Joee Wong Photography shares his experience photographing Julia and Jesse’s Glamorous wedding at Berkeley Church wedding venue Toronto.
There is a great sense of drama in your pictures. Do you look for dramatic moments to capture?
When I photograph weddings, my primary focus is to document the day in the most organic way possible. I want my imagery to evoke emotions the couple felt on their wedding day. As a result, most of my images are naturally dramatic and tell a story.
This Berkeley Church wedding had a christmas theme but also had a classic modern style to it. How did you balance all the elements to create a harmonious look?
To be honest, I had no idea what the theme was going to be. This was all the vision of the couple and their planner Rebecca Chan Events. I find that couples who are true to themselves will create and design an event that uniquely represents them. That being said, the decor was SO them and the venue was SO them.
The wedding of Julia and Jesse is clearly fun and energetic and this translates so effectively to your pictures. Was this something you prioritized?
I make a point of meeting all my couples before booking them as I take on a limited number of weddings per year. This meeting is a great way to get to know them as it is crucial that my couple and I have a connection. I’ve turned away weddings based on lack of chemistry because if that chemistry doesn’t exist, it really shows in the photos. It also makes the day so much more meaningful and way more FUN! My goal is for them to enjoy as much time with their friends and family and I think that keeps the energy high through the entire day.
What are some of your mantras for your success as a photographer?
There is beauty in everything.
What is on your bookshelf that inspires you?
I am not much of a reader but my bookshelf consists of photos of my biggest inspirations — my children: Ethan, Brandon, Jalen and Mila 🙂
What is your dream camera?
I believe a camera is just a tool and an extension of you. Most would probably choose the most technologically advanced and expensive camera, but it really is useless if you don’t know how to use it. The best camera DOES NOT make you a better photographer. But if I had to choose one, it’d be the Phase One XF 100MP. It’s kind of ridiculous for my needs though haha.
What do you think made this wedding so successful?
Trust. Julia and Jessie live in Edmonton so being present and getting actual facetime with their dream team in Toronto was difficult. Through skype and constant dialogue, there was very little room for misunderstandings. It was important that they trusted us wholeheartedly.
When you are taking pictures what would make you say ahh got it? what are you looking for?
For the most part, I go by feel. I don’t have an idea of what I ‘want’ to photograph because I take all my cues from my couple. These two LOVE to LOVE so they are incredibly affectionate, which I LOVE. I wanted to photograph them in their natural dispositions because at the end of the day, that would produce the authentic and beautiful images they will cherish.
You captured the big epic quality of the historic Berkeley Church while still managing to get the intimate quality of the wedding. How did you balance this?
For me, it is more about photographing images that make you ‘feel’. I did this by taking wide shots to give a sense of the space and ambiance and through tighter shots of them laughing or crying to help balance the story. I also photograph with prime lenses, so I was constantly moving and looking for new angles to tell their story.
The rehearsal pictures you took in the Berkeley Church contain all the vibrant, energetic and playful pre-wedding energy. How did this shoot come about and is this something you would recommend to a couple?
If possible, I attend all the rehearsals of my couples. It’s all part of the experience. Aside from the obvious joy I get from seeing my couples again, it’s even more important that I use this opportunity to get to know the key players (parents, wedding party, etc.) in their celebrations.
If you were to chose the big shot of the wedding that encapsulates the wedding day which would it be and why?
I think it would be their (selfie!) first kiss at the ceremony. I found out at the rehearsal that they were very much into social media and sharing their moments with the world. Their selfie first kiss with their whole wedding party was pretty awesome and hilarious !
What advice would you give a couple in the early stages of planning their wedding?
In an industry that is so saturated, get referrals from TRUSTED sources — friends, family, people who have experienced being present and/or working with certain suppliers. Priority should be placed on your ‘needs’, not ‘want’ items.
If you could spend a day shooting alongside any photographer in the present or from the past who would it be?
I don’t follow many photographers so I don’t have a favourite. But from time to time, I enjoy looking at war photography because it is the most honest and high pressure type of documentary photography, which is what I would consider my style.
Did you have a mentor for your photography training?
Yes, his name is Eduardo Martins. He has been instrumental in my development of understanding the dynamics of photographing weddings and people. I am completely self taught but Eduardo taught me how to use my interpersonal skills to really separate myself from other photographers. I guess he saw something in me and I owe a debt of gratitude to him for pushing me to be where I belong. I’m entering my 12th year photographing professionally purely based on word of mouth, which I’m very grateful for.
How do you continue to evolve your photography experiences and set of skills?
I travel quite frequently for my assignments which allows me to see new things constantly — new angles, new lighting situations and new people. I have a very close team that works with me, most whom I’ve mentored in some capacity, and we keep sharing new ideas and techniques with each other. There are no egos in our group. None of us think we are better than each other and there’s no such things as ‘secrets’. We learn from each other. As the saying goes, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’
How do you mange to be focused through the lens on all the important details that make up a wedding while still managing to follow and not miss anything in the bigger picture flow of a wedding day?
This might sound funny but I photograph with both eyes open — my right eye through my camera and my left eye on the scene. I also decided early on in my career that I did not want to photograph weddings alone anymore. Having my associate allows me to focus almost purely on the bride and groom and coverage is less obtrusive.
What are some pivotal experiences that have shaped your outlook on the meaning of photography?
I think it would be not having many photographs of my grandparents because we couldn’t afford a camera in the family when we were younger. I wish I had more photographs of them, so I try to photograph my parents and family as much as possible, as annoying as it can be for them. I want my children to see through photos how they grew up and the events that happened. That’s why I take my role seriously because I essentially am a visual historian for these families.
You chose to take family and wedding party photographs in the mezzanine at the Berkeley Church. What drew you to this part of the venue and how did the choice translate into the final pictures?
Between the ceremony downstairs being flipped for the reception setting and the weather being -20 outside, I didn’t have much choice haha. But I tend to like to do group photos in a space close to where the action is. It’s guaranteed to give me smiles when my bride and groom sees all their loved ones having a good time.
Photographer Joee Wong Photography
Venue : Berkeley Church
Catering : Berkeley Catering