Wine, patience, love and a little bit of craziness is the secret to good wedding photography, says Victor Lax. In the first instalment of our ‘What I’ve learned as’ series, Victor chats about building a reputation, his love of primes and keeping the energy high
Husband-and-wife team Victor and Erica Lax have been photographing weddings for more than 12 years. Jetting off to every corner of the world – New Zealand, Vietnam, Morocco and Switzerland, to name a few – the Nikon Ambassadors have a packed schedule shooting over 30 weddings a year. Here, Victor reveals his advice to Nikon magazine.
Scope out your style early
“My photography style is a blend between documentary photography and art. My mission is to capture real moments,” Victor says. “I usually spend 20-30 minutes taking formal portraits of the couple, but I produce something more than a traditional portrait. I love to capture the atmosphere, the light, the body language.” During a 12-hour wedding, Victor will shoot both reportage and family and friends’ portraits, although the exact ratio of reportage to portraits will ultimately be up to the client.
To be successful, you have to build a reputation
Reputation matters. “Word-of-mouth is crucial, and my couples tend to recommend my work to their friends and family,” Victor explains. Building a good reputation and portfolio is also crucial for wedding planners and vendors to recommend you. Victor and Ericka use Instagram to showcase their work and style – the couple have a combined following of more than 100,000 – and receive bookings through Instagram multiple times a year. They are also listed on wedding photography directories across Europe and North America.
Growth is all about being patient
“After six years as a newspaper photojournalist, I joined a wedding photography team and worked as a second photographer,” Victor says. “I spent two years learning the trade. Then, in 2010, I went solo. In my first year on my own, I shot three weddings. In my second year, I shot seven and the following year, I doubled to 14. In my experience, it’s a long career where you must build your own growth. You won’t become a super wedding photographer overnight, with 30 weddings booked straight away.”
Invest in your gear
Stepping up your gear will ultimately allow you true creativity. Combined, Victor and Ericka have two Nikon Z 9s, the Nikon Z 7II and the Nikon Z 6II. “Ninety per cent of the time I will use the NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S on the Z 9 and NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S on the Z 7II,” says Victor. “I keep the ultra-wide angle NIKKOR Z 20mm f/1.8 S in my bag to capture the wedding venue, especially if it’s a big castle, but it’s not my preferred lens for documenting. I also have the PC-E Micro NIKKOR 45mm f/2.8D ED, which I only use for portraits on occasion. Sometimes I use the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED lens with a mount adapter. Ultimately, the Z 9 is a super-fast camera. I really love the focus system as it always follows the eye, even when working in low light.”
Primes are far superior
“For me, it’s important to work with prime lenses because they are faster and offer higher quality. I also love the wide aperture a f/1.8 provides and it’s easy to find the perfect composition and play with light,” says Victor. Victor and Erica use the NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S for beautiful details on the face and eyes and an 85mm for close-up details.
Find the perfect light and background
“Finding the perfect light is the most important first step,” Victor explains. “Then, I find a neutral background to give all the power to the couple. I often divide the frame into two parts, with a balance between right and left side to find that perfect composition. I try to play with the couple, to capture the emotion and power of their feelings.”
Not all settings have to be complicated
“I always work in manual, but my settings are very basic,” Victor admits. “I love to use f/4 aperture, if I can 100 ISO, focus mode always automatic continuous. Nothing else.”
Remember your couple aren’t models
“I’m always kind and smile to my couples to relax them,” adds Victor. “This is not fashion reportage, your couple aren’t models, so you have to create a good atmosphere and make them feel comfortable. I always stress they’re here to have fun and enjoy each other’s company, not to pose. The couple is usually nervous for the first few minutes and then they relax and that’s when the magic happens. If in doubt, a glass of wine always helps!”
Keep your energy levels high
“On the day itself, I will photograph the bride getting ready while Erica will photograph the groom,” Victor reveals. “My best advice here is to isolate the events and put all your energy on that one part of the day – whether that’s the getting ready, ceremony or reception – and give it your all. If something goes wrong, either with the schedule itself or with the lighting or composition, I move on and place my energy into the next section, I don’t dwell. I don’t relax until the day is over. I bring the same energy throughout, so I don’t miss anything.”
Try black and white for ultimate drama
Victor and Erica shoot in mono 15 per cent of the time. “Black and white shows greater atmosphere, it’s more direct and dramatic,” he explains. “It’s stronger and is a completely different language. The impact is often higher but, in my opinion, colour is more complicated. It’s easier to find the balance with black and white, but with colour you have to know how to combine primary colours with other colours.”
Natural light wins
“We usually play around with natural light during the day for European weddings and only use flash if we want to create something different artistically,” says Victor. “We use flash at night during the sunset, the speeches and first dance and party. In South Asia, weddings are often during the night, so we use flash throughout.”
What I’ve learned the most over the years is…
“I’ve learned how important time management is,” Victor laughs. “Before I was a wedding photographer, I was a photojournalist, and I would work 24/7 at all hours and I never knew when I’d be next free. Now, as a wedding photographer, I can choose my clients and the days I work, and it’s opened so much more flexibility for me and my family. I’ve learned that even as a wedding photographer I can create art just as much, if not more, than a photojournalist. I may be working for clients, but the clients now come to me.”