Nigel Barker gives HELLO! Online his top tips for wedding photography
23 SEPTEMBER 2013
Fashion photographer Nigel Barker is best known for his days as a judge on Tyra Banks' hit show America's Next Top Model.
The London-born television personality has worked to make high fashion and photography accessible to the masses, and in his latest project, Nigel has done exactly this. Collaborating with art.co.uk, the former model has released hundreds of photographs from his personal archive that show his talent at capturing the moment.
Speaking exclusively to HELLO! Online, Nigel channels his phenomenal photography skills to the world of weddings. The established creative gives his top tips for the bride and groom on how to capture those intimate moments, how to move away from staged photographs and what his secret is to making people fall in love with a picture.
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What advice would you give the bride and groom about being photographed on their big day?
"Weddings can be the most stressful time for the bride and the groom and they can be nervous on the day. My advice to both the photographer and the couple is to let things happen. Let the nerves show because honesty is one of the most beautiful things in the picture and it's very hard to create. It's very easy to put on a front, and try and model and pose. But the best photographs are those intimate moments when the husband-to-be holds the bride's hand and says, 'It's okay, don't worry. We'll get through today and we'll enjoy our honeymoon'.
"It's that quiet moment that as a photographer you want to grab, and as a subject you've got to allow that to happen. Try and forget about the camera — it's not about posing. Do what you would normally do. Don't wait to be directed by somebody else to hold your wife's hand. Authenticity is the key to a timeless, classic picture, and that's really makes people fall in love with the picture."
What makes a fantastic wedding photograph?
"The essence of a fantastic photograph is that you're selling an idea or a concept. If someone looks at a snapshot of their grandparents and they remember that love and that joy, those are the things that people normally see when they see a photograph. It makes you smile, and it makes you think, 'I hope I have that someday,' or 'Oh, that's beautiful, it's such a gorgeous picture,' because you know those people are very happy."
How can you guarantee to capture key moments on the day, like the throwing of the bouquet?
"As far as catching the bouquet or doing the garter toss or other things people love to do is concerned, you have to let the photographer know first of all. Catch their eye and let them know which direction you're going to throw the bouquet in, what you're going to do. If possible, walk through the day with your photographer beforehand. All too often the photographer doesn't show up until the day of, which is really no good, but if he does, make sure your maid of honour or wedding planner has gone through things — where you're going to sit, where you're going to throw the bouquet and make sure it's all mapped out so it's choreographed."
"Authenticity is what really makes people fall in love with a picture," said Nigel
Are photographing the small details just as important?
"For me it's all about those in-between camera moments — the little boy doing his shoelace up, the father straightening his son's tie, the little girls playing with their dresses. Then the photograph looks magical. Get a photographer who's willing to shoot it and doesn't want everyone to stand still. It doesn't work if they're going to say, 'Okay, everyone stop. Stop. Everyone look at me." That's not the moment.
"The little details are also fabulous if you're making a photo book. Those small details like putting the ring on the finger, the whisper in the ear, the quiver on the bride's lips before she's about to be kissed — the photographer needs to be very aware of those small moments because it's out of the control of the bride and groom and that's what makes it a great photograph because people can't hide their emotions. I would go really tight so that the photograph is almost abstract, so you almost can't tell what it is until you get up close and then you decipher what it is."
How would you make the couple's photographs less staged and more creative?
"Capture a few safe shots but then decide to do something unusual. Maybe have everyone do a little jump or have people tickle each other so you have some hilarity going on. One of the things I often recommend, and I've certainly done it myself, is to ask the photographer to bring an actual drop-down background. You'll see how people react differently once they step onto the backdrop. Standing in the street or in the church is a bit off the cuff, but once you put people onto a background it gives them a studio feel for a moment. It's so funny how everyone reacts quite differently. The children for example will behave a lot better, I don't know why — there's something magical about it. It makes it look like a fashion spread."
Nigel and Naomi Campbell working on The Face
How did you find working on America's Next Top Model?
"I've been very lucky to have such a long run on television talking about subjects I love —fashion and photography. I did enjoy working with Tyra Banks. We worked together for over ten years. What we looked for every week was to be inspired, and that's one of the reasons certain models rise to the top. It isn't because they're the most beautiful girls who walk the planet. It's because there's something unique about them and their personality tells a story that hasn't been told before or has been told in a different way.
"A person is charismatic in terms of the confidence they have. If they're confident it's very alluring and people love that. There's a lot of repetition in fashion but we looked for spontaneity and it's not easy to be spontaneous. Often if you allow yourself to be spontaneous, the honesty in the image makes even the weirdest face or the unusual position look good because you've actually gone for it and you've totally trusted yourself, which is very hard to do."
What projects are you working on now?
"I'm working with Naomi Campbell on The Face. We've just started shooting season two. I've also just collaborated with art.co.uk to release over 250 photographs from my personal archive. These are pictures that I've taken over the past 15 to 20 years. People have seen me on TV doing America's Next Top Model but the reality is that just like everybody else, I have personal passions, things that really interest me outside the business.
"These photographs have been seen in galleries in New York, or exhibitions I've had at one-off events, but that's it so they are very limited. I've always liked the idea of accessibility to artwork and it's the same with fashion. One of the reasons I did Top Model was because I wanted to make the fashion world accessible. And that's the same with my personal art work. Pieces that would normally sell for thousands are available for considerably cheaper, less than a tenth of that and I think that's important."