Whether eloping intimately or marrying in a grand celebration – beautifully composed, emotive photography is one of the most important elements of any wedding. Often underestimated in the planning process, wedding photographs immortalize potent moments of magic, transporting you back long after celebrations fade. Each wedding photographer will have a different signature, unique strengths and a diverse body of work that spills consistently with a handful of values they hold close.
The key to truly beautiful wedding photographs lies in choosing an artist whose aesthetic and values resonate deeply with your own. No matter where your wedding is set, or how their eye chooses to tell your story, it will always spill with the magic that mesmerized you from the beginning. Drawn to his emotive captures that spill with moody ambiance, fleeting magic, and the dreamiest light, we caught up with Sydney-based Will Hartl of This Day Forward.
Often whisked to dreamy corners of the globe to shoot destination weddings (and off to Europe this summer season), Will has a talent for capturing how a wedding felt, drawing us into the little nuances that bring each inimitable moment to life. He’s a master of light and shade, finding elusive pockets of light or transforming darkness into decadent magic. Will shares the 5 elements he considers crucial for the exquisite wedding captures he’s known for…
1. Find Magic In The Darkness
Some venues have a really nice white balance and great ambient light, so you’re able to shoot at shallower depths of field with a higher ISO to capture the natural ambience. Think Al Fresco dinner under festoon lighting. BUT… Adding a touch of flash in the right place can be a knockout punch. Shooting in the dark is about replacing light in a way that doesn’t look artificial, or if it does, is magical in its execution.
Just because the sun sets it doesn’t mean you can’t take great photos. The dark gives you new possibilities, new angles and different shapes… making a plan while people are eating gives you time to craft your idea, so when the time is right, you can steal the couple for 5 minutes (trust me, by then they’ll thank you for a 5 minute breather). Getting comfortable in the dark is where you find new ideas, explore possibilities and sharpen your creative knives.
“Just because the sun sets it doesn’t mean you can’t take great photos. The dark gives you new possibilities, new angles and different shapes…”
2. Capture How Things Felt
I use my camera to translate what I see and how it makes me feel. One of my favourite photographers said. “Don’t shoot what it looks like, shoot what it feels like”. I try to put this into my images. I think personally, I’ve always been drawn to still life and the nuances of light. Studying art history gave me a sense of where we’ve come from, and I just try to pay homage to the Masters of painting.
Still life details at weddings is the yang to the yin. The still, the quiet and a slow control vs the reacting to moments as they happen.
Wedding stylists play a big role in the magic, but when it comes to photos I think great photos are mostly serendipity. A mixture of composition, special light and good timing.
You’re not always blessed with life changing locations, but some places just have a wow factor. They are elegant and transformative, they take you to a dream for a couple hours or a couple days. Often it’s a venue you’ve never seen before, where the couple has decided to do something no one has ever done before.
3. Be Present In The Moment
I’m not there to steal you away for hours and hours. I want you to be a part of your wedding, I want you to eat the delicious food and fill up on the delicious drinks. When the light is right, let’s disappear for 10-15 minutes. Then later on before the sun sets, let’s go again (Hubby will be much more willing after a couple beers and some food). This way, you don’t miss out on anything and we make the most of the best light.
Great wedding photography is about relatability. I don’t think anyone wants wedding photos that don’t feel like them or don’t look like how they remember it. So, go be the best version of yourself, go have the most amazing day and let’s capture that. I’ll just be right there with you capturing the magic.
4. Capture The Essence of a Destination, Not Just The Setting
Capturing weddings is a marriage of two very important things, your behaviour and your photos. If you fit in like old furniture, like a cousin with a camera and like an old friend, you’ll blend in and disappear. You’ll capture moments without people reacting and you’ll gain access like a fly on the wall. One of the best compliments you can get is when people ask if you’re actually friends with the couple or family. If your behaviour is right, your images will be amazing.
What I love the most about destination weddings is how wanderlust plays such a large part of what you capture. It’s the journey, the destination, the food, the light, the little existential moments of joy that make up the experience and feeling of being there. It’s the photographer’s job to build a series of images that capture these intricacies and build a body of work that has feelings or emotions attached to it. If you focus on capturing the real moments, your images can be a magical time machine back to an experience, an emotion and an adventure people don’t want to forget.
5. Leave Breathing Room For Magic To Unfold
I honestly think wedding photography is the study of human behaviour. It’s a form of editorial photo-journalism where images are given to you.
Real moments are the magic between moments. It’s the split second when someone lets their guard down, the reaction to a joke or a soft change of expression to a gesture. Everyone behaves differently and that’s half the beauty. Some don’t do PDA’s, whilst others have a visceral chemistry. Great photographers can read the energy, anticipate what’s coming and react accordingly.
I like to guide a couple into a general direction, towards some nice light and set them free. It’s not about posing, or acting or being anything other than themselves. Most couples really appreciate a gentle push in the right direction. It’s amazing what you can get if you give couples the space to feel alone, the position to get the best light and the opportunity to capture some magic.
“Real moments are the magic between moments. It’s the split second when someone lets their guard down, the reaction to a joke or a soft change of expression to a gesture.”
Find our handpicked edit of Photographers from around the world on the Directory.