For this vendor interview, we’ve got Ben and Mariel Nelms of Note Photography chatting with us about working as a husband and wife team, finding that all important connection with clients and choosing the right wedding photographer for you.

About Ben & Mariel

Please introduce yourself! Who are you and what do you do?

We are Ben and Mariel Nelms, a husband and wife photography team based out of Vancouver, BC.

How long have you been in the wedding industry?

We are fairly new to the wedding industry, but Ben has been in the professional photography industry (mainly photojournalism) for the past 10 years. After shooting a few weddings together for friends and colleagues, we decided to launch our wedding business, Note Photography, in the fall of 2016, and take it full time in 2017.

What first attracted you to the wedding industry?

Spending time with a couple on one of the most joyful days of their lives together is incredibly special. We are both pretty sensitive and emotional creatures (we love feelings), so we really thrive in an environment where laughter, excitement and happy tears are not only welcome, but the norm! There’s not many other jobs out there that allow you to connect with your clients on such an honest level – so that is probably what attracted us to wedding photography in particular the most.

A huge bonus of the wedding industry that we’ve only discovered since becoming a part of it ourselves is learning how inclusive and community driven wedding professionals can be. We’ve met so many talented vendors through weddings we’ve photographed, as well as online through the many Facebook groups and Instagram accounts that are dedicated to connecting wedding professionals. To us, it’s made social media a much more welcoming environment (which has been so fun). We’ve even met up with other photographers and wedding professionals from around the world as we travel, and as they they travel to Vancouver!

What’s the best part about working with your spouse? What’s the hardest part?

We really love getting to spend so much quality time with each other while we’re actually photographing weddings and couples sessions. It’s really special to be able to look over at each other and exchange a little smile when we hear something really sweet in a speech. We also love dancing (and taking photos at the same time) once the party starts at weddings, and we always make sure that we dance to at least a few songs at every wedding we photograph! It’s a fun little tradition that helps to remind us that this is the best job ever. The hardest part is definitely the fact that we are so comfortable with each other, and therefore aren’t afraid to share our (sometimes brutally honest) thoughts and feelings on business decisions with one another. We’re getting MUCH better at communicating effectively (and kindly), but sometimes we’ll still have completely opposite opinions on how we should get something done!

When you’re not busy with weddings or other photography, how do you love to spend your time?

We have a four year old Australian Cattle Dog named Mowdy who we are pretty obsessed with, so when we are not busy taking photos or working at our computers, we try to spend as much time with her outside as we can! We love going for hikes and walks around Vancouver, or taking off on little getaways to Vancouver Island (Tofino and Parksville are our favourite).

We also love traveling and have become incredible travel partners over the years! Our most recent trips have been to Europe, China and Japan. We’re currently dreaming up our next trip, which we hope to do in March. We’re thinking we’d like to visit Ireland and Scotland, with a camper van road trip incorporated somewhere along the way!

We do spend QUITE a bit of time together, but do make time for ourselves, too. Ben loves to play hockey and baseball, and Mariel loves to cook, and volunteers at an acupuncture clinic once a week!

About Note Photography

What is Note Photography all about?

When we created Note Photography, we really wanted to pull inspiration for our wedding photography business from Ben’s photojournalism work – both stylistically, and also in our approach with our clients. The most important thing to us is connecting with our clients and ensuring that they are comfortable with us (and our cameras) before their wedding day. This allows us to document our couples in a way that showcases their true personalities in the most beautiful and non intrusive way we can. Stylistically, we try to edit our photos to look super clean, crisp and professional. Our goal with editing is to achieve a true and timeless representation of what the day actually looked like. We want our client’s memories of their wedding day to match the polished photos we deliver to them.

What makes Note Photography stand out from others in your field?

I think the fact that Ben has such an extensive and diverse background with his news photography (which he continues to do full time throughout the week as a freelance photojournalist) really sets us apart from others in the wedding photography world. Because of Ben’s experience, we really feel prepared to work in any environment and under any circumstances. Ben’s unique career highlights as a professional photographer include: travelling with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) as their Official Photographer during the Royal Tour of Western Canada in 2016, Photographing Barack Obama’s First Inauguration in 2009, and the 2011 Stanley Cup. He continues to work on news stories that change public opinion for publications such as The Globe and Mail, National Post, The New York Times, Maclean’s Magazine and more.

What is the process of working with Note? How can couples work with you?

We always love to take our prospective clients out for a coffee when they enquire with us so that they can get to know us, and see if they would enjoy spending their wedding day with us! We always say that we are probably going to be the two people that you see most on your wedding day, so it’s very important to us to make sure we are all a good fit.

Share a wedding story! What’s the most memorable wedding you’ve ever photographed?

One of the most memorable weddings we’ve photographed to date was a beautiful DIY backyard wedding that we photographed this past September in Mission, BC. The couple rented a very cool AirBnB log cabin on a large piece of property (which we thought was such a great idea), and put together the most gorgeous wedding with the help of many of their friends and family. This particular wedding was extra emotional (in the most beautiful and happy way), and we both teared up so many times throughout the entire day as we photographed the ceremony, and especially during the speeches.

What couples need to know

If you had one piece of advice for couples looking for a wedding photographer, what would it be?

Find a photographer that you trust completely to do their job based on a successful (and fun) in person meeting, and the work in their existing portfolio. You shouldn’t have any doubts about who you are trusting to document your wedding day. Ask to see a full wedding gallery that they have delivered recently to get an idea of what their coverage style looks like (full galleries are rarely posted on a photographer’s website as there are just way too many photos, and people would get extremely bored looking through them).

What are the current trends in wedding photography? What’s on its way out?

One trend that has been picking up traction (that we love) is natural posing and direction. Gone are the days of the “now everybody jump!” group shots and wedding portraits. Movement, real emotion and natural poses have taken over and we could not be more happy with this trend. One trend we believe will be on its way out soon has to do with editing/post production. We see a lot of very heavily processed images these days (often described as “dark and moody”) which can look very attractive on a Pinterest board or Instagram account, but aren’t as timeless in real life. The biggest issue we have with this trend is it really doesn’t flatter natural skin tones, and can result in what we describe as a “zombie complexion”. We have a feeling we are going to see a resurgence of cleanly edited photos very soon – almost as a response to the dark and unnatural style that has dominated the industry for the last few years. We always joke that in 20 years there will be a huge business opportunity for services that remove social media filters and heavy editing from digital and cellphone photos from this era.

What are the biggest mistakes couples make with photography?

This goes back to what’s most important to us with our own business, but we think the biggest mistake a couple can make with their photography is not taking the time to connect with their photographers before their wedding day (through coffee dates, and engagement sessions). Your photos will be so much more powerful if you like and trust your photographer, and are super comfortable with them. The goal is for your photographer to feel like just another friend getting ready with you (who happens to have a camera), and throughout the rest of your wedding day.

Where can couples save? Where should they splurge?

If you have a smaller budget for photography, we always suggest looking at less hours of coverage with a professional you love, over choosing all day coverage with a photographer with less experience or who you aren’t as enthusiastic about. At the end of the day, it’s so much better to have fewer photos that you absolutely LOVE over a TON of really mediocre photos.

If you are able to splurge, investing in an all day package with a photographer whose work you really connect with makes for the best possible experience (and eliminates potential stress about running behind schedule). We offer hourly coverage on a per-client basis, but also have a full day package that we’ve put together, which includes unlimited wedding day coverage, a 2 hour engagement session and a large, custom hard cover wedding album. Most of our clients go with our full day package as it is priced well and includes all the add-ons that most couples are looking for. We decided to include an heirloom album in our package because we really believe it is the best way to showcase the professional photos our clients have invested in, and is something that will stand the test of time. If we’ve learned anything from the last 190 years of photography on earth – high quality physical prints last over everything else.

What’s something people need to understand about wedding photography?

If you remember anything from this interview, remember this: professional photographers are trained to find the beauty in any environment, and anyone. We remember stressing over the smallest details before our wedding day, and we wish we had just let it all go and had as much fun as we possibly could have with the planning, and on the day of our wedding. The most beautiful photos happen when you are relaxed, happy and most importantly, yourself. We will take care of the rest.

Any other tips for couples planning a wedding?

Leverage the wedding professionals you hire (especially the ones who are married themselves)! We have all been to so many different varieties of weddings, and we know a LOT about most aspects of wedding planning. Ben and I are always more than happy to help our couples with planning questions (even if they have nothing to do with wedding photography) because we were in their shoes ourselves 2.5 years ago! It can be a very overwhelming place!

Thank you so much for taking the time to get to know us better! We would love to connect with you, and hope to hear from you on Instagram (you can keep up with us, and our dog, on Instagram stories most days). Most importantly, we hope this information has been helpful!

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