Nervous about having your photo taken? We know just the photographers to put you (or your partner!) at ease. Valley & Peak pride themselves on being “just another couple of mates at your wedding”. They aim to make a connection with you before your big day, so you’re happy and comfortable in front of the camera. The result? Beautiful, photojournalistic + artistic imagery that captures every emotion, so you can relive your wedding for years and years to come. Below, we chat to Kyle Pasalskyj of Valley & Peak about the team’s approach, all the behind the scenes work that goes on to produce the amazing images you’ll receive, how they do their thing on your wedding day, and much more.
Hi Kyle! Where are you based?
We say we’re based in “Melbourne”, but we’re a little more scattered than that. Our videographer Steve is smack back in the middle of the Yarra Valley; and Selena and I are bayside in Elwood.
Interesting name for your business! Does it have any special significance?
We’ve always loved when people ask, “So who’s Valley and who’s Peak?” because they’ve kind of nailed it. Originally I was based up in the Dandenong Ranges, and Steve has always been the Yarra Valley boy. So Valley and… What?… Mountain?… Valley & Mountain sounds a bit meh. Peak?… Inspired!
How long have you been shooting weddings?
Somewhere between 10 and 10,000 years. More specifically? Fifteen years for Steve, 10 for me. It’s been a minute, but we’re still kicking along for a reason. We both just kind of love weddings!
Do you travel for weddings?
You betcha! Obviously we love shooting around Melbourne, but drop me into an unfamiliar place with a camera and someone to photograph – and I always seem to do my best work. So far we’ve been lucky enough to shoot all around Australia, as well as Bali and Thailand. I’d love to add to that list though.
How would you describe your photography style?
I think my style of photography is in this little wedge where reportage and landscape photography meet. I’m also constantly asking myself during a wedding, “Am I an observer right now, or a participant?”
If I’m an observer, I find the landscape side of my style wins, where I try and give context to what’s happening by using the surrounds. If I’m a participant, the reportage side wins – I’m a part of the action, but firing from the hip while people are also enjoying themselves. I think this gives a really unique feel to some of my photos – you really feel like you’re there and a part of it.
Valley & Peak is a team. Do you photograph and film the wedding together, and what do each of you bring to the style of the images?
Valley & Peak is made up of me taking photos. Steve is on the video side of things, and my fiancé Selena also takes photos. As far as what each of us brings to the table, Selena is the details guru. Nothing is ever missed, she’s a moment seeking missile. Steve is the only one that knows how to navigate the insane world of video, but is also a whizz for details and keeping a day running to time and with nothing missed. I’m more of a popcorn machine gun that just explodes through your front door on the day and hurricanes around until I/you/everyone is tired. I do that while taking photos that are surprisingly not blurry.
What is your secret to capturing the perfect shots?
I’ve always found playing with comfort and discomfort leads to some pretty interesting shots. If I can get someone into a place where they’re comfortable with me, and forget they’re being photographed – I’m going to get something special. The opposite is also true though. Playing with peoples discomfort on the day can also make for some interesting shots. You’d be surprised how often a place of discomfort can lead into some of the biggest laughs on the day.
What have been some the biggest changes in weddings since you started out as a wedding photographer?
It’s taken a long time for the shift to happen, but I think we’re finally at a place where people are having the wedding they want – not the one they think they should have. That, or maybe it’s taken us this long to find our pocket of people that think about weddings the same way we do.
The larger than life wedding still has a place, and all power to you if that’s what you want! For the longest time though, we saw couples having that type of day because it was the “done thing”. Really, they’d have much preferred sharing a slab at the beach with a few close mates, a celebrant and someone to prove it happened…*cough cough*.
We’re at a place now where people aren’t torn to shreds for doing exactly that. I think that’s pretty awesome.
What kind of trends have you noticed in the weddings you’ve shot recently?
Since the pandemic, we’ve definitely noticed a trend of couples doing everything they can to spend more time with their guests. So formalities that tend to get a bit inflated like speeches, cutting the cake, wedding games etc are being trimmed down, or cut altogether in favour of getting extra face time in with their nearest and dearest.
How important is it to keep your photography evolving so it’s not stuck in the past?
It’s an interesting thing to think about. Before teaming up with Steve, I worked at a wedding venue for about five years. I remember seeing a lot of photographers coming through the doors that lived and breathed the old school – both stylistically, but also with how they interacted with their couples and guests.
That always stood out to me the most. I don’t think the style of photography necessarily needs to be the thing that’s adapting. Keeping up with the trends is great for business, sure – but if you can take a well framed photo I think you’ll always find someone that can appreciate your work.
I think the thing that needs to keep changing and growing is how you connect with people. There’s only so much longevity in connecting with the people you do now. What are the next generation of people getting married into? How do you connect with them? That’s more important for me.
What’s your approach to a wedding, starting from when you first meet the couple?
Every time we chat with a couple, the approach is always the same. We want you to feel as though you’re catching up with an old mate. You’re more comfortable, we’re more comfortable; and the photos & videos are much, much better.
To someone watching us work on the day, most of the time it looks like we’re just a couple of guys having a laugh with the guests and not doing much else. Every now and then you might see a quick flash of the camera though. They’re the winning shots.
The best compliment we ever receive is when someone comes back to us and says they never felt like they were being photographed. That’s a win in our books!
How important is it to make a connection with them?
Connection is everything. If you’re reading this, the majority of the photographers and videographers you’re going to come across in your search take incredible photos. Things like colour, vibe and style might change from person to person – but at the end of the day, the most important thing is how did you feel while you were being photographed? Connection is everything, and you can tell early on if you’ve clicked with the photographer or videographer you’ve found. Grab a drink with them, get to know them. The best first meetings I ever have are the ones where the wedding is a footnote to the rest of the conversation. We’re all on board, the details can come later – who are you and what makes you comfortable? That’s the kind of connection I’m looking for.
Do you offer engagement sessions? If you do, why do you recommend them?
Engagement shoots are great if you’re a little bit nervous about what to expect during your portrait session at the wedding, and want to experience being in front of the camera before then. That, or you want some nice photos of you separate to the wedding, in a place you otherwise might not get a chance to be photographed in. Both great reasons, and absolutely – we can do them!
I’ve had people ask me in the past if I need to do an engagement shoot to find out how the couple photographs though. Absolutely not! There’s not a single time on a wedding day where I’ve ever thought, “I really wish I knew they did that one thing before I started taking their picture today”.
So long way of getting there – engagement sessions are great. Do I recommend them? If you want one, awesome; they’re for you. Otherwise, not needed.
What’s your favourite style of wedding to photograph? Why?
I love taking photos of weddings that happen in a place you wouldn’t normally expect them. Garden centres, cocktail bars, middle of a forest, literal mountain tops – anywhere slightly (or completely) left of field is exactly where I want to be.
You pour so many hours of work into a wedding! What’s some of the behind the scenes stuff that couples might not realise you do, especially after the wedding?
Editing is the obvious answer. That takes a long time, but I think people expect that. What people maybe don’t expect is how long goes into putting together a good system for backing up your photos & video – and then making sure it’s used correctly. This stuff has to be absolutely bulletproof so that nothing is ever lost, so we’ve spent a lot of time working on that.
Staying on top of communicating with our couples is also a big one. Every morning there’s a solid chunk of time spent checking in with couples, replying to questions and making sure everything is good to go for any weddings happening over the weekend. Same goes for new enquiries – every email gets a surprising amount of time dedicated to it before it’s sent.
The final one for me is trying to learn a new skill at least once a week. It might be an editing technique, a lighting style, a setting I’d never really tinkered with on my camera. The point is though, each Friday I have to be able to write down something I’ve learnt that week. It’s always kept me fresh and excited to try new things, but it can definitely take up a lot of time.
How does the team celebrate the end of the working week?
We don’t really have a time during the week where we kick back and say, “Another week done, who’s up for the Winchester?”. Realistically we do a little bit of work every day – but keeping that kind of schedule pays dividends in other parts of our lives. I can take my son to school every day, Steve does pickups & drop-offs with his kids. When we’re with our friends and families, we’re lucky enough to be able to truly switch off and be present without thinking about work.
On top of that, we get to pick when we work, where we work and really – how hard we feel like working. If we have a day we’re not really giving it our best; day off and we’ll have another crack tomorrow.
So we get to have a little celebration every day by working exactly how we want to – and I much prefer that balance.
Thanks Kyle for sharing more about Valley & Peak and the incredible work you and your team do. We know our readers will think you are the bee’s knees, just as we do! To find out more about Valley & Peak, head to their website or check them out on the Polka Dot Directory.
Kyle’s headshot in top banner: Corey Wright