This interview was done by Franklin Balzan , a friend and great photographer :
You can see his work here on the link : https://www.fbalzan.com/
Franklin Balzan : So this interview has been in the making for some time now! Back in 2016 / 2017, I recall I was looking at other photographer’s work and Rachel’s work caught my eye. I remember that I contact her on facebook and we discussed on the possibility of developing a link between us, to enable us to work better and also recommend each other when we were unavailable. Her photography style resembles closely my work and from the images I knew she has a real passion for wedding photography.
We therefore developed a photographic bond between us and we have been endlessly trying to meet in person but we were always busy with one thing or another! We only met shortly in person during a wedding I was a photographer at and had only a few minutes to talk. We have now promised each other that once social distancing is over, we will be meeting up to talk about our common passion!
So finally, after many emails and messages, I managed to get busy Rachel (well now with the COVID situation, she is definitely a little less busy!) to reply to my questions! I thank you in advance for your time!
So Rachel how did you get into photography... and specifically into wedding photography?
I always loved art and anything that goes with it, especially photography. When I used to attend MCAST, for the Art and Design course, particularly 3D design, the range of courses available were limited. There weren’t any photography courses available. However, I always used to practice and read about photography in my free time. I started using a very simple camera, and then, later on, I bought a Canon. I experimented and took different photographs, mostly of nature and landscapes. I remember that when I was younger, I used to look at people (not in a stalking kind of way :P), but I used to notice the way people interact and connect with each other. That is when I decided to work towards becoming a wedding photographer. I started taking photoshoots of couples and families and then I worked my way up to weddings!
Did you always want to be a photographer from an early age? How did your studies and experiences help you in the photography world?
I used to paint a lot when I was young. It was only during my late teen years that I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in photography. I was inspired by professional shots that I used to see on the internet. I remember that I used to meet a friend and we both used to go to different localities and places to take random shots. Photography became a hobby and one of my lifetime passions. It became something I looked forward doing in my free time.
Eventually, I joined the Malta Photographic Society, where I gained a lot of knowledge from. I attended lectures about photography that helped me understand more what the photographic world is all about. I used to read about the subject and look up videos on YouTube. I wanted to get better and better at photography, and I believe that there is always something new to learn everyday!
Photography literally makes time stop for me. It is my happy place.
We are certainly in agreement here! Photography really makes time stop! So then you moved to wedding photography. How would you define your artistic vision in your wedding photography?
I love documentary-style photography. I enjoy capturing how people interact and connect naturally amongst each other; during happy moments or even bittersweet ones. I mostly look for the connection between the couple, or the connection they have with their parents, or even their pets. Such moments that I look for, can go by at just a blink of any eye. The photos I aim for can give these couples a rekindling of emotions that they felt during their special day; of memories that they would like to keep and cherish throughout their life.
We all agree that photography is not about equipment, though professional equipment helps. Can you tell us what is currently in your photography bag when preparing for a wedding (flashes, triggers, tripods, other useful accessories)? Do you have different setups for different occasions or do you always shoot with the same set of cameras and lenses?
My photography bag consists of three Canon cameras: two are a Mark 5d mark III and one is a Mark 5D mark IV. I also carry a 70-200mm lens, a 50mm lens, a 35mm prime lens and a 24-70mm lens, 2 flashes, 2 x small LED lights and 2 large LED lights. I make sure to carry enough batteries, lots of SD cards and compact flashes, a tripod (that I rarely use), and reflectors. I normally shoot with 2 cameras during a wedding day and I mostly use the 70-200m lens and also the 35mm lens which would be my favorite.
If your whole photographic collection was burning, and you could save just one photo you took, which one would it be and why?
I honestly do not know how to reply to this question as there are to many photos that are very important to me. My photographs are like my babies to me.
Some couples may think that photographers are in competition between themselves. What do you think about this statement?
I think that every photographer have his or her own style and honestly I believe that there is work for all of us in this market. Being competitive with each other does not help our career, and most importantly our clients. Furthermore I think excessive competitiveness brings out the ugly side of the industry. We as photographers discuss certain issues and try to help out couples as much as possible where we can, like for example the situation with Covid-19.
How much does post-production play a role in your photography?
Well, it does play a big role as a wedding takes usually around 10 hours here in Malta… so, you can imagine how many photos are taken during that time and need to be edited!
However, I always try to keep the photos as natural as possible since I am a documentary photographer, not a fashion photographer. I do not edit out things unless it is really necessary but limit myself mostly to different tones and colors.
What are the typical challenges you find as a wedding photographer? How is your full-time work as a photographer going? Are you happy with your choice of going on a full-time career?
Becoming a full-time wedding photographer had always been my wish, and in 2019 my wish came true. I am totally happy with my choice. It obviously has its ups and downs like any other business, but I get to be creative in my line of work. Last year was a good year for me and I really enjoyed working on weddings. However, we all know how this year looks like now. I just can't wait to be able to shoot more weddings.
What advice would you give to new photographers to improve quickly and effectively? What advice would you give to the more experienced ones?
Aspiring photographers: I'd say if you have a dream of becoming a photographer, go for it. However, I must say that being a photographer is not an easy job as many people might think. It's not just a click of a button. You have to invest a lot of your time in it. It is very important to research on this art; learn how to use the camera and practice. Shoot photos as much as you can and keep experimenting with your camera. Meet other photographers and look at other people’s work, learn about composition and pay attention to light. Light to photographers is what paint is to painters. And most importantly have fun. You get the chance to be creative as much as you like.
Professionals: I'd say let's work together. Being in this business, we all know that it's not always easy especially being in this current COVID situation. I am very happy to be seeing photographers and videographers working and helping each other out, especially in these trying times.
What are your future goals as a photographer? Do you have any long term plans?
This is a good question. When Covid-19 is over (hopefully soon!) I would like to keep focusing and continue refining my skills further. I would like to keep building my portfolio in wedding photography, which is actually my yearly target (however, this year ‘Rona decided to take over :P). Currently, I have decided to use this time to keep on refining my photographing skills on a series called ‘’Life during COVID’’. You can check this out on my Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/muscatphoto/) . This album shows the reality we are living in due to this pandemic. I would love to have more time to work on small projects like this one too in the future.
What lessons have you learned during the current coronavirus pandemic?
Ahh, never take anything for granted. At the beginning of the year, I realized that this was going to be a very good year, then boom! The coronavirus decided to join us! All the hard work we put into this year just disappeared into thin air.
Although, the unthinkable happened and life stopped, I still think that this situation have brought some good things for me. I have realized that Covid-19 have taught me to keep being creative in photography and to look for opportunities where I can put my work to good use. I have learned that compassion is extremely important, specifically when couples needed to postpone the wedding dates. Everyone is in the same situation; some are unfortunately, suffering more than others. That is why there need to be more understanding.
Being a photographer who loves photographing people and couples, this social distancing, that has been the reality during these past months, has been a bit of let-down for me, knowing that I cannot engage with people.
I think we all agree that to be an important skill of a wedding photographer is the ability to have good communication skills and be able to handle people well. From a humanistic point of view, what do you consider to be the best approach when dealing with couples when discussing with them their photography needs?
Yes, I think to be a good photographer one needs to have great communication skills and most importantly good understanding. For me, being a wedding photographer is not just about the quantity of bookings and wedding shoots that I get to do every year. Instead, I would want the couple to feel comfortable with me and to communicate with me if there are any concerns. I would want to get to know the couple. One must remember that the wedding day is one of the most special days that the couples will spend together.
A photographer and maybe a videographer will be the two people who will spend a lot of time with the bride and groom during the wedding, so it’s very important that they get along well with the couple. I always advise my clients that they need to feel welcome to let me know if they have any requests. We can always find a solution together.
Furthermore, I always suggest pre-wedding sessions. A pre-wedding photo session would help both couple & photographer feel at ease in communicating with each other. This is since it would be another opportunity for them to meet and work together. This photoshoot would of course happen prior to the wedding day. The couple may get to know their photographer better and also get to know how their pictures will be taken during their special day. As we all know, all photographers have their individual techniques. I have written a blog article on what to expect in these pre-wedding photo sessions and why they are important.