Leann Weston Photography captures this charismatic couple on film at their exuberant wedding day at Berkeley Fieldhouse wedding venue Toronto.
When you first met with Phuong and Adam what were your initial impressions of how you would approach the wedding day shoot?
Knowing that Phuong was a burlesque dancer, as well as her bridesmaids, I knew I had to capture their fun, brave and bold personalities in their photos. What was a surprise was really how Adam kept up with it all – he and the boys were just as animated. I was on my toes the entire day keeping up with all of their antics!.
You maximized the potential of the setting seeking out graphic and visually compelling locations for the wedding day portraits. What is your mindset when you are in process of a couple’s big day?
There was so much colour at Phuong and Adam’s wedding, and they were such a colourful couple. So naturally we were drawn to all of the areas of the Berkeley Fieldhouse that had colourful backdrops; at which point I stood back and watched them create these fantastic, theatrical moments. It really felt like they were on stage and I was the audience.
The person who brought Phuong and Adam together, is also a zookeeper at a company called Hands on Exotics. He could have brought foxes, parrots, a lynx or boa constrictors; but Phuong and Adam kept it safe and opted for the cutest baby bunnies for their wedding. They were a major hit with the guests.
You talk about wanting to frame wedding moments as artistic memories of a one-in-a-lifetime experience. What are some of the ways you accomplish this?
So much happens on a wedding day and all of it is really important to the couple. Some of it they will witness; other moments will be a surprise to them when they see their wedding photos for the first time. The key is to be able to anticipate moments and to be ready for when they happen. Keep your camera up!
You created stunning “getting ready” pictures of both the bride and groom and their wedding parties that looked like editorial style shoots while still having a lively candid quality. What is your process and way of seeing behind this success?
Before I was a photographer, I worked on children’s animated television series as a designer, and so I was used to telling a story through pictures. Now when I capture a scene, I’ll always move from shooting wide and shooting tight. The wide shots establish the context of a scene, and the tight shots show the details of the story. Switching between two focal lengths, or moving in and out with one lens helps me capture this variety of shots and makes the overall story more interesting.
Pinterest has become a great resource for helping couples plan for their wedding, and so I’ll always ask to be invited to their boards to see their thought process and help them with the decision-making. And on the morning of the wedding, I usually like to re-read my notes from my first meeting with the couple, as well as our email correspondence since then. I like to see the growing excitement in their emails leading up to their big day. 🙂
The Berkeley Fieldhouse is great in that it has a blend of urban and nature all in one setting. You don’t have to go very far to get a variety of looks. For the natural setting, it was about filling the frame with the greenery to give the impression that we were out of the city. And of course, lots and lots of backlighting to give that sunny, hazy look.
How would you describe the style and feeling of this beautiful wedding?
From the bottom-of-your-belly happiness! There was so much joy and laughter at this wedding, my cheeks hurt from smiling by the end of the day.
At what point did you realize just how fun and playful this wedding couple was and how did you communicate their personalities so effectively on their big day?
From the moment I first walked into Phuong getting ready on her wedding day and all the girls screaming “HI LEE!!!!” at the same time! Then came the bear hugs from everyone around. 🙂 Everyone was so gracious and lovely that day – it was completely effortless capturing their joy.
The guests at each wedding are such a big part of documenting the momentous day of a couple’s wedding. What is your approach when photographing guests?
Each wedding varies, and with some, I chose to shoot guests from a further vantage point and a longer lens. This way, the guests will relax and you can capture them candidly without them noticing you. With other weddings, it’s about getting close and into the action. These are the weddings where there’s lots going on and if you’re not in the middle of the action, you’ll miss it. But at every wedding, I always like to go around and say hello to the guests and take a snapshot of them. Getting to know the guests helps me get to know the couple better. And in the final collection, the couple has a selection of both candid and portrait shots of their guests.
From all of my years of shooting weddings, I’ve found that the less travel needed between venues on a wedding day, the less chance there is that things can go wrong. Weather, traffic and limos arriving late can definitely affect the timeline on a wedding day. Keeping everything at one venue means more time spent enjoying a cocktail with your guests! But on every wedding day, it’s important to let go of the little things. It’s a celebration – so relax and have fun!
What are some of the ways you change as a photographer through each wedding
I think each wedding challenges me to both try a little harder, but also trust a little more. It’s so easy to get comfortable in a way of shooting, and so with each wedding, I try to change it up a little. It could be the decision to only shoot with certain lenses. Or maybe with Speedlites instead of strobes. But I also like to simplify things, and see what happens when I strip everything away and shoot with the bare minimum – that’s where the trust comes in – relying on my knowledge and and a minimal amount of gear to create something beautiful. It’s like taking a long, deep breath and the results can be so wonderfully fulfilling.
You recently came back from a trip to California. How does travelling inform and expand your photographic process?
This was my first time traveling on the Pacific Coast Highway in California and it certainly lives up to the hype. The light there is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and it was difficult not to stop every five minutes to take pictures of the beautiful hazy coastline. I think any time you get a chance to shoot something that’s not familiar to you, is an opportunity for growth; but this can take place even in your own hometown. You don’t have to go far to capture something amazing. You just need an open mind and to be ready.
I asked you a question about traveling to California so you can add in Florida too I would love to hear your artistic take on Florida.
Every winter, I take a week off in February to visit my snowbird parents in Florida. Because of where they vacation on the gulf, the weather when I visit is always hit or miss. There have been some years when it’s actually snowed! But this year was the first that I can remember where every day was sunny and warm enough for swimsuits; and so my parents, sisters and I spent a lot of time on the beach. We even ventured out into the just-bearably-cold ocean a few times! During the bad/windy/foggy weather years, I would usually walk the beach with my camera, taking photos of the long dune grass, the sandpipers and the way the light would peek through the dark clouds and sparkle on the white-capped ocean waves. There is a minimalism to the beach, with a wide expanse of fine white sand separating the emerald-green ocean from the long row of pale-coloured beachfront condos.
This vacation, however, with it’s gorgeously hot, sunny days, was spent mainly under a brightly-hued beach umbrella; drinking wine and capturing the hordes of squawking seagulls as we tossed peanuts to them. Needless to say, most of my photos of Florida this year are close ups of gulls. 🙂