If you’ve seen any of the work that we do here at BTI, then you’ve undoubtedly seen the creative work of our graphic designer Mike Lao. His strength in creative, editorial layout and typography make him a key cog in the BTI wheel. In addition to these skills he has a deep passion for photography, which he uses on a day to day basis when creating client mockups, as well as shooting images for web and corporate portraits for our internal use. He also brings his photography passion to the table as a part-time portrait and wedding photographer. While the two mediums (graphic design and photography) go hand in hand, the challenges that one faces in each are quite different.
I sat down with Mike Lao to gain insight into what makes him tick as a wedding photographer and how he helps his clients capture picture perfect wedding memories.
Is it important to know the couple and their personality before shooting their wedding or engagement photos?
Going into a photo shoot without knowing the personality of the couple is like going to a costume party without knowing what the theme is. You have to be able to adapt to your client’s personality; are they introverted (serious, shy, conservative) or extroverted (down to earth, playful, talkative). It’s crucial to know their personalities because it dictates how to style your photos and how the whole photo shoot will go. Knowing their personalities helps me create an environment in which the couple will feel relaxed, and that in turn allows me to get better photos.
How do you best capture people when they are relaxed and being themselves?
The previous question ties in pretty close to this question. Knowing the couples’ personalities, and how to push their buttons helps to capture them in their natural state. I find that cracking a joke once in a while will help to ease any tension that is present (even if the joke is at my own expense) and allows the couple to relax and enjoy the moment. Sometimes a joke from me will lead to the couple joking around and laughing in response. During wedding days, I like to start off a shoot (at the brides house for example) with “We’re here but we’re not really here”. Couples are more relaxed when they don’t have to think too much about what they are doing. I believe that a wedding day shoot is a form of story telling, and I try not to interrupt natural moments, but rather capture them as they happen.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered as a wedding photographer?
One of the consistent challenges that we encounter is time constraint. Couples are very busy and can sometimes only schedule a fraction of the time that I’d like to have, meaning that ideas need to come fast and creativity needs to happen in almost an instant.
Another challenge is location. Some venues are much more easy to get spectacular photos than others. Uncontrollable variables such as lighting or architecture and room layouts can present creative challenges. Over the years, experience has taught me how to best work within any given location.
Lastly, a shoot can become challenging when there are “too many cooks in the kitchen”. Although I feel it’s valuable to let my clients have input into creative shots, multiple people giving suggestions can sometimes throw the shoot out-of-focus (pun intended).
Do you adjust your style to suit the request of the couple?
Most of the time couples only contact you because they have chosen you based on examples of your work. When a client requests a certain style, I challenge myself to adapt my style or try things differently to accommodate their requests.