Around 11 years ago, Chris Turner was asked by a friend of a friend to document their wedding for them. For a grand total of $500 and with a bit of reluctance having never shot a wedding before, nor any plan to make a career out of it, Chris photographed the couple’s wedding and had a blast. From that day on he spent his time figuring out what he needed to learn to become a professional wedding photographer.
“It took me a good while to really get into the industry without any kind of help. I’d say I’ve been making a full-time living off photography for the past four years almost, with the last two years being full-time self employed,” Chris says.
During his career, weddings have taken Chris all around the country — and even abroad. While the concept of travelling for work may sound tiresome to some, Chris takes great enjoyment from it, and relishes the opportunity to experience more of the world around him. “I really love the places I haven’t been to the most. Exploring and finding new shoot locations is always exciting,” he explains.
Of course, regular travel isn’t the main benefit of being a wedding photographer — the sense of satisfaction that comes from creating beautiful images that will be cherished for a lifetime is far more rewarding. But in order to produce unique images for every couple, Chris has to convince his clients to give him a lot of creative licence. “I’d say I have almost complete freedom. My clients trust me to come up with the locations for the most part, and I don’t really take shot lists or anything like that. I found early on when you’re running around with a piece of paper all day trying to get all the shots on the list it really kills any kind of creative flow. So I tell my clients, ‘You’re paying me to be there and do what I do, so just trust me’. Of course some clients want specific shots, but it’s really not too much of a problem when they understand why I need creative control.”
With over 200 weddings shot so far, it’s not just the creative flare that Chris has mastered. Over the years he’s also spent a significant amount of time researching new camera equipment (check out his YouTube channel for some great gear reviews), and refining his camera kit down to the bare essentials. “It changes from time to time, but generally speaking I use two Sony α7R III bodies, a 24mm f/1.4 Sony G Master lens and an 85mm f/1.4 G Master lens. Sometimes I like just shooting on one body, and then I’ll use the 35mm f/1.4 Sony Zeiss because I feel like I could do anything with it.”
Chris made the decision to switch to the E mount system two years ago when he discovered that the Sony α mirrorless cameras were a perfect match for his documentary shooting style. Unique features, like Eye AF and silent shooting, gave Chris the ability to take photos of unexpected encounters and rare moments that not everyone at the wedding would witness, or maybe even notice. “Really I just like capturing the moments that no one else sees. I like sneaking around with my camera down by my hip, LCD screen folded out, shooting away silently.”
Obviously it would be impossible for Chris to pick a single wedding that was his favourite to shoot (and imagine the wrath if he did), but he has noticed a theme around the types of weddings he finds the greatest pleasure in documenting. “I find, generally, the ones we enjoy the most are when the couples just take us in as family and we have such a great time. Weddings are all about the people, not the money and the fancy things,” Chris says.
Chris also enjoys being able to shoot with his friend Ethan Lowry. He believes that the way they work together really enhances the whole experience, which ultimately results in better images for the client. “I’ve got to say I’ll always remember Jena and Dan’s wedding down in Rotorua. I think it was the first time my buddy Ethan shot with me about two years ago, and we really nailed it. Everyone at the wedding was so nice and there was just so much love.”
As you would expect, weddings make for some very entertaining, and at times awkward experiences. Chris has encountered many less than ideal situations during his time behind the camera, but he takes it all in his stride. “We’ve had lots of late people, missing rings, forgotten flowers, rainy days running for shelter, cakes falling over — but you know what? It all just adds to the story!”
Ever generous with his time, Chris also runs workshops for photographers, covering topics such as post-processing techniques, marketing, and wedding photography. “To be honest, I just really like helping. Plus it’s super fun meeting like-minded people, and I learn from them as well. I feel it’s a great way to pass on what I know, and I don’t feel competition is a problem, as this industry is very specific. For example, if people want my style and my personality and how I run the day, they need to hire me. You can’t get that from someone else — we are all individuals.”
You can contact Chris to learn more about his wedding photography and workshops via his website, christurnerphotographer.com, or you could give him a call on 027 385 3690 — he’s always happy to talk!