The strap-line on Lancashire (UK) photographer Ian MacMichael’s website is “Stories Without Words”, which says it all. He can’t imagine his life without photography, although it wasn't until 2007 that he “finally had the confidence” to turn professional.
But after nine years he’s clear about what he wants to capture in his photography, and his advice to newcomers. His advice to the 16-18 year-old photography students he teaches for a few hours a week is simple. Be yourself and don’t copy. Shoot what you want in a way that excites and inspires you.
“I think the best thing you can do is shoot, shoot, shoot. When I started, with film, it was a little more restrictive than today. With digital, there really is no excuse not to be out there, every day, photographing things and learning to see the light.”
As for himself, what he’s looking for is an emotional response from the viewer. “If someone smiles or gasps or laughs at an image, then for me it has worked.” He recently showed a potential bride and groom one of his weddings in a Queensberry album. He was smiling for a few days after the bride said that looking at the photographs gave her goosebumps!
We asked whether he agrees with those who say photography “gets in the way” for the client, and he laughed. “I absolutely disagree that photography takes away from the moment. However, I think that an insensitive and in-your-face photographer definitely can!”
That’s one of the main reasons Ian is passionate about documentary wedding photography. Remaining unobtrusive on the day, and presenting the couple with an honest and authentic record of their emotions and reactions. “Preserving those moments forever is, in fact, the magic of photography.”
Asked what’s his point of difference, why people come to him, he talks about personality. Being himself, being a great person to be around, being passionate about what he does, and being prepared to stick to it and not compromise.
He believes he’s good at making people feel comfortable in front of the camera. Connecting with people, being understanding and empathetic, goes a long way to helping them relax. He’s recently switched to the Fuji XT1 and X100 cameras, and people seem far less intimated by a much smaller camera. “It's easier for them to see more of your face, and you can keep your connection with them more easily. It also helps when you can look at the back of the camera, and show them an epic picture, and then they see they look amazing!”
He tells people they should invest in professional photography because it's the only permanent record of their day. “Lots of people say, ‘Oh, my friend's got a camera, they’re going to do our photos as a favour.’ Wow, really! We have a sewing machine at home, would you let me to make your wedding dress?”
He tries not to spend too much time looking at other photographer’s work, as it can dilute his own vision, but he still does. “I love the work of Matt Stuart (street photographer) and Tim Wallace (automotive). As far as wedding photographers go, I really like the work of The Kitcheners, Rik Pennington and Nordica photography. I'm part of the Looks Like Film collective and there is truly stunning work on there too.”
He can't see the point of photography without a print. “We have drawers stuffed with old prints and negatives, my kids love getting them out and laughing at us. Especially our wedding album! I got married in a kilt (Scottish grandparents) and they love having a look and laugh at that!”
Being associated with Queensberry (“the world's leading brand”!) has been brilliant. “I love sharing it with clients, and love the exclusivity and sense of luxury that comes with it. Believe me, there is nothing quite like completing the journey with a couple from meeting, through to the wedding, handing over a Queensberry, and leaving them speechless… I LOVE it!”
To view more of Ians work be sure to head over to his website.