Pro Photography Spotlight: Wedding Photographer Marcus Bell

Becky Brooks


This month we interviewed internationally renowned wedding photographer, Marcus Bell. Marcus discusses how his professional photography style continues to evolve, and how he uses photography slideshows to communicate the stories he captures.

Marcus Bell has been awarded the Triple Master of Photography from the Australian Institute of Professional Photographer. The creative director and principal photographer of Australia’s number-one photography studio, Studio Impressions, he has also been named one of the Top 10 wedding photographers in the world by BBC Television.

You help teach photographers to “shoot from the heart.” Can you explain that philosophy and elaborate how it has contributed to your studio’s success?

Shooting the emotion came naturally to me when I first started to shoot in the mid-nineties.  For many photographers who are just starting to learn photography, they are drawn to fashion and all the glamour that it brings. For me it just so happened that I was drawn to the documentary photographers employed by the great photo agency, Magnum, and how they documented the world for its glory and also for its hardships.  As a result, it led me to start documenting the wedding day rather than controlling the environment like a magazine shoot.

As the first couple of years progressed so did the development of my style, and around 2003 I began to realise that how I shot was a direct reflection of the experiences in my own life. These life experiences have enabled me to see so many more moments at weddings. At times I capture moments which I would have loved to have experienced in my own life, but haven’t been able to yet. This has, however, heightened my awareness when these moments occur for my couples, so I’m quick to capture them.
Now 15 years later, capturing the emotion and the story of the day forms the backbone of my studio and approach to weddings.  This approach and style re-connects the couple with their wedding day and results in them telling all their friends about our studio, which has been great for business.  One of the nice byproducts of this has been our photography does the marketing for us. It is almost inherently viral, as our clients tend to share them with their circle of friends and family.

You pride yourself on capturing moments that even your subjects didn’t realize you had picked-up on. Is the ability to capture these moments more about being in the moment as well or more due to your trained eye?

Certainly I’ve always trained my eye and technical skills to ensure that I’m able to see and capture a moment, but the true essence of capturing a unique and special moment for each couple stems from feeling this moment yourself. I know that as I’ve experienced more in life, the more I grow as a person. This helps me grow as a photographer as well.

You provide tutorials on workflow for many Adobe products. How important is perfecting one’s workflow to a photographer’s overall success? Do you have any tips on approaching on digital efficiency?

When in a wet darkroom producing a fine art print, I get inspired to communicate the story of the image through the print process. The book Creative Elements by Eddie Ephraums and the direction of my first mentor, Doug Spowart, opened my eyes to a myriad of possibilities regarding the print process early on in my training. They taught me how to dodge and burn, along with reinforcing the idealism of communicating through imagery. Studying under them helped me understand that there are many tools available that enable you to guide people through the image. I’ve been using these same ideals throughout my life as a photographer, be it in the darkroom or using Photoshop. I think it is an important element and skill every photographer should have.

When it comes to workflow, I know many photographers find it enjoyable to work on an image. The downside is if you spend too much time in front of your computer, you’re not spending time either in front of the lens or with your clients. With this in mind I’ve always worked on ways not just to improve the quality we produce, but also the quickness at which we do it. I know that this approach has been a very important part of our business and I’m more than happy to share these skills and knowledge with out photographers. There is so much for a photographer to know and if I can make one part of the business easier for someone, I’m happy to do so.

You spoke at WPPI of this year about “finding your own style.” Where do you find your inspiration that informs you on your own style?

Sadly (or not so sadly) maturity. Now having a few years under my belt, I still do a lot of self-examination and analysis that helps me understand my style better. When we all start out we all ask ourselves “what is my style”? And early on it’s certainly hard to answer that question because it is still developing. Even today my style is still developing, mainly because I’m experiencing new things in my life everyday. I know that I still have a long way to grow as a person and I know that my photography will grow along with me.I’ve put up a tutorial on my website to further share my ideas on Style. You can find that here .

How have you been able to use Animoto in a way that emphasizes your photography’s uniqueness?

Certainly with combining music, images (and even words), it becomes a powerful tool to communicate a collection of images. For weddings, Animoto is the most beautiful tool to communicate the story, sharing the raw emotion of the couples. I know that I’ve done a great job for my client when I walk in to the viewing room and the couple has tears in there eyes, I thank Animoto to help me share their story.

Learn more about how pro photographers use video slideshows to share the stories they capture