One of the most enjoyable aspects of our job is seeing a wedding unfold in the shots taken by photographers. Amanda and Pete of The Hitched Collective are all about recording the seemingly smallest behind the scenes moments, because along with the big moments that everyone is aware of, there is a whole world of interactions playing out. And these are the moments that will enthrall as you remember your day through your images because you realise that the bringing together of family and friends results in special little scenes that you weren’t even aware of, but are such an important part of your day. And that’s what good photographers do – they remind you that there is a world of interactions passing by in the blink of an eye, bringing a smile and also a tear, because they are so precious. Amanda and Pete tell us their story.
Who is The Hitched Collective and why did you decide to join together as a team?
The Hitched Collective is made up of Amanda Shackleton and Peter Williams. We met at uni, and were classmates since our first year, all the way through to the end of the course. When classes called for the students to team up to do shoots or assignments, we would usually pair up as we worked really well together. We both developed a love for wedding photography and had shot weddings individually, and on a couple of occasions, assisted each other, it seemed like a natural progression for us to start a business together. VOILA … The Hitched Collective was born.
How long have you been photographing weddings?
Peter: I’ve been shooting weddings for about 5 years now.
Amanda: I started shooting weddings in 2012, so 6 years.
Do you photograph weddings together?
Yes, if the wedding requires a 2nd photographer. Generally, there’s a need for one of us to take the lead and look after the critical moments, while the other will hang back and provide lots of behind the scenes, and candid shots. We switch up who is the principal photographer, it’s usually down to who the clients have the initial discussions with.
What is the advantage of being a team when photographing a wedding?
As anyone who’s ever been involved in a wedding will tell you, it’s a busy day! It’s filled with special moments that can’t or won’t be repeated, so it’s critical that these are captured for the couples and their families. A lot of these moments happen behind the scenes, or away from the main action of the Bride and Groom. From emotional faces in the crowd at the ceremony, to crazy old uncle Stan cutting loose on the dance floor, a single photographer can’t get all this, so having two photographers is essential to capturing as many of these moments as possible.
Why weddings – what do you love about photographing the day?
We specialise in a documentary style of photography. Being trained photojournalists, we love to tell a story with our images, and let’s face it, a wedding is this huge story that’s just begging to be told! Generations of families, lifelong friends, lifetimes of experiences, all condense into the one day. For us, it’s a gold mine of material we can use to craft a story of the couple and their amazing day.
Do you have a similar style of photography?
We both love the documentary side of photography, telling the story with images, so from that perspective we’re very similar. Having said that, we also have slightly different styles in the way we shoot. As they say in Bali … Same same, but different.
What do you each bring to The Hitched Collective?
Pete: Wow, great question. Well, from a talent and skills point of view, we both come from the same photography training and background, although Amanda went the extra mile after our course and did the Bachelor program, while I only have a measly Advanced Diploma, so I guess she wins there J … From a personality perspective, I suppose we’re very different, but then most people are. We both love people, and we both revel in documenting these amazing days, but I suppose we relate to people in different ways. Maybe that’s what makes us work together as well as we do!
Amanda: Pete also brings the crazy suits!
Are there times or moments throughout the wedding day that always stand out for you?
Pete: All weddings are different, but I think, in general, my favourite parts of the day would be early on when the girls are getting ready (sorry guys, but the girls have more fun). A few champagnes to calm the nerves, coupled with stories from the hen’s night, and Mum’s/Aunties throwing in a few stories from their own weddings, makes for a sensational way to kick the day off. The other favourite moments would probably be the post-service shoot. That time when the stress of the ceremony is over, the flock of relatives and friends are gone, and we can all enjoy the peace and quiet for a short while. This is an amazing time for us as documentary photographers, because everyone is relaxed, the mood is great, and usually the groomsmen have brought an esky. Even though we have to pose them all for these shots, there is also an opportunity for some incredibly natural un-posed moments as well. These are the ones they’ll look back on and smile.
Amanda: My favourite part of the day is immediately after the kiss! You can see the couple relax and then realise they are married, it’s magic and all then the love from the guests just flows.
I also love the dancefloor, I love being in the midst of it while everyone is celebrating and having a good time.
Do you tend to pose your couples/bridal party or do you let the day unfold naturally?
There will always be times when the Bride and Groom need to be posed for the formal photo’s, but even then we try to keep it casual and not too stiff. Other than that, we really love the natural candid shots, and we try to elicit these during the course of the day. This is why it is so incredibly important to us to create a connection or a bond with the couple as early as possible in the process. If they’re comfortable with us, it’ll come out in the images. We’re able to get the relaxed, informal shots we do, because we concentrate on developing these relationships with the couples from the first meeting. What we want, is for them to relate to us as ‘friends with camera’s’ rather than ‘technical wedding image takers’
What are the qualities you look for when setting up a shot?
As we try to keep things candid and natural, we generally don’t ‘set up’ a shot, although we do scout locations for the formal shots, and work out the best way to light and shoot them. During the other times, what we can do, is to increase our chances of getting a great image by having a situational awareness. By that I mean that we’ll assess where we are, where the people are, where the light is (or isn’t), where we expect things to happen etc. Then it’s a matter of placing ourselves appropriately and letting it happen. The other important element is timing. Anticipating what’s about to happen, and being ready. The last element in the equation is good ol’ luck! … Yep, not afraid to say that it’s helped in the past, but you shouldn’t rely upon it.
Some of us don’t like being photographed. Do you have any tips you can give to bridal couples?
Have fun! … It’s as simple as that. Just let the day happen and enjoy the crap out of it. Make sure all the big stuff is squared away beforehand, and after that, it’s only little things that can go wrong, and who cares about those … If you’re not stressed, you’ll be relaxed, and if you’re relaxed, we’ll get great pictures. If the couple isn’t comfortable in front of a camera, after a while they’ll forget we’re there. As most weddings have us there for the entire day, they soon start to feel a lot more relaxed with it after an hour or so of shooting. By the time we get to the more formal shots, we’re all having a laugh together. It’s in our best interests to establish that informality, or connection, so we can get these beautiful natural images.
Are there differences in the way couples approach the photography for their wedding now? What do couples expect?
I think these days couples want to cover every possible aspect of their wedding. From early in the morning with the girls getting ready, to the end of the night when reception winds down. This is why we really recommend having two photographers, as there’s no way a single photog can cover everything. Gone are the days when the only shots required, were the strictly posed formal shots, and a few of the ceremony. These days, couples want to open up the album and re-live the day through the images. Albums aren’t just a record of the main bits of the day, they’re also a considered, crafted, standalone artifact to be treasured for decades to come.
What preparations do you make to photograph a wedding? Do you do a lot of pre-planning?
Absolutely. We don’t just rock up on the day and hope for the best. The couples spend a lot of money on the day, and the last thing they need is for the photographers to miss things, or be caught unprepared. We’ll visit all the venues in the weeks prior to the day to familiarise ourselves with everything. We’ll take test shots, speak with the people running the venues, work out where the best places are for us to be during ceremonies, post wedding formal shots, speeches etc. We’ll visit churches, and talk to the priests to work out what’s permissible and what isn’t. We’ll keep an eye on the weather and be ready for burning sunshine or driving rain. We’ve checked tides and sunset times for beach weddings, and scoured vineyards for the best places between the grapevines.
So yep, we pre-plan 😊
On the wedding day, how do you remain unobtrusive, so that you are able to take the most natural shots of the couple and their guests?
Sure, it’s important to be as unobtrusive as we can most of the time (Amanda was once described as a photo ninja!). We aren’t the stars of the wedding, so it’s a delicate balance of staying in the background, while sometimes getting up close and personal, so a long lens can be our best friend. Everyone there realises that photographers need to do their thing, but that doesn’t mean we can shove ourselves into every aspect of the day and be over-bearing.
Having said that, there are times when we actually need to take charge and be people wranglers. As an example, most couples these days love to have the group shot of everybody at the wedding. This is where a ladder, a robust personality, and a loud voice come in really handy. We need to make sure the couple get the best images they can, so sometimes it means we need to be a little assertive to achieve that.
Has anything funny ever happened to you when taking a wedding photograph?
Peter: Well, I haven’t fallen backwards into a pond or anything like that, but there are moments when you have to smile. We were shooting a wedding at the beach where I was the lead photographer, and Amanda was the second shooter. The ceremony overlooking the beach started a bit late went a bit longer than expected, so by the time we could get the post-service shots, the sun was well and truly setting, and it was getting very dim. To get the wedding party revved up and laughing, I had them take their shoes off and run up and down the beach. Because it was so dim we needed to use a flash, so I had Amanda running up and down the beach with them, with a remote flash and umbrella on a pole. It was a funny sight … Hopefully she’s forgiven me J
Amanda: Only just! My funniest moment was during the family photos for one couple I had climbed into a flower bush to get the best angle for the shot, I hadn’t really paid much attention to the flowers and as I tried to climb back out, realized I was in a rose bush and tore a giant hole in my dress as it had stuck on the thorns!!
Fortunately no one noticed and I had a needle and thread in my car! (I always carry one after having to sew a bridesmaid into her dress after a zipper disaster).
How do you celebrate the end of the working week?
What do you like to do in your time off?
Pete: Houses tend to be time consuming things, so I spend a bit of time doing some long overdue maintenance.
Other than that, I like to take photo’s. Being a photojournalist at heart, I’ve been doing a lot of street photography in Melbourne in the last couple of years, and I’m getting quite a portfolio together. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, but I’m toying with the idea of creating a photo book.
Amanda: Well I recently got married myself so all of my spare tome was consumed with wedding planning, now that that is done I am focusing my attention on an exhibition of some personal work I completed last year.
Other than that, give me a hiking trail or the ocean and I am happy!
Thank you Amanda and Pete for sharing your story. Candid shots tell the story of your day – and what better way to tell the story than all those moments making up the day – however small they seem. To find our more about The Hitched Collective visit the website.