INTERVIEW : MOIRA WEST

Wow, it’s been a while – guys! How are you all? 🙂
I have a couple of great things in the works for the blog, but thanks to work, I don’t get to all of it as quickly as I would like, unfortunately. However, I’ve been meaning to interview my incredibly dear, incredibly talented friend Moira for a while now and yay! here it is! 🙂 ♥

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1) Hello Moira! I have known you for years and years, but for those of you in here unfamiliar with you, please introduce yourself! 

I’m a full time wedding photographer based in Stellenbosch (soon moving to Cape Town!). I’ve shot over 300 weddings and have had a very rapidly growing career thus far..! In 2017 I’m scaling down and only shooting 24 – 36 weddings per year 🙂

2) When and how did you get into photography?

I studied photography after school – I did a 3 year BA in Graphic Design and Photography. The course was very fine-art oriented. After graduating I worked as a professional retoucher (I worked on GQ, FHM, Sports Illustrated and more!) for 2 years before moving onto full time photography.

At that point I was only doing photography over the weekends, and when the workload became too much I had to choose between photography and a 9 to 5. The choice was easy 🙂

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3) Why wedding photography? What attracted you to it and how did your journey through photography have you end up choosing this?

I actually started out with fashion photography. I did mainly new model’s portfolios. I was very good at making the new, young girls feel at ease in front of the camera. After getting to know the fashion industry’s dark side (eating disorders, agencies not paying me because the (very thin) model looks ‘too fat’ on the pictures, etc) I decided to switch to weddings. The realness of weddings and the people involved was far more alluring than the fakeness of the fashion industry..!

4) You’ve been shooting weddings for quite some time – are there still aspects of it you find challenging and why?

Family photos..! Ha ha.. I still get challenged at many weddings, especially when something unforeseen happens. At one wedding the bride got the timeline wrong and suddenly I had 20 mins for family photos, bridal party, couple shoot and decor shots. At that point there is no use panicking, so you just kick your heels in and do it. Keeping calm and not making your clients panic does get very hard sometimes..! That said, I am a very patient person and this characteristic of mine has most definitely helped me as a wedding photographer. Not showing your panic or frustration at a wedding is also another skill that you’ll need as a wedding photographer.

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5) For the gear-heads: what’s in your bag? 

2 x Canon 5Dmk3 bodies
3 x Canon 600EX flashes
1 x Canon 50mm 1.2
1 x Sigma Art 35mm 1.4
1 x Canon 85mm 1.8
1 x Canon 100mm macro 2.8
1 x Canon 17 – 40 f4
1 x Canon 70 – 200 f2.8
Light stands, reflector, bits and bobs..!

My gear bag is rather heavy, my assistants tend to suffer 😉

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6) Do you still remember your first solo wedding? What was it like?

Of course! It was utterly terrifying. I had no idea what I was doing, I thought the ceremony was the reception (I mixed up the words), and I missed the family photos. I charged next to nothing for it and luckily the client knew it was my first wedding ever! The first time I had to use off camera lighting at a wedding I stood in the middle of the dance floor and burst out in tears. Nothing was working and I was clueless!

7) What is your favourite part of the wedding day to shoot?

I love the getting ready.. just so much love, nerves and excitement hanging in the air. Of course, the couple shoot is also one of my favourites – it’s such a nice time for the couple to breathe, really see each other and wind down. The golden light during this time of day also gets me super excited.

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8) Where did you shoot your favourite wedding?

I have a few favourite weddings..! Mostly if a wedding becomes part of my ‘favourite wedding’ list, it’s because of the people, not the location. A day filled with real joy, emotion, and warm people never fails to make me spectacularly happy. Of course, a great location is a real bonus and can really bring the whole wedding together, especially from a photographer’s point of view.

9) Have you ever had something catastrophic happen at a wedding and how did you handle it?

I think I touched on this with my previous answers..! I do think I’ve been fortunate enough not to have experienced a major catastrophe – unexpected rain comes the closest with last minute plans being dropped or moved around.

10) Do you think that a lot of photographers treat wedding photography as a “meal ticket” instead of art? 

Yep! But ‘art’ is such an objective term – what I find beautiful in wedding photography is not necessarily everyone’s taste. Personally I love unposed, natural, documentary type of wedding photography. The tick-all-the-boxes and ‘Will-you-cut-the-cake-again’ doesn’t do it for me. But some clients actually ask for this! I’ve had more ‘faked’ signings and cake cuttings than I can count. I’ll take the picture for them but I won’t put it on my portfolio.

11) What are your feelings of wedding photography as fine art versus pure documentary work? Do you think it’s one or the other, or both, and why?

What is fine art? I’ve seen sooo many photographers label themselves as ‘fine art’, it’s perplexing. I think the term has lost some of its meaning or impact. ‘Documentary’ is a easier to categorise; to me it’s the natural, the unposed, the candid. Certainly you can put a fine art twist to your documentary work if you had the talent and put in the hard work.

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12) Do you do other photography except wedding work? If so, please tell us about it!

I do! During the week I often do couple sessions, travel/ holiday photography, families, maternity, even the odd newborn shoot here and there 🙂

13) Any advice for aspiring wedding photographers, or just young photographers in general?

Oooh shoh! Have ‘hare op jou tanne’*, learn from other photographers (that’s the best way of learning!) – attend workshops (I offer mentoring sessions by the way). Challenge yourself, keep up with the international standards and trends. If you’re looking into getting into weddings, BE NICE! Don’t fret about all the small things. When I started out 90% of my work came from word of mouth. It’s easy to lose a client’s referral after the wedding too – if she has ‘silly’ requests like a picture from another angle, get off your high horse and do it for her with a smile! If something like that upsets you, then you should probably look at getting into another industry. I think being a good photographer is 70% working with people and getting the best out of them, and 30% talent (but that’s just me 😉

* a common Afrikaans expression meaning something like tough as nails.

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RAPID FIRE:

1) Favourite colour?
Teal.. aqua.. that dreamy sea colour!

2) Favourite book?
Jinne, Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban 😀

3) Favourite movie?
Inception!

4) iPhone or Android?
iPhone!

5) Cat or dog person?
Cog

6) Red or white wine?
Red mostly.. white for summer 😉

7) How do you like your coffee?
More milk than coffee!

8) Favourite country you’ve visited?
Thailand (sigh!) – we got married there in 2015!

9) Tea or coffee?
Tea

10) Favourite season?
Summer!

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FIND MOIRA ONLINE HERE:

WEBSITE: http://moirawest.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/moirawestphotography/
INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/moirawestphotography/

 

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