How I became a wedding photographer

Wedding Photographer: My Unexpected Journey from Law to Lens

Jon BTS (behind the scenes) on an engagement shoot
Behind the scenes on an engagement shoot at Elvaston Castle in Derby

Do you remember the magical (and frustrating!) feeling of waiting for your film photos to be developed? I certainly do. Growing up in the ’80s, I experienced the excitement and anticipation of capturing moments on film and treasuring the memories in print. Fast forward to today, and my passion for photography has led me to a career as a wedding photographer. But how did I make the leap from being a hobbyist photographer to capturing couples’ most cherished memories? Join me as I share my journey, filled with twists and turns, from my first SLR camera to documenting wedding stories for a living.

Growing up in the ’80s, my childhood memories of photography are worlds apart from what my children experience today. To take a photo back then, you had to hunt down a camera, make sure it had a battery (often a non-rechargeable, obscure type that your local corner shop didn’t stock), and check that it had film. Then, you’d compose and take the shot, all without knowing the outcome – whether everyone’s eyes were closed or if you had accidentally decapitated Dad – until weeks or even months later when you’d finally get the film sent away to be processed at a chemist or a shop like Jessops. Or, if you were feeling flush, flash the cash and pay the extra for the in-house one-hour printing service.

While it had a touch of magic, it could also be quite frustrating. It’s hard to fathom how different things are now, with everyone carrying a camera on their phone, providing instant results and an unlimited number of shots. Sadly, in my opinion, we see far fewer of these photos in print, which I believe remains the best way to cherish a memory. I even went as far as to write an article about why photographs should be printed!

Anyway, back to how it began. I’ll never forget the moment my godfather, Stan, gifted me my very first SLR camera (Single Lens Reflex, where what you see through the viewfinder is actually the view through the lens) for my birthday when I was about 10 years old. While I can’t remember the exact make or model, the feeling of how special this little black box with its removable lens was still lingers in my mind. That’s when I fell in love with photography – capturing moments, freezing memories, and preserving them forever on film. But at that time, I never thought of it as a potential career. That realisation came much later.

After finishing school, I attended Wilmorton College in Derby, which has since been bulldozed and replaced by a housing estate. Nothing to do with my attendance there! From there, I went on to study – drumroll, please – yes, you guessed it, you know where this is going…

Law at university. My passion for learning and fascination with the law led me to pursue a Master’s degree in Commercial Law, even though I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it at the time.

During my time at university, I needed a part-time job to make ends meet. My friend Chris mentioned a position at Jessops, a camera shop in Derby. After a brief interview, I found myself behind the counter, guiding customers on camera purchases. We served everyone: from elderly grandparents capturing memories of their grandkids to professional photographers working with high-end medium-format Hasselblad cameras in studios.

Jessops was at that time an incredible employer that provided training courses on the products we sold and their usage. I recall travelling to Manchester to learn about using medium format cameras for architectural photography, among other things! I also took courses in portraiture and studio lighting. It was during the digital revolution’s early days, and the possibilities seemed endless. At Jessops, I bought my first digital SLR, the Canon 300D. In retrospect, it was far from perfect, but back then, it felt like a game-changer.

Canon EOS 300d

Eventually, I left Jessops and transitioned into what I believed was a more “grown-up” job. My passion for photography persisted, and I upgraded my 300D to a 40D. In 2009, a colleague of mine, Ben, asked if I could photograph his wedding. Despite having seen none of my work, he trusted me to capture his big day! I was both thrilled and terrified, but I agreed, provided he bought me a 50mm 1.4 lens to help me get the shots I wanted. It was a cheap, £100 plastic lens, but it did the trick.

That first wedding was nothing short of nerve-wracking. I researched everything I could, and my best purchase was a how-to book by Damian and Julie Lovegrove called The Complete Guide to Professional Wedding Photography, which guided me through each step of the day. The wedding went smoothly, and I was officially hooked on wedding photography.

Thinking back to my parents’ wedding in the early 70s, I have only one grainy Polaroid from that day. My grandad had arranged for a coworker to take photos, but none of them turned out. It feels like a missing piece of our family history. Those images of loved ones that should be in a wedding album for my mum to show my children never came to be. So now, as a wedding photographer, I see myself as a family archivist, capturing the once-in-a-lifetime moments and stories that we can all cherish forever.

As I reflect on my journey, I can’t help but feel grateful for the twists and turns that led me to wedding photography. It’s a profession that allows me to combine my love for capturing memories with my desire to preserve family histories. I feel privileged to play a part in these precious moments, and it’s my mission to ensure that future generations have beautiful, tangible reminders of their family’s most treasured stories. So here’s to embracing the magic of photography, both in the days of film and in our modern digital world, and to creating timeless memories that will be cherished for years to come.

So that’s my story, a winding road leading me to become a wedding photographer, capturing and preserving your precious moments, just as I wished I had of my parents’ wedding day. If you’re planning your own wedding and looking for someone who understands the importance of every shot, I would be honoured to be a part of your journey. Let’s freeze your moments in time, creating a beautiful memory that you’ll cherish for a lifetime. Get in touch today, and let’s discuss how we can make your day unforgettable.

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