For today’s ISPWP member spotlight, we feature Zürich, Switzerland wedding photographer Matthew Anderson of Matthew Anderson Photography.
Matthew Anderson Bio:
My career in photography began in photojournalism where I worked as a daily newspaper photographer and freelancer from 1999 – 2007. The experiences that I had photographing a wide range of subject matter prepared me well for the dynamic task of capturing a wedding story with my camera. During this time of my life I was in and out of so many different situations that I had the opportunity to develop a wide range of photography skills. On a typical day at work I would shoot a news assignment or portrait of a politician in the morning, a business assignment in the afternoon and a food assignment or sports event in the evening. My assignments were basically anything and everything you can imagine seeing in the newspaper. It was the best learning experience that a young photographer could hope for. My editors and peers always had great (and sometimes merciless) feedback for me which pushed me forward all the time. Today I take all of those skills and experience into my wedding photography business. I feel that my early career laid down a perfect foundation for the wedding stories that I’m photographing today.
How did you get your start and why did you chose wedding photography as a career?
Wedding photography was a very natural direction for my career to take. I’ve always been attracted to emotional subject matter and picture stories. In my experiences as a newspaper photographer I was always on the hunt for multi-dimensional stories to tell with my camera. Weddings are the perfect subject matter for that combination.
How has your extensive experience in wedding photography helped you in difficult circumstances on a wedding day?
Last October I photographed an all-day event for a bride and groom who weren’t so lucky with the weather. Fortunately, with a little bit of creative lighting and adaptation I came away with a terrific collection of images that even had a certain outdoor feel, though every image from morning to midnight was created indoors. I ended up printing this album as a sample book for my studio and I’m really proud of that project.
Tell us about some of the more unique weddings you’ve shot.
Winter weddings in Switzerland are always fun and unique. I’ve had the good fortune of photographing inside of igloos and in the amazing mountain region known as the Engadin (where the posh mountain resort of St. Moritz is located). It’s always a treat for me to have mountains in my wedding photography backgrounds.
What are some of your favorite local venues?
I’m always discovering interesting venues, but for me the region and environment are just as inspiring. Just three weeks ago I was given access to a very exclusive private garden in my home town of Winterthur, Switzerland. It was bursting with color and absolutely amazing. I couldn’t believe that it was just 5 minutes from my front door. One thing I always convey in my albums is a sense of location for the wedding story. Locations (as beautiful as they tend to be in Switzerland) are a huge part of most couples’ wedding experience. I want that location to be seen in their wedding album. The pictures should communicate a feeling of place.
What advice would you give a bride who is looking for a wedding photographer?
Shop carefully and insist on seeing the proof. A lot of people are jumping into photography these days, but just because someone owns a paint brush doesn’t make them Picasso. If photography is important to you and you don’t see the work you’re hoping for in a photographer’s portfolio or sample albums, then move on. A photographer who has been successful in the past will be able to demonstrate several excellent sample albums and a long list of great client references and feedback. You don’t get to re-shoot your wedding so you need to really trust the photographer who you select.
What’s your favorite part of the wedding day to photograph?
Like a lot of photographers – I love preparations. These are almost always given a black and white treatment in my albums and prep photos just make a perfect kick off for the wedding story. So many fun and funny things happen in the pre-ceremony hours. Apart from that I really want to connect the events of the day so that there are no gaps in the story. If possible, I like to surprise my clients with food pictures that I usually shoot somewhere around the corner from the banquet/reception area. Food photography is something I learned as a newspaper photographer and it makes for a great album page.
What are your top tips for brides to help them get great photos on their wedding day?
My best advice to a couple in terms of getting great photography is to think about light. Light is a crucial mood setter. That’s not to say that the venue, church, etc. need to be brightly illuminated. Think about how the lighting can be creatively enhanced with candles, lanterns or colors. These details can really enhance the photography at your wedding. Also, don’t short change your photographer on portrait time. If you want great portraits think about your shooting location and consult your photographer before planning this part of your day. It’s in his and your best interest to work together on that part of the day’s plan. Be flexible and listen for his/her advice.
How important is it to hire an experienced wedding photographer?
Experience level (quality) and price are often closely related. Ten or twenty years from now you won’t care whether you saved a few bucks by hiring a cheap photographer or asking a friend with a camera to help out. The photos from your wedding will gain value as time goes on. If photography is an important part of your wedding then treat it as a priority early on in your planning phase.
What do you find is the biggest challenge in wedding photography?
The biggest challenge in wedding photography is without a doubt managing client expectations. If a promise to do something is not kept – then that expectation has not been well managed. Follow through is at the top of my list – every time. If I say I’ll do something, I do it.
Do you do “destination weddings?” If so, what are your favorite destinations?
I consider each and every wedding a destination wedding. Whether it’s 5 km, or 5000 km away. That said, I would love to shoot in my flip-flops on the beach this year. The specific beach is not important to me.
What do you do for fun when you’re not shooting weddings?
When I’m not shooting weddings I’m running my photography business. When I’m not running my photography business I’m spending time with my wife. When I’m not running my business or spending time with my wife then I’m out climbing mountains. That’s one reason I’m happy that I live in Switzerland.
How would you describe your style of photography?
My approach to wedding photography or “my style” could be described as a “story-telling approach.” I also love creative, fun and intimate portraiture. You’ll just have to check out one of my albums to really get a feel. What I constantly hear from my clients is that the album reads like the story of the day – just as they remember it. It’s not a random collection of pictures. Each album has a beginning, middle and end.
Do you offer albums? If so, describe the albums you offer and why you think it’s important to provide albums.
Each of my packages comes with a custom designed wedding album. My job is done when you have your album in hand. I provide a complete service from beginning to end and that’s what my clients appreciate. Providing albums to each couple means that there is zero hassle from their side. Do-it-yourself jobs rarely turn out as well as planned, and I find that the level of satisfaction that my clients express is 10 times greater when they are able to relive their wedding in the pages of a high quality album. Albums are a very important part of each wedding project to me.
How would you describe the current state of the wedding photography industry, and where do you think wedding photography is headed in the years to come?
The wedding photography industry is constantly evolving. There are many services available today which greatly improve the client experience that wouldn’t have been available even 5 or 10 years ago. For example, my online album proofing setup is fabulous. I’m working with a couple right now who live in Montreal. They’ve just had a look at their album design last week. Two small changes were requested, a second proof was sent, and now the book is being printed just a couple days later. This couple will have their finished album within a month of their wedding date. For reasons like that I’m very optimistic about the future of my own business because I’m finding new ways of improving my product and customer experience each year.
What (or who) inspires you?
I’m inspired by photographers who “see” on a higher level. I find inspiration in a lot of other genres such as documentary photojournalism. A real ability to tell the story (whatever it may be) really impresses me. I consider James Nachtwey, Joel Sartore, Randy Olson, and Ami Vitale to be “elite story-tellers.” Basically the whole crowd who shoots for National Geographic. That’s story-telling at its highest caliber in my opinion.
What’s the best photography-related advice you’ve been given?
The best photography advice I was ever given came from Pete Kendall, a staff photographer at my first newspaper. He said “If you’re given lemons, then make lemonade.” In other words take what you’ve got and make the best image possible. Chances are there are lots of great pictures if you can adapt to the situation. Another mentor of mine – Jay Drowns, said “Excuses don’t make anyone’s pictures look any better.” I’ve always taken these tips to heart.
What would you say was the biggest reason for your success?
Customer service (with a smile) and hard work. I put my clients wishes first and I deliver on my promises. It’s a winning combination.
Thanks for the interview Matthew! Use the comment section below to ask Matthew a question or leave a comment.