Digitalab Featured Photographer: Nick Ray Photography
At Digitalab, we know that you can’t underestimate the power of a truly exceptional image. The beauty of photography as an art form is in its diversity – with so many wonderful genres and so many utterly unique photographers out there, photography means many different things to many different people. That’s why we asked Nick Ray a few questions to find out exactly how he fell in love with photography and what he would say to any aspiring photographer hoping to make a career out of their passion.
Tell us a bit about this image and why you chose it to be featured?
This image is of the bride and her father arriving for the wedding in Westminster Abbey. I chose this photograph because it demonstrates the way in which I work to bring all the elements of a photograph together. I like to take a step back and put the moment in context.
In this case, the bride is walking through the cloisters of the Abbey with her father and her bridesmaids. I went ahead of them and composed a wide shot where they would walk through with the sunlight streaming in from behind, creating some beautiful backlighting. As they entered the frame, the bride stopped for a short time to collect herself.
For me, this is the perfect ‘decisive moment’ – her father offers a comforting touch as the bridesmaids attend to the dress. As a documentary wedding photographer it is important to me that the photographs illustrate the story of the day and it’s these real unposed human moments between the ‘set-piece’ activities of the day that I am always looking for.
It’s often said that a good photograph is when composition, lighting and a ‘moment’ all come together in one photograph – I think this one comes pretty close to achieving that so that’s why I particularly like it.
Why wedding photography?
I have been a press photographer for my whole working life, starting on local papers and ending up at The Times for 15 years, based in London, but covering assignments all over the world including the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Most of the work as a newspaper photographer is taking portraits or documenting unfolding events, so it’s really not unlike a wedding.
I love photographing people. Great portraiture is about saying something more about the subject than just what they look like. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and photograph all sorts of people – from royalty, world leaders and celebrities to many ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events. Some of my portraits are even part of the House of Commons Permanent Art Collection.
As a photojournalist you learn to think on your feet and adapt to the situation while the pressure is on, whilst staying aware of everything going on around you. Operating the camera is second nature; all your mental effort is directed to capturing the moment, and anticipating the next one, whilst still using the best light and concentrating on composition.
This is just as true on the front line as it is at a wedding – so to me, weddings are a story, just like an assignment for a newspaper or magazine, and I bring the same mindset to every wedding I photograph.
What is your camera of choice?
I use three cameras at a wedding; two Canon 5D Mklll bodies and one small and discrete Fujifilm X-T1.
What is your all-time favourite photography shoot?
I love planes and military history, so a shoot on board a B-17 WW2 bomber with a Spitfire flying in formation is definitely one of the highlights. I have a pilot’s licence, but sadly I couldn’t get a go on the controls!
I’ve been very lucky to shoot all over the world with The Times and I look back very fondly at the days when I kept my passport in my back pocket and a packed case in the car ready to drop everything and head off on a foreign assignment.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
My Canon 50mm f1.2 is my favourite lens. I love the natural perspective and its versatility. A wide 24mm would run it a close second.
What one piece of advice would you give to any aspiring photographer?
I always say just take lots of photographs, but always shoot with intent – don’t just snap away. Take time to compose shots, wait for the perfect moment and ask yourself if it’s a photograph worth taking before you press the button. Imagine you are shooting film and you’ve only got 36 exposures on the roll! This act of slowing yourself down and really thinking about the shot will definitely improve your photographs.
Secondly, get feedback. An honest critique from another photographer whose work you admire is like gold dust. The harsher, the better. Putting your work before someone else who isn’t necessarily going to be nice about it is probably the best education you can get, provided you are prepared to listen and accept the advice.
I’ve met many aspiring professional photographers, both in press photography and wedding photography. I’ve seen many flourish, but most fall by the wayside and take an easier path. The ones who succeed are the ones who want it most. It’s as simple as that.
You can find more information about Nick Ray Photography on his website.