ISPWP Member Spotlight - Olga Leonova

Posted by Salt Studio, Leonova Olga on January 12th 2021

Photographer Contact Information

Dubai UAE Photographer +971505985502, +971528936693

See This Photographer's Website

1. How did you get your start and why did you choose wedding photography as a career?

When I was a teenager, at 14, I already took my first shots. I also went to the photo school, using cameras with photographic film, hiding in the darkroom (or bathroom, call it how you want), printing pictures. I also did some modeling and studied again in the professional photo studio. 

What was always very clear for me - photography can’t be my profession. I also never could describe it as my hobby, it was more of an overwhelming passion, obsession. And, no matter where I went, where I traveled, or lived, I always found myself being surrounded by people with a photography background. In the end, I left my job (I used to work as a financial general manager for the company) and made photography my main career. One day I got invited as a wedding photographer, for 12 hours straight. This day changed it all - I found the true form of my passion and my calling. 


2. How has your extensive experience in wedding photography helped you in difficult circumstances on a wedding day?

I am convinced that wedding photography is one of the most difficult genres ever, if not the most difficult one.
First of all, this is a HUGE pressure, as a photographer has no right for a mistake. You can’t screw up, or screw up the light, or the background, anything. If there is something that will go wrong, it’s just your responsibility. It’s always a very stressful event, and I still feel like I am taking an exam, the night before every wedding. 

I always come early to the shoot, sometimes even 1.5h earlier, to make sure everything is right and no accidents will happen. I will calm down only when everything is in order and shooting will start. It will come naturally to me. 

Second of all, a wedding is always a multi-tasking event. Every wedding photographer should combine portrait skills with group photos, interior and jewelry photos, as well as being a true reporter for some live pictures. 

For example, after dedicating so much time to shoot Arab weddings in UAE, I discovered a love for jewelry shoots, and it came so easy to me - I had to offer another option for the clients. Now we are cooperating with a lot of jewelry houses in Dubai, providing them with professional photos and videos. 

Photography also can be physically challenging, not just mentally. For example, there are really big weddings that can take place in several different locations. Well, even the walk from the hotel room where newlyweds are to the restaurant sometimes can take up to 30 min. Carrying a lot of cameras can really be taken as a workout. 

There are some shoots that can last up to 12-16h, and to move all the equipment you and the assistant have to be well prepared. Needless to say, I skip gym for three days in a row after shootings like this! 


3. Tell us about some of the more unique weddings you've shot.

As my working location is Dubai,  I do work within a pretty specific field - Arabic weddings. There are a huge amount of differences, and nothing to do with European or Russian weddings. Arabic weddings do have engagement parties or Henna nights when the girls are coming together to bring gifts, do henna tattoos, enjoy music, and laugh.
Then - every Arabic wedding is celebrated separately - men and women go to different venues. 

4. What are some of your favorite local venues?

Working in Dubai means working in a world of absolute luxury. Starting with Bulgari and Armani hotels, to the Ritz, Four Seasons and privately located desert hotels like Bab Al Shams.
We also do a lot of outside shooting, for example - one of the most romantic places, Miracle Garden. Their famous “Love Alley”, when arched hearts follow one another, are charming and magical.
A lot of couples do go to the desert for a shot on their wedding day, and every piece of this location is just magical - sand is changing color, bedouins are very friendly and camels are great models too!


5. What advice would you give a bride who is looking for a wedding photographer?

Choose what you like - you MUST like the portfolio and you must like the way the photographer is treating you. The connection between you and the camera is very important, and if there is no chemistry - photos can become not what you were expecting. Take your time, make sure the photographer has all the features you are looking for and book for the date. 


6. What's your favorite part of the wedding day to photograph?

I truly enjoy the time after the bride just got ready and posing for the portraits with the groom. Guests hadn't arrived yet, and the couple was enjoying each other's company, overflowing with love and tenderness to each other. It’s a very beautiful thing to see, it makes you remember that love exists. 


7. What kinds of weddings do you love to photograph?

I literally wrote a book about it (laughing). No, seriously, Salt Studio Dubai, my company, created a brochure for couples that will help them to find a perfect photographer. There are 13 boxes to check, and we are sending it to the brides and grooms for free, using PDF format. 


8. What are your top tips for brides to help them get great photos on their wedding day?

First of all - accept that almost never the day will go as planned. So, there is no need to be nervous, you will be the most beautiful at the venue, I can guarantee you that.
To make it easier - make sure you have a good connection with the photographer. If you can, do the zoom call or meeting in person before, to know each other a little bit.
Then - try several poses in front of the mirror, to be sure that you have an idea of how your posture will be. In the end, it is the wedding, and if there is enough time and the photographer is professional - you will have an amazing outcome, as the emotions are the best that the camera can capture.


9. How important is it to hire an experienced wedding photographer?

I would say it’s crucial - you can’t redo the wedding. There is no right to a mistake. 


10. What do you do for fun when you're not shooting weddings?

If I don’t do weddings, I get to spend some time with newborns and I absolutely LOVE it. Little babies are magical, and to be able to capture the beauty of growing life is a blessing, truly.
I also do jewelry shooting, it is always a challenge and very satisfying for my inner perfectionist. Steady things hypnotize me almost as much, as shooting portraits.


11. Do you offer albums? If so, describe the albums you offer and why you think it's important to provide albums.

Creating an album, a photographer and a designer do not just spread beautiful photos on the pages: they select them by color, mood, planning, and plot and it is huge and picky work. This amount of work may mean nothing to the person from the side, but it’s actually a titanium effort. 

From our experience, we receive enormous requests on printing out albums with photos from other studios. We are always avoiding to disappoint our clients, but in this case, we are obliged to say “NO”. Let me explain to you why:

Albums are your family's relish from now on, the thing that you can pass through generations and enjoy memories over and over again. Someone might even think that it can be the “FINISH” of every wedding - the evidence! 


12. 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?

Never thought of it, to be honest. I do believe nothing will change crucially, we will still have a bride and a groom, maybe they will be just 3D printed or use visualization techniques like holograms, but one thing will remain the same - love, emotions, happiness, and wedding rush.


13. What's the best photography-related advice you've been given?

I think that the best advice I have ever heard (and followed, obviously) was this: “Turn off the flash. Throw it away, even better. Always work with the light you have around you”.


Photographer Contact Information

Dubai UAE Photographer +971505985502, +971528936693

See This Photographer's Website

Photographer Bio

What is Salt Studio?

  • It’s more than 15 years of experience in photography; more than 15 years of life, feelings, quests, and love
  • It's the 11th place in the nomination of "Emotional Impact Summer 2017 Contest"
  • It’s an international standard of quality in the sphere of modern photography. Membership of ISPWP: The International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers
  • It’s not just photography, it’s your history, your family, and your personal value. We do it professionally, delicately, and with love
  • It's a membership of BOWP: Best of Wedding Photography 

It’s SALT. It’s what adds piquancy and works up an interest; it’s a raisin that gives taste; it’s an esprit that gives meaning.
Salt Studio puts emphasis on the highlights while missing extraneous details that can be left out to capture pure emotions and beauty; all of which can slip away from us in the hustle and bustle of life. Salt Studio will pack and put up your wonderful memories, allowing you to open the box with your memories any time, to remember all the best moments in your life.

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