Kevin Mullins is a London Documentary wedding photographer in the truest form. Kevin has an incredible ability to capture rich stories in a single frame with next to no interaction. Today we clear up some misconceptions about what it means to be a documentary wedding photographer and some of the challenges he has to face.
Become A Premium Member is access to more in-depth questions that help move you forward!
In This Episode You'll Learn:
How an article in a magazine convinced Kevin to leave his IT job to start shooting weddings
Documentary wedding photographers that inspired Kevin
The definition of documentary wedding photography and why most people get it wrong
How Kevin interacts with his couples to best prepare them for the wedding day
How to tell a story with documentary wedding photography
A comon misconception of documentary wedding photography
How much posed photos Kevin does at a wedding and his philosophy on group photos.
Why Kevin does not use artificial light in low light
Premium Members Also Learn:
How to convey the power of documentary photography in a world of bright airy popularity
How to tell the story of a wedding through the wedding album
How Kevin builds his documentary wedding photography packages
Did you enjoy this episode? Check out more recent interviews with other great guests!
Full Interview Transcript:
Disclaimer: The transcript was transcribed electronically and may contain errors that do not reflect accurately what the speaker said. Because of this, please do not quote this automated transcript.
Raymond: 00:00 Hey Raymond here from the beginning of photography podcast, and today we're talking about documentary wedding photography was one of the best. Let's get into it.
Intro: 00:10 Welcome to the beginner photography podcast with Raymond Hatfields, the podcast dedicated to helping you grow your photography skills. Raymon interviews the world's top photographers in their field to ask questions that will get you taking better photos today. Now with you as always, husband, father, home brewer, La Dodger Fan, an Indianapolis wedding photographer, Raymond Hatfield. Welcome back to this episode,
Raymond: 00:40 The beginner photography podcast. As always, I am Raymond, your host, and I wanted to start off today's episode with a big shout out for a iTunes review that we got in. This review comes from Ashley. Ashley says you can stop looking. You have found it a, the rest of her review says, this podcast helped motivate me into turning my dream of becoming a better photographer and building a business into a reality in the interviews. It is refreshing to hear that even photographers that are living their dreams did not get where they are right now overnight. This podcast is truly the best. Thank you so much Ashley for leaving that review in iTunes. I would, I would be so grateful if you are listening right now. If you haven't left the podcast, a review for you to leave a quick, quick review in whatever podcast player you were listening to.
Raymond: 01:33 And to Ashley's point, I think that all of this comes down to persistence, right? Is it all the photographers who I talked to just didn't get there overnight and like she says, it's all about persistence. It's all about once you start, just keep going, half the battle or 99% of the battle is just showing up. So if you just keep going, you're going to find that success. But if you are having trouble even just getting started, I wanted to invite you to take my online mini course called conquer your camera, where you will learn about the three most important aspects to photography and how to use your camera to conquer them. So if you want to learn more than you can a about the mini course, just head over to learn dot beginner photography podcast.com. Again, that is learn l e a r n.
Raymond: 02:19 Dot beginner photography podcast.com. So today's episode is with one of the world's best in his field and we clear up or he clears up rather a lot of the confusion about what it really means to be a documentary wedding photographer. And as always, I have cut out a portion of the interview. I've, it focuses on business just for premium members. So in today's the premium members are going to hear how to convey the power of documentary style to couples to to book for their wedding. We're going to hear Kevin's
approach to telling the story of a wedding day through the album and how it affects the way that he shoots on the wedding day and how Kevin structures his wedding packages for sale to work best for him. So if you want to become a premium member and hear all about the business side of photography, just head over to beginner photography, podcast.com and then click the premium membership link at the top of the page. So that is it. We're going to get into today's interview right now with Kevin Mullins. Today's guest is Kevin Mullins, a UK documentary wedding photographer in the truest form. Kevin has an incredible ability to be able to capture rich stories in a single frame with, with next to no interaction today. I'm really excited to chat about seeing the the bigger picture, as you might say. So Kevin, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
Kevin Mullins: 03:42 No problem. Raymond, thank you very much for inviting me.
Raymond: 03:45 Of course you are a photographer who I am very excited to chat with not only being a fellow, a Fuji photographer, but I'm a photographer who I've been following for a long time almost since I started. And I think that it's just because of your approach that you take at weddings. I've heard you on other podcasts and I just Kinda love everything that you stand for. So today I'm really excited to have you share with the listeners kind of what is documentary photography. Cause I think that term gets skewed in many ways. And if anybody can talk to that point, it's going to be you. So before we get into that, can you share how you got your start in photography?
Kevin Mullins: 04:28 Oh man, it was a, it's quite a long story really, but I'll keep it short. I was what was it, 2007, 2008, something like that. I was not a photographer, never owned the camera at, didn't have any ambitions. We have to talk at all. I was working in it has a lot of talk for start date and five hours community and every day, two and a half hours each way was just a bit too much. And one day I picked up a magazine on a train, you know, one of those free magazines and it was an article about weddings, not photography, but at weddings. And I've just about to flip through it and like weddings had no interest to me whatsoever. And then I saw these little black and white pictures at the bottom from a photographer called Jeff Ascot, who you know, ended up becoming a huge inspiration.
Kevin Mullins: 05:17 And so I went home to my wife and I said, I'm going to do it. This is what I'm gonna do. I'm going to become a rep right away. Yeah. And she was like, well, you know, you hey, you don't want a camera. B, you've never taken pictures in your life and see, you really do not have the personality to be a wedding photographer. So, but that was it. And that's, that was the, the seed was so nan and I just kind of went with that and went on some workshops and stuff. And I think now I've done like 490 odd weddings 10 years later. So, yeah.
Raymond: 05:49 Oh my gosh. What, what was it that, what was it about those, those photos from Jeff that made you think like, I could do this, like, I want to
Kevin Mullins: 05:58 Do this. Yeah. It wasn't a case of I could do it. It was a case of wanted to. Yeah, that was, that's, that's, that's worth pointing out because I just loved, you know, I'd always admired documentary photography, but without really knowing it, you know, like we have the Sunday Times over here and the Sunday Times magazine is a very famous photo journalistically based magazine. And I'd always look at those images. Often they were about war and poverty and stuff, but, but it was always the photojournalism of, you know, people like dominant color and, and stuff where those images were always the ones that I knew spoke to me. I had no idea of why I'd run much, rather look at those types of images than a post portrait or something, you know. So when I realized that there was an opportunity in photography, wedding photography to do that, I thought, well, hang on, I'm going to try this. You know, this seems great. And the whole idea was to, you know, to give me my life back and spend more time with the family and, you know, not have to do this terrible commute every
day. And you know, and it worked, worked really well. It was a big shift because you know, I used to play rugby and that was always on Saturdays and you know, that
Kevin Mullins: 07:06 Got a lot more time during the week, I lost my Saturdays generally. So kind of a rugby pals and all that kind of stuff. But, but yeah, it was a great move. And you know, we've, we've, my wife has helped me enormously in the business of course, and it's facilitated us having I think, a way better life. You know, I don't drive around in a Maserati unfortunately, but, you know, it's, it's definitely a better life.
Raymond: 07:29 Yeah, I understand that. So when, before you had seen those images, kind of those more reportage style wedding images, did you have a, a skewed idea of what wedding photography was like? Did this change things for you? Is that it?
Kevin Mullins: 07:46 Yeah, absolutely. So I guess, I don't know whether it's the same in the states, but over here certainly. And definitely that time, you know, wedding photography was seen as the bottom of the barrel. It was a, if you were getting married, it was just another commodity on the list, you know, within a venue, dress, shoes, car, hire, photography, and you would normally just pick up the phone and ring the nearest photographer here, turn up, he'd stand on a truck, on a stepladder, he boss everybody around, he'd take a picture of the cake, then he'd go home. And you know, that's, that's why I always thought wedding photography wasn't, all of the, my friends went inside being too, which we're all getting married around about the same time. It always been like that, you know, don't get me wrong, they were taking nice pictures, but it was very formulaic and it wasn't part of the day that everybody hated, you know, no 25 group shots and you know, the long list and everything like that. So when I realized that that wasn't necessarily the way it had to be done, then suddenly, you know, I thought, hang on this, this could be really interesting. And, and that's, that's how it kind of manifested itself really.
Raymond: 08:52 Wow. That's so cool. How kind of like, once you saw those photos that kind of grew in your head, like, wait a second, I can kind of do my own thing. So the next step was do buy a camera. So when you bought that camera, would you like, what would you say were your technical what would, what was your technical knowledge before you had picked up a camera or before you purchase that camera on a scale from one to 10? One, one, so that was obviously a hurdle.
Kevin Mullins: 09:20 Yeah. I mean, of course when I was a kid, I, I'd had like instance kind of Kodak beach cameras if you like, you know, and point and take the film and it got developed. There's no talents whatsoever involved in that. You know, you never had any kind of idea of exposure or, you know, the, the only thing I ever remember is my dad always used to say to me you know, make sure the sun is at the, is of the back is behind you basically. And that was that. And so I bought a canon what we would call 300 d, which I think is, was the entry level rebel, whatever, x t I believe they'd like the cheapest, cheapest DSLR I could get my hand on. And really the only reason I chose a canon one over a nick on one was because my the printer we're using work or we're using work at the time was a canon printer. So I just ran the awareness. And so I thought, well, they make pretty good printers. Then photocopiers and stuff. So I went when to Jessops and bought a canon DSLR. And you know, the manuals that come with those cameras, all cameras still are terrible. So you know, there was no such thing really is like youtube was very embryonic there no such thing as a online mentoring or training. And so I just picked it up and just did what I could with it.
Raymond: 10:42 Was it so totally self taught you just went out there and just practiced until you figured it out?
Kevin Mullins: 10:47 Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, totally. And we've just had a baby at the time. So of course I had the perfect way subjects and, yeah.
Raymond: 10:54 Yeah, it's a, it's funny, we have a member in the Facebook group. His name is Jason and he just a over the weekend had had his first child and he was excited. What he posted was that that he got time to practice with his 35 Nolan's is brand new, that five Mil Lens and didn't even mention the baby. So I'm sure that he's gonna appreciate that as well. So what would you say was one of the hardest aspects of excuse me, maybe exposure or photography for you to Kinda kind of get the grasp of, was there anything that you were struggling with it that took a while to figure out?
Kevin Mullins: 11:28 Yeah, I think, I guess it's a bit of a Cliche, but it's this idea of understanding the light I suppose. So when I first started shooting, I would you know, I'd fight against the light all of the time. So it was always right and exposure, compensation and you know, never really had an understanding that the light was, cause I shoots all natural light or available light. And so I had no real understanding that light is, is a, is a friend rather than an enemy. And you know, I was just like say ride an exposure, compensation and stuff. So, so now of course I, I use the lights to see where it's coming from on meter for the lights coordinator, use a lot spot meter into to help the light make something for me and the camera. But that was really something that, that was, that I found very hard.
Kevin Mullins: 12:15 So right at the beginning I would go into perhaps a, you know, let's just say a. Dot. Bridal prep room with one window. And I couldn't figure out why you know, from one end of the room, everything was just silhouettes and from the other ends of the room, everything was blown out and you know, so I was constantly riding that exposure, compensation and to try and deal with that. And, and then, you know, then I'll kind of all kind of comes together with exposure and understanding and exposure triangle. But yeah, that was, that was a kind of light bulb moment, so to speak. You know, when I finally figured that out, which wasn't too long after I started, but that was, that was the thing that I technically wise I struggled with the most.
Raymond: 12:53 Right, right. It's hard, like if you're not used to photography, seeing with your eyes light, because I think that our eyes are, they're so good at not only distinguishing light but color as well, that you just kind of feel that when you go into a room, the entire room has an even amount of light. But a, as you said there, you know, you get towards a window and everything changes. That's awesome. That's awesome. So I think it's kind of interesting for you like to hear your story about how you got into weddings. Like it was kind of from the beginning. You're like, oh, I want to get into photography because of this idea of shooting weddings. So you needed to learn about weddings, kind of the wedding day and how you were going to shoot it. So this is kind of where you started in er, finding documentary photography, documentary, wedding photography. Can you define what you considered documentary wedding photography?
Kevin Mullins: 13:51 Yeah, I think I mean, part of the reason why I've, I kind of did it in a way, the reason why I still do it and I still enjoy it is because I was not shackled by any of those rules, you know, the kind of pose in and group shots and, and all of that kind of stuff and the, the formula if you'd like, of wedding photography. So I always knew from the beginning that I wanted to do it in a documentary way. What documentary was at the time for me basically meant not in group shots. That's, that's really, as far as the I, you know, I didn't, I did not and still do not have the personality to, to organize people like that. So for me, a edit that right at the beginning and essentially it was just snapshots, candidate snapshots, a lot of head shots.
Kevin Mullins: 14:39 When I started shooting weddings properly, you know, I bought the kind of lenses, a good lenses and stuff. I had a 70 to 200 and they were, there were essentially headshots of you know, people just like not doing much. There was no story to them. And you know, I kind of realized after a while that actually I need to be going wider. I need to be getting closer, but going wider with why the lenses and started telling more of a story. That's, that's what documentary meant to me then. But initially it was, it was really this idea of just taking candy pictures if you'd like candid snaps. And I suppose to a certain extent that's what they were. They were just candid snaps. And you know, I've, I worked, I still work very hard at trying to layer the story and you know, work on a lot of themes and mantras of kind of start, middle and end. And, you know, telling a story properly rather than it just be in a whole series of snapshots, you know, head shots of people. Because I think that to a certain extent, everybody does those anyway. I still do them as well. You know, I still think it's important to have record shots, but it's it's not necessarily something that lends itself now, at least in my understand into a story. And ultimately it should be a story rather than just a series of individual pictures.
Raymond: 15:59 Sure, sure. So if, if, if starting if getting into documentary wedding photography, you were excited about it because you weren't going to take a group photos or you wouldn't be pressured to take these group photos. Did you get any kind of pushback on that in the beginning or, or was there any fear?
Kevin Mullins: 16:18 Yeah, I think and, and you know, even these days, I still do a couple of group shots if people want it, although it's, you know, it's very minimal partner, but, but yeah, right at the beginning I'm in, I'll, you know, when I do workshops and stuff, I actually show pictures from my very first wedding to, to that, to the students because I think it's important for them to see that. And you know, one of the things that happened at my very first wedding was I said to them, you know, this is, this is the way that it things is documentary. And they were like, yeah, that's cool. We love the idea. And then at about nine o'clock, just as I pour my cameras where they said, what about all the group shots? And I was like, Whoa, what'd you mean? And then when, yeah, we need to lose a group shots.
Kevin Mullins: 17:00 And so I just panicked and you know, just took these pretty poor group shots of, you know, like i think it was 45 of them in the end. My gosh. Yeah, exactly. So I came home and I said to my wife, I said, I don't think this is working because you know, the whole idea was for me to have a better way of life. And it just stressed me out really bad. So you know, I made a very conscious decision to adjust the branding and marketing of the business to ensure that as much as my brand in is to, is there to attract people, it's also, there is a filter. So it doesn't happen these days doesn't happen so much. And, but back in the beginning, yeah, was definitely a case of not really being brave enough to say to people, or I suppose not to say to them, but to educate them and say, actually, you know what, this is, this is how I, I'm, you know, this is my style.
Kevin Mullins: 17:53 And of course, if you want something else, then I can recommend somebody else who can do that for you. But, but you know, if you want me and you want the stuff that you see on my website, then this essentially is how, how I do things. And you know, that that works. It works really well. So I rarely, rarely have any issues with, with kind of that that idea that people see what they want on the websites and then want more, you know, want more of the traditional stuff because the clients are filtered and you know, works really well now. But yeah, right to the beginning it was, it was a bit of a challenge.
Raymond: 18:26 I can imagine. So I know that from my own personal story when I started, I did a lot of things that I didn't necessarily want to because I wanted to be shooting weddings and then, like you said, use my website to filter out to people. And then now I'm kind of at this point to where I'm shooting more of what it is that I do. Like. Would you recommend
taking a similar path? Or would you say just straight from the beginning say, I do this, I don't do this. If you want somebody else, go for it.
Kevin Mullins: 18:53 Yeah, I think, you know, just be brave and, and you know, the whole point of most people become what in photographers, like, you know, like there is nobody in school in high school when they say to you, what do you want to be when you leave school? Nobody ever puts a hand up and goes, I want to be a wedding photographer. Right. Just doesn't happen. And they might want to be a fashion photographer or a sports or music photographer, but not what is, so you end up becoming a wedding photographer through fortune circumstance. Whether that's simply that, you know, your brother or sister asked you to photograph a wedding cause you had a nice camera or whether it's because you wanted a completely different way of life, something that was a bit easier on the, you know, on the, on your kind of family life, whatever reason you ended up doing it through vocation.
Kevin Mullins: 19:42 You know, I think, and if it's vocational, you're doing it because you want to be doing it, then you certainly don't want to be coming back from those weddings. Thinking that was, I didn't like it, I didn't enjoy it, you know? So you have to, I believe people need to be brave and be able to just say, actually, this is how I do it, you know? And if there's not, there's absolutely nothing wrong in being a documentary photographer that also does lots of group shots and lots of portraits and all that. There's plenty of people out there that do that, of course, but they're the elements of the day that you don't want to do. You know, the don't do them or don't market them at least because you, you will end up falling out of love with her and because of his party of vocation, then you're gonna end up, you know, going back to the old day job or whatever that was and, you know, hitting the, hitting the road again.
Kevin Mullins: 20:32 So yeah, yeah, you've got to, you know, you do need to be pretty strong, I think, and without being rude. But education is the, is the key thing for the clients. You know, there's, I'll never say no to somebody, you know, I'm not going to say no way. I don't do that. But, you know, I'll say, hey, well, you know what, I can do that, but that will take up so much time, you know, and you just won't get the stuff you see on my website, which is, you know, really what you want. So have a think about it and, you know, let me know and, and, and that works all the time.
Raymond: 21:03 So you said something there that really caught my attention in that was that a, you can be a documentary wedding photographer and still get like group shots and post portraits and stuff. I guess I'm a little confused, I suppose. Like what would make what would make that still a documentary photographer? Does that make sense? Could you expand on that a little bit? Yeah, yeah.
Kevin Mullins: 21:30 No, it does. Absolutely. And I guess the point I'm making is, whilst I don't do that, I mean, like I said, we'll do a couple of group shots, but that, but that's it. The, there are plenty of people out there who will set aside half an hour of the day to do bridal portraits and you know, more group shots, et Cetera. And, and just because they do that doesn't mean for the rest of the nine and a half hours of the day where they're shooting. Candidly, they're not good documentary wedding photographers, you know. And it often, often it comes down to the marketing side of things where the confusion lies. I think for example, I don't think anybody can come to my website and expect me to be anything other than what they see. But there are plenty of people out there who market themselves as documentary and then actually on the day they spend all of their time setting up candid shots of, you know, which aren't candidate of course, but setting up shops to make them look natural.
Kevin Mullins: 22:25 And, and that definitely is not documentary photography that's stage or something to look natural. And not only is that kind of disingenuous to the term, but also I would imagine it's quite upsetting for the clients who might be expecting to just have a
funnel day with their friends and family doing their thing while the photographer does his thing. But then being told to, you know, go and stand by that window or you know, do this, do that. And that's, you know, my, my kind of definition if you like called and of course it's only minor, the people's definitions can be different is that, you know, I will not, I do not have any guidance or direction for my clients whatsoever. So for example, if the if the wedding dress is in a, in a bag lying on the floor in the, in the bridal prep room, that's the picture, you know, orange just wouldn't take that picture. But you know, it's, I'm not going to be taking that dress out and hanging out, up anywhere or anything like that. You know, if the bridesmaid is doing that for whatever reason, then I'll probably take pictures of her doing that rather than the actual thing. At the end maybe, but it's, it's about the, the inference of direction. I think. You know, and like I say, people can and do set aside time to do the more traditional stuff and that doesn't make them a worse or better photographer.
Raymond: 23:50 Yes. I gotcha. That made it perfectly clear to me. So I totally understand that. So thank you very much for a, for, for clearing that up for me cause I'm not I think you're right. I think a lot of it is the marketing. Cause you know, you see, you see a lot of wedding photographers market themselves as documentary, but then maybe they'll post like there's one photographer I'm thinking of who does like some behind the scenes photos at like weddings and stuff. And it's very much like, hey, come over here. Like, let's do this, like smiled together. And that's not as you said that, that's, that's not documentary wedding photography. So if, if kind of your job is to tell a story of a wedding day, you want to properly capture everything, including light as well as emotion, emotion between family members willing days are, there's lots of emotions already. Is there something that you do before the wedding to get an idea of a family dynamic so that when you show up, you already have an idea of a story that you're gonna tell? Or do you show up and say, let's go, let me figure it out from here?
Kevin Mullins: 24:51 Yeah, basically I don't, I very rarely meet clients beforehand. Very rarely if they want to meet me, if they want to come to the studio and have a coffee or something, then then absolutely fine. But generally I don't. And you know, sometimes when the conversation comes up about, you know, do we need to meet, I actually say to them, no, because if I come with a complete blank canvas without any expectations or any preconceived ideas of, of what you are like or your family, or like, then, you know, everything is as natural as it possibly can be. You know, and, and that works really well for me because I, I can just do my thing and, you know, I don't need to know that you know, mom and dad are divorced and hate each other or you know, there's a, there's a brother that nobody's spoken to for 15 years because if they, if I know all of those things, then, you know, that can affect my judgment perhaps.
Kevin Mullins: 25:46 You know, of course it makes no difference in terms of the photos really, because I'm not guiding or setting anything up. And you know, if, if they're not going to stand next to each other because they don't like each other, then there will be no pictures of them standing next to each other because they don't like each other. I'm not going to try and force them to do that. You know, so, so, yeah, I mean, a kind of example was this weekend at this weekend's wedding, I went and it turns out that there was a pretty, pretty well known person at the wedding. It was the sister of the groom, in fact. And I had no idea. I, you know, I had no idea whatsoever. Nobody had taught me that. And in fact we'd go all the way through to pretty much the speeches before I realized who this person was. And then I kind of, I put two and two together and I was like, ah. Right. Okay. No, I understand. But you know, and I, and I'm guessing because they hadn't told me that they didn't, you know, they, I, I reacted in such a natural way that I wasn't kind of starstruck or anything or, you know, it was just like, you're just anybody else who, you know, who I didn't recognize.
Raymond: 26:57 Of course, of course. Now, kind of going back to that, did, did, knowing that, did that new piece of information change the way that you tried to capture any photos? From there on out?
Kevin Mullins: 27:10 Not really. I think, I mean, I've done, I've done several kind of y with classes minus celebrities, minus lefties to me, major celebrities to other people. And yeah, I mean, I don't, I don't really, I don't know that it were to bother me.
Raymond: 27:27 So you weren't trying to find the one shot for the website or anything like that?
Kevin Mullins: 27:31 No I don't. I always think, and I think this is kind of important that the, my job is entirely on the day is entirely to produce pictures for the wedding clients. Okay. I never, I try not to, it's hard not to, but I try not to ever think about portfolio awards, blog posts or anything. If a good blog post or a good picture or a good award or whatever comes because of the pictures I took on the day, then that's a bonus. But I try not to allow my shooting on the day to be effected by, you know, what, what I want to put on my marketing. You know, and lots of people, a lot of people will, will do that, you know, and, and, and I think that's sad because ultimately what I want to do is give a set of images to my clients that they can look back on in 40 years time. And it'd be just a true memory of their day rather than infamy or my business, you know, they've already paid me. And that's, that's the most important thing.
Raymond: 28:30 Yeah, of course. No, that totally makes sense. So, so then in, in kind of this world of like you know, we're Pinterest and very bright and airy type photos, how do you personally convey the power of documentary approach to your wedding clients? Does that question make sense?
Kevin Mullins: 28:58 Yeah, I think you know, there's, there's a lot of subtle messages on my website in terms of you know, for example, it's not just pictures, like my portfolio is a, is a store. I talked to people on my portfolio page about how I took this picture, why I took this picture. I even include some bad pictures and I explained that, you know, technically it's bad picture, but the moment is the important thing here. So I you know, try and manifest it in terms of the way that I would speak to them face to face as if we were flicking through their childhood photo, help them you know, and, and you know, or I'll even say things like, you know, when you look at the pictures that you have from your childhood, do you are you interested in your school portraits or do you smile and laugh more at the pictures of you and your mum at the park on the beach at Christmas?
Kevin Mullins: 29:49 The candidate stuff that your uncle took on is old. You know, it's that instant printer picture camera, you know, it's faded and is blown out or whatever, but it's those pictures that are the important ones. Right. and that as soon as you start having those kinds of conversations or passing that message, then people really understand that, I think. But you know, you're right about there the kind of Instagram generation and Pinterest and the brightness of everything. And you know, there are for those people, there are the photographers and you know, there's plenty, there's plenty of wedding photographers to go around
Raymond: 30:25 Absolutely. Especially who shoot very bright and and every style for sure. So on a wedding day, I know I often get asked by, you know, the bridal party to take a certain photo or I'm, you know, can I see the back of the car? Like, can I, can I see how that photo turned out or anything? How do you, okay, I'll get, I'll give it, I'll give you another example. I am not the cheapest wedding photographer here in Indianapolis. And I shot a wedding for a couple who I would say that I was about 90% of their budget. They really wanted amazing photos, right? Is what they said. They said, we really don't care about anything else.
We want great portraits. We want, you know, great photos that we're going to remember the day by. And I said, okay. Absolutely. So I showed up great couple, but the bridal party was very much like, you know, okay, now let's you know, do this photo, let's do that photo and it was hard for me to say, you know, that's not what it is that I do, but it was the bridal party who was taking more control over the photos than the couple was.
Raymond: 31:35 Do you ever find yourself in a situation where a bridal party is either asking for a certain style of photo that may be goofy or Pinterest like and then because your, your couple is going to have a better idea of your photography then then they will. How would you handle a situation like that? Hey Raymond here and if you're listening to this, you are listening to the free version of today's interview. If you want to hear more from today's guest about the business of photography, consider becoming a premium member every week. Guests answer questions about products, pricing packages, and so much more. It will help your growing photography business thrive. This is the next logical step to join head over to beginner photography, podcast.com and click the premium membership button at the top of the page. Okay. Yeah. Do you think that there are any misconceptions or something that would surprise people to know about being a, a, a documentary wedding photographer?
Kevin Mullins: 32:36 I think, well, I dunno, I, I, I think a lot of people, not, not potential clients, but potential photographers think that it's an easy way of becoming a wedding photographer. It's easier to do this than to understand posing and lighting and all that kind of stuff. And to a certain extent it is, you know, don't get me wrong. I mean, it's, it is a talent to be able to pose well and unlike bile, etc. But the, it's not just a series of, it's, you know, there are a lot of people, a lot of photographers out there who will take 20,000 frames our wedding and take 500 friends at the end and, and, you know, essentially hoping for the best. Sure. and that's, that's also fine if they, if that's the way they want to operate and that's the way they want to work.
Kevin Mullins: 33:24 Absolutely. but you know, I think from a photography point of view, it's telling a story and layer in a story and connecting the dots and having the cohesion throughout the day that tells a full history of the event rather than just taken thousands and thousands of shots and hoping that you get, get some good pictures. That's the challenge. That's the hardest thing. And they don't get me wrong. I overshoot as well, you know, the, as much as the next person, maybe not 20 face and pictures, but I do overshoots. But you know, I, I like in my camera bag, I have the five W's written underneath the, the lens of my camera back and these stand for who, why, what, where, and when. So if ever I'm struggling or to where they're in length you know, I can't, there's nothing happen in what, you know, it's, it's slow.
Kevin Mullins: 34:17 It's, it's pedestrian. Look at that. I re I'm reminded of those folk W's and as long as I've answered who, why, what, where, and when, then that's the story. That's all of those, those parts are connected. And it's just like writing a newspaper article or writing a novel. It's the WHO, why, what, where, and when you get that part right, you've got the story. And that stops me from having to run around with a, like a headless checkin and thinking, Oh man, I haven't got any pictures. I don't know what to do. And then, then you just end up taking pictures for the sake of it. Yeah. You know, and I think, and I think also one of the challenges for documentary style photographers is to have the confidence to stop photographing and listen, watch, look at the light and look at the characters, put the cameras down and understand the environment and then start taking pictures again.
Kevin Mullins: 35:11 You know, I feel that, and this is true for all whatever your talk was, I guess I feel that because we're being paid to be there, we'd feel like the, if the clients are looking, we should be taking pictures. We should have a camera and stuff to her face. And that's, that's not true because that means they're just paying you to be a a mechanical
photographers. Somebody's pressing, anybody can press the button on the top of the camera and you, but anybody can do that. But only you can see what you see through the viewfinder. And only I can see what I see through the viewfinder. And so sometimes you need to stop and slow down and watch and wait and listen and, you know, smell the kitchen, whatever it is that manifests in order to get the pictures that will tell the story of the day. And don't be afraid to just stop, you know, and it's not, you're not there. And I often say to my clients, I'm not there as a photographer on there as, as an observer. And, and that's the thing, a photographer has a technical function. Photography is a technical function. Seeing is, is not, that's, that's kind of a difference.
Raymond: 36:13 Yes. I think that that's really important to hear. Especially from me as somebody who I feel that exact same way. I feel you know, if I'm being paid to be there, a lot of people look at wedding photography already as very much a luxury. And here I am as a service provider, not doing anything, you know, like if I'm just standing there, and this happens a lot during meal time is typically people don't like photos of themselves eating. Do you find anything? Is there anything that you do during meal time to kind of fill that gap? Yeah, let's sit down and like, Hey, I, I take a break.
Kevin Mullins: 36:55 Yeah. you know, and that's, that's all in the contract. And if they, I mean, if something happens, for example, the speeches might be between courses, then obviously I'll come in and out. But yeah, I mean, I, I
Raymond: 37:06 Pictures of people eating is not a, nobody wants that. People, people don't want that. Yeah, yeah, go on. So no, I was going to say sometimes if
Kevin Mullins: 37:17 Thought maybe a child doing eating something like stuffing a cake in their face or something, then maybe that's an interesting picture. But generally once they sit that normally either be shooting for six hours or so by the time they sit down for their meal. So I'm ready for them to break at that point
Raymond: 37:30 Yeah, I always think that it's weird that, that how popular the cake cutting shot is. Then people want that picture of them meeting cake. I think to myself, like, you're not going to frame this. Like who wants a picture of them being stuffed with cake? So yeah, unless that's a child. I don't understand. I don't understand. A, so in the group I asked some people some questions what questions they had about documentary, wedding photography and [inaudible] I think I pronounced that right. I believe is French. I could got that totally wrong. He wanted to know specifically, he asked how difficult is it to cover the whole wedding day in a reportage style? So I know that you answered that a little bit earlier. We kind of talked about your, your, your philosophy, but I will expand upon that a little bit without doing much posing. When you show up, what is it that you're looking for aside from the WHO, what, when, where, and why. There's obviously light, right? And there there's emotion. So is there a way that you try to go about capturing a scene in, of you that kind of makes it
Kevin Mullins: 38:39 Repeatable for you, that is like your style? Did that question make sense at all? It, yeah, kind of. But the answer is not really because you know, when you shoot in a purely candidate style, every single wedding is different, like every single one. And there is no, there's no formula as such. I mean, weddings themselves are quite formulated yet. So, you know, they, they, they kind of fall into a pattern. You know, I suppose because I, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm really obsessed by kind of the interaction between people and the emotional play between them. So when, for example, at the end of the ceremony when people start hugging each other, that's, that's really my important time. That's there, the pictures that I really want to get and I get in really close to get those pictures. But at the same time, I know that I don't want to be in the way or [inaudible], so I'll nearly always make sure I'm behind the bride or the groom
or the person who's being hoped and I'm capturing the, the huggers rather than the, the hoked.
Kevin Mullins: 39:43 And, and that way the brides, you know, doesn't even see me, doesn't notice me. I do my thing and I, I get in close and I move around very quickly. And you know, that's, that's kind of the thing that I'm, when that doesn't happen for whatever reason, when people don't have that, that part where they don't park at whatever, you know, for whatever reason, then that's quite sad for me. And I know that there often sets the trend for the rest of the day. But yeah, I mean, it's, yeah, literally every single wedding is different. One, you know, I, I rarely, I don't, I've never gone down the route of being recommended by wedding venues. I'm not, there's anything wrong with that of course, but I just have never gone down that route. So it's rare for me to be at the same venue very often. You know, so it's everyone is a new adventure. Sure. So
Raymond: 40:36 That taking photos of guests kind of sparked another question. I think, I think it was you who I heard on Andrew Helmitch's photobiz exposed podcast. I believe that you said something to the effect now it could have been somebody else's. So please correct me if I'm wrong, that that like your ultimate goal or dream would be to go to a wedding and be confused as a guest so that like nobody knew that you were there. Does that sound familiar? Am I thinking of somebody else?
Kevin Mullins: 41:01 No, no, no. I mean, it's something that I probably would have said. Yeah. It's I, you know, I, one of the testimonials I have on my website in fact is, is so to that point yet she says that you know, the common she got from a lot of the guests where they didn't even know they had, I, they had a wedding photographer and that, and that's the ultimate, and that's, that's the utopia of course. And as, apart from during the ceremony I suppose, where you're often the only one either at the front or the for the rest of the time, I just am, I behaved like a guest. I use small cameras. I dress like a guest as much as I can. You know, I just, I just do my thing and you know, I don't, I'm not telling people to do anything to say cheese or anything, you know, like they do often just totally forget on there, you know, and that, and that's a great thing. I mean generally it's obvious I am the deficient, you know, I'm the only single guy there with, with two, two cameras, I will, other than that, I'm doing my absolute best to, to just be a guest. Yeah. Yes, yes.
Raymond: 42:09 So how does that is there ever been a time where you've had to interact with with a guest? You know, maybe they're asking lots of questions or something and like you need to get back to work. How, how does it so it was John specifically within the Facebook group asked, well, what is it like interacting with guests when you're just trying to be a fly on the wall?
Kevin Mullins: 42:29 Well, yeah, I mean, when I say that, you know, I don't interact with them. If they talk to me or we have a conversation, you know, just a general chat. Often people ask me about my cameras and you know, that kind of stuff. Of course I'm going to speak to them, you know, occasionally are, if I can see some of the guys looking at the football scores or wherever, I'll go over and see what's the score. You know, that kind of thing. I'm not a, you know, I'm not trying to be completely invisible and never speak to anybody. But what I won't do is, is kind of affect a particular moment by doing anything. So yeah, I mean, I'll, you know, I will chat to them and everything and occasionally you do get the, the odd guests that is a bit more friendly than others in terms of you know, especially kind of photography questions and everything and yeah, it just polite and then walk away. And then my friend, he always says that I'm, you know, one of the questions we always get asked is oh, how many pictures have you taken today? And, and Neil always says to try to confuse me. He says, Oh, about 20 gallons and that, and then of course, their face just changes in, and then we just leave them in this confusion yet.
Raymond: 43:40 That's genius. I was, I was thinking, I was like, maybe if you said like a small number, like 12 converted to gallons, that, that's wonderful. When, when you, when you're shooting like I can only imagine, I've never been to the UK, but from photos that I've seen of weddings typically their older venues they're much darker than you know, not as much available light. And I know the cameras today, especially Food Fuji can operate it just like incredible ISS. Do you use any sort of, any sort of artificial light at all and what do you do when it gets too dark?
Kevin Mullins: 44:24 Yeah, so the only, the only lights that I typically take with me these days is a it's called a Lumi Muse. So it's a little handheld net. It's I don't have it to hand, but it's, it's no bigger than, than this, this thing. So that's a memory card holder, but it's about the same size. And I can hold that. It's, it's actually, it's, it's rechargeable any day. I charge it once a year and I just use it for perhaps the first dance or something. And that's it. And like my philosophy is that if it's light enough for people to see each other, then it's light enough for my camera to see them. That's, that's the way that I work. And you know, if I have to slow the shutter speed down or push the ISO up and then, then that's it also, that's fine. But honestly it's the Djs that this goes to the bands, they all have lights that we can work with. It's,
Raymond: 45:24 lights they've already set up.
It's fine. So just finding a spot to where you can utilize their, their
Kevin Mullins: 45:30 Yeah. And if they, if the light isn't good, then I'll use that Lumi Muse. And I don't like using it because it's, it looks artificial. It just doesn't look, it's, you know, if, if the DJ or somebody sets up specific lights, then I want the pictures to remind the bride and groom of the particular lighting that was there when they had that, that their first dance, you know if you, if I go and set up off camera flash and all that kind of stuff, and then all that does is remind them of the time that I set up off camera flash. Yeah. So that's, that's kind of why I don't do it, but again, just because I, you know, I don't do that. It's, it's partly a, you know, just no knowledge and Latin and laziness perhaps even, but it doesn't mean that it's wrong to do that. You know, I've got, I've got very good friends who do do that and do it very well. And which is, as you said earlier, would be a boring world if we were older.
Raymond: 46:25 Right. Right. So then last question here for ya. Have you ever got a couple who said, oh my gosh, this photo is way too grainy. What were you doing here?
Kevin Mullins: 46:40 No. no I haven't, but that doesn't mean they haven't thought that or said it to themselves or they've never actually said it to me.
Raymond: 46:49 There you go. If it's never been told to you, then it's never happened. We're going to go with that. I think a lot of beginners get, so I'm worried over ISL performance scared to push their camera past like 800, you know, and you're just living proof right here that if you know you're shooting in a very dark venue, you can push it upwards of higher than 6,400.
Kevin Mullins: 47:11 Oh yeah, I get 12, 800. Yeah,
Raymond: 47:13 You got a 12,800 and you've never heard a complaint from a client to you never. He go, just focus on getting that shot. Just focusing on getting that shot. Yeah. Kevin, I really want to be mindful of your time. I appreciate everything that you've shared today. Before I let you go, can you please let the listeners know where they can find you online?
Kevin Mullins: 47:33 You kind of did. Thank you very much. It's m my website is Kevin Mullins, photography.co. Dot. UK. Instagram is Kevin Mullins photography. And we also run a podcast called the Fuji Cast, which they could find that FujiCast Dakota UK or on any podcast network specifically Fujifilm kind of stuff. Yeah, that's it. Yeah.
Raymond: 47:55 Well, Kevin, again, thank you so much for coming on the show and I, I, I just want to tell you one last time that I truly enjoy looking at your photos and you inspire me to be a better photographer. So this was, this was a joy to talk to you today, so thank you.
Kevin Mullins: 48:08 Thanks Raymond. And it's been great. It's really pleasurable to be here.
Raymond: 48:12 How about that? If you are unaware of, if you were unaware of Kevin Mullins before this point, please, please, please check out some of his work. If you're listening on your phone, you should be able to just swipe up to view the show notes where I've included links to some of his photos. But if you're on Instagram, Facebook, please look at his work, check out his website. It is really something that is almost, I mean the photos that he is able to anticipate and take that are almost complete, that are completely candid, but no interaction are so much better than the photos that I try to manipulate and, and create a moment around. So that is a skill that has just so impressive to see. And I think one of my biggest takeaways was that, that everyone kind of told Kevin that he wasn't set out, you know, to shoot weddings, but it was because of his, his fresh approach and he that he found something that, that he meshed with and obviously, you know, he's killing it. So just don't listen to, you know, what others are saying. If it feels right to you when it comes to a photography. So there you go. That is it for today's interview. Until next week, I want you to get out. I want you to keep shooting. I want you to focus on yourself and stay safe. All right, that's it. I love you all.
Outro: 49:41 If you enjoy today's podcast, please leave us a review in iTunes or your favorite podcast player and continue the conversation with Raymond and other listeners of the podcast by joining the beginner photography podcast Facebook group today. Thank you. We'll see you again next week.
BPP 154: Kevin Mullins - True Documentary Wedding Photography
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