One of the jobs which most intimidates me in life is a wedding photographer. The pressure of capturing the perfect moments and images from this one day would be too much for me. Maybe this is why I have so much admiration for the wedding photographers who do it so well. A good wedding photographer can teach the rest of us a lot about photography in general. They must have the right lighting, the right backdrop and a sense of the dynamic between subjects in order to capture the moment perfectly. Bearing this in mind I asked to interview one of my favorite wedding photographers (I love all of her people photography!) to get her advice and hear more of her story.
Erika Mattingly always amazes me with the way she can perfectly capture the chemistry between a couple. She uses the perfect lighting and settings to tell a story with her images. They are inspirational to me and a delight to look at. She is also an all around amazing person with the most adorable little baby! Luckily she found time in her crazy schedule of being a mom and a wedding photographer to share her story and advice with me.
Here is our interview:
Me: What is your favorite thing about being a photographer?
Erika: My favorite part of being a wedding photographer is that I get to capture such a special season of life for my couples. This is such a joyous time for couples, and I am so thankful that I have the unique honor and privilege to capture two people in love and excited for their life together.
Me: How did you get involved with wedding photography?
Erika: I don’t have one of those stories in which I grew up around cameras and this seemed like the obvious career path for me. Before I starting getting into photography, I admired the craft for a while. It wasn’t until my husband (Brandon) asked me one day: “If you could pursue any passion in your life, what would it be?” I then said “photography.” Within a week we bought a camera and I instantly grew attached.
Me: Your pictures really convey the emotion of the couples. What advice can you give about how to capture moments through photography?
Erika: You really need to try to get a read on each couple because not every couple is going to give you the same vibe. For instance, some couples can be very fun and happy while together, and then some couples can be deep and romantic together. Within the first few shots, I see how the couple is with each other and then I give direction based on what vibe they give. Rather than going into a shoot being set in how you want it to turn out, try to have an open mind to your shoots direction based on what the people give you.
Me: What is your advice for gauging the right lighting?
Erika: I typically try to plan for shoots during “golden hour.” This is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. During this time you get really creamy-golden light that looks gorgeous in photos! Try to avoid shooting midday because this light tends to be very harsh and contrasting. If you can’t avoid midday light, try to shoot in shadows during this time to give yourself more even lighting.
Me: What software do you recommend for image editing?
Erika: I use Lightroom!
Me: A lot of my readers are travel photographers. What advice would you have for capturing landscapes and moments when traveling? Your images are so powerful not just because of the people but also because of the surroundings.
Erika: Again, I’d say golden hour lighting would give you some gorgeous landscape shots. Also, for my style of photography, I try to keep backgrounds more minimal. So I look for surroundings that are clean and I lean more towards natural settings. If you are in a spot with more of a busy background, have your subject take a few steps forward from the wall/background so that there is more contrast between that person and the surroundings.
Me: How many hours do you think you spend editing?
Erika: I haven’t calculated this exactly, but I’d guess that one wedding takes me about 30 hours to edit from start to finish. An engagement session would probably take me about 4 hours to edit.
Me: What camera and lenses do you use?
Erika: I shoot on Canon Mark IIIs. I have Canon prime lens (35mm, 50mm, and 85mm).
Me: You always hold true to your style and are still able to capture the personalities of the people you photograph. What advice would you give a photographer about staying true to their style and not giving in to what they see other photographers doing who may be more popular on social media?
Erika: I think the key to having a consistent style is knowing what editing preset you like and sticking to that with all your projects. I have one preset that I start all my images with. I then make tweaks to that image if needed, but I never make drastic changes to that preset. Having consistency in your edits is key. I also try to keep consistency in my direction to couples. I certainly try out new poses and directions at shoots, but I make sure I capture those key shots too before trying out new things.
Me: If you could photograph anyone or any place who or where would it be? Why?
Erika: My husband got me hooked on Lord of the Rings, so I would love to capture a couple in New Zealand. It looks like such a beautiful country!
Me: Do you think someone who is trying to improve their photography needs to invest in a DSLR camera or is the iPhone just as capable of quality images?
Erika: It depends on what type of photography you are looking to do. If you’re interested in improving your personal photos, I certainly think that with the latest iPhones you can take great photos. There are also many apps that can help with the editing of your images (I’d recommend VSCO for editing photos!). However, if you’re interested in becoming a professional I would recommend investing in a DSLR. BUT! You do not need to always get the next latest and greatest camera to succeed. There are plenty of great cameras out there that are not terribly expensive (my first camera was a Canon 6D and I’d highly reccomend it!).
Me: I see so many people over-editing photos now where the colors aren’t real (like pink skies etc). Do you think this is just a trend or is it here to stay?
Erika: I think this is definitely more of a trend. I think images with more natural, real looking colors are what is going to last.
For inspiration you can check out Erika’s work on her website
She loves to travel for weddings and engagement photos too if you are interested.