove on!

How do you go about establishing a relationship or connection with each couple?

Meeting in person is a pretty essential part of the whole process. In order to be authentic & themselves in front of my camera a couple needs to feel comfortable, that all begins with a coffee and a little chat. We are in each other’s company for the majority of a wedding day and if I make them feel icky well where’s the fun in that? It also gives us a chance to collaborate and for me to get a real feel of the vibe they have for their day.

How important is this in capturing the best images of the wedding?

When a couple feels like they already know me, that I understand the vision they have for their wedding and we’ve collaborated together the rest just falls into place. It’s honest emotion and a couple who are relaxed and in the moment that makes an image.

As the only photographer at the wedding, is it experience that allows you to be in the right place at the right time to capture all the moments of the day?

Yes I think so. I feel like after all these years I know the general flow of a typical wedding day like the back of my hand… but don’t think that means I’m not on my toes though, I’m always looking around at what’s happening and asking questions so I know what to expect. The key is to listen as well as look.

 How long is the wedding day for you – do you have set hours or are you flexible?

A typical wedding day for me is 8 hours. My collections are set on hours so my couples can chose how long they would like to have me at their wedding. It gives them the freedom to choose depending on the sort of day they are having or the sort of budget they have for photography.

Do you have a favourite part of the day where it all falls into place for you?

I actually really like bride’s prep. It’s at the start of the day when nerves & excitement are high and there is so much going on. It’s when I get a first glance at the dress & flowers (two of my fav elements) and I can float around and be a lot more candid with my shots.

Oh and the dance floor antics – I love those!

Having photographed so many weddings – are you able to give some advice to couples about their wedding day?

Be authentic and true to who you are. Make your day representative of you as a couple, what YOU love.

All things considered you’re day will be a kind of happy & festive blur so be sure to properly take in the moment and each other…. And make sure you eat, people never seem to make time to stop and enjoy their food!

What book are you reading at the moment?

I’m actually re reading “Happy: Why more or less everything is absolutely fine” by Derren Brown. He’s a mentalist & illusionist from the UK (if you haven’t heard of him look him up). I’m a huge fan.

What do you like to do to end the working week (or year)?

The end of the week and the start of my week kind of blend together, Monday being my day off work. I usually like to unwind (not to mention stretch my tired muscles) on a Monday with a yoga class. My yearly end of season ritual is to take a well-earned holiday, usually someplace warm, with a sangria in hand!

Thank you Jodie for sharing your story. Being a part of a day filled with love lifts the spirits – I can see why  Jodie loves what she does! To find out more about Merge Photography visit the website.



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