Last week we went over to the lovely Brighton photographer, Jacqui McSweeney's funky flat for big mugs of tea (us Irish girls know how to get a brew on!) and a chat about her ten years in weddings.
BWP - Tell us about your career before weddings?
JMS - I was a press and music photographer for over ten years throughout the UK, Ireland and the Czech Republic.
BWP - Wow, you got around! What was your first wedding?
JMS - It was a Christmas Eve wedding, I was second shooter to well known Brighton photographer, Trisha Purchas. It was freezing cold, the light was dreadful and I swore 'Never Again'
BWP - Trisha is an amazing photographer and was way ahead of her time in terms of style. We remember her gorgeous shop and she was very encouraging to young photographers.
JMS - Yes, I stayed with her company, Archer Photographers and was mainly doing all the black & white hand printing in her basement darkroom. I loved high end printing and still believe in learning your craft 'from the negative up' I eventually started to enjoy being the second photographer at weddings as Trisha left me to mooch about in the background and gain confidence without too much responsibility. Trisha (who is now retired) also had a great head for business and taught me a great many things. After some time, I began shooting small weddings for her on my own before I made the step to setting up my own company. I believe it is important to gain experience before putting yourself out there and taking on the responsibility of someone's big day. My background is art photography and photo-journalism which means I use the available light as much as possible and let the image do the talking. In this job, you have to be able to walk into a room full of strangers and get the best out them. Its hard to do if you are at all shy.
BWP - What affect is the recession having on your business?
JMS - Well up until now, I have been so busy it was hard to keep up so it has given me some time to stand back and reassess. I have recently re-vamped my site, am doing lots of networking and starting a blog. I have employed a company to do my SEO, which is a good idea if you don't know how to do it yourself.
BWP - What are your top tips for newcomers to wedding photography?
-Try to spend some time getting to know potential clients and what they expect. You are sometimes
better off turning work down if you are not really what they are looking for.
-If you don't now a venue, try to do some test shots before the wedding day so you are familiar with the light.
-Before the wedding create a clear plan with your clients. Putting structure in at that stage will often let the day run more smoothly.
-You've got to do groups but encourage them to keep them to a minimum or people get bored. I always do one big shot of them with their friends and then do an informal version of the same thing.
BWP- We've noticed those shots on your site, you have a great knack at capturing spontaneous moments. What's your trick for getting people so relaxed?
JMS- I ask everyone to kiss or cuddle. It brings some fun and energy to the shot and couples always prefer it to the more straight one. Don't shy away from repeating something that worked as it will always happen differently at each wedding but having said that, it is quite often the thing that is not planned that works best.
BWP - Finally, what is your advice on how to deal with the great British weather?
JMS- Always expect and plan for the worst weather but with experience you learn to work with any conditions.