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Talented photographer Rachel Cushing from Shutter & Joy shares why she loves her job so much and reveals some of her favourite wedding day memories – as well as some top tips for capturing romantic shots that will stand the test of time…


So Rachel, how did you get into photography?

Photography and film have always been passions of mine. I did a Photography A Level and a Film & Media Studies degree. The passion comes from my Dad – we have the world’s most highly produced family videos! We started doing wedding videography for friends and family but I quickly realised that photography was where I wanted to be…


How long have you been a professional photographer?

I’ve been a professional photographer for five years now. Covid obviously slowed things down for me but it’s so great to see people connecting and getting engaged again! Plus, I think the restriction of lockdown is now inspiring couples to feel more free to plan the day they want, rather than one dictated by old-fashioned ideas. Love that!


Why did you decide to specialise in weddings?

It really wasn’t anything that I ever even needed to think about. I never looked at all the different types of photography and pondered between wildlife or sport or whatever. To me, if you’ve got a camera, why wouldn’t you want to point it at couples having the best day of their lives? I simply adore weddings! I love love in whatever shape or size it comes in. I’m always wiping away a sneaky little tear or trying not to laugh too loudly during the speeches I get to hear. I get so invested in my couples that I feel like I’m photographing a friend’s wedding every time.


What do you enjoy most about this specific area of your work?

It’s the celebration of love that makes me enjoy wedding photography so much. Not many people stop to think about the idea of a wedding, but if you think about it, it’s a day to shout out to everyone that you’re in love, and so much so that you want to stick a legal stamp on it! I love hiding in the shadows and capturing candid shots of guests just gushing with happiness for the couple. Taking the couple off for a private shoot is always full of such joy!


What have been the most memorable moments so  far?

I had a wedding last year where the bride had been through some very, very tough times. She bravely stood up to give a speech and, through many tears, said that not many people can say that their partner saved their life, but that hers literally did. I could barely do my job I was crying so much! That, and the time I accidently sat on a thistle whilst photographing a couple in a meadow!


And what are the general challenges associated with your line of work?

You’ve got to be on your toes and constantly ready to snap an unexpected moment. You can be prepared for first kisses and cake cutting, but are you fast enough to capture that roar of laughter, or someone wiping away a tear, or falling off their chair? I also take way too many photos so whittling them down before editing is a big task. And as most weddings being in the warmer months, I’m constantly testing the limits of sunscreen!


How do people find out about you? Is it word of mouth, social media and articles or a mix of all three?

It’s a mixture really. Wedding photography is a very competitive market; there are so many of us out there, so I sadly won’t be in the first few results if you Google ‘wedding photographer’. My favourite way to meet my couples is either at someone else’s wedding or at a wedding fair. That way we’ve already had a chance to click. Getting on and connecting with your photographer is just as important as liking their photos. They’re going to be with you on your wedding day longer than most of your guests, so you really have to get on and understand each other. I often end up being a one-woman support hub, handing out advice, a sewing kit, mints, or calming words! I need my couples to know that they can trust and rely on me for many things, not just for taking photos.


What’s the process from a couple commissioning you for their wedding right up to their big day?

Wedding photography is one of the first things that couples should book – venue, photographer, dress (in that order) and everything else can wait a bit further down the planning timeline. In the early stages, we’re getting to know each other over a cuppa (or glass of wine) so I understand what they want from me. Then they sign an online contract and, nearer the day, fill out a questionnaire so I have every little detail. Because I’m often booked a year or two before the wedding date, it would be easy to have long periods of radio silence. But I don’t work that way. I love to send my couples tips and planning tools, and they will get many excited messages from me when we hit the year/month/week/day of their wedding! A really fun thing to do in the lead up to a wedding is to take my couple for an engagement shoot. Nearly every couple is nervous about being in front of the camera so an engagement shoot is really great for easing that worry. Plus, they can use the photos for so many things: save-the-dates; invites; on their wedding website; in a printed guest book; or displaying at the wedding!


How does it feel to be such an important and integral part of a couple’s big day?

It really is an honour. To be hand-picked and welcomed in is such an amazing feeling! I’ve had couples sit me at a table during the wedding breakfast like I’m a proper guest, and getting thanked in the speeches brings me to tears. But most importantly, knowing that I will capture their day for them so they can enjoy it and relive it for years to come is what makes this such a fabulous job!


Any dream weddings you’d love to shoot?

Italy is on my bucket list! I’ve always adored it from a far and finally went earlier this year with my husband after Covid delayed it four times! It’s such a beautiful country so to have it as a backdrop would be sublime! And it would be a pretty delicious wedding breakfast, too!


What makes you different to other photographers?

It’s a few things really. Firstly, I genuinely love of weddings and invest in my couples, which I think makes my work very passionate. I’m predominantly a documentary style wedding photographer, but I’ve really developed an artistic side too. It gives my work a luxurious edge. And that’s another thing: I consider myself to be fun (hopefully people agree) but found that that was lacking in the luxury market. I like to give my couples an unforgettable experience but I don’t see why that should mean that we don’t get to have a laugh along the way!

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