When photographs taken beyond the image into the realm of art, are what you love, then Nigel Unsworth Studios is the photographer for you. His photographs go beyond the simplicity of a moment in time and with an artist’s flair for light, exude old world elegance with a dramatic old Hollywood feel to the images. There’s a feeling of a story behind the photograph – of glamour, love, perhaps intrigue sometimes too – just like in an old painting or film. Yet there is still a very personal quality to each image of a moment captured – and that’s the essence of photography that will capture your heart over the years to come – because no matter what, it’s all about love! Let’s join Nigel for a chat about his photography.
When and where did your passion for photography start?
My passion for photography started when I was in High School and continued on later through TAFE and University. Our school had extra non curriculum courses we could do and photography was one of them.
What or who inspires you?
I’m inspired by travel, films, art and other photography. I love independent, classic Hollywood, and foreign films. The way films are shot, the lighting etc I find interesting. I like to a have a cinematic look and feel to my photography. With weddings it’s not always possible but there are times you can get creative with the right clients. Directors like Wes Anderson I think are amazing. I also love art and in particular paintings from the Renaissance and Baroque periods which also has been an inspiration.
What do you enjoy about having a boutique photography studio?
Definitely my clients and the type of weddings I book. My clients book me because they want me as their photographer and they like my style of photography which is nice. We share a common interest in wanting to create beautiful images and we have a lot of fun doing it.
How do your clients get to know you, and is it important that both you and the couple feel a rapport to get the best out of your photography?
It is imperative that there’s a great client/photographer relationship otherwise it will show in the photography. I always meet my clients before their wedding or Skype if they are interstate. Some of our meetings are long because we enjoy the conversation of getting to know each other more.
What do you like the most about wedding photography?
The variation of different people, places and cultures. The wedding day is one of the most important days a couple will have and I get to experience that with them. As a photographer I get to be creative and combine a lot of different styles of photography in the one day. Weddings are portrait, family, landscape, photojournalism and event photography all rolled in one.
Your work doesn’t stop when the wedding day is over. What are the next steps you take to ensure the best images?
I back up the images I took on the day onto three different hard drives and in two locations (my studio and home). Then the post processing/editing starts and I’m quite particular with how I edit so that process takes a few weeks. I love the editing process and think it’s a big part of being a photographer/artist. The skills and attention to detail in the post production is something clients should definitely be looking at when choosing a photographer. I limit the number of weddings I do each year because of the time I spend with each wedding.
You work has been described as dramatic, artistic, beautiful and emotional. Have you developed a certain ‘style’ of photography – and if so, how would you describe it?
I think when a client sees a whole wedding of mine, there’s a combination of photojournalism and directed creative images. I use available light and off camera lighting and think it’s important to have the option of both. I have photographed Winter weddings in the dark where the off camera lighting came in handy. It also allows you to be more creative. In saying that, I think the clients I meet are surprised with how many natural photojournalistic (images) I take at a wedding. It’s all about balance.
The dramatic effects you achieve with lighting, positioning of the bridal couple, symmetry etc make your images look like a painting. Has this developed through experience or have you always had an ‘artist’s eye’?
I think a photographer’s style develops over time and gravitates towards things that inspire them. My style of photography has probably developed from studying art/photography and just different techniques I’ve learnt over time. The influences in art/films I admire, combined with learning and understanding light helped develop my style.
Does your style keep changing as the years go on?
I am constantly learning new techniques and wanting to improve my photography so I guess it changes a little. I don’t make a conscience effort to dramatically change my style because of my clients. I think it’s important to keep things consistent if you have developed a brand and style your clients like.
Does educating yourself and teaching photography workshops change your style? And in what way?
Education is very important to me. Studying and learning will improve your photography. It doesn’t have to be at university, it can be learning techniques from Youtube videos, but I think it’s important if you want to grow as an artist. Teaching workshops is something I love doing and I only teach what I am passionate about and have a good understanding of. I don’t think it changes my style, it’s more me teaching my style and how I approach photography. It does force you to explore and learn different techniques though.
Are there some tips you could offer bridal couples to help relax them in front of the camera?
It is important clients choose a photographer that is experienced and knows what they are doing. I know that sounds obvious, but people skills are very important as well as being able to take great photographs. A good photographer will help clients relax and having a good rapport is extremely important as well. My assistant and I joke around a lot with clients and the important thing is to make sure your clients are comfortable and having fun too.
What inspires you about Australian brides – is there a special ‘Australian’ quality that you’ve noticed?
Their character, friendliness and willingness to have fun.
Do you travel anywhere in Australia and overseas to shoot a wedding?
Yes, I do, I think there are some couples who only look locally for their photographer and don’t think photographers will travel. I regularly photograph in Sydney and don’t charge a travel fee. It works the other way around as well where say Sydney clients won’t look on the South Coast or Southern Highlands for a photographer and there’s a lot of talent in those areas. My advice is look locally and in the area you are getting married. And if there is a particular photographer you like, chances are they will travel anyway.
Do you have some favourite places that you’ve visited when you’ve photographed weddings?
I love travelling. I have taken wedding photos on a ski lift at Perisher which was challenging. I photographed a wedding in a very small town called Loxton in South Australia which was in the middle of nowhere. I did a road trip out there with my Scottish assistant and driving across the Hay plains was an eye opener for him. Brisbane and Melbourne weddings are always fun.
The Southern Highlands where most of my weddings are is a special place. Venues like Milton Park and Peppers Manor House provide a great European feel, especially in Autumn and Winter. My office is in Berry on the NSW South Coast and another favourite venue is Jaspers Berry. Most of my clients are Sydney couples who want to escape to city to get married.
Would you suggest an album of the wedding images is important?
Yes, absolutely! Images printed look so good and I do a lot of printing myself using archival fine art paper. I use Queensberry Albums which is a New Zealand company and their albums are of the highest quality. The wedding album should be thought of as an heirloom and something to hand down to future generations in my opinion. It is nice having a space where clients can see albums and framed prints.
What do you love about the region you live in?
I love the fact I am located within driving distance to some great wedding venues. The Southern Highlands, Sydney, Canberra and South Coast.
The Southern Highlands looks amazing all year round, particularly in Autumn. The South Coast has fantastic landscapes and Sydney is so different again, with so many photo opportunities.
What do you do when you have spare time?
I spend time with my family, watch a lot of films. I travel a lot during the winter period when the wedding season slows down. Travel photography is important to me as well as getting involved in more creative personal projects.
Thank you Nigel for sharing your story and your wonderful images with us today. I love the feeling of the stories and the atmosphere in these images and if Nigel takes your wedding photographs, then you’ll lose yourself in the images, poring over them, just as I have.
Headshot courtesy of Nigel Unsworth Studios