Hands down, one of my favorite photographers in the world is Adam Johnson. So I’m more than delighted to share this Spotlight Interview with ARJ Photography today! Not only does Adam have an incredibly keen eye for capturing the small moments that make every wedding so special, but he always has the most innovative and creative photos I’ve seen to date.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? That’s easy! I want to be able to fly! This has nothing to do with photography or weddings (although it would come in super handy!) but I know I’ve always wanted to be able to fly like superman!! I regularly have vivid dreams where I am able to fly and I wake up wondering if it’s possible, so although I’d take any superpower, if I could choose one it would be the ability to fly.
How do you prepare for a shoot or a wedding? I suppose I do all the obvious stuff – I charge batteries, clear memory cards and pack my bags. I also make sure I know from my couples all the important nitty gritty details – what’s happening when, who are their VIP’s, what are the most important things to them. What I don’t do is prepare for the photos I’m going to take – because I don’t know what they are. I want instinct to take over and rule me on the wedding day. These are unscripted, unpredictable things these wedding things, and I want to be ready for the stuff I never expected to happen. If I’m super nervous, and I don’t want this to sound arrogant, I look through my own recent blog posts… Sometimes to calm the nerves, rather than reminding myself how amazing other photographers are by trying to take inspiration from their work, I just need reminding that I’ve done this a few times before, I know what I’m doing, and sometimes I look back at older work to see if there are things I’ve maybe not done so much of lately.
What gets you up in the morning, literally or figuratively? My family is the reason I became a photographer, and they get me up every single day… at 6am! I am married myself, and we have the two most amazing little people in the world. The freedom that being a photographer affords me is amazing, I get to be part of my boys day to day life, and that is what I am most grateful to photography for. That and not having to sit in rush hour traffic or get a train on freezing cold winter mornings!
What is your favorite moment or tradition at weddings? Total cop out but I love the whole thing! Some weeks I’ll enjoy the getting ready bit the most, others the ceremony, others the speeches, others the portraits, others the in between bits. It varies so so much and truly, that’s why I love weddings. I really love the first few reactions when the bride and groom see each other for the first time at the top of the aisle. I love seeing macho grooms get choked up during their speech when they thank their parents. I love busy dance floors in the evening. I truly love it all, I have a favorite bit from each wedding but every week it’s different, and that’s what I love the most.
Where do you want to shoot next? I’ve been so lucky with some of the locations I’ve been able to shoot weddings – Kenya, Hong Kong, Thailand, Lapland, France, Italy and all over the UK. My wife and I had our honeymoon in Taormina, Sicily and it’s such a special place to me that I’d absolutely love to get the opportunity to photograph a wedding there. I adore unusual places that test me – when I worked on a wedding in Lapland, the -30C temperatures and complete lack of daylight were a real test and I had to work harder than ever to get the shots I wanted for my couple. But I was so so proud of the results so I’d love to work in more unusual destinations too. I’d love to work in Africa again, on a traditional African wedding too – I’ve loved being given a glimpse of different cultures when I’ve worked on Indian, Chinese and Jewish weddings and I’d love to see more of the world and how different people celebrate weddings. So in a nutshell, anywhere and everywhere!!
What would you be doing if you weren’t a wedding photographer? What would I want to be doing or what would I actually be doing?! I used to have an incredibly boring job sitting behind a desk programming databases. Yawn-a-rama. I know I wouldn’t be doing that and I never ever want a 9-5 desk job ever again. I’m so fortunate that photography enabled me to escape that life – nothing about it suited me, and I was never good at having a boss! If I could choose to do something else I’d be a footballer, and play for Manchester United. Unfortunately I wasn’t blessed with soccer skills though, so I’ll probably just stick to wedding photography!
How did you get into wedding photography? I bought a dSLR camera to take on my honeymoon in 2007, and a book to learn how to use it. Before that, although I had an interest in taking photos, it wasn’t anything serious. I quickly became obsessed with my new camera, and adamant that I wouldn’t shoot on auto mode. From there, I started buying new lenses, upgrading my cameras, generally spending a lot of money, and I thought I was becoming really good… then I decided to shoot some photos at a wedding where I was a guest because I thought I could do a better job than the photographer (yeah… I was that guy). The photos were awful – I think about 40 were presentable after some serious photoshopping! But something about photographing weddings attracted me so I went away, improved my equipment and immersed myself in learning the basics of camera control and exposure, and weddings. My friend then invited me along to shoot a wedding with him, and this time it went much better. I knew straight away that I didn’t want to be someone’s assistant or second shooter, so I set up my business and nearly 150 weddings later the rest is history. And I’ve never been happier doing what I’m doing than right now.
Why photography? What draws you to it? I’m quite a fickle character. If something holds my attention then I know I love it. So many hobbies have fallen away because I’ve lost interest but photography stuck from day one. It’s so fulfilling and that feeling gets stronger as your skill level improves. I’m still not taking the photos that my head tells me I’m capable of and that’s an exciting feeling (at times depressing too, but mostly exciting). Knowing that I’ve not yet taken my best photo keeps me hungry and fired up for every wedding. I truly love amazing people with photos, whether it’s an incredibly powerful moment, or a beautiful portrait or just something abstract and unusual I love that feeling of crafting a photo.
Any direction you would like to take your photography? Yes. But I don’t know what it is. I let it lead me. I try never to pigeon hole my style or overly define the way that I do things because I want it to be malleable and free. Being different is my constant goal so changing direction is important but I try not to over plan these things because that creates unnecessary pressure.
Any advice for couples on how to look amazing and feel comfortable in their photographs? Trust your photographer. I truly feel I do my best work when I feel total and unconditional trust from my couple to just do what I do. I think making you look amazing and feel comfortable is a big part of the photographer’s job and actually starts before the wedding day but it’s important you like your photographer as a person first, then trust them. That’s when magic happens.
What makes you give yourself a mental high five? I give myself lots of mental high fives during a wedding day! I get pretty nervous on wedding mornings so when I get to the bride, get my camera out and start shooting, the first image I see on my LCD that I love, I always get excited and that’s when I calm down and remember that I know what I’m doing. I love it most, though, when I pre-visualise a shot in my head and it works out – when people do what I expected/hoped they’d do in great light and I’ve found an interesting composition to go with it. That’s a high five moment.
Best advice you’ve ever received about being a happy human? Regret nothing.
Thank you for sharing your work and words of wisdom, Adam!