Meet Rebecca Rees, a UK-based photographer who captures beautiful love stories worldwide. She creates images that are filled with movement, light and genuine emotions. For Rebecca, the ideal photo is one that feels natural and not staged or forced. She prefers to document stories as they unfold, allowing couples to truly enjoy their special day. In a chat with us, Rebecca talks about her experience at British Vogue, how she handles the pressure of catching on camera life's biggest moments and shares her expert tips with couples about to say "I do."
What first sparked your love for photography, and how did you end up falling for wedding shoots?
My love of photography started in the dark room. For the very first time I learned the process of shooting and developing my images on film in my teens, I was hooked. Many years later, when I launched my photography business, to be honest, weddings were not even on my radar, I’d come from a media and fashion background so I began my career shooting editorials for magazines and newspapers. It wasn't until a friend of mine asked me to photograph her wedding that I considered wedding photography as a potential career path. I absolutely loved the challenge, it felt like such an honour and privilege to capture the day in my own unique way. I then photographed another friend's wedding, and then people I'd never met started to ask me to photograph their weddings and that's when the ball started rolling.
With your impressive background at British Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, how has this amazing experience shaped your approach to wedding photography?
I absolutely loved my time working as a Photo Editor; the fashion world was a very fast-paced and exciting environment to work in (much like the world of weddings!) and I certainly felt lucky to have been a part of it, but I always knew that one day I wanted to become a photographer.
My approach now is certainly shaped by my background in fashion when it comes to shooting weddings, in particular when it comes to shooting portraits. Another big part of my job whilst working in magazines was to know how to curate images to tell a story and that has stayed with me. I always look for the tiny details that make the bigger picture of the day. The celebration, the emotion and those genuinely candid moments. Because I believe that when you look back in 50 years, those are the things you want to remember.
How would you describe your photography style? What makes it uniquely "you"?
There are a lot of words used in this industry to describe wedding photography, but I think people can get hung up on words and the terminology is often misunderstood, so I tend not to use these words to describe my style of work. If when you look at an image it makes you feel something, that's what's important. I'm a big believer in the Ansel Adams quote "you bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved." We all have our own experiences and way of looking at the world. It gives me so much joy when I'm given the trust and complete freedom to show my unique perspective.
What types of weddings do you enjoy shooting the most?
I do get excited by enquiries that come through my inbox that mention a beautiful venue or a location that I might not yet have photographed, or other suppliers I want to work with, but actually the most important thing for me on the day is the atmosphere. If I am with people who are having the time of their lives and are all about the celebration, I am in my element. Those days are always the best experiences.
Capturing someone's big day must be quite the responsibility! How do you handle the pressure of documenting such pivotal moments?
It is a big deal isn't it?! For the first two or three years of shooting weddings I was a nervous wreck! Although I've got a few more years under my belt now, I do still get a little nervous the morning before each wedding. I think nerves are natural and good for keeping my mind focussed though. As long as I still feel those butterflies before a shoot, I know I'm still very passionate about the job.
What are the most memorable or unexpected destinations you've photographed weddings at?
I especially love weddings that are held in places that are completely unique and full of meaning. Like earlier this year, on the day of the Wimbledon tennis final, I travelled to Jersey in the UK Channel islands for a wedding reception held on the family's private tennis courts. It all looked absolutely stunning thanks to the incredible suppliers, planning and styling team. I love seeing unusual spaces turn into something really special.
What are some common mistakes you see couples make when they are looking for a wedding photographer?
Get to know your photographer before you book them because personality is so important. If you've never met your photographer, you are much more likely to feel uncomfortable around them. You want someone who you gel with, who you can trust and ultimately someone who will make you feel at ease. I always have my couples book in a zoom call at the first stage of making their decision so they can ask me questions but also most importantly so that we can get to know each other. Also, get to know your photographer's work really well. It's absolutely worth asking your photographer for a full gallery so you can see a wedding from start to finish and not just the Instagram highlights. Last but not least, give your photographer as much information as possible on the contact form when you enquire. This lets us know from the start if we are a good fit for each other so we don't waste your time.
Can you give some recommendations for couples who may feel camera-shy?
A lot of my couples tell me they are not naturals in front of the camera and of course, that's absolutely fine. For most of the day, I will leave you to spend time celebrating with your guests, and although we will carve out some time alone to create portraits, I use a selection of techniques and prompts to distract you from feeling awkward. I love movement and walking so it will ultimately feel like a short stroll and a quiet moment away from the crowd during an otherwise busy day of celebrating!
Trends come and go, but memories last forever. How do you ensure your photos always feel timeless?
As a hybrid film and digital photographer, one of my favourite attributes of film is its aesthetic quality of complete timelessness. I am all for experimenting with different photography trends and techniques and I love that wedding photography has come a long way from its traditional roots, but there’s something very classically beautiful about film that can’t be emulated digitally.
Finally, what's one piece of advice you'd give to couples to help them get the best photos on their wedding day?
Hire a good planner. If you want the best possible photos, hire a planner who will take care of your timeline and relieve all of the wedding day stress from you. We will work seamlessly together to achieve your perfect day, so you don’t have to worry about anything. You’ll have the best time and your photos will reflect that.