Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, meet Ben Howland – a tenured wedding photographer and exceptional human being (he’s pro marriage equality and takes his wife out to breakfast). Take a peekeroo at some of his images below and enjoy reading about how he’s built a successful one-man operation without all the BS.
Take it away Ben…
Tell us a bit about your business…
I’ve been shooting weddings for seven years now… I love it so much that I don’t photograph anything else. I love the flexibility and variety that my job brings – always getting to meet a new crowd in a cool place.
What is the main advantage for couples who work with you?
Couples spend a lot of time with their photographer – a standard wedding for me is 10-12 hours. Most people are also a tad nervous about being in front of the camera. One thing I pride myself on is my ability to stay out of the way and get the images I need without forcing directions on the couple or other guests.
I still shoot about a half-hour of portraits at each wedding, but other than that I just like to grab things as they happen. Photographers often boast of ‘candid, natural, documentary’ images, but then their portfolio is filled with couples kissing in a passionate embrace, alone in a field, at sunset. There’s nothing wrong with those photos, but candid they ain’t.
Can you share some of the things that go on behind the scenes?
There are the obvious parts of running a photography business – meetings, editing, etc – but I think something that’s often underestimated is how much preparation goes into making sure everything goes smoothly, even if there are unexpected issues. Things like scouting the location beforehand at the right time of day, knowing your options in case of wet weather, coordinating with venue managers to make sure that epic photo spot is unlocked when you need it, bringing spares of absolutely everything, having an entire extra set of equipment in the car in case it’s needed, that sort of thing.
If my wife and I go out for breakfast on a Sunday morning, I’ll have one of the copies of the previous day’s wedding in my pocket. Just a ton of small things like that to make sure that whatever happens, I’m ready.
Do you think there are any preconceptions about the wedding industry?
I think in the past, things followed a much more rigid structure – ceremony in a church, big white dress with a train, sit-down three course meal, evenly split male/female bridal parties etc. These days couples are realising that they can really make the day whatever they want.
I love that I can shoot weddings even at the same venue and still find a bunch of ways where that couple have customised it to suit what will make the day awesome for them.
What are some of the main questions couples ask you? And what are the answers?
For pretty much every question I’ve been asked, I’ve written an article about it and put it up on my website – I want to help couples out, especially in those early days when they’re faced with 100 decisions and no idea where to start.
The main concern would be how they’re going to look relaxed, when their previous experiences of having their photo taken were super awkward. If a total stranger was in your face repeating SMILE, SAY CHEESE, over and over – obviously that’s not ideal. This is why I schedule a shoot with every couple before the wedding as well – it gives them a massive confidence boost knowing that they’re totally capable and everything will be fine. Plus I tend to talk A LOT which keeps the couple engaged and their focus off the camera itself.
Can you describe what sets your business apart…
I’m a straight shooter – no bullshit, what you see is what you get. I mean, what’s the difference between a silver, gold, platinum and diamond package anyway? Who decided that gemstones are the standard by which every wedding product must be categorised? I offer one ‘package’ only, and that includes coverage for the whole day. I’m not into nickel-and-diming people – I just want the process to be easy and fun.
What’s your next predicted wedding trend?
Not exactly a ‘trend’, but I’m hoping to shoot a stack of same-sex weddings very soon! Hearing ‘the union of a man and a woman’ at every ceremony is a tradition that I can’t wait to leave behind.