This week I had the complete privilege of sitting down with one of my favourite photographers, Amanda Duncan from Amanda Duncan Photography and interviewing her (in a friendly and relaxed environment of course) about her life as a wedding photographer and where it all began for her. It was a chance for me to learn a little more about someone I admire and who has become a close friend over the years and I can honestly say it was the biggest pleasure and honour to listen to Amanda telling me her story.
Photography is a passion of mine and admittedly I’m comfortable on either side of the camera (provided I’m dolled up to my eye balls of course) so I wanted to delve more into Amanda’s past and learn about her journey and what it means to her to be one of the integral cogs in a couple’s most sacred of days. Most of us are happy to pick up a camera and be trigger happy without the pressures of anyone being disappointed. We pride ourselves on a handful of images that are (let’s be honest) ‘flukey as all hell’ a lot of the time! Then we plaster them all over Facebook pretending to be photographic wizards – well, I can say that I’m no flippin’ Gandalf!
But imagine if you’re bread and butter was earned by capturing split seconds, moments, emotions, that you yourself aren’t even feeling or prepared for. Imagine the nerves, excitement, fear, foreboding that you must feel standing in front of somebody’s family and friends who are expecting you to capture magic irrespective of any variables that might occur. It must be crazy daunting!
Amanda always seems calm but in her interview she talked about how she really feels on the day of a wedding as well as looking back to her Top 3 wedding moments! So without further ado, I give you my interview with the amazing, Amanda Duncan.
1) When did your love of photography start & was there a defining turning point in your career?
“Yes there was. Photography was my first love but my second career. I qualified in catering & hotel management because my father wanted me to have a good stable career. It was great and I really enjoyed it as I spent 3 years travelling with work throughout Europe but at the end of the day it wasn’t my passion and I got tired. I wanted something to get me out of that industry. One day” Amanda explained, “I picked up a camera and took myself to evening classes and I fell in love! I decided photography was something I had to pursue and so I quit my job, sold my car & trained. I worked nights and assisted everyone I could to gain experience. I was lucky enough to assist a top London photographer called Desi Fontaine and eventually I started working with Venture who were a top of the range social photography company who, at the time, took a completely fresh approach to photography. They asked me to manage their £1 million studio in Kingston-upon-Thames and I did so for 10 years. It was absolutely amazing but I started to realise that I wasn’t behind the camera anymore and that’s where I wanted to be. So, I started my own business about 5 years ago and have never looked back!”
2) What inspires you about taking photographs?
This question prompted Amanda to utter one of the most beautiful sentences I’ve heard in a long time – “I love capturing a moment that you’ll never be able to see again”. Amanda explained how she does a lot of work with a charity that looks after young children with cancer. “Things like that really make you realise how precious those moments are”.
3) After so many years in the photography industry, do you still get excited about the wedding day’s of your clients?
“Absolutely” Amanda grinned. “I’m always nervous until I take that first picture and then there is no stopping me! I usually get excited because of the anticipation as weddings are so unpredictable”.
4) Do you feel a lot of pressure on the day of a wedding? How do you stay calm?
“I LOVE it! The pressure is what drives me and I always try to be better than before. Sometimes weddings can be stressful and emotions can run high but you have to stay calm, keep going and always aim to do better”.
5) What’s your favourite time of year to shoot a wedding and why?
“I love the beginning and the end of the year – Spring and Autumn. The light is so soft and beautiful and they are inspiring times of the year. The colours are beautiful and they seem to capture my imagination”.
6) Do you stick to a style of photography that you like or do you try to adapt to suit your clients?
“I definitely have my own style as every photographer does but I’m always looking for new inspiration from other photographers and I work with my couples every time to make sure they get what they want. I’m very into ‘capture the moment’ photography as opposed to the more formal style but it is always about the client and what they want, it’s not about the photographer”.
7) How do you keep your ideas fresh after so many weddings?
“I follow other photographers as my inspiration and constantly set myself new challenges as an artist. I always visit the venues before a clients’ wedding day because I think it’s so important to know your surroundings and to find new and exciting areas for photographs. It keeps me inspired and learning and is the best preparation for a wedding”.
8) Do you have any photographers in particular that you idolise?
“Absolutely – it’s so important to keep developing and you can only do that by looking outside of your work. My absolute favourite is a South African photographer called Druix le Roux – funnily enough he worked for ‘Venture’ too! I also like David Bailey for portraiture and Annie Leibovitz who is from the U.S. I also visit art galleries and photography exhibitions frequently for inspiration.
9) What camera do you use and why?
(This is one of the best utterances of the new millenia people!)…”I shoot with my Nikon D700 and I chose this over a Canon because I shoot with my left eye and my Nikon fits my face!” – (I laughed so hard and then spent the next 45 seconds closing and opening my eyes trying to figure out which eye I use! It’s really difficult to figure out when you’re using your notebook as a make shift camera!) Amanda continued, “The D700 is a very good full framed digital camera which makes a huge difference to the quality of the images. I have purposefully avoided a top of the range version because I wanted a true still camera and not one with video which is included on all of the higher range products”.
10) Do you have any advice for couples when they’re booking their wedding photographer?
“It’s very important to understand in advance what you are getting from your photographer both on the day and afterwards. The resolution of the images you receive should be explained in advance and is something I always do with my clients before they book. Also, it’s very important to allow enough time for your photos. Sometimes people think because taking a picture takes half a second that it should be nice and quick but if you have 100 guests that you have to separate and round-up it really can be time-consuming. Lastly, choose your groups wisely. I recommend a maximum of 10 because thereafter it can become repetitive”.
11) Have you heard any photography horror stories?
“Thankfully you don’t often hear about these kind of stories but they do crop up. Bad images, out of focus, amateur style. It’s awful really because you rely totally upon someone capturing your day and then have nothing to look back upon – the whole purpose of the photographer”.
12) Have yo ever worked in any iconic locations?
“I’ve shot at The Natural History Museum”, (well jel) “and at London Zoo”, (even more jel) and at Claridge’s where I shot a couple who had come over from Japan to get married”.
And last but not least…
13) What are your Top 3 wedding memories? (This was my most anticipated question to ask!)
“My favourite has got to be the couple who didn’t tell anyone they were getting married! They were throwing a Mad Hatter’s party in their back garden and had put up a marquee and were having drinks. Suddenly, a man dressed as a white rabbit turned up and led everyone down the road to their local church and it wasn’t until they arrived that people had any idea what was going on! It was so incredible to see everyone’s reactions and capture the elation – the only down side was the mums were upset they didn’t get to buy a nice new dress!”
“My second best wedding memory was when I shot a celeb wedding and 4 of the bridesmaids were black poodles who walked down the aisle! It was fabulous chaos” she chuckled “and extravagant, fun and OTT. They even had huge gold poodle statues as their centrepieces”.
“3rd position is joint between a wedding I shot in Blenheim Palace in Oxford and one in Castle Cock” we both laughed professionally “in Wales. At Blenheim Palace, unbeknown to the couple, 3 of the waiters serving the guests were Italian tenors who started singing Opera at various stages throughout the wedding breakfast. I remember the hair standing up on my neck! The father of the bride in Wales was quite a famous singer in a choir and as a surprise, the whole choir turned up to perform in their local village hall where the reception was held – it was so emotional!”
So there you have it – the words of wisdom from an industry professional!
Hope you enjoyed the read and feel free to comment for any further questions or if you want to discuss your wedding with Amanda, visit her website! http://www.amandaduncanphotography.co.uk
HAPPY WEDDINGS!!!! x