When I grow up I’d love to be a photographer and I secretly dream of the fancy new cameras and taking amazing shots, but then sometimes I can barely get my iPhone to focus so luckily there are photographers like Todd Hunter Mcgaw (who took out 2011 AIPP QLD Wedding Photographer of the year, 2012 AIPP  Australian travel photographer of the year and 2012 QLD wedding album of the year!) Along with his wife Alyda, Todd Hunter Mcgaw as a brand produces incredible wedding imagery, so I am excited to have Todd join us today on Polka Dot Wisdom to share the thoughts behind his craft!

Todd was born with a camera where his head should be….’ So starts your story on your website! Please comment…..

“Stay true to thyself”.. this is what I learned from watching ‘the karate kid’ back in primary school (also, how to wax a car).. so the website is just that – I wrote all the content based on what I could express personally.. like attaching a breast pump to your heart & bottling your true self.. , the entire brand concept is all us (alyda & myself).. we also used an excellent designer to help extract the ‘us’ from us, & once we had the concept, I just had to fill the space with words & stuff.. but the idea was to produce something that was unweddingy, and something that was uniquely ‘us’..

Did you grow up in a creative family?

Yes & no..  I didn’t grow up in a ‘set your soul free & discover your creative inner eagle’ kind of household..  My parents are definitely creative people though & my mother ALWAYS had a camera with her to record our family life & she took a LOT of pictures J.. my parents are the most encouraging people I know.. their approach to everything when we were growing up was “try anything you want to, & if there isn’t a clear or obvious road to get there, google “how to make roads”.. so very creative environment that way, but totally not creative in other ways.. eg.. (when I was 16) “hey parents can I go to this party that all my friends are going to?”… “no”.

When did your interest in photography begin?

I’ve always been a very visual person, I’d often read books by looking at the pictures.. I gravitated towards photography as I started exploring my visualness in the mid 1990’s I guess.. the band I was playing in needed some photos & I was perhaps the only one with a camera.

How did you get into photography as a career?

I studied photography in 2000, & after that I wanted to be a commercial photographer.. I got some work assisting commercial photographers for a while, & some friends asked me to shoot their wedding..  being a wedding photographer was not something that I pursued.. it was like trying on a pair of pants that you wouldn’t normally buy, & finding out that they fit you better than any pants you’d ever worn in your whole life. Like super pants.

To me, your photography has a feeling of looking around a room and observing and capturing the little stories within the bigger story. Is this a conscious aspect of your photography?

Thanks.. to be honest, I don’t consciously try to shoot to a ‘style’.. I just like exploring.. wedding photography was sooo different when I first started out.. it was isolating, no workshops/blogs/mentoring etc.. so I carved my own way in.. I didn’t even realize I had a ‘style’ until people started commenting on my work saying… “That’s very you” or “that’s a very Todd shot”..

Style is always hard to define, but the bottom line is that I photograph what I see, so I’m going to keep on exploring & my theory is that the way I see will evolve, & therefore my photography will evolve..

Apart from the technicalities, what makes a ‘good’ photographer – is it curiosity about life, or other subtle qualities?

You just nailed it.. You have to be curious.. curiosity generates questions, & questions fuel the desire to explore..  but being curious is not just good for art, or photography.. being curious makes you interesting because you are interested.. in things… in life..

Anyone can learn how to use a camera.. making a photograph is easy like clapping your hands is easy.. Photography is not about cameras, ISO, megapixels blah blah.. photography, (especially for weddings) is about seeing.. & I think there is a difference between looking at something & really seeing something..  and it’s about people…

There are infinity good photographers out there, but not that many great ones. If I was getting married, I’d want a great photographer to shoot it.

Do you plan your wedding shoots to the last detail with the couple, or do you maintain ‘freshness’ by capturing what inspires you on the day?

We scope out locations for all weddings we shoot – we’ve always done this.. having a plan helps my brain’s analytical department relax so they can play nerdy strategy games & talk about processing & investments.. then my brain’s creative department is free to explore on the wedding day without the analytical geek-squad bugging them.

Other than that we talk with our clients a lot about times, locations etc so they can enjoy their day – be in the moment without having to worry about what’s next & when.. we watch the time for them.. we don’t cover anything ultra specific.. every wedding needs flexibility for everything that is awesome about weddings .. you can’t control things to within 5 minutes & wanting to do that is just silly.

Do you most like to shoot a wedding when you have been given complete creative freedom?

Creative freedom is great.. but knowing our clients & what they dig, is the most important thing to me.. it’s everything really.

What do you like about wedding photography?

Weddings 🙂

After reading your story and your blog, it is evident that you are a humorous person who enjoys life. How does this translate into your photography?

Thanks.. this world is an amazing place.. & life is about trying new things & exploring..  you can’t take things too seriously or you’ll just be sad all the time..  it can’t rain ALL the time (unless you live in london or seattle – but I’ve been to both & they’re pretty awesome)

I think art is really a way of communicating.. sending a message or making a comment, or asking/answering a question – so my photography hopefully communictaes something about who my clients are & just a little about who I am as an artist at the same time..  a personal body of work should express something about who I am as well i think..  so I hope that everything about me is translated into my photography.. that means I am communicating well..

I really hope my life doesn’t become stagnant or tired or complacent or boring, because then my photography will do the same & then I’ll get to the end of my to do list, & then I won’t have a job..

When you don’t have a camera in your hand, what do you like to do?

I like to ride my bicycle.

What is your dream for Todd Hunter McGaw Photography?

i’m really excited actually.. I’ve been a full time wedding photographer for 5 years, but I still feel like my journey has just begun..  I’m mustard keen to explore photography more & delve deeper..  I still have a lot to learn, & it’s great to get some recognition from the industry, confirming to me that I’m on the right track.. I recently achieved AIPP Master of Photography honours & I just won 2012 AIPP Australian Travel Photographer of the year too! There’s a fire in my belly, burning bright 🙂

Thank you for joining us today Todd! Find more of Todd’s work (and humor!) on the Todd Hunter Mcgaw website!

Todd’s head shot by Pobke Photography