wedding couple standing in a brick archway

Authenticity in Wedding Portraiture

Kate Kirkman

“The photos I take become memories,” photographer Kate Kirkman explains. “A wedding day is the most important of a couple’s life, and when you start to think about that day, you think about the moments in the photos and they become real. You can remember the sounds, the smells, the emotions. Without those photos, those memories can fade. The photos act as visual triggers for those memories, so there is an enormous amount of trust that a bride and groom place in their photographer.”

bride and groom in a field holding hands

© Kate Kirkman | Sony α9 II + FE 85mm f/1.8 | 1/320s @ f/3.5, ISO 64

For Kate, using her trusty Sony Alpha 9 II is the perfect piece of kit to help her to capture all of these memories. “It’s a great camera for me to shoot weddings,” she explains. “I pair it with the FE 24-70mm f/2.8, FE 135mm f/1.8 and the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master lenses, and I also have the FE 85mm f/1.8 lens and the FE 50mm f/2.8 macro lens, which is great for capturing all of those little details.”

close up of wedding couple holding hands

© Kate Kirkman | Sony α9 II + FE 85mm f/1.8 | 1/320s @ f/3.5, ISO 125

“What couples want in their wedding photography is authenticity,” Kate tells us, “they want to show how much they love each other, but they want it to feel authentic. So I talk to the couple about two things, one of which is physical touch. I often say to the groom ‘it needs to be clear that she is not your sister!’ The other thing is expression, and telling the couple to move how they are feeling on the inside to their expressions on the outside. And then of course, the couple have to be living in that moment, the groom can’t be thinking through what he is going to say in his speech!”

wedding couple embracing on a balcony

© Kate Kirkman | Sony α9 II + FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/250s @ f/6.3, ISO 5000

When you can have as little as 20 minutes to capture the shots that you need, Kate has to be as fast and flexible as possible when shooting. She shoots with her husband, Brent, with the two of them working as fluidly as possible to capture as much as possible. “Without a doubt the Alpha 9 II helps me shoot faster and be more relaxed, Kate says. “I know I encourage the couple to walk and move a little more than when I was shooting on a DSLR; whether it is using Eye AF, which is unbelievably good, or just standard continuous focusing tracking, the camera is so efficient at focusing. It gives both the couple and me more freedom, which is lovely as it helps to make the images much more natural. I can get creative with focal lengths and apertures and not be concerned about the images being out of focus, that fear has gone.”

wedding couple sitting by a harbour

© Kate Kirkman | Sony α9 II + FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/2000s @ f/3.5, ISO 80

Of course, good images require good lighting, so Kate is always looking out for places inside and outside at a wedding venue. “Without question, beautiful light adds a whole extra layer of gorgeousness on images, she says, “and they feel automatically more romantic, but we can never rely on it. If the light is really bad then we will introduce our own using flash. But we have to work as fast as possible and still get something worthy of going on the brides and groom’s wall. They’re expecting something gorgeous, and we’ve got to deliver.”

“We try and save time by shooting on different focal lengths at the same angle, or at different angles with the same focal length,” Kate continues. “Wider shots provide more storytelling in the sense that show the location and the venue as it is such an important part of the day. As photographers we may not always love the backdrop, but it is part of their day. We then will use longer focal lengths to get more creative and capture more intimate images of the couple, that’s where I will use the FE 135mm f/1.8 lens.”

silhouette of a wedding couple at dusk

© Kate Kirkman | Sony α9 II + FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/1000s @ f/3.5, ISO 80

And finally, it’s the freedom to be able to shoot creatively which allows Kate to capture some of the more intimate shots. “It’s great to know that I can be creative and shoot things like silhouettes,” she finishes, “but knowing that I have enough dynamic range to pull out that shadow detail should I want to create a completely different style when I’m editing – it’s brilliant to be able to do that, especially when weddings are so fast paced and we’re tight on time!”

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Kate and Brent Kirkman

Kate and Brent Kirkman | UK

"I am forever chasing light. Light turns the ordinary into the magical" - Trent Parke

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