Sarah Nalder of Photography by Sarah J is all about capturing wedding days exactly as they are. She believes the best moments can’t be constructed and instead happen naturally when bridal couples are given the space to relax and be themselves. As a patterned lady of Polka Dot Bride who spends many, many hours scouring submissions to find those feel good and real moments, I adore and applaud this approach. Today we chat to Bendigo-based Sarah about her photography style, how its changed over the past 14 years she’s been shooting weddings, and her favourite part of documenting days that are all about love.
You’re based in Bendigo What do you love about the area?
I love that it’s central. I’m from Swan Hill originally and I feel like it’s between there and Melbourne. It’s also a stunning and super chilled place to live.
What are the best photo spots around Bendigo?
I actually find this changes all the time. I’ve never been one to just pick a spot and stick to it. I love finding new places and mixing it up as much as I can.
Do you work closely with any other Bendigo based vendors?
Not really, I’m based in Bendigo but have always found the bulk of my work is all over Victoria and beyond. Mainly because I love the variety that comes with new places, so working with the same people doesn’t happen for me a whole lot. I love running into people I have worked with before, but I also love that I get to meet lots of new businesses through the travel aspect of wedding photography.
How long have you been a wedding photographer?
I have photographed weddings for 14 years. Photography by Sarah J started up after I had done four of those years.
How would you describe your photography style?
Documentary, real, creative.
How has you style and approach to weddings changed since you first started out?
So much has changed in the photography world since I started, so I guess as this changes it changes how you do things yourself. When I started in my late teens along side my mum and her business we were in the last years of weddings being shot on analogue/film. In those days you would take around 12 rolls of film (give or take), drop them in to be developed and you’re done! Then digital arrived and with it editing. So new trends came with this, it was totally unexplored territory which provided a whole new way of photographing weddings and I think ultimately this began shaping how I photograph today. Whether you realise you have one or not every photographer has a style. As for me, I’m sure my work looks a lot different now to when I began. But it’s been an amazing growth adventure so far. In my work I have found out a lot about myself and how I see others. It’s never been about taking a photo. It’s about how you see the day when you’re planning, the moments that happen spontaneously on the day, how you capture them and even the way you edit them. Each photo has its own elaborate story and the difference in how I tell it compared to how others might I have always found fascinating.
Tell us about your studio…
I have an at home studio. At one point or another I toyed with the idea of having a more commercial space. But I really only photograph weddings and that’s all on location, so having my work space at home just made sense. I’m in great company with four cats and coffee, coffee and more coffee. I know many photographers find the editing side of things a bit of a stretch but I really enjoy that side of the process and the creativity that comes with it.
How early should a couple book you in?
It depends on the time of year you are wanting to have your wedding and where. In Victoria we have “wedding season,” which is generally spring and autumn. Summer can also be popular but it’s like playing weather roulette in Victoria, you could end up getting married in a sweaty 40 something degree day. Least popular is Winter, which I don’t understand because I love winter! So the earlier the better for the peak months, we are talking 1-2 years in advance. Mostly it’s a bit of a lucky dip.
How do you make a connection with your couples? Why is it so important?
I feel like the initial connection is probably one of the most important. I’m talking about brides or grooms who connect with what they see in my work (usually) online. It’s so important to have that connection between the work and the couple because this style is going to be similar to their own wedding story. I love having people recommend me but honestly, it’s about the connection with the work first.
Do you do engagement sessions?
Yes! I love engagement sessions. They have so many bonuses! For one thing you’re getting the couple as they are, day to day, which is a wonderful thing to have record of. You’re also getting to know them really well in lots of ways which not only makes it easier for me on their wedding day but also for them.
What are your favourite weddings to shoot?
The ones where people aren’t afraid to go a bit rogue and splash their personalities all over the day.
Are there parts of the wedding day that stand out – that you particularly enjoy photographing?
Of course every photographer loves the shoot time, probably because of the creativity attached.
Are you available for destination weddings?
Where in the world have you travelled as a wedding photographer?
Thailand. I have also had requests for Scotland, New Zealand and Canada. Though none of which I could squeeze in during the busy Australian seasons.
Best wedding venue you’ve visited lately?
I keep thinking of a hilltop wedding/reception which was between Kyneton and Castlemaine earlier this year. It was incredibly stunning and had a glorious sunset. Not a listed venue, more of a private property. But just gorgeous!
When you’re not working, where would we find you?
Volunteering at Connect Church in Bendigo. These guys are my family and super fun! I do the media, photography and graphic design for Connect Church and have the best time doing it.
Thank you Sarah for sharing your words and work with us today. Your documentary style is so beautiful in its honesty and realness. To find out more about Sarah and the packages she offers for weddings and destination weddings, head on over to her website or check out Photography by Sarah J on the Polka Dot Directory!