Want to find out more about wedding photography? What are the things to look for when hiring your wedding photographer? What can you do to have those perfect photos on your wedding day? To answer these questions, Beija-flor Events met with Bella Wang, a prominent wedding photographer working in the Greater Boston area.
She talked about her love of photography, fashion, design and pretty things and how at every wedding she gives it all to get that perfect shot.
“It’s like you are going to war. Every weekend, is game time, you have your bag of tricks, all your skills, everything you learned during your lifetime and career and you bring it all that day. Afterwards, you are exhausted and sleep for 9 hours, but then you do it all again the next day!”
- What made you become interested in photography?
Basically, since I was a kid I always loved art and documenting things. And because I have a very bad memory, photography was a great way I could capture those moments in time and remember them.
As soon as I got my first paycheck, I went and got a camera. I started by documenting food – which I love! So, food blogging was the entryway of pursuing my love for photography.
- Do you have a memory of your first wedding photo shoot? Tell us about it!
Yes, it was about 4 years ago. A really wonderful and generous couple took a chance on me. I was an unproven wedding photographer at the time as I worked mostly with children and babies. They saw my work and loved what I did with light and how I captured moments.
The wedding was on the Cape and I really lucked out. The couple was super sweet and really down to earth. They had a very unique wedding that took place on the beach with mixed culture and heritage. They rented a beautiful house and the bride did all of the details on her own. I was really honored to have such a great couple to work with and a unique destination and venue to photograph for my very first wedding. They also gave me a lot of time for portraiture which I am very thankful for.
- What do you enjoy the most about wedding photography?
My interaction with the couple! Getting them to really express who they are, making them feel comfortable in front of me, and being able to capture that on camera. Posed portraits only do so much, but bringing the essence of who the couple is as a couple, is what I really like about wedding photography. An important aspect of a wedding is the union of two people and their families. So many things happen during that day, and it’s my job to be that fly on the wall, to see things the couple may not have seen, or freeze a moment in time that they want to treasure for a lifetime.
- How can you best describe your style?
I guess I would call it fun, bright and candid. It is sort of an enhanced photojournalistic style because of my understanding of light, composition and choice of lens. You take what you see in front of you and make it an even more beautiful version of that. Candid is great, but for portraits, you have to know how to pose people so they look the best version of themselves. I work on little things like posture and make slight adjustments when I notice things are a little off, but without ruining the moment, of course!
- How do you capture personal moments with such ease? Can you share with our readers some of the process?
You have to anticipate the moment before it happens! Noticing what is going to happen before it does and what is happening in the background at the same time is very important. You have to be ready, with all the correct settings before a moment unfolds. Weddings don’t come scripted and many things happen, so you have to know your camera inside and out and understand how to best frame what is going to happen to make it the most flattering. Experience is, of course, super important for that and not a lot of photographers work almost 7 days a week like I do. Children usually don’t listen to you and do their own thing. There is no second chance at creating a genuine expression. This constant training 7 days a week gets me ready for shooting weddings!
- What equipment do you usually use when photographing weddings?
I am a Nikon shooter. I have three camera bodies I work with. It is always good to have a back up and to have multiple lenses with different reaches on each camera, so depending on the circumstances you are ready at all times. I shoot with zoom and prime lenses. Primes are great for low light conditions and when I can move around without obstruction. Zooms are good for when I am more restricted like during the ceremony, where one wants to get close, but not obtrusive. I also have flash for night time photography -night time portraits, cocktail hour, dancing etc… A lot of photographers are just natural light photographers and that is great when it’s sunny all the time. But, in New England the weather is very unreliable and sometimes you are restricted to indoors. This way, I am never limited by the amount of light there is, I can bring my own. I have my assistant (my husband :) !) who handles all of the lighting and for that I am very fortunate. It’s one aspect I don’t have to worry about.
- What are the things clients should do to work better with their photographer?
Be upfront about everything including details and schedules. Know exactly what you want and let the photographer know what that is. Communication is key! As a photographer, I want to understand your aesthetic sense, what are the important details you have put so much effort into planning, who are the most important people on the wedding day, so I can document everything and deliver exactly what you want. I don’t want to miss anything and, because of that, I have a questionnaire that goes out to every couple I work with, so we can all be on the same page when the wedding day comes.
Another important thing is to share the timeline with your photographer. Often times, timelines are completely unattainable or unrealistic. It is usually your first wedding whereas I have been to a lot of events, weddings, and portraits and know that things don’t ever go as smoothly as one thinks. It is not just 10 min on Google maps, it’s 10 min to forget and retrieve your purse and then 10 min to get in the car and then 20 min because of a detour and traffic so it is important to budget in extra time.
- What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings?
Weddings are sometimes stressful and tense. So, it is always great to diffuse those situations and make people feel at ease. It is very important to make sure you have the right photographer for you! You should not hire someone who stresses you out, that is not flexible or who is limited by certain things like shooting outdoors only or shooting with great light only. You also want a photographer who can deal with people easily as there are many different personalities present on the wedding day. Read reviews and see what others have had to say about your photographer -you’re hiring a person, not just an artist.
- How can a couple plan their wedding to get better photos?
Timeline is really important! Understanding when the best light of the day is, and making sure we make the best of that light. I always tell couples if they are planning on getting married at sunset, that portraits after that point aren’t necessarily going to be the best photos, because they have used up the best light for the ceremony. If couples are willing to be non-traditional, a first look is always an option. I never push it on people, but I do suggest it as an option. We can always do nighttime portraits but, of course, nothing beats the sun; that is always the most flattering and most beautiful light! You know those sun drenched photos you always see on Pinterest and Blogs? They are usually taken with beautiful California sun at sunset and in New England you don’t always get that, so you have to work with what you have. I am willing to do whatever I can to get those portraits from the limitations I’m given.
- What do you think about having a second shooter/assistant?
I shoot most of the weddings by myself, so I can definitely handle it but I do recommend a second shooter though if you have a very large wedding; meaning if you are approaching 200 people. A different perspective is also appreciated by many couples. It provides for multiple locations to be covered at once -I can only do so much as a single person. I don’t think it should be the defining reason why you hire a photographer, as the primary photographer is the one who is doing the processing of the images and is going to be the strongest voice for telling the story that day. The second photographer should be seen as a supplementary different perspective on the day.
I do maybe 3 weddings a year with a second shooter. And, as a photographer, when hiring a second shooter, I only hire someone I trust to work alongside me – I like to know who this person is going to be. It is not always available but if you request that ahead of time I definitely work towards getting you that second shooter.
- Do you have an artist who was an inspiration to you?
I love fashion photography. I grew up reading my Mom’s Vogue and I fell in love with the work of Annie Liebovitz. I try to incorporate a sense of fashion flair into my wedding photography. I love it when a girl brings a really unique dress and I can use the lines of the dress and really make it work. It helps affect posing and gives me inspiration.
In terms of wedding photography, Marcus Bell is pretty insane. I like the way he sees a scene and captures it. He is in Australia so, it does have gorgeous rolling fields with sunsets and horses running around to work with, but, I still think he is brilliant. Also, Zach and Jody Gray have a great style, very rock star like, and I enjoy that. I try to take little nods from different inspirations and incorporate that into my work so I don’t do one stodgy style necessarily throughout.
If I sense a couple is a certain way, I try to rock that look. For example, last year, a bride had a really cool sexy red Chinese style dress and the line was great to rock some star poses, so I used a lot of studio lighting for some of her shots. With more traditional dresses, I go more the traditional route and make things look dreamier with more light cascading in.
- What is different about shooting Destination weddings? Is there anything the couple should consider about their photos?
I have actually done quite a few destination weddings. It has limiting factors. For example, the amount of lighting that you can bring on a plane is small, but the point of a destination wedding is that those places have great light and beautiful background anyway, so you don’t really have to bring much to enhance it.
Each and every time I have shot a destination wedding I have influenced certain aspects of the wedding; like whether or not the timeline works, or if the location of the ceremony is good. It’s important to get a photographer who can think quickly. Some beautiful parts of the destination are not necessarily the best in camera and the photographer knows how it photographs. I follow the light and I follow the architecture, and that is how I get a pretty picture. So, it is always a good idea to fly the photographer in a couple of days ahead of time to do some scouting.
Be organized, there are usually multiple weddings at the destination and you don’t want the parties to clash while choosing the same location to do portraits. Also, be aware that there are other people on the same beach, so make sure you get a photographer that knows how to frame it so it looks like you are on a private beach. I shoot everything in camera, so if I see someone on the background, I will change my angle and do whatever it takes to make sure that this person is not on the photo, instead of editing him or her out afterwards. On my destination photos, there are many people on the beaches, but you never see any of them on the photos. It’s all because of angling. I have a shot of a couple standing on a cliff side and they were surrounded by beach chairs, but you cannot tell. This other great shot taken on top of the seaside rocks, made me go in the ocean, water up to my armpits, holding my camera with the tide coming in because I wanted the shot. I am hardcore!
- Tell us 3 things about yourself that are unrelated to photography!
I like food, eating it and cooking it. My kitchen is a little small but I make yummy food! I used to cook a lot, until recently. I like to try different recipes. I find it very relaxing, because I have a list of ingredients, a list of steps to execute. I do what they tell me and it comes out perfectly. I can control things in my kitchen, unlike in real life. It is my controlled chaos!
I also like design whether it is furniture, architecture or clothing. Lines are very important to me, and so are the contrasts and negative spaces. I like pretty things!
I also like movies. I like movies a lot. My favorites are action, horror and sci-fi but they have to have something unique to say and a unique way of saying it. Even horror has to have a beauty of showing something that is scary. Like Pan’s Labyrinth – it is gorgeous, eerie and creepy. Cinematography has to be on point, the use of shadow and light. I like it when movies take me out of my current world and blow my mind!
I love traveling as well…oh! 3 things right?! It’s hard to pick just 3! I like pretty things!
Check more of Bella Wang’s gorgeous work at her website: http://www.bellawangphotography.com/