“A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective” Irving Penn
A picture is worth a thousand words – the old English idiom that signifies that pictures are an effective means of communication that often conveys a message more effectively than words or explanations ever could. This remains timeless from the era of hieroglyphics to modern day digital assisted photography. Human beings have treasured pictures throughout history and today we pick the thoughts of Joseph Mbugua – CEO House of Asaa, a boutique story telling agency that brings stories to life through video, audio, photography, and event packaging for both corporate and individual clients. Joseph shares thoughts on what it takes to capture magic wedding moments, an undertaking that has had couples delighted for life…
How much of your work involves telling wedding stories?
Quite a lot of my work involves telling stories. We tell stories every time we are engaged to take photos and videos at both corporate and private functions. We have had a great reputation for bringing wedding moments to life and our wedding shoots are gaining momentum. I get to interact with the couple prior to the wedding at their engagement shoot. This gives me a chance to understand the couple and their preferences and in the process get to tell their story in the most insightful and appropriate way. It is important to know and understand who they really are and what they really want in order to translate this into a desirable outcome.
What have you observed is the most challenging decision couples need to make with regards to telling their wedding story?
I think the most challenging decision couples need to make is how to invest in good photography for their wedding. This being the only memory of the story that the couple is left with, they have to make a careful decision and invest in a good professional who will deliver to their expectations and leave them with a lasting memory. Sometimes the views of the couple differ from my professional view. This may be a case of case of ignorance, or at other times, a case of greater exposure on their end.
What I prefer to do is to listen to their view first. Find out why something is so important to them. Why do they need a certain product, why do they want the service delivered in certain way. After understanding their point of view, I am able to provide my professional opinion on the matter. Then finally leave it up to them to decide. Life is a learning experience and I have found that sometimes a client can actually help me learn something new. It is therefore not good to dismiss a client’s opinion without understanding it first.
I have also experienced incidents where the couples’ view totally goes against my work ethics and principles. Very often there is a call to compromise on quality in the name of a squeezed budget. In such instances we simply don’t compromise. That all said, we love to learn from clients and we are enjoying this journey as we walk with clients towards their desired goal.
Managing wedding dynamics has been observed to be more than just the commissioned work. How do you handle the ‘people issues’ that surround wedding photography?
In a scenario where the couple have divergent views and seem not to agree on overall direction, outcomes and requirements, we listen to all their views and find out why each is important to each party. There is no opinion that is not valid or that should be dismissed. I then offer my professional opinion on why one option may be better than the other, including all pros and cons without disparaging any party. It is important for everyone in the discussion to feel valued, important and most importantly heard.
We strive for a compromise whenever possible and then settle for that so as to satisfy both parties. One common instance is where one party prefers an outdoor photo shoot and the other leaning towards and indoor photos. In such a case, we look for a venue that offers both. I then use my wisdom as the photographer guiding the photography activity to find a balance.
We have also found couples preferring different types of outputs eg types of albums. So we give them both options, then tell them to pick based on affordability. Sometimes you find that they choose to take both of they can afford it.
All in all, we let them decide because the wedding is theirs and they know what is best for themselves
What advice would you give a couple looking to tell their wedding story?
The location of the shoot is a very big factor that determines the output. We need to carefully listen to what the client wants before offering our advice based on experience over time. But generally we advise couples to consider unique and serene environments that offer at least three different sceneries for different outlooks. This adds flavour to the photos and to the different scenes to enhance the outcome of the shoots.
Having a vibrant and cooperative bridal team is also very key. Many times we end up with very few good photos because three quarters of the time was spent running after the bridal party who are not cooperative or having to repeat instructions over and over again. A briefing session with the entire team is important ahead of the big day so that when the material time arrives, things are smooth sailing.
I would also advise couples to pay particular attention to the supplier they assign for photography. Otherwise they could spend a lot of money on the decor, cake etc but have absolutely no memory of it and it will beat the purpose.
Are there some mishaps that have happened that you would advise couples to look out for?
Yes I have seen scenarios where different service providers for weddings fail to deliver on the actual day… The scenarios are different. Sometimes the service providers fail to show up all together. At other times they come very late, thus failing to capture some magic moments, and sometimes they even end up delaying the whole wedding. At other times, they come with much less than promised – inadequate equipment and inadequate man power.
What I have also witnessed is that sometimes they do deliver on the actual day but then disappear after the wedding, never to be found. From a professional perspective, I have never understood what happens in such scenarios that would make a photographer disappear and deliver not a single photo. There have been incidents where some suppliers deliver very few photos or badly edited ones etc.
So such exist in the industry and I would advise couples to do proper background checks for the service providers to be sure that they source from legitimate and reliable sources with due diligence and reference checks conducted.
What lessons have you learned from the experience of telling other’s stories that you can use to enhance yours?
What differentiates a good wedding story teller from another is passion. A passionate story teller will capture every emotion, every activity, every feeling to the best of their ability. I have learnt that everyone has their own unique story to tell. And that no story is too big or small. And stories that last a lifetime are those that touch people. And I endeavour to do that daily with my life.
Wedding stories are one of the most beautiful stories ever told. And it would be wonderful to have a story you can look back at and feel proud of. A wedding story does not have to be expensive. It just has to be authentic. Focus on being authentic.
Joe Mbugua’s insights as narrated to C. Gathuru