Dynamic photographers Byfield-Pitman Photography & Colleen Anne Photography share Suzanne and Rob’s Gorgeous Berkeley Church New Years Eve Wedding.

Photo by Ben Welland.

You shoot as a team, what are the benefits of this?

Colleen:  Working as a team, Ben and I are able to cover more aspects of the wedding day and tell a more complete story.  We can get multiple angles on the same moment or be in two different places, showing the couple their wedding in ways they couldn’t see themselves.  I love it when we deliver the photos and the bride or groom remarks about the things that we captured that they didn’t see happening.  A lot happens on a wedding day and there are a lot of really beautiful moments that happen, but you’ve got to be looking for them and having two sets of eyes is really great for that.
 Photo by Ben Welland.
What was your approach to this given the unique personalities of the couple?
Ben:  I think that while it’s true, of course, that every couple has their own unique personality, we find that couples come to us because they want us to show them their wedding day the way that we see it.  And as a result of our interest in documenting every aspect of the wedding day, we end up working with a lot of couples who don’t want the focus of the wedding pictures to be only on the two of them. Colleen:  It was really important to Suzanne and Rob for the guests to have a good time at their reception and for them to get time to enjoy the party with their guests.  Focusing on candid photos of the day rather than too many posed portraits let them get back to spending quality time with their friends and family.  It also allowed us to capture the emotional moments that unfolded during the day.
Photo by Ben Welland.
Colleen you have a degree in Sociology, and have studied Art History and Film, how does this impact the way you approach photography?
Colleen:  My studies in Art History and Film taught me a lot about using lighting, composition, and colour to communicate stories visually. Ben and I borrow framing techniques and techniques used in cinema at every wedding.  For example, we’ll often do a wide establishing shot to set the scene or we’ll do matching shots of two people interacting to cover both sides of a conversation just like films cut back and forth between characters.  My Sociology classes taught me to always be thinking about the message behind the photograph, so I’m always conscious of how I’m portraying my subjects and in particular, the women that I photograph.
Photo by Colleen Johnson.
Ben you have an extensive background as the primary photographer in Ottawa’s weekly arts newspaper, Xpress. How does this background impact your photography?
Ben: Well, for one, I know that all the protests and parades that I shot for the newspaper definitely helped in my early years as a wedding photographer. I always used to tell couples that if they liked my edgy photojournalism work that I did with Xpress, they’d like my wedding photography too.  I’d be shooting, for example, the formal group shots of the groomsmen the same way that I would shoot a rock band: so that they looked cool.  These days, I’m actually finding that the magazines and editorial clients who I work with are asking for the shots to have that same light and airy feel that my wedding work does!
Photo by Ben Welland.
Photo by Ben Welland.Photo by Ben Welland.
The photography of Suzanne and Rob’s wedding seen together tells a complete story as each part of the day unfolds. How do you achieve this?
Colleen:  Having two photographers was especially helpful while the bride and groom were getting ready in two different locations.  It helps at the reception too, for example, when one of us covers a speech while the other covers the guests or the bride and groom’s reactions. Ben: We also don’t sit back and let the less iconic parts of the wedding day go un-photographed.  There’s always a good photograph to be made, at any point in the day. We’re driven to always be ready and waiting for the next great picture to happen right in front of us. We often eat in shifts so that we don’t miss a single thing!
Photo by Colleen Johnson.
Photo by Ben Welland.
What are some of the questions you would ask a couple about the photography of their wedding?
Colleen:  We usually ask couples to describe how they want their day to go. There’s so many different ways to have a wedding now and couples have gotten really creative about wedding planning. We want to make sure that the photography reflects and supports the kind of day that they’re planning.Ben:  Another question we like to ask couples is if they like the look of the black and white photos on our website. We almost always deliver about 30-35% of the pictures we take in black and white and we like to make sure that black and white photography is something that the couple likes the look of.Photo by Colleen Johnson.Photo by Ben Welland.What are your personal favourite parts of the wedding to photograph?

Ben:  I love shooting people as they are in motion. Especially when they’re walking. The human body has a beauty to it when it’s in motion and it doesn’t require much direction on my part or deliberate posing so that people in the picture “look natural”. I especially like photographing people as they walk towards me, oblivious of the camera that’s in front of them. Oh yeah, and when they get in and out of vehicles. It makes them feel like movie stars!Photo by Ben Welland.Photo by Ben Welland.Photo by Ben Welland.Colleen:  At this particular wedding I had a lot of fun photographing the dance party that unfolded just before midnight. When the clock struck twelve, I went up to the second floor of the Church to get a wider shot of the excitement on the dance floor while Ben photographed Suzanne and Rob celebrating the New Year with a kiss.Photo by Colleen Johnson.Photo by Ben Welland.Photo by Ben Welland.Photo by Ben Welland.At what point in the day were the photographs of the couple together in the courtyard and the mezzanine taken? Were these scripted or did they unfold spontaneously?Ben: Those setups were definitely scripted! Ha! Actually… I’m glad that you had to ask. That means that we did a good job!Colleen: Ben and I had scouted locations in the Church the day before and we knew that the lighting and architectural features of the courtyard would make for a good background for some portraits. Ben and I quickly grabbed Suzanne and Rob right before the ceremony to take a few portraits in the courtyard to take advantage of the good available light that happens in the evening right before dusk. We also setup a second portrait of the two of them on the mezzanine later in the day after we finished up with the family portraits.Photo by Ben Welland.Photo by Ben Welland.Photo by Colleen Johnson.Photo by Colleen Johnson.The photographs in the mezzanine before the ceremony beautifully portray the anticipation and excitement of the day. What are some of the ways you capture this excitement?

Colleen: While some bride and grooms worry that first look photographs might be too “scripted” or staged-feeling, I’ve found that first looks always end up being incredibly emotional for the couple. The reality of seeing each other all dressed up for the wedding day makes them realize that their wedding day has finally arrived, and they often become excited or choked up. We usually try to make the moment as private as we can and ask the wedding party and family to hang back so the couple can get some one-on-one time.

Ben:  We also positioned Rob in just the right light upstairs on the mezzanine before we allowed Suzanne to walk up behind him and “surprise him”. I mean, yes, once we “released her” we allowed their excitement in seeing each other for the first time on the wedding day to take over, resulting in true, candid documentation of their “first look”. But we don’t like to leave stuff like that to chance too much. When something’s got to look real, and it’s only going to happen once, we like to put our subjects in the right light before it happens.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Photo by Ben Welland.

There are some beautiful candid shots taken in the moments in between the events of the day. The shots of the couple in the wine cellar are relaxed and fun. Do you look for these brief moments in the business of the day?

Colleen: We’re always on the lookout for moments like this. Once people get used to being photographed they open up and relax in front of the camera – that’s when you can capture the personalities of the couple.

Photo by Ben Welland.

There are a number of beautiful shots where you capture the expression of one person in a frame filled with activity. It becomes a stunning picture. How would you describe this shot?

Ben: Technically speaking, we achieve this look by shooting with an impossibly shallow depth of field, so that there’s really only one face in focus, even though there are many people in the scene. It really draws the viewer’s eye to the expression that we want you to see first.

Colleen: These are some of the shots we’re best known for taking. Most people hire us because they love the candid photography we shoot of guests. We love to shoot not only the couple but the guests that attend the wedding too because they’re an important part of the celebration. It’s so rare that you get to bring together all the people in your life that are most important to you, so we like to make sure that the photos show the people that came to the wedding and the good time they had talking, dancing and laughing together.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Photo by Ben Welland.Photo by Ben Welland.

The photography from the ceremony is very original in that you both sought out interesting angles for the pictures resulting in a very intimate look. Is this something you do regularly?

Colleen: We try to get as many angles on the ceremony as we can while maintaining as unobtrusive a presence as possible. Where we photograph the ceremony from largely has to do with what the couple is comfortable with, and so our approach is usually tailored to fit the wedding we’re at. It’s important to respect the significance of the act of getting married during a ceremony – Ben and I like to say that it’s a wedding day first and foremost – not a photo shoot!

Photo by Ben Welland.

Photo by Colleen Johnson.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Lighting is such an important component of the work you do. How do you work with the lighting at the event and supplement it to get the highest quality of photography?

Ben: Colleen and I like to work with available light when the light is good, and supplement available light with flash when necessary. Since Suzanne and Rob got married at a time of day when there was little available light coming in through the stained glass windows, it was really important to us to create 3-dimensional and, at the same time, a very flattering-looking light by using a mix of both on-camera and off-camera flashes.

Photo by Colleen Johnson.

In addition to lighting your photographs have a beautiful colour palette. What is your process for looking for these shots?

Colleen: Digital pictures usually look somewhat clinical when they come straight off the memory card. We work tirelessly on the colour palette to create a pleasing and natural look to our photos. Both Ben and I learned to be photographers while shooting film in college, back in the early 2000’s, and it’s helped us to better understand how to get the most from the digital files we shoot today.

Photo by Colleen Johnson.

Photo by Colleen Johnson.

 Photo by Colleen Johnson.

Photo by Colleen Johnson.

Food photography can be very challenging; you captured the meal beautifully, setting each shot in a beautiful composition and lighting in the midst of the event. What are the elements of good food photography to you?

Colleen: When we shoot food, we try to light the dish in such a way that it looks delicious. Chefs put a lot of effort into how they plate dishes too, so we’re always looking for the “front” of the dish so we’re showing the food the way the chef intended it to be presented.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Ben:  Food also begs to be lit from behind, and never from the front. So whenever possible I hunt around the room for a guest’s untouched plate that just so happens to have one of our off-camera lights situated above and behind it.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Photo by Ben Welland.

When you see the pictures of the wedding reception you can actually hear the music, how did you do this?

Ben: I think this is a totally cool comment, and I’m flattered that you can hear the music in our photos! I personally spent several years photographing the Ottawa music scene as well as touring the country with bands when I first started out.  And one thing that I always enjoyed doing was photographing the audience in addition to photographing the band that was on stage. When I started shooting weddings full time in 2003, I just treated the dance floor part of the night the same way that I would treat my audience pictures at concerts. I wait for the cues in the song that’s being played and I anticipate the moments when people are going to look most like they’re feeling the song.

Photo by Colleen Johnson.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Photo by Colleen Johnson.

Colleen: Some credit here has got to go to the band that Suzanne and Rob hired, Parkside Drive. They did a great job of entertaining everyone at the wedding and definitely contributed to the fun photos we shot on the dance floor.

Photo by Ben Welland.

You captured all the unique textures that are a quality of the historic Berkeley Church, was this something you strived for?

Colleen: Ben and I visited the Berkeley Church before the wedding to get a better sense of the space and to plan the photography for the day. We definitely wanted to show off the contrast between the rustic walls, the ornate stained glass and the intricate metal work you see on the railing on the second level.

Photo by Colleen Johnson.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Photo by Ben Welland.

The benefits of a two person shoot are very evident throughout the wedding, how do you co-ordinate working together at a live event?

Colleen: Ben and I have been photographing weddings together since 2006, so we have a lot of experience with knowing how to coordinate with each other on wedding days. We’re also a married couple ourselves; so non-verbal communication has become a big part of how we work. We can just glance at each other and know exactly where we want the other one to be.

Ben: It’s a dance. You read your partner. Sometimes I need her to carry me; sometimes she needs me to carry her. But to the beholder, we dance in perfect unison.

Photo by Ben Welland.

What three words best describe this wedding?

Colleen: New Year’s Eve!

Photo by Ben Welland.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Where would you both be on a day off with your cameras?

Colleen: We’d probably be outside. We like to unwind during the week by going camping or hiking. I love photographing landscapes.

Ben: I’ve always made a conscious effort to bring my camera to family functions. Photographing my own family has helped me to workshop a lot of the lighting techniques and styles of composition that I then go to use at weddings. Every Easter dinner, every backyard get-together; all of them can look every bit as special as a wedding reception, when photographed well. So while I couldn’t photograph my own wedding reception, I can certainly do my best to make sure that my own family has the same kind of beautiful and timeless photographic keepsakes that Colleen and I provide our clients with weekend after weekend.

Venue : Berkeley Church

Photography : byfield-pitman photography

Colleen Anne Photography

Catering : Berkeley Catering