Creating Unique Wedding Images: Interview with Ellie Gillard
- Marianne Stenger
- 20th May 2020
How did you get started with photography, and particularly wedding photography?
It was quite a non-linear route, actually. During my art foundation year, one of the course requirements was an SLR camera, so my mum dutifully bought me a second hand Olympus film SLR. I became obsessed with learning how to use it and spent ages pouring over books.
Eventually, I specialised in Fashion & Textiles and went on to study Fashion at Kingston University. After this I worked in buying for various high street companies.
In the meantime, however, I wanted something creative to fulfil me after I got married in 2009 and got fully suckered into the world of Lomography. This led to the purchase of my first DSLR, and when a family member suggested I give weddings a try, it worked out perfectly.
It coincided with the rise of the wedding blog, which led couples to start planning their wedding in a more authentic way and moving against the more traditional approach. My commercial work came a little later when this became my full time career in 2012 and I wanted to broaden what I was offering and keep things fresh.
Could you tell us a bit about your style and approach to wedding photography? For instance, where do you find inspiration?
I try and get a little bit inspired by everything I do and see. For example, I love music, interiors, fashion, colour and travel, and all these things come together to inform what I do. At the same time, however, I also try not to overthink it too much.
My approach is to shoot with passion. In order to do this job, you need to be curious about people and want to tell their stories, while also anticipating the moves they make and trying to understand what makes them tick. I love it when I get to work with couples who understand what I do and are happy to let me go ahead and do my thing without too much micromanagement or specificity.
How do you prepare for shooting a wedding? Do you think it’s important to get to know the couple beforehand?
So, I've had to change things round in the way I run my business after a couple of big life events. Firstly, I moved away from London where most of my couples are based, and secondly, I had my son.
Before this, I always included an engagement shoot. But now, whilst I do really enjoy these shoots and I do think that getting to know the couple is super important to me and my approach, I have also found that sometimes couples just weren't that into it. The huge amount of travel also became a bit of a challenge for me.
These days I have engagement shoots as an added extra, so couples that want one can add it on. I also find that things like Instagram are a really good way to get to know each other ahead of the wedding, and I encourage my couples to stay in touch.
What do you love most about photographing weddings? And what’s the most challenging aspect?
I love the big emotional bits - the speeches, the ceremony; and getting immersed in this whole, all-encompassing world for a day. I also love the time I get to work with just the couple and create some magic. It’s during this time that I get to enact my vision and play art director for a bit too.
The most challenging bit can be keeping your cool when things start to go wrong or timings fail. Fortunately with experience, you realise how to work with these things. Occasionally rude guests can be a bit of an issue, but it doesn't happen very often!
You also teach flash photography for weddings. Is this something that wedding photographers tend to struggle with? Do you think it can be a bit distracting at times?
I do think flash photography is something a lot of wedding photographers struggle with. I know that there are plenty of courses out there about flash photography and lighting more generally, but I wanted this course to be super straightforward and not intimidating.
There are quite a few photographers who class themselves as natural light photographers. Although this is fine when the light is available and good or interesting, often it's not, and you owe it to your clients to make beautiful photos even in challenging scenarios.
You want to be able to handle winter weddings, stormy days or whatever comes along with ease. So that's where my course comes in. It breaks down everything I do and how I achieve it with simple equipment that I can carry on my back at a London wedding. I don't have the opportunity to have a boot full of stuff and I usually work alone, so if I can do it with these restrictions, anyone can.
I don't think good flash, when it’s well applied, has to be distracting at all. We all know not to use it at times like during the ceremony, but I think guests and couples are expecting to see it sometimes, and they would rather have beautiful photos.
Finally, do you have any favourites among all the weddings you’ve shot so far?
That is a little bit like asking me to pick a favourite pet! My favourite weddings, though, are the ones where couples throw tradition to the wind and do things the way they want to. I love destination weddings as well, because I find being in new places so inspiring.
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