David Stubbs is a full-time professional photographer, based near Manchester, and covers weddings in the North West and across the UK. He is a member of Fearless Photographers, a directory of the best wedding photographers in the world, and was commissioned to photograph the London 2012 Olympic Games. We spoke to David about his work and where his career as a photographer has taken him.
What made you want to become a photographer?
I’ve always had a love for taking photos. I graduated as a primary school teacher and taught for five years, and while I was teaching I treated myself to a DSLR camera. That’s when I started taking photography more seriously – I found that I got the biggest buzz from others praising my work. Creating a photograph for me is like creating a piece of art. To be able to make a full time living from doing what I love – nothing can beat that!
How would you describe your style?
I approach weddings with the ethos that it should not be about the photographer. I don’t see myself as part of the entertainment on the day. Couples should enjoy their wedding day as if they had no photographer at all. My job is to capture the real moments and real memories for the couple, not to create them. When you look at a photo that is staged, all the couple will remember is posing for that photo. When a moment is caught for real, they remember having the best day of their lives.
The images you create are inspirational. Where do you get your own inspiration from?
Thank you. My inspiration is mainly from other wedding photographers creating stunning images. I find that I don’t have the time I used to have to browse other photographers’ work, but I really enjoy Erik Clausen’s blogs, and the Fearless Photographer website is full of immensely inspirational imagery.
You are a member of Fearless Photographers. What is this and how does it on or influence your work?
It is an honour to be part of Fearless Photographers. It’s a group of super talented wedding photographers from all over the world, and the aim is to produce awe inspiring work. Being a member means you don’t set out to produce the usual wedding photos other photographers might produce, but photos that capture raw emotion and have a creative flair about them. Being a Fearless photographer underwrites my approach to everything I do.
Your photographs capture people looking very relaxed. What do you do to make people feel more comfortable in front of the camera?
The trick is to blend in like a guest – standing at the back of the room with a big lens is not blending in! I act like a guest and stand with groups of people chatting. For most of my photos I use my 35mm lens which shows how close I get. The photos are more dynamic as they feel like they were taken amongst people, not just a head shot of someone from 20 yards. I find that most couples forget I am there. I once overheard a mother of the bride say I hadn’t been around much and had missed lots of good photos. For me that was a good thing as I know that later she was blown away with the photos her daughter received, realising I had caught everything.
You shoot in a variety of locations and in varying light and weather conditions. What do you carry in your camera bag to make sure you are prepared?
Shooting in diverse conditions is one of the hardest parts of photographing a wedding. You can’t dictate where moments happen, so you need to be prepared for every situation and lighting conditions. I use some of the best equipment which helps with this – my Nikon D4 and a set of 24mm, 35mm and 85mm prime lenses. I also have the 16-35mm lens nearby but I only ever use this for that occasional super wide shot. Using prime lenses coupled with a good camera body means I can photograph in near total darkness without the need for artificial lighting. Very occasionally I will use a touch of flash, but that is more for when the quality of the light is poor.
What is your favourite piece of photographic equipment?
I could shoot a whole wedding on my Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens. I have two, just in case!
What is the most popular Folio Albums product among your clients?
Folio Albums have a soft and natural feel which suit my style of photography perfectly. The most common album I sell seems to be a 60 page 12 x 12 book with a photo-canvas cover. When I design this it holds 150 photos which perfectly tells the story of a wedding day.
What is the most difficult aspect of your job?
The hardest thing for me is balancing work with family time. In 2013 I worked too much and didn’t find as much time to spend with my family as I wanted. I have now cut down the number of weddings I photograph to 40 per year. I regularly get couples asking me if I can be available for their wedding even though I have told them I am fully booked. As a businessman it’s hard to say no, but as a family man, this is essential!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the diversity of my job. Every day, every couple, and every wedding is so different. I get to be out and about, camera in hand, meeting new people and doing what I love for a living.
What has been your most memorable assignment?
Last year I was contacted by a man from Singapore who wanted to arrange a special proposal for his girlfriend. He was going to fly her over to the UK, take her to Blea Tarn to propose, and follow it up with a photo shoot around the Lake District. The whole thing was a surprise, so it took a lot of planning!
We had to think of quite a few of the details in advance, as he knew his girlfriend would want to look her best but given the difference in the weather between Singapore and the Lake District, she might not be dressed for it! He got around this by booking a table at a Michelin star restaurant for lunch on the day of the proposal, so she dressed for the occasion. Also, she rarely wore makeup but he knew she would want to for the photo shoot. So, a couple of months before, he went and re-bought all of the makeup she used and shipped it out to me from Singapore so I would have it ready for her to put on.
After their lunch at the restaurant, they took a taxi to Blea Tarn where I was waiting – literally in the bushes! We had used Google Maps to locate the perfect spot. After I sneakily gave him a signal that all was good, he proposed – she said yes!
After some initial photos we headed back to the car where she got over the shock, put her make-up on and we went for photos at several Lake District locations. I then dropped them off at Manchester airport as they were flying to Geneva the next morning (another surprise to her).
See some of the photos here: http://www.davidstubbsphotography.co.uk/lake-district-proposal-photography/
You were a photographer at the London Olympics in 2012. How was that experience?
It was an absolute honour to be asked to photograph at the 2012 London Olympics. I was asked to document the everyday goings on at the games, including the logistics, people having fun and photos that can be used for future advertising all over the world. I wasn’t the guy chasing Usain Bolt around the track after winning a gold medal, so it wasn’t as glamorous as it may sound, but it was a joy to be part of something so special. It was an experience I’ll always remember.
What is the best lesson you have learnt through your work?
The best lesson I have learnt is to always be over prepared and cautious. Cameras and hard drives rarely fail, but when they do, you must be prepared. I have had a camera freeze on a shoot, if I hadn’t had a back-up it would have been a terrible situation. I’ve had hard drives fail on me twice. The files were backed up in two other locations too, including one off-site so all was good. But can you imagine telling a couple their wedding photos have been lost forever? Have a back-up plan for every eventuality, just in case.
What common misconceptions do people have about your job?
The biggest misconception is that I only work for 10 hours at a wedding and my job is done. Far from it! I estimate that each wedding is around 40-50 hours of work, and that doesn’t include all the time running the business. Also, when I’m at weddings, guests often think I should be getting people together for photos rather than blending in. Or they move out my way thinking they are getting in the way when in fact I was using them to frame a photo of someone else!
If you could take a photograph of anyone or anything in the world, what would it be?
Taking a photo of the world would be awesome – from space!
Thank you to David for taking the time to contribute to the blog! You can visit his website here: www.davidstubbsphotography.co.uk