Q&A with wedding photographer, Ashley K

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Sponsored by Panasonic

Ahead of Capture magazine's exclusive wedding photography workshops with Panasonic this September, we speak to the talented Ashley K about the challenges facing aspiring wedding photographers, how the Panasonic S-series has changed how she shoots, and what to expect from her boutique wedding photography workshops.

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What made you decide you wanted to shoot weddings professionally?

I love that wedding photography challenges me. We are not just wedding photographers – we are landscape photographers, documentary photographers, portrait photographers, family photographers; pretty much all genres of photography in one, and no two weddings are the same.

You really have no idea what you’re walking into on the day of a wedding and that makes being a wedding photographer really interesting, sometimes stressful, but mostly exciting. Also, I love travelling, I have since I was young, and I’m so lucky to shoot weddings all over the world.

What’s been the biggest challenge in establishing yourself?

Definitely, trying to find a style. It took me forever, and still to this day I wonder if I should change my style to suit the market. But I realised early on I needed to stick to what I love, because when you nail a style that you’re good at, you stand out. It’s easy to copy other photographers that might be doing better – getting the best and most weddings – but I don’t think that would make me happy.

How would you describe your style?

My style is heavily inspired by light; I like to create compelling images, and images that evoke emotion through the use of light. I was always taught to choose light over a location, and I am always looking for areas of light that separate the subject and the background. On the wedding day, I am searching for something different than the obvious – I search for good light. It’s easy to shoot wedding photos in the shade or on an overcast day which most photographers love.

What advice do you have for photographers trying to find their own style?

Try not to focus on what everyone else is doing. It’s great to seek inspiration from other photographers, and, believe me, in my first few years I spent countless hours looking at other people’s work wondering how I could do what they did, but it’s probably the worst thing to do. I ended up unfollowing many photography pages so I couldn’t compare myself, and after doing that I started to develop my own style.

What’s the most common mistake you see new wedding photographers make?

A lack of confidence. Although it takes time to build it up and to really know what you’re doing, not being confident will just throw you out for the whole day. Weddings can be stressful. You need to be able to handle different scenarios at a wedding. I like to think things through slowly. Is the lighting right? Does my couple look beautiful in that light? If not, refine the pose to bring the best out of the client. Try not to rush. Look at the shot on the back of the camera and consider if you think there is anything you can do to make the image better. Never be afraid to try something new, even if it doesn’t work out. I do it all the time.

I really think the best thing someone new to the industry can do is go out and assist one of their favourite, experienced photographers. I did this and I got so much out of it. It made me realise I probably shoot too much and stress too much, but it gave me the confidence to know I was on the right track with what I was doing.

Given how competitive the market is, what’s your advice for new wedding photographers when it comes to structuring their pricing?

There is nothing worse than walking away from a wedding thinking how much more you could have done if the client valued their photography.

At first, I didn’t believe [my skills] were worth charging thousands of dollars for and this resulted in me shooting for the wrong type of clients. Clients on a budget always have high expectations, but they often do not value the photography aspect on their wedding day. If you are undercharging, you may get clients that don’t give you enough time to shoot their wedding portraits, resulting in you not being able to do the job to the best of your abilities.

I remember the first time I changed my pricing and my mid-range package was $4,000. It was so scary. I booked my first client on that price point and I walked away thinking, “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe someone is going to pay me that much money to shoot their wedding!”

But the couple really prioritised the photography on their day. They asked me questions like what time they should have their ceremony so they could fit as much time in for their photos, along with suggestions for photo locations. It was such an awesome feeling – they respected me enough to ask relevant questions instead of just asking me what I was doing. Because they had spent so much money, they really wanted to get all the best photographs they could.

[By changing my pricing], my clients began valuing my time and the work I did. My photographs reached a new level of creativity and that’s when I started developing my style. It’s funny because when I increased my pricing, I actually started getting more work than ever, and this was the very reason I was scared to increase my pricing to begin with!

Finally, a very important thing to remember is that being a wedding photographer involves much more than just shooting the wedding. There is admin, editing, client meetings, location scouting – there is so much time involved before and after the wedding day that you need to factor in. So, do not undersell yourself.

What’s in your camera bag?

The Panasonic Lumix S1R, and Panasonic Lumix S Pro 50mm f/1.4, S 24-105mm f/4 MACRO OIS, and S Pro 70-200mm f/4 OIS lenses. I also carry some flashes, a video light, and an ice light, just in case I need to bring additional light sources in, which I love doing. I love playing with light!

How does the Panasonic S1R help you take better images? From your experience, what does the S1R do better than any other camera you’ve used before?

A lot of people get swept up by specs, but specs don’t help a photographer shoot. It’s about the experience with the camera as a tool. For me, the S-series offers a familiar feel while offering a better viewing and user experience. Mirrorless AF systems change how you shoot. You are no longer required to move your single AF point all over the frame, and Subject and Eye AF allows you to work with your subject more effectively.

It may be so simple, but what I love about the S1R is its flip screen. Since I’ve been using the S1R, I feel like I am able to get angles I have never been able to get before. I love being able to get up really high and flip my screen down and touch focus on where I want to, and even getting down lower is such an advantage. I’m also enjoying the rich colours the Lumix is giving me.

Why did you decide to move to Panasonic?

One of the biggest reasons I moved over to Lumix S-series cameras is the Australian team at Panasonic are invested in supporting our industry, and we need that more than ever at the moment. Working with them over the past six months I have seen how much they care about giving back to photographers. You just have to look at all the events Panasonic have been running for new and up-and-coming photographers. They are truly passionate, and believe in their products, which is so important.

What’s your most memorable wedding photography experience?

I have so many, for so many reasons. One of my most memorable recently was when the groom approached me at a wedding and asked me to take a photo of him and his dad. He told me his dad only had weeks to live. I remember getting my camera ready to take a photo, and I was trying to hold back my tears at the same time.

It was one of the hardest photographs I have ever had to take, and it still makes me sad to think about it, but it’s amazing to think the photograph I took will be one of the most important photographs for my groom and his family.

What can people expect at the Panasonic/Capture workshops?

Well, for starters, the hands-on experience with those new S-series cameras is going to be epic! I remember the first time I got the S1R in my hands and I took my first shot using the 50mm f/1.4, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, the image is so sharp and the EVF is soooo cool!’ I still spin out when I look through it. So, I think it’s awesome that Panasonic has been so generous to hold these events and allow people to get hands-on experience with these new cameras.

From my perspective, I really want attendees to come out of the workshops feeling more confident in their abilities to shoot a wedding. [I’ll do this] by demonstrating some easy and awesome techniques for how to pose and direct in a natural and comfortable way. I’ll also share my tips for finding the light and using it to create striking and dynamic wedding photographs.

Join photographer Ashley K at the exclusive Panasonic/Capture wedding workshops in Sydney, Melbourne (sold out), and Brisbane this September where you’ll have the opportunity to shoot with Panasonic Lumix S-series cameras. More info here.

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