Weddings Week 2011: Toronto’s top wedding photographer shares his secrets for success

Weddings Week 2011: Toronto’s top wedding photographer shares his secrets for success

Shooting in his signature photojournalistic style, Johnny Lam is booked solid every weekend during high season. His best advice to couples: pick the right person for the job, and then back off

(Image: Vanessa Heins)

Best thing about the job: The most rewarding moment is when I show the couples the final product, and I get to see the expression on their faces when they relive the details of the day.

And the worst: Weddings move at an insanely fast pace, with lighting changes and moves from indoor to outdoor, location to location. A great photographer needs to be prepared for anything. I shot one wedding during a downpour so heavy that I had to run to Shoppers Drug Mart to buy new socks, and one in a barn where the power went out.

What every couple should know: My best advice is to look for not just a great photographer, but the right photographer for you. The bride and groom need to familiarize themselves with the range of styles out there and identify what they want: glamorous, traditional, artsy, journalistic. After that, it’s important to communicate your expectations. If there are certain pictures you absolutely must have, make sure the photographer knows that beforehand—we’re not mind readers.

Professional philosophy: Once a couple has selected a photographer, they need to back off and let him or her do the job. I’ve had clients tell me what angle I should shoot from or what background looks better. It can be incredibly frustrating.

Current trends: People are really loving the vintage processing—photos that are made to look old-fashioned and saturated with lots of yellow light or blue tint. It’s a Polaroid kind of effect. A few years ago, the trend was black and white with just the bouquet or boutonniere in colour. Personally, I prefer a more classic style, without all the Photoshopping.

Biggest misconception: It isn’t necessary to have a grand and expensive venue in order to have amazing photos. A simple and elegant space can be just as beautiful, and as long as everyone is having a good time, a good photographer will find something to work with. But I’ll admit, there’s no greater thrill than shooting in a stunning setting. Graydon Hall, McLean House at the Sunnybrook Estates and the Steam Whistle building are among my favourites because of all the natural light.

Biggest change: People have always placed so much emphasis on the standard family group photos, but it’s really the candid shots that turn out the best. I’m always trying to capture less clichéd moments that focus on the emotional aspects of the day.

Horror story: After one wedding, my data storage system broke down, and I thought I had lost all my pictures. I was in a panic for a week before I realized I had also made a backup. I didn’t tell the couple—they didn’t need to know.