Toronto Wedding Photographer James Paul Correia tells the story of Nicole and Derek’s perfect Berkeley Church wedding day and how building a relationship, being flexible and setting priorities makes the wedding day and photographs even better than expected .
You have pursued a PhD in Neuroscience and are now a full-time wedding photographer. How does that experience come into play as a photographer?
If anything, my Graduate studies represents how analytical I am. I see things in a very mechanical and technical manner. I look at how the light falls and how my positioning, lens choice, and settings will dictate the final image. The majority of my photos are very calculative, even during spontaneous moments of the day.. I’ve never consider myself an “artist”, however I do try to use my technical approach to create images with an artistic feel. To show something that you don’t usually see from the average perspective.
The wine cellar and the courtyard are intimate spaces where the excitement from the ceremony gets expressed. How did you take advantage of this part of the wedding day to capture expressive intimate photographs of the couple and all the guests
You are right, it’s in those spaces that the guests finally get to chat with the bride and groom. They have been spectators up to that point so the excitement is often at a high. For this wedding, we did family photos right after the ceremony while the guests enjoyed cocktails here. When we arrived in the space the reactions were great to capture. I know this is going to happen every time so I ready myself and head into the space before the couple does. The camera never leaves my eye until things start to settle down.
At every wedding I make a conscious effort to get a lot of photos of guests. I can’t always get everyone, but I try my best to. I know that there are certain times of the day when guests are most active and expressive. This is one of those times.
In your blog post you talk about allowing for some spontaneity in your day of getting ready shoot and how Nicole and Derek put their trust in you in navigating this adventure.
Building trust is an important part of how I am able to get the photos I do. You build that trust in two steps.
The first is during that initial consult. I love meeting with couples in person, and if that isn’t possible at least face to face over skype. The initial meeting is a chance to build a connection with each other; to show my personality and to show how much I love and care about what I do. I always show them several photos and explain what I think about during each part of the wedding day. If they can get a sense of my passion for wedding photography and the thought process I go through during the wedding day, it is easier for them to trust me.
The second part is the engagement shoot. I often encourage an engagement shoot because it allows them to experience the shooting process and see the results from it. My e-sessions are relaxed and natural so it’s not uncommon for the couple to come out of it feeling unsure of how the photos will look. When they get the final photos and see the type of images I get from simple situations and locations, they then trust me to achieve even more when everything is planned so perfectly on a wedding day.
When I have the couple’s trust I can suggest changes to the plans and they will be more open to it. It turned out perfectly for this wedding as we began to run late that morning and I was able to scout a backup location just across the street (I arrived 30mins early to have a look around). It turned out to be a better location (an empty business complex) then what was previously planned (the Distillery District). Funny enough, just the other day I got an email from a bride (who was not a client of mine) asking me where that location is for her own upcoming wedding, haha.
Speeches are verbal and the messaging is deep and personal, how do you express this significant part of the wedding experience ?
The best way to convey emotion is to get in tight, whether it be by positioning myself closer or by shooting with a longer lens. The closer you are to a person exhibiting a strong emotion, the more you feel that emotion as a viewer.
It’s situations like these where you have to understand that a single photo isn’t the final product. It’s the sequence of photos we deliver that tell the entire story. We shoot with the mindset of a creating a storyboard. We want a photo of the person giving the speech and a photo of the individual reacting to it. A close photo to capture the emotion and a wide photo to capture the setting. We also want a photo of the range of emotions expressed, laughter and tears and all.
How did you set out to capture the wedding ceremony in the Berkeley Church. What calculations and considerations did you make to ensure these beautiful results?
The ceremony was much easier to capture than expected. The large window diffused the natural light so I didn’t need a flash to create my own light. This was great because it allowed me to just focus on the moment and capture the emotions. I absolutely love the location for the ceremony because there is so much room for me to position myself and I rarely have to think about blocking someone’s view.
You beautifully captured the candlelight and shimmering lights that set the wedding style and mood. How do you capture diverse lighting sources cohesively?
Interestingly enough, the best way to capture the natural lighting of the space is to use artificial light. That sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s how you use your flash that is the key. When you use an on-camera flash, it fills the room, overpowering the ambiance and feel of the intimate candles. By using a wirelessly controlled flash on a stand, using it as a spot light, we can light the important parts we want to capture (the couple, the guests, etc), while keeping the surrounding natural light created by the venue and decor. I want the venue to look the way it looks to the naked eye, and I can’t do that without the use of off-camera flashes.
You mention that it was hard to edit your blog feature because you liked so many of the pictures. What do you attribute to the stand out nature of this wedding album?
The venue and the scheduling play a big role (with a dash of luck thrown in).
When the venue is decorated and lit so beautifully, it makes it easy to capture a large variety and different angles. The first dance alone provided so many options. I can shoot from the perspective of the crowd, from the stage to show the crowd in the background, from the balcony to show the scope of the venue, from the balcony corners to shoot through all the string lights. The venue allows me to shoot the same scene from different perspectives to give a different feel each time.
Proper scheduling allows for more time to find great spots to take photos. We were able to take photos before the ceremony, after the ceremony, and during golden hour in the evening. When a couple avoids squeezing in too many events during the day it allows for a lot of buffer time and keeps a relaxing pace. It’s during those quiet times that the most memorable moments occur. It facilitates more interaction between the couple and their family and friends. These are the important moments that you will treasure 30 years in the future. Not the details and shoes and jewelry. Just enjoy the day.
It is apparent that the couple wanted to have an epic dance party that engaged their guests and got them up out of their seats. How did they accomplish this and how did you capture the raw fun and energy so well?
The dance party at the end of the day is one of my favourite times to photography. Everyone lets loose, release their inhibitions and display their true personalities. It’s the time where I can capture a lot of emotion, spontaneity, and craziness. An epic dance party is completely reliant on the couple and the guests. I can only capture what they give me. Even a great DJ can’t get a crowd moving if they just don’t feel like it. However, the biggest key to success is to have the bride and groom on the dance floor. Everyone wants to party with them. Everyone wants a piece of them. So if they are on the dance floor, everyone will follow. The longer they are away from the dance floor, the more sparse it will get.
What in your opinion were some of the keys to the success of this wedding day and how did you respond with your photography?
I think the key to any successful wedding is the personality of the couple, and more specifically, their expectations of the day. When they go into the day relaxed and ready to just go with the flow they are more likely to enjoy the day. It’s when they have an expectation of how things should (or must) play out that stress levels go up. Keep in mind what is important, that this is a day for family and friends to gather and party, and you are almost guaranteed success. Luckily this bride and groom followed that mantra and had a phenomenal time.
I have shot a few stressful weddings and it’s always important to know when to put the camera aside. As we touched on earlier, I try to build a trusting relationship with my couples. Often that opens the door for me to step in and let them know we have plenty of time to get what we want done, and more importantly to remind them of what is important. I’ve diffused many bombs in my time, haha.
What are some of your goals and aspirations in your field for the new year:)
Every year I’m looking to continue to learn new techniques and approaches to take my creativity to the next level. I never settle and get comfortable with where I am at. I don’t believe in getting into a routine and providing the same results year after year. There is always room to improve and grow as a photographer.
This year in particular I’m focusing on a stronger photojournalisitc approach to capture more of the small moments that are hard to predict but often more important to the couple on a personal level. They aren’t award-winning images or awe-inspiring creative images, but I have noticed often the most meaningful photo to my couples are not even the ones that I put on my website because they aren’t anything special to the average viewer, but they mean the world to them and them alone.
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