Em Jensen of Em Jensen Weddings is not your average wedding photographer. She loves to shoot offbeat, quirky and eccentric weddings and elopements. She shoots on film as well as digital, and prefers candid and authentic to posed and corny. Em loves all kinds of alternative celebrations and is all about capturing the vibe of the day. Today, we chat to Em about her photography style, what elements of the wedding day she enjoys the most, and how her former life as a fashion photographer gives her an advantage when it comes to shooting weddings.
How long have you been a wedding photographer?
I’ve been a photographer for about five years, but only really shot my first wedding gig in April of 2019 – it was a 70s themed wedding at a bowls club. The couple rocked up in a kombi, the bride in flares and the groom in a safari suit. It was a pretty killer way to break into the world of weddings.
How would you describe your photography style?
It’s warm and candid, with a hint of retro. I’m a big Wes Anderson fan and I like to think that shines through.
What sets you apart from other wedding photographers?
I never really knew all that much about the wedding industry before joining it, so I think I’ve been lucky to not feel constrained by traditions or rules. I’m just here to capture a good time, to document feelings you can look back on. I also use a lot of less traditional, somewhat old school mediums – things like film, super 8 and polaroids; they help ensure I’m super present because of their simplicity, and they have a beautiful way of translating light that I don’t think digital mediums can replicate. I’m not big into fancy gear and excessive editing, I’m much more focused on capturing the moments happening in front of me.
You’ve also worked in fashion photography – has that helped in any way when shooting weddings?
Oh so much! I worked as the in-house photographer for Dangerfield and Gorman before shooting weddings, and working as a fashion photographer has been so very helpful at teaching me to pick peoples best angles, and give them direction that will not only make them look killer, but also that they feel comfortable and themselves doing. I don’t ever want to over direct because I’m super aware that there’s no one size fits all pose, and even if there was, I want to capture your real feelings, not something fake I told you to do.
Tell us about your studio…
I work from my teeny tiny apartment in lovely Northcote. My desk is in the living room, so I’m constantly surrounded by inspiration as my apartment is filled with collected treasures. When I’m working from home I open up all the windows, burn some candles and listen to records – more often than not, it’s Fleetwood Mac. When it’s warmer I sometimes take my laptop to the pub or the park to soak up some sunshine while I work.
How early should a couple book you in?
It really depends – weekday hitchins normally don’t need loads of notice, but weekends I book pretty far in advance for. At the moment I’m almost booked out for wedding season 2022, but still have availability in 2021. Anywhere from six months to a year before is always a safe bet, but you might get lucky and find a free date if you’re a bit last minute. It’s always worth reaching out.
How do you make a connection with your couples? Why is it so important?
I make sure to grab a drink with my couples and have a chat before they book in. This is a really good way to suss out, from their end and also my end, if we’re comfy around each other. Most of my couples really just feel like my mates – and I know I’m gonna do my best work with them if that’s the case. If we don’t feel comfortable around one another you’re not gonna feel comfortable in front of the camera on the day, and this can translate to you looking stiff and un-comfy in the snaps, so I think it’s super important we meet first. For couples who live interstate, we can still chat over the phone or zoom.
Do you do engagement sessions?
I sure do! I offer engagement sessions on film, polaroid and super 8! Going back to what I just spoke about, they’re also a really good way for us to get to know each other.
What are your favourite weddings to shoot?
I’m all about a country motel wedding, a backyard wedding, a surprise wedding, elopements, dive bar hitchins and lil weddings in sweet little scout halls or bowls clubs. My absolute favourite kind is when the wedding is so filled with the personality of the couple, and not guided by tradition or ‘on trend’ weddings of the time. Make it about you!
Are there parts of the wedding day that stand out – that you particularly enjoy photographing?
I love when I get to be one on one with the couple just after they’ve been legally married to take some couple snaps. Often it’s the first time they get to be alone together as a married couple, and I love seeing them celebrate and be excited together.
You’re Melbourne based. What do you love most about Melbourne weddings?
I am Melbourne based but a lot of the weddings I’ve photographed have been more in country Victoria. I love a good roadtrip and so I’m very keen for a country wedding. There’s so many beautiful places to get hitched here – I shot an elopement in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens which was incredible, and I’ve shot weddings in quite a few of the local bowls clubs, which are a vintage dream. Melbourne is also such a hotspot for creativity and I see this reflected so much in the way couples personalise their weddings – from rocking up on motorcycles, to styling a vintage bridal gown with bright purple glitter boots, to exchanging tattoo ‘vow-chers’ instead of rings. There’s so much creativity in Melbourne weddings.
Are you available for interstate or destination weddings?
I’m a big fan of travel, so HELL YES.
Favourite wedding venues to photograph?
Honestly most of the weddings I shoot aren’t at wedding venues. They’re in a backyard that’s lit up with fairylights, or set up with rugs and champagne in the bush. They’re my favourite kind too – weddings that aren’t at a wedding venue at all.
Most memorable wedding you’ve shot?
I don’t have one most memorable, but last week I photographed a super sweet elopement on film and polaroid. The couple eloped in Lerderderg – he rode in on a motorbike, they put on their cowboy hats, turned up the music, poured champagne for their mates and got hitched next to the river. Then they set up some picnic rugs, ate melted ice-cream cake and spent the afternoon hanging out in the beautiful bushland. It was all pretty dreamy really.
Best testimonial you’ve ever received?
I photographed the most beautiful elopement for Alex and Jesse last year, and they wrote me the sweetest review about how I made them feel super comfortable and relaxed, and how it felt just like hanging out with a friend, which is so so important to me. Someone else once described my work as “David Lynch meets 70s Alice in Wonderland”, which I am pretty stoked about.
When you’re not working, where would we find you?
I spend as much time travelling and on country adventures as possible. So you’d probably most likely find me driving my little convertible, roof down, somewhere deep in the outback where it’s warm and red, and quite likely blasting some bowie or the rolling stones while I’m at it.
Thanks Em for telling us all about your photography and business! We are big fans of your work here at Polka Dot Wedding and love how authentic your shots are. To find out more about the talented Em Jensen, head to her website or check out Em Jensen Weddings on the Polka Dot Directory.
Headshot by Hashem McAdam