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Wedding Closeup: Kirra Cheers on Capturing Emotion

By // August 15, 2013 // Posted in Featured Articles, Photography, Portrait, Wedding

Recently, Australian-born, New York City based Kirra Cheers (a Rangefinder 2012 “30 Rising Star of Wedding Photography” pick) blogged about a topic near and dear to her: capturing a real moment—full of real emotion—on a couple’s wedding day (shown here from a wedding she shot in Australia).

Kate & John

Kate & John

“I have blogged this sequence as part of a larger story previously but I wanted to share this moment between Kate and her grandfather again because it epitomizes everything I try to achieve with my wedding photography,” wrote Cheers in the post.

“It was just after the ceremony and [Kate's] grandfather had come to congratulate her. The joy and emotion is obvious in the first two photos but the intensity in the eyes in the last photo gives me goosebumps.”

I asked Kirra to not only discuss how she captured these moments, but also wondered if she had advice for other wedding photographers going after the same types of shots. Here’s what she had to say:

Jacqueline Tobin: For this particular sequence did you have to wait a long time for that moment to spontaneously occur?
Kirra Cheers: My favorite time to shoot at a wedding is directly after the ceremony when everyone comes to congratulate the couple. The emotion during this time is raw and uncensored, and I never like to rush the moment. I take a photojournalistic approach and focus on capturing a few key relationships.

I keep the grandparents on my radar knowing the resulting image will be one the bride and groom will appreciate for years to come. Kate’s grandpa was one of the first people to congratulate her. The joy and emotion of the moment is obvious and I was glad I was in position ready to capture it.

JT: How can photographers to stay aware of moments like these when so much else is going on during the wedding day?
KC: I think it is important to know what type of photographer you want to be, what type of imagery you want to produce, and  what your priorities are on the day. For me, real moments full of honest emotion are my priority. I make sure I give the couple enough space for these to happen naturally. I also like to develop a relationship with my clients before the day. Knowing where they have come from gives me an idea about the story I want to tell and what details I want to focus on.

Kate&John-50

JT: Do you ever receive a shot list from your brides? What’s your strategy for getting moments like the ones here [of Kate and her grandfather] that might otherwise go unnoticed?
KC: Australian brides are a little more chilled out and keen to go with the flow, but in America I almost always work with a shot list. I let my assistant handle it and remind me when I need to be aware of a detail or moment that the couple have requested I capture. That way I can concentrate on photographing whilst someone else handles the logistics.

JT: Were you shooting in rapid sequence to get this particular trio of images?
KC: I am not really a rapid-fire shooter. I choose to select my moments more carefully. Different approaches work for different photographers, but for me keeping calm and waiting for the right moment produces the best results. I think my approach also helps keep the couple calm. I am not running around frantically so neither are they.

JT: Did you even know the gems you had when you were shooting?
KC: This moment between Kate and her grandfather seemed to unfold in slow motion. It was beautiful to witness and I knew I had captured something special.

Kate&John-51

JT: What equipment do you use at a wedding; what were you shooting with here?
KC: This sequence was taken on my 24-70mm Nikon 2.8. I prefer this lens when I am shooting in crowds because I can zoom in and focus on specific moments. My favorite lens is my 35mm 1.4 but I also shoot with a 70-200mm 2.8 and an 85mm 1.4. My primary body is a Nikon D800 and my secondary a Nikon D700. I occasionally use a monopod for lowlight work at the reception or ceremony and I am in love with my Gitzo traveller tripod. I also recently purchased an Incase Pro bag and couldn’t be happier with it.

JT: Where did this wedding take place?
KC: It was held on the Mornington Peninsula, a two-hour drive out of Melbourne. I had actually photographed Kate as a bridesmaid three times previously and I was so excited for Kate that it was her turn. I flew back from New York City to photograph the wedding. It was such a relaxed vibe—Kate and John were already familiar with how I work, and seeing some of my past brides felt a bit like a reunion. I am happy I was there to photograph Kate’s story and look I forward to watching their family grow.

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Jacqueline Tobin

Jacqueline Tobin

Jacqueline Tobin is the Editor-in-Chief of Rangefinder magazine and the author of Wedding Photography Unveiled: Inspiration and Insight From 20 Top Photographers (Amphoto Books, 2009); and The Luminous Portrait (Amphoto Books, 2012). The second-generation native New Yorker cherishes her Sunday mornings hunkered down with The New York Times, fresh bagels and a great cup of coffee.

Previously from Jacqueline Tobin:

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