Sarah Tacoma Photography in conversation on preserving special moments, pushing herself to be creative, and capturing the romantic modern wedding of Loo & Mathew at Airship37 wedding venue Toronto.
How did you find your unique perspective in photography?
When I first began working professionally, I was trying to take photos like everyone else and it was exhausting. One day I realized that I could challenge myself to take photos in my professional life the way I take photos in my personal life, pushing myself to be creative, to go beyond the obvious and find artistic fulfillment in every job. The photographs I hang in my own home are candid ones, ones that capture real moments and authentic connection. It was a lightbulb moment when I realized I could give that to my clients as well.
What were some of your first conversations with Loo and Mathew like and how did arrive at a shared vision for their big day?
Generally when clients hire me, they’ve seen enough of my portfolio to just trust my vision. If they don’t know already, I stress that I’m there to capture the day, not fabricate moments. I’m drawn the humorous and emotional, to awkward glances, belly laughter and warm embraces. Matthew and Loo wanted to celebrate their love with their friends and family, and they simply wanted that documented. Our visions lined up perfectly for the day. Take a snap or two of them as a family with the kids, and the rest was purely candid.
What are your first impressions of Airship37 and how did you leverage its strengths in your photos ?
Airship 37 is a breath of fresh air. For one, it seems to have a secret entrance in one of the busier parts of Toronto which is a feat unto itself. When I worked in the Distillery many years ago, I barely glanced at that building, I can’t even remember what it was being used as. When I walked in this past summer, I was pleased to see all the natural light, rustic walls and open space. As a natural light photographer, I cringe when walking into a space that is dark… it’s difficult to be discreet with a flash going off all the time. At Airship, I was able to utilize the natural light into the evening, slipping through crowds unnoticed, snapping photos of intimate moments without distracting anyone.
Your shots during the dancing are so playful and vivid how did you get so good at capturing movement ?
A lot of play. I experiment a lot during the dancing… I drag my shutter to allow for movement or I pop my flash to freeze it. That part of the evening is when everyone lets loose, they get close, they laugh, they bust out moves you didn’t see coming. I try to do the same! Even after 15 years, I can surprise myself with something new.
How would you describe this wedding experience and how did you work Loo and Matthew’s ideas for their photos into your process?
Matthew and Loo really put their friends and family first at this wedding. They wanted it to be fun and full of laughter and beer and dancing. Most of the weddings I photograph are out in the country, at farms or cottages, on the lake or in a barn. But most of my clients are very similar in their desire to put their guests first and show them a really good time. Their priority is on relationships and having a great evening with those they love. When I take photographs, I really keep that in mind, looking for frames that capture what my clients value most. With Matthew and Loo I focused on their guests more than them as a couple. They wanted to remember who was there, to see them having fun, to see them enjoying time together.
In your experience what does having the whole set of wedding events in one venue benefit the overall experience and what does it mean for the photography ?
As a wedding photographer, I can’t stress how great it is to have everything at one venue. Sometimes I can spend an hour or more driving between locations and when most photographers are charging based on hours, that can really eat into available time. In Toronto, parking can be difficult to say the least, so not having to worry about finding parking at each location is another huge bonus! The distillery is right there for photos if need be, as are a number of alleyways, parks and old buildings, a little bit for every style.
When you were editing the slide show of the wedding what are some of your criteria for which pictures make the edit?
When I edit images for my slideshows, I grab the ones that strike a chord in me. Sometimes I don’t even know why I like the image so much, it could be the moment, the connection or it could be great light, composition or colour. I make sure to include a few key moments and some details to set the tone and then I put it all together to tell a story. I don’t like long slideshows personally, and I also don’t like showing my clients a lot of photos too soon. I think photographs can really effect our memory, so I try to hold back on showing many images until a month has passed so they have a chance to create their own memories and to forget little moments before I do the grand reveal.
What made you the happiest about the wedding pictures you took at this Airship37 wedding?
This wedding was a six hour party. It was so much fun, so loud, so playful and so loving. I think being able to photograph all these people in three distinctly different spaces within the venue, and under changing light was challenging and so rewarding. There were a few moments that were my favourite of course, the first being Loo walking down the aisle with her boys on either side. I may have chocked back a few tears there. Another was outside, with all the youth playing pingpong, having an amazing time. And the final was as the evening began settling down, groups of friends poured out under the glow of the string lights, holding hands and laughing.
You took some beautiful vibrant night photos. What do you attribute to their success do you have any tips for aspiring night photographers ?
Thank you! Experiment! Throw your camera on manual and play around with the settings. Turn off your LCD screen and get to know what your exposure should be without looking at the back of your camera. Generally, I like to take a safe image first, something that captures the moment and space well. Then I like to throw my settings all around and try something I haven’t done before to see if I can learn something new or create something bizarre. Finally, learn all the photography rules, they are fundamental and necessary, but don’t be afraid to break them.
In your opinion what do you think made this wedding such a success ?
I photographed what I knew was important to Matthew and Loo, not what I wanted for my blog or what I’ve seen other photographers do. Although I still push myself to make photos that are ‘blog-worthy’ within those confines. I try to make my images convey something whether the viewer knows the subject or not. But how do I know this wedding was a success? Because Loo cried when she saw the slideshow and told me so immediately. If I can move my clients like that with the images I take, than I’ve done my job. When my clients reach out and tell me I captured parts of their wedding they didn’t even know about, or faces they didn’t get the chance to talk to, or moments they didn’t think were preserved, then I feel I’ve done a good job.