Interview: Improve your wedding photography with pro and Sony ambassador Kate Hopewell-Smith
THIS WEEK I SPEAK WITH PRO WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER KATE HOPEWELL-SMITH WHO GIVES HER TOP TIPS FOR BETTER WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
1. Could you walk me through how you research a wedding location if you’ve never been before?
We’ll always have a look online to see the venue/location but it’s difficult to judge a place from other photographers’ work. We arrive early on the wedding day if we don’t know the venue and have a recce before we start the day’s shoot. We use the app ‘The Photographer’s Ephemeris’ to track the movement of the sun during the day and to know when and where to expect golden hour and sunset (there are many similar apps out there). However, we always make final decisions on where to shoot based on the light at the time so ‘researching’ is more about knowing what the different location options are so that we can make decisions quickly.
2. What do you look for when lighting your wedding photos?
When you shoot weddings you are very restricted by the day’s schedule – we always plan the couple photo timing in advance and how long you have is always down to how much the couple actually want great photos! Although we all love golden hour it's appearance is unpredictable in the UK and it would be perilous to wait until this late to get the official couple pictures. Schedules can run late and weather can change rapidly. We make sure we get all of the ‘safe’ photos earlier in the day – inside if necessary due to rain or too much sun. We then agree to take the couple out later if we get the light and a convenient gap in the speeches/cake cut/first dance mayhem!
In terms of light direction we categorise this into three parts: direct, back and side light. The quality of light can then vary from soft to hard but we are always trying to shoot a variety of these 3 across the day because each delivers a different feeling or mood. We carry a lot of Profoto lighting equipment and modifiers with us so that we can deliver beautiful imagery whatever the light and weather.
3. What's your go-to camera body for shooting weddings?
We use the Sony Alpha mirrorless series. I shoot stills on 2 x A9 bodies and Brent uses 2 x A7IIIs due to their amazing filming ability. Although I loved my Nikon DSLR days, the future is mirrorless and Sony are the market leaders – the Alpha series just makes shooting easier, faster and more accurate. Crucial factors when you shoot weddings!
4. Which lenses do you always have in your camera bag and why?
We shoot with a mix of zoom and prime lenses – we need both the flexibility of zooms and the additional stops of light you get with top quality primes. These are our lenses and how we use them:
2 x Sony 24-70mm f/2.8: An essential workhorse! We generally have this lens on a body all day – largely shooting it wide open and using it for storytelling rather than portraiture (although it can deliver nice portrait results too).
2 x Sony 70-200mm f/2.8: We find this focal range great for when we need to be out of the way (church ceremonies, speeches etc) or want to give couples some personal space so they can show each other some authentic affection without feeling like we are on top of them.
1 x Sony 135mm f/1.8: My newest love! This is the first time I have owned this focal length and it is just fantastic for weddings – producing absolutely beautiful portraits and bokeh whilst also being incredible in low light.
1 x Sony 85mm f/1.4: A beautiful portrait lens and lovely focal length – although I am finding myself picking up the 135mm over this if I have the required room to move!
1 x Sony 50mm Macro f/2.8: We don’t do much macro work but shoot most of the details including jewellery/wedding ring shots on this to add some creativity to the images.
5. In your opinion, what's the most important thing about wedding photography?
Consistency and knowledge! Many wedding photographers are very good at certain things – for example the detail shots or the candids – but the job actually requires you to be technically proficient in many different areas regardless of the environment or circumstances. You just don’t know what will be thrown at you during a wedding and you should be able to deliver professional standard images from the start of the day to the end. Delivering a full wedding story with complete consistency is the job you are being paid to do. Being a creative photographer is a bonus and one which will differentiate you and enable you to charge extra.