Melissa Sung Photography creates creative, gorgeous wedding photographs at Airship37
Josh and Karen had a sweet romantic wedding at Airship37 wedding venue Toronto. Melissa Sung Photography captured their beautiful day and shared her creative process and insights here.
The wedding decor at this Airship37 wedding is elegant and romantic. What was your approach when you were capturing all the details of the wedding reception?
There were a couple things I kept in mind, the first being timing. I had to make sure ahead of time with the couple that we planned sufficient time between portraits and the start of their reception to photograph all the decorative details that they had devoted time and energy to bring to life.
Another important consideration was for the lighting. Even though Airship37 has large industrial style windows letting in lots of light during daylight hours, with the wedding being in March, there was not much natural light left by the time the room was ready to be photographed in the evening. At that point I had to make a decision whether to shoot with extra lighting or use the available light. Typically I’ll opt for the latter, especially when the couple is using candles because I want the photos to show as much of the original ambiance and mood as possible without adding in artificial light sources.
The series of photographs you took of Karen and Josh in their tradition wedding day clothes are so beautiful, fun and stylish. What was the significance of these photographs and what was your approach in directing the couple?
Karen and Josh are both of Korean background and I think the wearing of the hanbok on their wedding day was a beautiful way of expressing respect for their families, culture and traditions. Plus it adds such a unique element to their day, both visually and emotionally.
Thinking back, I feel the outfit change really brought out a different side of the couple. It actually encouraged them to be a bit more playful, and as a result I just played off of that. It was great, they were having so much fun on their own that other than choosing a spot for them to be in, I just gave them space so I could photograph their natural, spontaneous interactions.
What led you to photography and what are some of the ways you continually grow in your profession?
I first fell in love with photography and really started taking it more seriously after travelling in Europe in 2008. In the beginning it was more of a creative outlet, and mostly something I did on the weekends. I started taking headshots and portraits for friends and friends of friends. Eventually, that led to people asking me to photograph their weddings. That was a real turning point for me – realizing that I could turn something I loved doing into a career. So about 4.5 years ago I decided to make a career change from physicist to photographer.
In the beginning, aside from shooting a lot, I took a couple workshops that focused on refining specific technical skills as well as ones that focused on running a small business. I’ve also learned a lot from other photographers who have been generous enough to share their knowledge with me.
There were some very interesting urban environments you chose for the wedding day portraits. In particular the striking bridge shots. What were some of your considerations in choosing the locations?
During a portrait session, I often like to move my couples away from the guests and even the wedding party, so they don’t feel as though they are being photographed in front of an audience.
Prior to Josh and Karen’s wedding day, I had gone down to Airship37 to take a look at possible areas where I could take the couple and found that it was just a short drive from the Port Lands area and Cherry Beach, which I kept in mind as possible spots to explore with the couple. I liked the feel of the Port Lands because I thought the industrial feel complimented their choice in having their reception in a warehouse type space. I thought the bridge was an especially interesting backdrop because it provided interesting lines, symmetry and framing possibilities. Also it’s different, and I like providing my couples with something unique whenever possible.
What were some of your first impressions of the wedding venue Airship37 and how did you utilize the locations strengths in your wedding day photography?
Airship37 for me has a very raw, industrial, edgy kind of feel to it. The large open spaces also offer lots of potential for couples to make the space their own.
I loved that the venue offers lots of possibilities for shooting inside as well as outside, especially as this was a winter wedding. We took photos inside and outside of the vintage bus, inside The Gooderham Lounge, in The Hanger space, as well as just outside of the venue at night with the string lights.
You work very effectively with creative framing and composition in your work. How did you develop this interesting approach?
Oh, thank you! I guess it ties into how I try to keep growing and keep things fresh in my work. I constantly try to remind myself to not shoot the same way – to try to look at a shot from a different angle, include different elements of interest, making sure I have a good variety of wide and tight shots.
After shooting for a while, you become better at visualizing and you naturally start to have more ideas about how you could shoot something. For a wedding it’s especially important to have lots of ideas in the bank because you have to be able to come up with interesting and creative ways to compose your shot in a limited amount of time.
The “day of” shoot you did with Josh and Karen on the vintage bus at airship37 has such a timeless editorial beauty. What was the thinking behind these photographs and what experiences have you had that have given you the ability to achieve this outcome?
The experiences of shooting at different venues, at different times of year, under various lighting conditions have given me a pretty good idea of the type of images I can create within a given setting.
I knew I wanted the photos to have an intimate and warm feel and I knew that by the time we would get to photograph inside the vintage bus, we weren’t going to get a lot of light coming through the frosty window panes. If anything, the fairy lights on the bus would be a prominent source of light, adding mood and an intimate atmosphere to the shot, so I wanted to make sure I captured this element.
Having seen the inside of the bus when I went to see the venue, I knew that space would be pretty tight and while I wanted to capture a sense of intimacy, I also didn’t want to be all up in their space. So I chose to use a slightly wider lens than what I would normally use to shoot portraits, allowing me to capture a bit more of the surroundings, purposely choosing to include a bit more of the foreground in some shots to give a sense of being outside of their immediate space, to help give the couple and the photo a sense of intimacy.
How did you develop your food photography and still life skills?
Through trial and error and shooting a lot!
Your choice of style in shooting the wedding couple is in perfect sync with the unique personalities they project. How do you find a good fit with your style and each couples individual styles?
I always to try to have an in-person meeting or at least a Skype call with couples prior to them booking me so that we have the chance to get a feel for whether we would be a good match. Your photographer is probably one of the vendors you will spend the most time with on the wedding day, so not only is it important that you appreciate a similar aesthetic, but you should feel comfortable with each other’s personalities.
During a meeting, I talk to the couple about my approach to shooting weddings and I also try to learn about their photography goals as well. This discussion minimizes the chances of uncomfortable surprises for the couple and I don’t end up feeling like I need to compromise artistically.