Q&A with the talented International Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

We were fortunate enough to pick the brain of the talented wedding photographer Fiona Clair.  After happening to stumble upon some of her gorgeous work we fell completely and utterly in love, even contemplating getting remarried so that she can photograph the wedding!

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

The ideal way to start the day?

An hour’s hike on the mountain at sunrise followed by freshly made black coffee… music… then editing!

What inspires you to keep creative and motivated?

To always better myself.  A picture is never perfect.  There is always room for improvement, new ways to see a moment and ways in which to tell a wedding story more intimately and creatively.

You work in 2 visually different, beautiful countries, so where will your dream shooting location be and why?

Europe is my ultimate photographic destination.  Currently, my dream is to shoot in Tuscany.  I was lucky enough to visit it last year after shooting in Lake Como, Italy.  The atmosphere, the light, the energy, it was just phenomenal.  That light really inspires me.  It sets the most incredibly relaxed atmosphere for a wedding and encourages a certain relaxed romance about the day. Mallorca was equally as beautiful and I absolutely loved working there for the same reason.

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

In your career as Wedding Photographer, what would be the craziest thing you’ve ever experienced at a wedding?

That’s an interesting question!!  Without offending anyone, I think it would be best to stick to the one incident when shooting in the bush, where I was about 30cm’s away from standing on a cobra, mid couple shoot.  I was wearing flip flops, as only an english person would do when marching into the African Bush!

How do you feel when you look back at where you started out in your photography career compared to where you are now?

I feel incredibly blessed.  The support I have received has been truly incredible.  I have been shooting professionally now for just over 3 years and I started by simply buying myself a basic camera body and the 50 mm f1.8 lens and shooting portraits.  I never studied photography, just worked incredibly hard and tried to shoot whatever inspired me.  I quickly found that this was people and I fell into weddings by chance.  To think I get to fly all over the world:  I am really very grateful that my creative eye is appreciated and I’m allowed to witness wonderful wedding days in different environments.

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

Film photography seems to be making a comeback, how do you feel about this rising trend?

I love film photography and have a huge admiration for film photographers.  In fact, I chose a film photographer for our wedding day as I love that lightness, romance and purity it brings to the day.  I do consider heading down that route as I love the artistic license and rawness it brings to shooting and since South Africa is so far behind on this movement compared to the rest of the world.  However, I haven’t quite got round to it yet – watch this space!

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

If you could be invisible with your camera for one day…?

I would love to shoot some of the most beautiful faces in the world, in the most amazing locations, in incredible light.  It would be incredible to be a fly on the wall at an Annie Leibovitz shoot!

Describe your specific style of shooting in 5 words or less?

Romantic, real, artistic, creative. At least that’s how I would like it to be described!

What is your list of essential gear?

Two Canon 5D MK II bodies/ 50 mm f1.2 Canon / 35 mm f1.4 Sigma, 11 CF memory cards and any flash… if I have to use it, but I prefer to shoot low lighting and create mood with whatever light I can scramble together!

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

How do you feel about the amount of post-production that needs to be done on wedding photos compared to lets say fashion?

I think this depends on the photographers style.  The editing is a huge part of my photography style and it’s actually one of my favourite components of the job.  I absolutely love putting the story together and playing with the style of the images, enhancing, darkening, sharpening where ever necessary to create a magical story of the day.  I could never hand over this part of my work to someone else as each wedding I edit differently to the last.  It totally depends on the light on the day and the mood of the wedding as to how the final images turn out.  Perhaps because I love this part of the job, I edit very quickly and my turn around time for a 1000 images per wedding is only a week to two weeks.  I think it’s an incredibly important part of what we do and is why our prices are high.  We are creating art at the end of the day, while shooting the wedding and while editing it.

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

Please enlighten us on your standpoint concerning ‘unplugged’ weddings?

It’s funny as I’m not a possessive photographer.  If people want to take pictures I’m not competitive about it.  To be quite honest, the more photos the couple receives of their special day the better.  However, having said this, the most important part of my wedding day was walking the aisle to my husband, and this moment was completely ruined by walking down to a sea of iPhones which distracted me.  I wish I had suggested unplugged for the important parts of the ceremony.  And of course I have been in ridiculous positions where someone has stood in front of me while the bride walks down the aisle.  I guess you need to trust your photographer because there is no way we can deliver our best work with people in the way.

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

How do you manage your schedule between Cape Town and London?

During summer months I work in Cape Town and the winter months I’ll work in Europe.  This works well for me as I can return home to my family friends and I still enjoy the adventure!  Since I get bored very easily, this certainly keeps me on my toes and the challenges are incredible.  Shooting in destinations I’ve never been before on my own is always interesting and never boring!

The means of marketing you find most effective?

I have only ever used Facebook.  It has been an incredible marketing tool and without a doubt a main reason for my success.  Word of mouth is a lovely way to be chosen for a wedding and Facebook is an incredible catalyst for this.  Simply, the higher activity on social media, the higher the job requests.  I have also been very lucky with support from industry bloggers.  Being featured on blogs such as South Bound Bride and Rock n Roll bride has undoubtedly spread the outreach of my brand.

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

A few Do’s and Dont’s when shooting a wedding?

Do’s

  • Work hard.  I am constantly on my feet for at least 10 hours of a wedding day and it is incredibly tiring but that’s when you find the moments in between.
  • Be confident in your ability.  Trust your eye.  In the beginning I would get nervous of my photo spot selections and panic that I wasn’t getting the best out of the day, but it’s important to go with your instinct and if anyone questions your decisions trust in yourself.
  • Work out your timings.  I shoot very quickly, no longer than 30 or so minutes for the couple shoot.  This allows me to give the couple more time in their wedding and for me to capture more of the couple interaction with the guests.  If however, you need more than this, adjust accordingly.
  • Be very clear with your clients in the first meeting about what they can expect.  I used to shoot for hours over time when I first started, but now I am very strict on only shooting for 10 hours a day.  It’s very important not to exhaust yourself and to keep yourself motivated by each wedding.

Don’t

  • Ever let on if you are stressed or panicked.  There have been plenty of times when I have felt out of my depth, time is running out, the light is disappearing or being faced with difficult groomsmen, but just be as professional as you can be and work with what you have.
  • Obsess over the top of the range equipment.  This is different for each photographer, but I would prefer to capture a moment with the lens I have rather than miss it changing lenses.  I shoot a whole wedding with the two cameras on my shoulders with a portrait and a wide angle lens and I never change them.
  • Try and impersonate another photographers style.  Know your ability and go with your strengths.  This has taken me a long time to work out but I think I’m finally in control of the direction I want the wedding to go in terms of the photography.
  • Forget your back up equipment.  I always have a back up camera body, a lens (both wide and portrait) and a back up flash.
  • Forget to back up your photos immediately!  I back up four times and send one copy to another location as soon as I possible can.

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

The image you are most proud of to date?

Gosh this is an incredibly hard question.  I could never choose just one.  In fact, I prefer my images as a whole rather than specifying one moment as it’s not the one picture that makes the wedding, rather an accumulation of moments that bring the day to life.  I would probably say that I am most proud of one of the first weddings I ever shot.  It was extremely nerve wracking, I had very basic equipment and really didn’t know was I was doing but it was featured on three different blogs and lead me to a number of international weddings.  However, I am proud of every wedding I have ever shot – It’s an honour to be chosen to shoot someones special day.

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair

Photo Credit – Wedding Photographer Fiona Clair