Creative wedding photos, an interview with Michael Novo
How did you become a wedding photographer?
My journey as an artist began as a career in technology. I was a data analyst at a large corporation and a hobbyist photographer on the side. I was at the home of a good friend and saw a family portrait hanging on their wall that I had captured a couple months prior. The mom was explaining to me how I had captured this one look that her daughter was making for the camera which she had never been able to get on her phone.
This moment might not have stood out in my mind until I was driving home and an email came through from my corporate job that started a project which a number of us were working on for a month was being put on hold indefinitely. A month of time and effort was discarded as if it had never existed in the first place.
Now I still had a job of course and was paid for the time spent on the project but on the other hand here’s a mom going on about how thrilled she is with her family portrait. Something so simple yet so meaningful was enough for me to change course and pursue photography.
Why wedding photos? I love the chaos of the day...the rush, the pressure to deliver high quality in a short period of time and in ever-changing conditions. I'm of course biased when I say this but I believe that aside from "War Photographers" or some Photojournalists...wedding photographers are the best overall in the industry because we're shooting wedding photos in every single type of lighting condition that exists and we must practice and master them all.
”When their family and friends come over and see their portrait on the wall it should be a representation of them and done so in an artistic way.“
How would you describe your photo style?
I describe myself, tongue in cheek as being a wedding photographer who hates wedding photography. Why are there so many wedding photos that lack originality, art or creativity? I want the images to look like they did not roll off of a mass production line of template images.
We’ve all seen the photo where a wedding couple is facing each other, holding hands, touching forehead to forehead with eyes closed. But why? Is that the couple’s personality or does it strip away their personality and simply slip them into a template? In my wedding photos, I aim to display the true nature of who my clients are.
When their family and friends come over and see their portrait on the wall it should be a representation of them and done so in an artistic way. So my style is best described as "It Depends". It depends on who the couple is and I wrap my wedding photos around the vibe I get from them.
”While most studios might not share the bulk of their wedding photos for the couples privacy...they should have at least a handful of weddings you can view from A-Z.“
What questions should the couple be asking when selecting a photographer?
I put together a mini-ebook which covers many questions and tips at https://michaelnovophotography.com/wedding-e-book/ but to sum up here are some key questions you should ask...
"Tell me about yourself." - This simple question will let you get to know the personality of your wedding photographer. Take a moment and listen to their story and feel out who they are. Having a good feeling/vibe with your photographer will make your wedding photos better because you will feel that much more comfortable in front of the camera.
"Can I see a full wedding from start to finish?" - While most studios might not share the bulk of their wedding photos for the couples privacy...they should have at least a handful of weddings you can view from A-Z. It's one thing to see portfolio images online that you don't know where they're captured and another thing to see a full final product.
"Are you a natural light photographer?" - Before I throw natural light photographers under the bus, there are a number of them who are masters of using natural light. But the reality is that it's difficult to get solid excellent unique wedding photos just using natural light the entire wedding day. More often than not a natural light photographer is simply someone who has not learned how to use flash or another lighting properly.
"How many wedding photos do you shoot/deliver?" - This is sort of a trick question. I believe that the fewer images shot, the better. While it might sound neat to get 1000 or more wedding photo gallery, it can be overwhelming. You are much better off with fewer but much more artistic images.
”I have actually photographed a glamour wedding photos session in front of a garbage dumpster...one of those massive ones with the high metal walls. You, of course, can't see the entire container, just one of the textured walls that made for an excellent backdrop.“
What are the top 3 most popular wedding picture ideas that couples ask to take?
This is an interesting question. Because my style changes from couple to couple, I try to stay away from something that's already been done and the couples I photograph know this. But I still get requests to capture something meaningful to them specifically.
For example, one couple, Stacey and Noe want to replicate a photo that their parents and grandparents had. It was a third generation identical image. From a different couple, the father of the bride passed away before the wedding and the mother wore both the fathers and her wedding rings together...the bride asked me to candidly capture a photo of her mother's hand with both rings.
Any tips for backgrounds that would result in best photos?
All of them, honestly they're all great. I believe that just about any spot you can think of is photogenic, one simply needs to find the story in the location. I have actually photographed a glamour creative wedding photos session in front of a garbage dumpster...one of those massive ones with the high metal walls. You, of course, can't see the entire container, just one of the textured walls that made for an excellent backdrop. And if you can shoot wedding photos in front of a dumpster then the sky is the limit.
The best way to approach it is like this...what do you want to look back at in 10 years? What do you want your memories to be? There are plenty of scenic spots but do they have meaning to you? When you bring your personality to a location, it really doesn't matter what that location is.
“The expectations today are high and so is the demand for a studios time and energy. When you factor in everything from A-Z, our studio spends on average about 80 man hours for one single wedding.“
If a couple chooses you as a photographer, what would you need from them?
The only thing I need from a couple is to get to know their personalities and I can take it from there. I don't fabricate anything, rather it's what's given to me during the shoot. One side note is that I do a lot of themed engagement wedding photos...Star Wars, Alice In Wonderland, Pinup, etc...
For those the props and preparation are much more important because now it's not just showing your personality but also telling the story of the theme. The level of prep in picking the props and outfits that Brittany and David did is insane and it showed in their shoot: https://michaelnovophotography.com/alice-in-wonderland-engagement-session/
Many would argue that the prices of wedding photos are too high.
Ahh yes, the pricing is certainly high or of course seems that way. The expectations today are high and so is the demand for a studios time and energy. When you factor in everything from A-Z, our studio spends on average about 80 man hours for one single wedding. Meetings, calls, engagement session, edits, prep time, proofings and more.
There's a tremendous amount that goes into wedding photos behind the scenes. Even things such as making sure that the day is running on time are often up to the photographer (if a planner is not available). On top of that, you have someone that has spent years working on their craft with education, practice and of course the equipment needed to pull everything together.
Spending $3000-$6000 or more on must have wedding photos can seem like a lot but in the long run, when you break down that price over a decade or two...it's not. Put into perspective that we have no problem spending $5+ on a cup of coffee from major chains or $1000 on a cell phone every couple years and those things aren't even there to stay!
”Couples who try to order their own wedding photos albums from a 3rd party most often get a press print book that is made to be cheap rather than hold up over the long run.“
How are the albums prepared by a professional photographer different from those you could get cheaper at major retail stores?
Albums you get from your photographer are typically not ones that you can get as a consumer. The reason is that most album companies will not work with wedding photos and are business to business only.
What you get from a photographer should be a solid custom handmade wedding photos album using archival inks and paper that will stand the test of time. Couples who try to order their own wedding photos albums from a 3rd party most often get a press print book that is made to be cheap rather than hold up over the long run.
How does weather affect wedding photos?
Weather is, of course, a major factor, especially if you're spending time outside. We as photographers can operate in just about any conditions, it's really more about your comfort level than ours. Remember that in the winter I can bundle up and shoot wedding photos from inside of a nice thermal coat.
You, on the other hand, might be facing the elements a lot more during that portrait session. Is the groom wearing a 3 piece black suit? Well then perhaps mid-July in Chicago is not the ideal time to spend 3 hours outside for a wedding photos session.
Me personally...I like any weather. Did it start to rain during the engagement session? Well maybe if it's the end we just go ahead and play in the rain, splash some puddles and have fun!
“Today, wedding photos have moved much more into telling the story of the day, often starting with getting ready wedding photos and wrapping towards the latter part of the night.“
Do you think one photographer is enough?
One photographer can be enough but it depends on expectations. In days gone by the photographer used to show up for the ceremony and maybe a quick portrait session outside of ceremony before they departed. 2-3 hours with one photographer used to be enough.
Today, wedding photos have moved much more into telling the story of the day, often starting with getting ready wedding photos and wrapping towards the latter part of the night. Because of that higher demand, a second photographer can be useful but I still think that one can do it as well.