Within your wedding images lie the personalities of you – the bride and groom, and then in another sense, the photographer. Their style and abilities to capture the fleeting moments, to relax you enough to trust the process and to genuinely express your emotions, is an art form in itself. Kerryn of Kerryn Lee Photography’s experience in all sorts of situations that may arise at an emotionally charged wedding day, is so obviously an asset that only 14 years in the business can bring, that the feeling that she has your back, while honouring your love and your day, is the real gift. All approached with a sense of humour and commitment that ensures that you will have the best images of the day. Let’s join Kerryn as she shares her story.
What or who influenced you to choose photography as your profession?
After a 3 year photography course and shooting all kinds of genres, I realised that photojournalism was the cream of the crop. I’ve always loved Sebastião Salgado’s artistic candids, often in war torn countries with hard-to-swallow subjects. His work definitely influenced my core. There’s such a stark contrast between this and the wedding work I now do, but I love the parallels. Whether someone documents the hardest, most painful scenes on the planet, or the happiest, most emotional and monumental scenes of a lifetime; I love seeing the genuine story, and then utilising the light to emphasize it. It makes me tingle. So why didn’t you do end up working for the press, I hear you say? Well, weddings are like putting your hand up for the strawberries and cream, versus the hard-to-chew, raw and acquired taste of a parsnip.
How long have you been a wedding photographer?
I started young, so I’m up to 14 years now!
What inspires you about photography and keeps you going – rain, hail or shine?
It’s the people. As much as I love good aesthetics and light; working with all types of people and seeing their personalities put into an image, followed by the gratitude that comes with capturing that, is just the beginning. No matter how hard it might be some days, I love the challenge of cracking shells.
What do you love about wedding photography in particular?
There’s two things.
Weddings are full of natural moments that are often highly emotional. And while some elements are predictable, I love seeing all the unpredictable moments and snapping them up; like the moment a swimmer realizes they’ve won a race by a millionth of a second. It’s the split seconds that count when shooting candid. I love the race of it, the quick thinking, and balancing all this with light. It’s more of a challenge than most would appreciate, but when you’ve been in the game for so many years, it becomes a real challenge to yourself as an artist, to keep stretching. It’s not a mere money making event. It’s the opportunity to better my craft and practice something that will forever need growth, much the same as a musician. Why stay at a certain level of awesome when you can keep reaching to heights unknown?
The second thing I love is the psychology of it all. Yes, the psychology. I did study this briefly and love the subject, but never thought it would come into play so much at a wedding!
So picture this… You’re at a wedding, there are bucket loads of personalities, all having an impact on each other. Emotion is high, sometimes even intense. The mother in law isn’t happy with who knows what ridiculous detail, and has to drag the couple through the mud on their day. The groom is not digging the camera or the limelight. The priest has taken on the role as army general. The kids are ready for a sleep and their parents are stressing, maybe arguing. Heck the weather is off and the bride is just upset it’s not looking like Pinterest. Then there’s the photographer, who at times, is a director of sorts. While I’m not one to intervene (and admittedly, I’m mostly introverted – not that there’s anything wrong with that!) there comes a time and a place when some outsider insight and reassurance wins the day. Being a people-person is a must; introverted or not. Reading between the lines and knowing what to say and when to say it, is where the psychology game gets real. Maybe this seems intense, but I’ve seen it happen a million times. Believe it or not; getting your psych on is a massive part of the outcome of a number of images shot at a wedding. But the real moment of truth is during the “portraits”, particularly when you have the couple by themselves. You’ve got maybe an hour to break down enough walls to get a really decent amount of images that are truthful. The ones that display what their relationship means to them and who they are. Not everyone is overtly affectionate, or romantic, or naturally humorous, so it’s a matter of reading people and their body language and making sure the images are true to them, and definitely not awkward. It’s not that hard to read people’s personalities; you just need to emphasize who they are with your camera, within the short time you have. This is something I love about shooting weddings.
How would you describe your style?
Like an ever-changing ball of fairy floss.
How do you create that style in your images?
It starts with the light and goes from there.
What are the qualities you look for when setting up a shot?
Getting couples to loosen up is just the beginning. I love looking for the ideal light and pairing it with genuine candids whenever possible.
Some of us don’t like being photographed. Do you have any tips you can give to bridal couples?
Know your photographer and their work. This gives you the trust to open up and be genuine in front of a camera. Relax and just focus on your partner. J
Are there differences in the way couples approach the photography for their wedding now (from when you started)? What do couples expect?
Back in the day, I think most couples were looking for a bit more tradition and posing. Thankfully these days, couples are really appreciating the genuine and more natural looking galleries, as an entire story of the day. Genuine portraits, even when some are somewhat directed, are what become the most appreciated images in decades to come.
What preparations do you make to photograph a wedding? Do you do a lot of pre-planning?
In some ways, I do… Itineraries, making sure we’re all on the same page in every way, so everyone can completely relax on the day. In other ways, I drink tea on the run and chill to specially chosen music when driving.
On the wedding day, how do you remain unobtrusive, so that you are able to take the most natural shots of the couple and their guests?
I’ve got these massive goggles paired with a black latex suit and hand cut wings, that all help with looking like a fly on the wall. No one dares notice such wonder, which allows complete stealth and ‘unobtrusive’ photography.
But seriously, I just smile and try to blend in as a friend or guest who’s just having fun but keeping out of the way. A smile goes a long way.
Any funny stories of situations that happened while photographing?
Hmmm, not so funny to me but perhaps to the reader …
I’ve had a couple of bull ant bites at weddings. One in particular was an incredibly massive Soldier Bull Ant that had made it’s way up my pants in the middle of the portrait session (thank goodness not the ceremony), unbeknown to me at the time. It started the attack on my backside, and anyone who’s had a Soldier bull ant attacking them will know that their power and force, far outweighs the regular bull ant. I literally had to drop my gear and run. There were no toilets to be seen. I was under attack. I ran for what seemed like a lifetime and at last, the mere Men’s toilet was all I could find. The Ladies must have been somewhere at the other end of the corridor. I ran into a cubicle and dropped my pants, and there was the mother of all Soldier ants. I was covered in very large welts. I quickly got that sorted and without wanting to waste any more time away from the shoot, I stepped out, only to find a poor gentleman in shock as he stood at the urinal. I shuffled out the door. So there’s that. And then the fact that they announced this whole thing while announcing the bridal party into the reception room. Why? Why?! My moment of fame was not what I’d hoped but genuine, none the less.
What are some favourite destinations you have visited in the course of your work?
I loved shooting a couple of weddings in Samoa (my goodness; their food wins the award for best food ever), regional Victoria and WA.
Creatively, where, and doing what, makes you feel most inspired?
I’m most inspired when I’m in the wild, or at a live music gig. But sometimes just in the shower… that’s where I have space to think. I mean, how often do we get the chance to chill out with no devices, people, audio, visuals etc. It’s a pretty crafty little spot to dream!
In what ways do you regularly challenge yourself creatively with your work?
I challenge myself with every wedding; the constant focus of capturing great candids or helping to design moments during portraits that generate candids, all while finding the right light and then trying to get an artistic edge.
Beyond weddings, it’s the ever-changing exploration of music.
If you could shoot a wedding anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Palm Springs, Southern California. Hands down. Because who doesn’t love a good oasis of 1960’s/70’s architecture in the desert?
What is the best piece of advice you have received – business or otherwise?
Love doesn’t take offense. 1 Cor 13:5
When you get your head around this and what it looks like in action, it’s intense. It changes the whole game.
What would you tell your younger self – knowing what you know now?
Get up earlier and finish work earlier. Spend the late afternoon doing things for yourself, before you have babies!
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Spare time is rare these days. But I love making time; to play with my bub and watch him grow, to make memories with my husband. I could be working more and more, but I know this time is precious and will be gone, all too soon. I also enjoy anything competitive; allowing my true wild side to shine haha. I love drinking tea, bush walking, collecting vintage art, exploring country towns, basically the usual with a bit of random dancing on the side.
We’ve loved sharing Kerryn’s story today with you. To find out more about Kerryn Lee Photography visit the website.
Headshot by Jake Plumridge