James Tracey is a modern documentary wedding photographer based in Manchester. Working quietly in the background, James’ style is relaxed and natural, capturing those ‘in the moment’ shots. We caught up with James to find out his top tips and what inspires his photography.
How long have you been a working as a photographer?
I’ve always been into photography as I did a couple of modules on my graphic design course way back in the mid 90’s. I got a DSLR in 2010 and started shooting at my friends weddings which got me hooked on photographing people at weddings. I started shooting weddings in 2012 and I quit the day job and went full time as a wedding photographer at the beginning of 2014.
We hear you used to be a Police Officer, what made you make the jump into professional photography?
Indeed I was, I did 10 years as a police officer in Greater Manchester, almost all of my service as a Response PC and then a Sergeant, dealing with all sorts of incidents from robberies, burglaries and pub brawls to even protecting the Prime Minister during a visit to Manchester. At the time I was enjoying photographing my friend’s weddings as a guest and one or two of my friends used my images for their thank you cards rather than their professional photos. I got married in 2012 and loved our wedding day, so whilst sat around the pool on honeymoon, my wife Laura convinced me to give it a go. I bought a Nikon D700 when I got home and the rest is history!
What inspires your photography?
I love natural, documentary images. For me a wedding is an event that should be documented as it happens rather than set up by the photographer, so my aim is not to interfere with the wedding at all. My job is to look for the moments that tell the real story of the wedding day. I regularly look around at what the other top documentary photographers are doing and I also love looking at how TV and films are shot and I take a lot of inspiration from the look and style used in films. I’m a Fearless Photographer and the standard of members is immense, some of the work there is absolutely amazing and it’s a brilliant place to see cutting edge wedding photography from around the world!
What is the best part of your job?
Without doubt it’s being trusted with documenting one of the happiest day of a couple’s life for them to look back upon. I feel like a guest with a back stage pass to a wedding as I get to be involved in everything on the day and I get the best seat in the house. I love being able to get so close to the action and then capturing the emotional, fun and crazy things that happen at every wedding.
What do you carry in your camera bag?
As I want to shoot in a discreet style, I need kit that it capable of shooting in very dark conditions, so my kit bag contains some of the best kit Nikon has produced. I shoot on a Nikon D750 and D800 and I mainly shoot using the Nikon 24mm f1.4 prime along with a Nikon 85mm prime. I also carry a Nikon 50mm, 35mm Sigma ART lens (which is beautiful) and the Holy Trinity of Nikon lenses, the 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200mm so I have a huge range of lenses should I need them. I have a few flash guns, but they are mainly for off camera lighting for the first dance or a one off shot outside the venue, you’ll rarely see me shooting with a flash gun on top of my camera.
You have worked abroad shooting destination weddings. Does working on an international level present you with any additional challenges?
Working abroad isn’t much harder, I just have to be a little bit more organised and think about the kit I really need for the job, mainly to cut down on carry on luggage on the plane. When I went to Ibiza I took the 24-70mm, a 50mm prime as a backup and the 85mm to travel light. When I went to New York, I took the bodies and hired the rest of the lenses in America as they are much cheaper to rent and there are loads of rental places in New York due the amount of filming that goes on there.
What is you most memorable assignment and why?
Without doubt it was Anna and Andy’s secret wedding in New York City in June last year. Anna and Andy have been together for a few years and didn’t want a huge wedding. They love New York so decided to get married in Central Park with only 4 guests. Lucky for me they took me along to document their day. I absolutely love New York, I’ve been 3 times now and proposed to my wife Laura at The Plaza Hotel in NYC in 2011. My dream job was to shoot a wedding there so I’ll never be able to thank Anna and Andy enough for making it come true. (http://jamestraceyphotography.com/central-park-wedding-photographer-new-york)
You have a great documentary style to your photography, what are your tips for capturing amazing natural moments?
I try and blend into the background of the wedding and then sneak up and grab the shots as the moment happens, then disappear again. I’ve found that I have to be patient and keep waiting for the moment, anticipate it and be ready for the key moment. I look at everyone at the wedding too, not just the couple, as there are stories all around on a wedding day and capturing the guests is just as important as the couple and their family.
Where would be your ideal location to photograph a wedding?
Obviously New York City, I love city centre weddings and there is no greater city in the world than the big apple. Luckiily for me, I’ve shot a wedding there, so my new dream location is a wedding in Iceland. The complete opposite of New York with its stunning landscapes, waterfalls and remote locations, I’d love to shoot a wedding there. The Northern Lights are on my bucket list so if I could combine a couple shot with the lights would be my new dream shot (although I know that one would be pretty challenging to achieve!)
What is the most popular Folio Albums product among your clients?
The 12” x 12” leather bound 40 page album is easily my biggest seller. My couples love the modern, contemporary style of the Folio Album. I market myself as a modern wedding photographer and feel that Folio Albums fit in with my style and branding perfectly, plus, they’re handmade in Yorkshire which suits me as a proud Yorkshireman myself!
Are there any photographers you admire?
I absolutely love Alan Law’s work, to me he’s one of the best documentary photographers in the world. I love Matt Parry’s natural style too. Internationally I’m a big fan of Nordica Photography who just seem to shoot awesome images effortlessly.
What advice would you give to a wedding photographer at the start of their career?
Define your style and work at improving it at every opportunity. Try a new shot at every wedding and don’t be scared if it doesn’t work, you only get better by having a go, sometimes it won’t work but you’ll be surprised by how many shots come out better than you think they will.
Thank you to James for taking the time to contribute to the blog! You can visit his website here: http://jamestraceyphotography.com