To say that Jonathan Suckling makes wedding photography fun, doesn't even scratch the surface of this young photographers approach. Jonathan will dance and joke his way into capturing genuine, beautiful emotions, surrounded by gorgeous light and bokeh. He uses Nikon gear and and loves his Sigma Art lenses.
Where are you based?
I'm based in the lovely quiet Torbay, in Auckland, New Zealand. I end up shooting all over this beautiful country and love being on the road.
When did you first pick up a camera and what was it?
The first camera I picked up was my family's point and shoot, I didn't shoot extensively with it, but whenever there was a photo to be taken I wanted to be the one in control. I feel I have always had a particular vision and desire to achieve compositional perfection. Photography has always been an interest to my but i wasn't until 2011 that I bought my first DSLR (from you guys), it was a Canon 550D coupled with the plastic fantastic 50mm f1.8. I solely used that lens for the first two years of my journey into photography, love it to death.
Tell us a little about your style of photography.
It's a difficult thing to describe exactly your style and vision. I love finding interesting light and can't get enough of colourful scenes. I'm always trying new techniques such as free-lensing, Brenizer methods, or light painting. I like creating blur & bokeh whether it's shooting through leaves from inside a bush, lying on the ground to get the blur leading into a shot, or holding prisms and other arbitrary objects up to my lens.
To put my shooting style simply, I either have something up to my lens - be it leaves, a prism, some random thing I've found during the day, or I'm getting mega low, usually lying on the ground. I love experimenting and am always trying new things like spraying water on my lenses, or shooting through a plastic hotel menu holder.
In terms of my shooting style at a wedding, I'm fairly high energy - I crack jokes, interact and play games with the bridal party. I want to make sure that everyone in front of my camera is having a good time, because being comfortable and enjoying that time really shows in the photos. I love throwing in a quick pirouette and shimmy every family photo after I've got the staged shot, it always lights everyone up and injects some genuine joy into the scene.
If you haven't seen the video of how Jonathan shoots a wedding, I suggest you check it out ASAP by clicking here
What is it that drew you to wedding photography? Why do you enjoy it so much?
I realise it probably isn't the most popular choice of specialisation especially for a 20 year old young fella like myself. There's so many things that I enjoy about wedding photography. When I discovered the work of James Day I knew from that day (no pun intended) that wedding photography was what I wanted to do. I found that wedding photography could be inspiring, creative, contemporary and straight up epic, rather than a tacky and 'glamourous' world I envisioned it to be.
I learned that if you create art you are passionate about, and develop your own unique style, people will come to you wanting that vision and style at their wedding day. For me wedding photography is my 'personal work'.
One aspect in particular I love is that it provides a playing field that is ever-changing. You don't get to choose environment and you enter it ready to be creative without knowing what you will find. It's a game of resourcefulness, finding interesting light and using the environment in new and different ways. I love the challenge of being creative within the parameters of a wedding day. Every wedding is a totally unique day and I always look forward to what each wedding will bring. Plus you get to hang out with people having one of the best days of their life and create images that they will cherish for years to come #winning.
What gear do you use?
I recently just switched from Canon to Nikon this past year, for one reason - the incredible dynamic range. I have to say the grass is definitely greener on this side (Nikon). Having this dynamic range is so important to me because of the nature of what I'm shooting - couples backlit at sunset, when I shot Canon I had to pretty much expose for the skin tones (in shadow) and in doing so I would lose all the beautiful background info, or I could silhouette the couple of course but then I look the wonderful expression and would have to get low - thus loosing foreground scenery and depth. Having the incredible dynamic range of the Nikon sensors means I'm able to expose to the highlights and push my shadows a crazy amount without the introduction of noise or banding. Not only is this super valuable in being able to represent a scene similar to how the human eye saw it, but having this flexibility has come in handy many times in situations where the lighting has changed quickly and my shots are still good as gold.
I chose the Nikon DFs as at the time they had the best low light performance on the market - something I really value as a wedding photographer. They have one of Nikons best sensors (D4S) in a body that cost a fraction of the price.
I'm considering making the upgrade to the D750 after wedding season finishes. That thing blows everything out of the water at a ridiculous price. In terms of lenses I have the Nikon 24mm F2.8 (I'm hanging out for the new Art series Sigma 24mm F1.4), and Sigma 35mm, 50mm, & 85mm F1.4 primes. I love shooting primes for their consistency, superb sharpness, unreal bokeh, and also the way that it makes me shoot. I can't wait for the 85mm Art next, I'll be fully kitted out with Sigma. Sigma's Art series is totally unreal, and I'm so stoked that I've been able to build such a great kit for such an amazing price.
What is/has been your greatest challenge as a photographer?
I feel like right now I'm in a great place. My biggest challenge was probably overcoming the perfectionist within - about a year and a half ago I was comfortable with the quality of my work, but felt it still wasn't consistent enough. I felt that if I was going to put my name out there it had to be with a body of work that was whole and complete. I came to the realisation that my work will never be perfect and that photography is a journey of growth and development that doesn't have a finish. Being able to set aside impossible expectations and realising that my work will never be perfect, finished, or whole was one of the biggest revelations.
What do you feel has been your greatest photographic achievement to date?
As cliche as it is, I am truly so grateful to have found something I absolutely love doing and getting to call it my job. I love that I can get up and do whatever I want with my day, and when it comes to the work it really isn't work to me, it's just what I do and I love doing it.
If you weren't a photographer, what would you be?
I think I'd either be in the entertainment business - trying to get into comedy/youtube. Or I would probably be in the technology realm working with idea generation of apps or launching a KickStarter campaign. I also like the idea of creating viral marketing video campaigns also. These are things I hope to also pursue in the future alongside photography.
Could you describe your dream client/job?
As popular as they have become I'm still a kid who hasn't had a taste of the cake that is destination weddings - I'd absolutely love to shoot a wedding in Bali, or Italy, or Iceland, or any of these incredible places.
Or I would absolutely love to document celebrities and entertainers in their personal life. Getting to take portraits of incredible humans such as Steve Jobs would be totally unreal and something I would love to do one day.
What tips or advice do you have for budding photographers?
Sitting around waiting for the perfect idea to come to you is silly. You can't expect to nail everything first time. Start shooting and a style will develop. The most you can learn is from doing. Get out and shoot heaps, I've found that shooting lots is what generates the most development and learning.
I also am so grateful for the time I dedicated to assisting and learning from photographers, it's been invaluable to have that resource of experience and knowledge to draw upon, both in terms of picking their brains as now mentors and also everything you learn by observing how they do things and how they handle particular situations.
Don't ever think you are too young, and keep pushing to produce the work you want to produce, you'll get there if you don't give up.
Being unique and yourself is so valuable, it's what will set you apart out there. There are enough 'professional' people out there, don't try and be someone else.
Could you take us through your typical day?
The best thing about doing wedding photography is that every day is different, and I get to call the shots. Outside of the days shooting I get to spend my days how I wish.
Typically during the week I awake from my slumber at whatever time that may be. After adjusting to the light I grab breakfast and trawl the internetz for anything new, any new viral videos, tech rumours, news etc. Once my brain has awoken I jump onto the xbox for half an hour - currently playing Destiny - it's awesome and get's my blood pumping. After I have indulged my geekiness, I get into answering my emails. After that I'll go hang out with a friend/go for a swim/find a reason to eat something yummy. Later that afternoon I'm back in the office answering a few emails, checking in on my social media. I then prep a social media post - namely for facebook. After that I close my curtains, crank the editing playlist, and the editing vampire within comes alive, I usually finish editing at around 11.30pm, then spend the last half hour of my day making a to do list for the next day.
For some reason I work a whole heap better in the evening - I'm super productive and it's always been that way. I find my day is a reverse of most people, I relax and take my down time in the morning, and then get into the heavy work in the evening. Although I'm finding I'm waking earlier these days, and getting down to work earlier - with the bigger workload that being in the thick of wedding season brings.
What do enjoy doing to take a break from photography, what recharges you?
Adventures, jumping off cliffs (into water), dancing in public, eating awesome food, trawling the internet for viral videos, learning - about anything that interests me via the internet, and of course nothing beats hanging out with good people.
Who motivates or inspires you to keep doing what you do?
I'm super inspired by some incredible wedding photographers such as Sam Hurd & Fer Juaristi, who are constantly pushing the boundaries and creating amazing work within the parameters of a wedding. Beyond other artists, I'm inspired by the world around me and the people in it.
Do you have an editing playlist? -what's on repeat at the moment?
Heck yeah, spotify is my best friend in my editing cave. Recently I've just gotten into some Ball Park Music, and I have been absolutely cherishing Alt-J lately. The Triple J Hottest 100 is currently on repeat it's so good. Boy & Bear, Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend are regulars that still do the rounds. Passenger makes a great companion, but of course Ben Howard is, and always remain my of infinitely repeatable pillar of support.
Where to from here? Do you have anything in the works?
After the success of my 'behind the scenes' video, I'm super encouraged to start a youtube channel and create more comedic video content. I've been working on a new video series as a follow up to that video, and over winter I'm looking to create more mainstream videos of me dancing in public, I want to spread the joy that dance brings. In winter I'm also hoping to start a couple of portrait projects that I've been mulling over throughout summer. I'm super excited to be back into shooting more portraits, I can't wait to see how these projects evolve.