Lee Hawley | Wedding Photographer
Lee Hawley strongly believes photography style is innate. He explains why he consistently strives to improve and explains his ambitions as a photographer.
What is your idea of the perfect wedding?
For me it is all about the people. I have shot weddings in locations from castles to small village pubs, huge budgets to those much more modest, and the biggest factor that influences my enjoyment of the day is the couple I am working for, and their families. My ambition is for them to feel like they have a friend taking their photos, and judging by how many I am still in contact with long after their day, it seems to work.
What is your greatest fear when you are working on a wedding?
Ooh good question. This one took some thinking about. I have a recurring and very vivid dream where my camera won’t work properly, im pressing the shutter and nothing happens! It’s always a relief to wake up from, but in real life I avoid that concern by shooting with two cameras on me at all times.
What is your best trait that helps you be so great at your job?
This is a tricky one to answer without sounding like a narcissist! When I started doing this I thought it was all about the photos. I am very proud of the images I capture, but the feedback from my couples is split between that and their praise for how much they enjoyed having me at their day. A huge part of what makes Lee Hawley Photography what it is, is the investment I put into my couples. Really taking the time to understand them, what makes them tick, and to tailor my approach to make them feel at ease, and get them the best images possible.
Which living person do you most admire?
Can I go with a group of people rather than a single person? There are lots of public figures and family members I greatly admire, but my choice is nurses in the NHS. I have had the misfortune of suffering both a very serious road traffic accident, and cancer in my short life, and my overriding memory throughout both experiences was the incredible work of the nurses. They work unbelievable hours, under huge pressure and get paid nowhere near enough for the lifesaving, and sanity-keeping work they do. That is why I offer a 10% discount to all NHS nurses in fact.
What is your greatest extravagance that helps you get through the day?
As you’d expect, my camera equipment is my biggest expense, most of the day I am wearing around £9k worth of it! But this is not really an extravagance. That award would probably go to a very comfortable but expensive pair of briefs!
What is your current state of mind?
Excitement. At the time of writing it is February, my first wedding of the year is nearly upon us with a busy year ahead, loads of new ideas for photos and great couples to work with!
What do you think is the most overrated thing that couples try to squeeze into their wedding day?
It’s impossible to say. Something that’s not at all important to me, might be really important to you. If I had to twist the question slightly, id say don’t worry about squeezing it pleasing other people. It’s your day, do what you want. Regardless of who’s paying. If a parent is paying, they should want what you want.
On what occasion is lying at work a good idea?
Never. Not even white lies, because even that can lose someone’s trust in you if they know it is an untruth. Lying almost always leaves you in a complicated web that goes on and on. I can thoroughly recommend reading Lying by Sam Harris which will hopefully convince you better than I can of this.
What is the most outrageous (fabulous or terrifying) outfit you have ever seen at a wedding?
I shot a wedding last year where because of the brides Nigerian heritage, for the evening all guests were given traditional Nigerian outfits. That was pretty special.
What is the best theme you have seen at a wedding?
The great Gatsby at the Daffodil in Cheltenham was pretty perfect.
What is the hardest thing a couple has ever asked you to do for their day?
No single thing stands out, although I have had a few 14 hour days with a long list of requested photos.
What quality in a groom do you like the most?
A sense of humor. It’ll make the day easier for him, and when I can have a bit of banter too it makes everything work better.
What quality in a bride do you like most?
The exact same as what I like in a groom. No gender bias here 😉
What is the most overused word at a wedding – or in a wedding speech?
“my wife and I! I certainly used a lot, but that’s kind of the joke each time. But there’s certainly a few overused first-dance songs at weddings! Cough Ed Sheeran…
When was the last time you laughed out loud at a wedding? What happened?
I recently shot a wedding where the bride wanted me to shoot the groom and best men getting ready rather than her. I arrived at the house to be greeted by one of the best men, completely naked having just got out the shower. He proceeded to shake my hand and welcome me in like nothing was out of the ordinary. I waited for him to get his pants on before I started shooting.
What makes an ideal wedding?
What is the most unusual entertainment you have ever seen at a wedding?
Dance classes was pretty unique, and worked so brilliantly getting people off their feet and laughing in the lull between food and the disco.
What moment are you most proud of in your profession?
I always think I could do a better job. Which helps me keep pushing to improve, but I am always humbled when I say my goodbyes to a couple after a long day of shooting, and they are so grateful for my work throughout the day. The other moment is when I finish editing the photos, and put together their slideshow to music. 10-15 minutes indulging in what I have achieved, and almost always leaves me without dry eyes.
If you were to die and come back as person or thing, what would it be?
A bird. The views would be pretty amazing.
Where is your favourite setting for a wedding?
I honestly don’t have one. My job is to creatively tell the story which is unfolding. Although I would love to shoot one up a mountain.
What is the one thing you can’t live without in your job?
Apart from the obvious (camera, lenses), it would be hayfever tablets for those summer field shoots!
What is the most embarrassing thing you have seen at a wedding?
Just the odd awkward argument.
What is your favourite occupation, apart from your own?
In a different life I’d have loved to be a racing driver.
What question do you wish every couple would ask you when you are meeting with them for the first time?
“Can I pay my deposit now?”! 😉
Where do you draw inspiration from for your work?
As most photographer, I keep an eye on Instagram, Youtube and Pinterest, but I strongly believe photography style is innate. You can copy the odd photo, but over the course of a whole wedding album, it will be your style that shines through if you are good at it (or falls flat if you are not so good), so I just practice, practice, practice, try different things, see what works and what doesn’t.
What mistake do you see couples make over and over again on their day?
Trying to get fiddler jewelry or hair decorations on 2 years old girls who don’t want to wear it!
What is your biggest regret at a wedding you have worked on?
I always have lessons to learn and things I improve on. But thankfully don’t have any huge regrets.
What is your motto?
Be yourself. Don’t try to be what you think people want because no more people will like you, but it will be the wrong people.
What would people be surprised to learn about you and/or your work?
I never dreamed of being a photographer. It was a hobby that got out of hand!