There’s poetry in images that whisper with intimacy – frames that portray quiet, passionate moments and capture two halves of one soul. We’re inspired by photographs that delve deeper into a love story, by the artists who unearth the rawest of moments and peel back the layers that so many of us unwittingly put up. In vulnerability true magic lies – and it’s here that Sydney-based wedding photographer Will Hartl from This Day Forward, is focussed.
Steered by authenticity on both sides of the lens, Will’s unguarded and relaxed character allows his couples to fully let go and just be – to surrender to feeling and be vulnerable. This down-to-earth, open approach allows an ease to flow throughout the day, resulting in images that spill with emotion and intimate beauty.
“I think we all grow into our ‘ikigai’. Something that gives us a voice, lets us speak our best language. The camera gave me that language, a voice and the ability to record life in my own way.”
By night, Will’s work further comes alive as he artfully wields light, shadow and mood to create frames equally as alluring as those captured by day. You won’t see stock-standard images we’ve come to expect from wedding nights – decor in poor lighting or drunken crowd captures taken just to pass the time included in their photography package. For Will, night holds a decadent allure and magic that seeps through his frames.
Pair Will’s pursuit of real emotion, transfixing night captures and meticulous eye for artistic wedding decor – and you have a skill set that’s uncommon in the wedding world. A treasured find that we’ve worked with so many times and would recommend to brides in a heartbeat. We caught up with Will to learn more about his craft…
Tell us, what inspired you to first pick up a camera? How did you end up photographing weddings?
I think we all grow into our ‘ikigai’. Something that gives us a voice, lets us speak our best language. The camera gave me that language, a voice and the ability to record life in my own way. However, like with many things in our twenties, it needed refining. After a couple of in-house/staff photographer roles, I ventured out as a freelance. My first wedding happened as a wedding present for a friend in St Tropez. That snowballed, and rest they say, is history.
What do you think is the key to capturing beautiful yet truly authentic wedding imagery?
I think it’s vital to feel something. How you feel adds colour to what and how you capture the day. Not to say you arrive with a box of tissues, but adding emotion to your photos creates a perspective, which is uniquely your own.
“I think the yin to the yang of shooting weddings are the items that don’t move, the little details that make up the larger picture. A sliver of light across a table, a tone or texture that adds ‘mood’ in-between moments. Adding these details is the glue between the big moments and adds a depth to the narrative.”
Your genuine, down-to-earth approach to shooting weddings allows couples to fully relax and be at ease in front of the camera. How do you work closely with your couples to make them feel comfortable, and do you have any advice for those who may be a little camera shy?
As a wedding photographer, your behaviour is as important as your work. I firmly believe that if your behaviour is right, you become invisible. Blending in, fitting in and being a calming influence on the day is paramount to getting great images. After seeing a million weddings, your insight and perspective can really help a nervous bride or groom navigate their wedding day anxieties.
I think we’re all traumatised by childhood family photos and subsequently, avoid cheesy posing like the plague. I want my couples to just go have an amazing time and I capture that. Smile, dance, boogie, sing, cry and laugh. No posing, no vogueing, just you, your best mate and your families having the best bloody day ever.
We love your innate eye for shooting still life and reception styling details. How do you approach this aspect on a wedding day, or what elements play a pivotal role in capturing magical reception photos?
I think the yin to the yang of shooting weddings are the items that don’t move, the little details that make up the larger picture. A sliver of light across a table, a tone or texture that adds ‘mood’ in between moments. Adding these details is the glue between the big moments and adds a depth to the narrative. I’m personally a sucker for great styling and can’t help but capture it. Table settings, flowers, cake details etc. Someone has put their heart and soul into it, so it’s fitting that their talent and skills are captured in the best way possible.
“As a wedding photographer, your behaviour is as important as your work. Blending in, fitting in and being a calming influence on the day is paramount…”
Creatively or personally, what inspires you?
I geek out on really nice light, both personally and professionally. Little moments that shine brighter because of how they are lit. It’s a madness that I’ve grown to embrace, but perpetually demands you have a camera at hand. Combine this with chemistry, a place you’re seeing for the first time and good vibes, you are bound to create and capture some magic.
At a soul level, is there a moment you’ve photographed that has moved you profoundly or impacted the way you see the world?
I watched my sister get married in a hospital waiting room so my terminally ill mum could be there. She watched her daughter get married, signed the marriage certificate, and shortly after went back to bed. She died four days later. I know she held on to be able to watch her daughter get married.
A couple of times since, I’ve documented the last outing of a terminally ill parent. Fearless, resilient parents adamant to see their daughter walk down the aisle. Defiantly ignoring the inevitable to be a part of the special day, sign the certificate and give their blessing.
The power of these moments hasn’t worn off and the impact effected me every time. My hope is that the images do justice to how special these moments were. I’m humbled to think that those brides and families will cherish those images forever.
2021 for you is all about…
I’ve loved 2020. I’ve earned less than ever before (due to Covid 19), but spent every day with my son. I haven’t worried about the things I can’t control, instead focusing on the things I can control. I recently lost a close friend and on top of being a dad to a busy two-year-old – 2020 has given me more perspective about life, time, and how I spend the precious time I have.
So 2021 is all about balance and inner success. Loving what you’re doing, loving how you’re doing it and loving who you’re doing it with. Money doesn’t save you if you’re unhappy, unhealthy or uninspired. 2021 is about being the best dad, the best partner, and the best son I can be. Happy, healthy and creatively inspired.
Find our handpicked edit of Photographers from around the world on the Directory.