In Conversation with Lisa Mark Photography featuring two weddings at The Berkeley Church: some refreshing insights
An Interview with Lisa Mark with Lisa Mark Photography on capturing the beauty of two glamorous weddings at Berkeley Church wedding venue Toronto.
How would You describe your process?
I like to define my work as Fine Art Wedding Photography. It’s a mix of natural moments combined with more fashion-inspired posed work. I capture the emotions of “your” day, but I also give direction when required. I can be hands-on or completely unobtrusive.
It is always a challenge to do photography at a live event with indoor event lighting. Your photography in these situations has such a natural balanced quality to it. How do you prepare for these events and have such success?
The main thing is to balance our bounce flash with the ambient lighting in the room. Usually if we have chandeliers or other lighting that comes with the room, we expose for the background and then add some flash (mounted on top of our cameras, bounced off the ceiling or a nearby wall) to light the foreground with our subject. This creates soft light to fall on our subject, and a well-exposed background. Of course we have a few tricks we use on occasion. Specifically at The Berkeley, I like to separately light the archway on-stage with a gelled flash, and fire it in addition to the bounce flash, to create some great backlight on the archway in whatever colour I feel is best for that wedding. We find that it’s purple or blue that work best.
You speak of being hands-on or completely unobtrusive can you elaborate a little on this approach?
Different parts of the wedding day call for different approaches. For example, during the ceremony I pride myself on being completely unobtrusive. I dress in black and try to sneak around, and try my best to stay out of people’s field of vision as much as possible. However, during the posed photo time I give my couples lots of direction and encouragement, but also try to have them engage each other, so that each moment I capture between them has a genuine feeling to it. You can’t fake their happiness – I just try and bring it out for everyone to see.
Your photographs from Kat and Phil’s wedding at the Berkeley Church are all what one would call keepers..there is such a symmetry and balance in each of the pictures. What can you attribute this success to in your process?
The symmetry is probably a combination of years of experience (ensuring the image is well balanced is more of an instinct by now), and taking the time to frame each image carefully in-camera, while at the same time being fast enough to catch those fleeting moments. It’s very important to get the technical side of images right while shooting. There are very real limitations to what Photoshop can do, that many people don’t realize, so we try to get it right in-camera. For example, if I don’t crop a building correctly when shooting I usually can’t extend a wall and make it look very realistic, so we do it right the first time.
One picture in particular stands out as an impactful image – the one from Kat and Phil’s wedding outside of the Berkeley Church where the groom is kissing the bride and she has a very fun, expressive look on her face. This picture strikes one as so rich with personality and the promise of many stories to unfold. Do you have these pictures in mind as a goal for your weddings?
It really depends on the couple. Sometimes I will go into a wedding at a specific location with ideas in mind but it’s usually more related to the location itself and the lighting. Once we are shooting, I can usually tell whether or not an image I have in mind would be suited to the couple (i.e. I wouldn’t ask a more traditional couple to lie down on the grass together). Kat and Phil in particular were a lot of fun, and I could tell they wanted to have a great time on their wedding day. I simply set them up in great light, adjusted their pose a bit and asked Phil to give Kat a kiss on the cheek. My tone usually encourages a mood – in this case, a fun one – and Kat did the rest with her adorable expression. I like to think I bring the best out in my clients, but in all honesty it’s very much up to them and their personalities to really open up to me and shine when the time comes for their wedding portraits. It’s so important to relax into the moment and allow enough time for your wedding photos, because you can tell when a bride & groom are stressed in their photos. If that ever happens I work hard to relax them and have them focus on the moment at hand.
Amanda & Gary’s Berkeley Church wedding, same venue, equally stunning wedding photography. The atmosphere is so completlely different between the two weddings. What do you attribute this to?
Again, mostly the couple. The styling of the details always leaves a bit of a different vibe, as can the season (i.e. a sunny summer day vs. an overcast autumn day), but really it’s the couple’s personality together that makes every wedding a bit (or vastly) different, even if the venue is the same.
Within an event there is always a choice of what the photographer choices to shoot. Do you feel like you are looking through a different lens based on the personality of the couple, that the different subjects inform your choice of what you frame in the eyepiece?
Absolutely – especially if there’s something that I’m aware the bride or groom is self-conscious of. For example, if the bride tells me she hates her face’s profile, I will go out of my way to utilize different poses and will avoid any images where her fact is shot from the side. Again, a couple’s vibe together naturally influences how I shoot each wedding (every one is totally unique) but it’s almost hard to put into words how or why that happens. It’s best to look at each different wedding at the same venue to see how different they can all be.
You work with your husband. What are the benefits of working together as a team? How does this relationship benefit the artistic process?
My husband has been shooting with me now for almost 7 years, so he can pretty much read my mind. As my assistant he knows instinctively which lens I will need to use next and as my second shooter he knows what I need him to deliver (images of the bride from behind walking down the aisle, candids at the reception during speeches, organizing family formal groups, etc.) By having him by my side at every single engagement session and wedding, not only are our couples really comfortable with both of us by the wedding day, but there are no surprises for me while I’m shooting (vs. hiring random second shooters for every wedding instead).
What are the benefits of having shot a wedding in a venue before? Do you develop a sense of the way the venue expresses itself? Can this work to your advantage as you know how lighting works at different times of the day or how the particular nooks and crannies of a venue looks really great as a backdrop for a type of shot?
Definitely – even if you think a venue will photograph a certain way, you never know until the day of the wedding. This is why we don’t location scout – because light comes first when composing an image, and location is second. Lighting changes by the hour and we are experienced enough to know how to manipulate it to make the best images possible. That being said if we have shot a venue before, I automatically know what my favourite spots are, what worked before, maybe what didn’t, and what I didn’t have time to try at the last wedding that I’d like to try this time.
Your couples have an ease about them in the pictures that show the depth of their relationship while at the same time there is a relaxed nature to it. Do you have visual references in your mind that you are working with during an event ?
Not really – it’s mostly about being encouraging to them. Most people aren’t used to being photographed, nor expressing their feelings about their partner outwardly, so a wedding day can be overwhelming for many people. This is why we love doing an engagement shoot with our clients before the wedding whenever possible. It gives us a chance to get to know the couple, see what works for them, what makes them laugh, and we use those things on the wedding day. Having already created beautiful images from the engagement shoot is always very reassuring, and I always explain that the wedding day photos will be the same thing – just in fancier outfits. It’s about being in the moment together, totally focused on one another. This is also why we insist on total privacy during the bride & groom alone photos, to ensure they can relax into the moment to produce the best images possible.
Are there instances where you have to push the envelope a little with a couple to try something based on your previous experiences and it has worked out really well?
Yes, times when I ask them to assume weird positions (i.e. lie on the grass and shoot from above), or to spin around, etc. I’m always happy to show them right after how amazing the image turned out, which they love because they usually feel a bit vulnerable trying something outside the box, but feel so great when they see how amazing it looks!
What type of photography do you do in your leisure time and how does this affect your process?
Mostly band photography. I have photographed lots of concerts and although we now have a young son at home I don’t get out as much as I’d like, but I do enjoy shooting the occasional concert to keep my hand in it.
Living with another professional photographer must make for some fun conversations. Are you ever out for breakfast and you debate the best exposure for a still life on the brunch table? Are your aesthetics different or do you share a similar approach,ie uncoached would you take a similar picture or would it be quite different?
We are actually very different that way. I was the one who went to college for Creative Photography and really had the passion for it. My husband Justin didn’t know he loved shooting until he met me and began assisting me at weddings I was shooting. Eventually he picked up a camera and I discovered he had a real natural eye for a great image, and great timing). All it took was a little instruction from me on the technical aspects and he’s become a fantastic second shooter for me. His best talents include capturing moments I may be too busy to see (i.e. a great candid of Mom & Dad getting teary while I’m up photographing the Bride’s thank you speech). The combination of our images is very unique and the images he captures contribute greatly to a well-rounded wedding coverage.
How does the wide range of personality and implementation of a wedding’s decor choices affect your process?
Every wedding is unique in this aspect but it can be challenging when lighting is particularly affected. For example I had one wedding at a banquet hall where every light in the place was purple. Even the spotlights on the couple were purple. This meant I really had to carefully balance my ambient light with my flash, ensuring my flash was doing most of the work, or else everyone at the reception would have looked like they had purple skin tones. Also, during the first dance and parent dances, please ask your DJ (or whoever is doing your lighting) for a simple white spotlight – not a bunch of coloured disco lights or green laser dots. These are pretty much impossible to overpower with our bounce flash and still create a natural-looking image. So please be sure to save the “fun” lighting for the dance party later on for the best images possible of these special moments.
The wedding party is such an interesting element of the wedding. It’s really the drama of the blending of each partners closest relationships. What are some of your experiences shooting the wedding party?
Some are fun, fantastic, and and full of lovely people. Some are painful! I won’t lie – wedding parties can be challenging depending on their personalities. We may encounter the occasional groomsman who won’t listen to any direction during group photos, or a bridesmaid who refuses to walk on the grass, but mostly we are very lucky and have wonderful clients with great friends. These people are usually very friendly and willing to go that extra mile to make sure their best friend’s wedding goes off without a hitch (i.e. standing outside in -20 degree weather just to get a photo outside). It’s really great to see such love & support of two people who are so happy together.
all photos Lisa Mark Photography
Venue: Berkeley Church