How did you get into wedding photography, Bernie?
My background is in aviation and my wife Bindi is in nursing; we’re both from New Zealand and had actually known each other there a long time before we met again here in Dubai. I came here 10 years ago to try something new and creative and started in commercial photography, working for a whole bunch of clients and doing lots of cool work – it’s a real place of opportunity here. Bindi came over, she started working for me, I fell in love with her and, being a hopeless romantic, I became really interested in the whole romance side of photography. And that led to wedding photography.
Did you set out to do something different to everyone else?
Yes, passion was our big driver. I think we tend to shoot differently and form relationships with the couple because a wedding is a really intimate experience. If you love what you do you get the best result.
What are the unique challenges of a wedding?
There’s a lot of emotion involved in a wedding, and the biggest challenge is that you have just one chance to catch it. Moments can’t be repeated; things that happen can’t be reshot, and for a photographer that is a really big challenge. On the wedding day you’re under all sorts of pressure to capture images that are going to be special to the couple for a lifetime.
What can go wrong?
Almost anything can go wrong. I think good wedding photographers are problem-solvers, which is where experience comes in. The biggest fear is memory-card failure, because that’s where the images are stored and if it goes wrong you’re in trouble. That’s why when we shoot a wedding – and we usually shoot together – we each have two cameras on us at all times, making four cameras in total. If something goes wrong, we can react seamlessly and the bride and groom wouldn’t even know. That’s why you hire a professional – they should be skilled so that any challenge can be dealt with.
So if your photographer turns up on his own with just the one camera…
Yes, that’s when the alarm bells should be going off.
What unusual requests have you had?
We get unusual requests more often when it comes to engagement photography. One of the more common ones we get is: ‘Hey, you’re in Dubai, you must be able to get camels!’ but contrary to popular belief we live in a big city and getting a camel to pop up is not as simple as it sounds, although some of the big hotels have got camels on the beach that you can shoot with.
What are the emerging trends in wedding photography?
There used to be two different styles of wedding photography: classic, as in your mum and dad’s photos from 20 or 30 years ago, and then reportage or documentary style, where there was no interaction at all. Now, there are different styles, and within those there are all sorts of trends.
I think we would fall under what’s known as lifestyle wedding photography, so we incorporate documentary style with a bit of interaction and a little bit of guidance.
We’re also members of a group called Fearless Photographers, and as the name implies we attract some clients who want something different, whether that’s climbing up a mountain or skydiving out of an aeroplane for their wedding. That’s a big trend in Canada and the US right now.
If a couple are going to get their buddy to shoot their wedding instead of hiring a pro, what are the three things they must tell him?
Don’t do it, don’t do it and don’t do it! Seriously. You really need to know what you’re doing because the memories are so precious and yet the moments are so fleeting.
We got married quite recently and flew back to New Zealand, where we hired a professional to do some photos of us on top of a mountain in the snow, and we got some incredible photos. Just like any bride and groom, however, we had a budget, so when it came to the blessing the next day I decided to shoot it myself – which seemed like a good idea at the time.
Of course I couldn’t physically shoot my own wedding so I ended up handing my professional camera to Bindi’s brother-in-law. He did his best but we did miss some shots we should have got, and that couldn’t illustrate better how it’s just not possible for someone who doesn’t do it for a living to create the memories that do the day justice.
How many pictures do you take at a typical wedding?
It’s in the thousands, but we explain that it’s quality not quantity: when it comes to delivering images we want images that will be meaningful to the bride and groom and also resonate with us. Our job on the wedding day is to tell a story.
Do different cultures in the UAE require different wedding shots?
I’d say that it’s always about telling the story. We’ve been lucky enough to shoot Indian, European, Nigerian, Sudanese, Egyptian and of course Emirati weddings, and all of them have their own traditions. And that’s just fantastic for us as we really enjoy the experience and diversity.
What’s the best way for people to enjoy their wedding snaps these days?
Most images are delivered digitally now, though I would still strongly advocate that there’s a place for a physical copy of an image or images, maybe a canvas on the wall or an album. The majority of people are looking at things like keeping their images in the cloud, or as a screen saver using Apple TV. We have a smartphone album that we deliver – and of course people share through Instagram and Facebook.
Finally, what should someone look out for when hiring a wedding photographer?
I believe they should look for a photographer whose style they like. There’s a real element of trust between the bride and groom and the photographer on the wedding day, so they also need a photographer they think they can get on with. Photographers need to be personable and trustworthy and they need to resonate with the couple. Brides and grooms are attracted to us because we shoot as a couple and they like our style. Every wedding we do we’re attracted to, because we’re shooting love, and passion. We’re romantics, and so we’ll capture that in every wedding.