A Q&A with Expert Photographer – Tilly Blair
Today’s interview is with one of our expert photographers, Tilly Blair!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Hi Tilly! Thanks again for taking the time to talk with me today. How did you get started shooting weddings?
I began assisting a wedding photographer in New Zealand when I was 16 and had just begun studying photography at high school. I shot my first wedding as a lead photographer at 21, so it’s officially been 11 years.
In all your years of shooting weddings, what’s a great moment that comes to mind?
A couple of years ago I was shooting a wedding on a boat on the Hudson. The brides were so much fun – one was a burlesque performer and had all her bridal party wearing tiny sequin sailor suits. The other had been in an all girl rock band that had since broken up but they reunited for a surprise performance of a song she wrote for her new wife. The crowd went nuts. It was a really fun and sweet moment.
That’s an awesome photo! For anyone envisioning their picture-perfect wedding, what makes a photo stand out?
For me, the standout shots are the quieter ones, the emotional moments. A sweet look of the bride at her groom. Something natural, unplanned and totally genuine. That’s what we are trying to capture for these couples; the realness.
You’re always striving to be the best photographer that you can be. In 11 years of doing it, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned after shooting that many weddings?
I learned a huge amount from assisting Maike when I came on board with Gruber Photographers. She is a big advocate of waiting for the shot. With digital you can click the shutter repetitively and hope that somewhere in those 10 shots you got the one you wanted.
I see, so you’re more in control of your shot rather than hoping and praying to catch something good.
Yes—she believes you are more successful if you anticipate the moment. Say it’s the kiss at the end of the ceremony. Don’t shoot, shoot, shoot, inevitably you will miss the shot. You’ll take the split second moment before and the one immediately after – lips close, but not kissing. She taught me to shoot like it’s still film, that every shot on the 36 shot roll was worth taking and not wasted. Take your time, anticipate the exact moment it will happen and click the shutter. It makes you a more thoughtful photographer with stronger, more deliberate images.
Right—like an exercise in photojournalism. It’s one that comes from experience. Aside from developing your technique, how else has experience prepared you for these weddings?
Inevitably your gear will fail you from time to time. Your flash overheats or runs out of juice as the bride is walking down the aisle! Eek! It’s so important to know your gear and how to switch from an artificial lighting set-up like flash to capturing the shot well in natural light with lightning speed.
Definitely! And having shot so many weddings of different faiths really prepares you to adapt quickly to different traditions that need capturing. Minute details aren’t in a schedule and that’s where knowing how a Jewish versus a Catholic ceremony runs helps you to anticipate the upcoming action. You know in a Jewish ceremony that they’ll drink from the wine at the beginning and near the end, that the ring will be placed on the bride’s forefinger, there will be the breaking of the glass and immediately a kiss—so you better be prepared!
When taking the lead on a wedding shoot, what goals do you set for the team for that day?
I want everything to run smoothly of course. We always talk through the run of show the week before the wedding and then at the venue with a walk-through the day of. We discuss who will shoot what from where so all our bases are covered and both shooters are getting different creative angles. I want my team to be as relaxed as possible.
Would you attribute that to your personality?
I think I do a pretty good job of having my laid back attitude rub off on everyone. A wedding should be fun for everyone!
There’s a lot of milestones in a wedding, First look, first kiss, first dance to name a few. What’s your favorite moment in the wedding to shoot?
Bride and Groom portraits are a favorite! I love it when they are able to lock in a whole hour or more for portraits together. I think I really let my creative side shine during this part of the day. I always come with a mental list of poses I want to try. Usually my couples are very happy to indulge me even in with my more “out there” poses. Getting Ready is also a lovely intro to the day. It’s so fun to spend that hour with a nervously excited bride and her girls capturing all that anticipatory energy!
Is there anything else that you’d like to add that your future clients should know?
I love what I do. I love telling my clients stories, giving of myself to that telling and having them love what I have captured. That’s what matters.
Tilly, thank you so much for answering these questions! Looking forward to seeing even more of your work here on the blog!
Looking for a New York wedding photographer? To learn more about Tilly and her work, visit her portfolio & profile here.