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Un-weddingy wedding photography with Oli Sansom

Categories Wedding suppliers.
06 Jul, 2020

“Your wedding isn’t a story, it’s a dance. When you hire me, you’re commissioning a new friend, an internationally-awarded creative anarchist to use my eyes, ears, heart, and sometimes strange cameras to move with that dance.” – Oli Sansom.

Wedding photographer Oli Sansom (Briars Atlas Photography) says it best himself, so we haven’t even bothered to put it in our own words. This legend has a unique style perfect for couples looking something different.

In this blog he shares more about his style, his tips for couples and how the music interacts with photography!

Describe your photography style.

If David Lynch and Wes Anderson made a baby that drank a lot of coffee. Hopefully.

I like to think I fuse my background in design and love of the arts, with a keen documentary eye. I’m obsessed with all the small stuff, the quirky mini-details in how we all interact with each other. For me, the play-by-play of the day is obvious and easy, and is the bare-minimum for any of us to deliver.

Pretty is easy.

From there I want to make images for my couples that show them how alive all the small stuff is, and how valuable the things they might not have thought mattered, actually are.

 

Top 3 tips for finding a photographer?

1. First up – decide if it really matters to you – because it absolutely doesn’t need to! My parents have just one wedding photo, and that’s ok – its value lies in the people in it, and in its scarcity. We’re in a time of excess and millions of photos everywhere: so it’s ok to feel like you don’t need hundreds of images, and it’s ok to not feel like you need to hire someone outside of your budget.

2. To point number one, the important thing is understanding what different styles and different price points mean re what you get, and the difference between hiring a professional and a friend with a DSLR. If great photography does matter, then research exhaustively, and treat it like buying a car. You can get a new car for $10k, $50k, $100k and then in even more (kinda terrifying) multipliers beyond that.

Photography has a low barrier to entry, and starting a business in it is very accessible. Doing it properly is a little more involved and takes years. So treat it like a car: see what is happening in the price brackets; get a sense for what styles are available. You’ll know when the style connects with you, and the style that connects – if you’re hiring a professional – will be supported by years of experience, practice, and contingencies on the day. From there, make sure you connect with the person too: 8+ hours is a long time to have someone in your personal space, so you want to feel like you could just hang out with them for a drink. In fact, that’s a pretty solid thing to do ahead of time.

3. “Anyone can take pretty pictures and anyone can take photos of attractive people in nice window light. It is, literally, the easiest thing to do in our genre. I know, because my feed is full of it! And I love it. But Instagram is my shop-front, it’s the impactful “come-in” sign. So take the Instagram accounts featuring wispy portraits, epic sunsets, and all that low-hanging fruit as just an introduction. I’m obviously talking about mine there, too. You instead want to know what I do with the more challenging, subtle things that might be less “epic” at first glance. Not just that 30 minutes in the middle of a 12 hour day, when you’re riding a majestic goat over sweeping Nordic hills into the sunset, which I could just as easily hold up an iPhone and do justice. That is easy. And then, ask to see the hard stuff, not on my Instagram. Ask to see ceremony coverage, ask to see canapés hour coverage. Ask to see full galleries. This will show you how we see moments, it will show you how attentive we are to the small bits of human theatre, and it will show you how much the photographer loves and serves all of the people in front of their lens on the day (your community). And then you’ve got a more informed spread of how we see things to make your choice from.”

We worked together at Sam and Paul’s KFC wedding this year. What elements of that day made for such epic photos?

I’m so glad you asked this, because the answer to this stands out incredibly tall with these two: it’s that from the word go, they were geared to having a good time, and living in every moment.

The photos are epic because we connected each way, made an effort to generate rapport, and that translates directly into being comfortable with each other.

Access is the number one thing in photography. In say, a Magnum context, it’s the difference between getting access into very precarious situations in a documentary capacity. At a wedding, it means you can be close with a group of people that already know each other intimately, and you can get proof of that, with your camera, because you don’t feel like an outsider.

I love Sam and Paul’s images, because apart from the incredible efforts from all the vendors involved, their goal of the day was to have fun with their community. It’s that simple!

But since we’re here, the bloody incredible styling job around their house, wild trek out to Thornbury post-ceremony with everyone and cracking entertainment didn’t hurt the images I was able to make one little bit, and the blend of happiness and beautiful styling is the perfect, ahem, marriage.

 

You have other creative endeavours – tell us about The Arbourists and Supergreat Films.

The Arbourists was a little love-hustle and simple project born out of what we saw as a lack of real options for evening ceremonies. We also realised that so many arbours are painstakingly installed and decorated, only to be torn down an hour later. What if they we reusable into the evening as a centrepiece of backdrop? So we created some geometric shapes, crosses, and a chuhppah, that are incredibly strong to support florals, and are then able to be lit up in the evenings (see below!). They look beautiful with smoke machines, or, just out on a cliff!

Supergreat Films came out of my love of the incredible Super 8 format. A couple of years ago I bought one, and instantly knew that this is how I’d want to have the world captured. No sound, no excess, just messy, gritty perfection, with instant nostalgia baked into it. It’s a very expensive format to shoot in, so you’re careful and considered with what you shoot: and if it isn’t on tape, it didn’t happen! I think we’ll generally see a fatigue with excess, if we aren’t already: for me, Super 8 is just a way to drastically simplify the act of a wedding video. I advise couples to book it in tandem with a proper digital videographer, as they’re really quite separate outputs, but this format is exactly what I would personally want.

 

How does choice of entertainment impact the photos?

Great entertainment is the difference between folks wanting to jam out with each other and tear the roof off, and being stuck to the side walls looking at their watches at 9pm.

I mean, I love a drab apathy-apocalypse in its own right, but let’s be real – they’re not the sorts of images people are generally wanting to receive after their wedding of that part of the day.

Great entertainment means entertainment that both lines up with their vibe as humans, throws curveballs and elements of surprise, and treats the movement of the reception almost as a living organism to be fed! And that translates into fun, lively, uplifting photos that show them and their community having an awesome time. Further to that – good times are contagious – and if the entertainers are having fun, it pulls in everyone around them. Just what you mofos do!

Check out Oli’s work and get in touch at the links below!

Instagram – Oli Sansom

Weddings – Briars Atlas

Personal/ speaking/ general – Oli Sansom

Arbour hire – The Arbourists

Supergreat Films

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