Behind the lens with UK wedding photographer Winston Sanders
16 Feb 2017
Find out what makes photographer Winston Sanders tick when it comes to weddings
How would you describe your style of photography?
Natural, story-telling and unobtrusive. 'Natural' describes the way I want my photographs to look in terms of them being real and un-posed. 'Storytelling' because my aim is that the images should enable the couple to re-live the day for years to come. I’ve put 'unobtrusive' in there too, even though that doesn’t really say much about the actual images because I think the service provided is as important as the final product.
How did you start out in wedding photography?
I shot my first wedding for a friend of a friend. I was into shooting live music gigs at the time and landscape photographs while travelling. I hadn’t really given weddings any thought up until then but instantly fell in love with wedding photography.
Who are your ideal clients?
My ideal clients are those who are laid back and lovely. I love working with people who love what I do and are happy for me to capture their wedding as it happens. I love clients who say: “We hate having our picture taken”, or “We look terrible when in front of a camera”, because they are pleasantly surprised at how painless it can be and how great they look when they’re not having to force a smile.
Can you choose a picture that encapsulates everything you want to achieve in a wedding photograph? Tell us what it is about this image that you love.
This is so hard. I’ll go for one I took last year of the groom’s nephew giving the groom a hug straight after the ceremony. What I love about this shot is that it’s so clear from the image how much this little boy adores his uncle and also how proud he is of him. For me, it’s a simple but really beautiful moment.
Photographers seem to inject a lot of their personality into their work… what are your inspirations?
My inspirations are photographers who achieve amazing photos of unplanned moments; real, raw and emotive. Anything with emotion gets my camera firing. Joy, trepidation, love, romance, hilarity; I’m addicted to capturing all the emotions I can. I think being sensitive to the way people are feeling helps with that.
How far in advance should those interested look to book you? Do people stand a chance of getting you last minute?
There are no hard and fast rules. The earlier the better, but you never know – my next wedding in under two weeks time was booked just a few days ago. That is, however, an exception to the norm. At the moment I keep getting a lot of enquiries for the same date in August 2018, which I’m already booked for. It’s a bit of a lottery really.
What’s the most challenging part of photographing a wedding?
I’d say the most challenging part isn’t the wedding itself, but editing all the photos from a wedding. I spend literally days editing a wedding, as I’m a real perfectionist.
How can couples help to ensure the best work?
I think by getting to know their photographer that will help you feel at ease with them being around all day and help you feel more relaxed in front of the camera. I’d also say to choose someone who you feel you can trust and let them take creative control of the images. You don’t want to be thinking about the photographs on your day – go with someone you think is awesome and let the photographer worry about the photography.
What are the three most important questions for couples to ask their photographer, in your opinion?
If I were getting married I’d ask:
- How do you like to take the couple portrait shots and how long will this take?
- How long will you stay until?
- Can we clarify exactly what I’m getting for the money and whether there are any extra costs that might come about?
What’s your opinion on the controversial ‘group shots’ – can you give us an example of yours?
My opinion is that group shots are really important. Even if it’s just one group shot of everyone there; have them because it’s so rare that you’ll have this combination of important people together in one place again. I recommend having around 6-8 group shots and trying not to have many more so that it doesn’t take over the afternoon and get boring for you and the guests. With six or so shots you can usually get all the combinations you need and you can quickly move on to enjoying the rest of your day.
My example is a whole group shot. I typically like to do one with just a smile and one with a big cheer like this one.
In terms of trends, what do you think is the most interesting at the moment?
To be honest, I haven’t really noticed any with the couples I’ve worked with. They all have just done their own thing, which I love. Thinking about it a bit more, I have noticed more brides, bridesmaids and mothers doing speeches which I think is awesome. Why should it always be just the groom, father of the bride and bestman?
What’s the most common misconception that you have to correct with couples? The thing you’d most like to communicate to the masses.
Photography doesn’t mean smile for the camera. Don’t even look at the camera, just enjoy your day.
What’s been your most memorable wedding to photograph, and why?
There are quite a few that are very memorable but I’ll go for the one I shot last year in Iceland. That was particularly exciting as the landscapes were stunning and the couple was super lovely.
Can you tell us why you think wedding photography is worth the investment?
It’s been said many times before, but it’s the only thing (apart from the rings) that will last more than one day. You’ll have them for your whole life and those memories will be incredibly precious.
Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?
I’d probably still be a primary school teacher which I was before I became a wedding photographer. I loved working with kids but there was plenty I wasn’t a fan of. Having said that, if I wasn’t a wedding photographer I’d love to travel around the world shooting for National Geographic. That would be a dream come true. My girlfriend might not agree though.