When you meet The One, it can turn your life upside down. Just ask Ross Harvey. Since finishing his masters in advanced computer science, he’d been enjoying a successful career in creative design for multinational companies, but one day in 2006 “impulse and intuition” led him to snap up a second-hand DSLR on eBay; it was the first camera he had ever touched, and he fell instantly in love. It became official on December 25th 2008, when his father gave him a full-frame Nikon D700, with three words on the gift label: “Follow your dreams.” He did.

After teaching himself location and studio photography, and a year of doing model portfolios, Ross was asked by friends to shoot his first wedding – and by 2010 he had split from his corporate life and eloped with his Nikon kit to throw himself into a full-time career as a professional wedding photographer. Business boomed, and the awards soon followed – Best Wedding Photographer in England 2013 and 2014, the top UK Fearless Awards winner the same two years, and a coveted listing as one of Junebug Wedding’s “Best in the World Wedding Photographers”, as well as being recently named as one of Harpers Bazaar’s “best in the world” – so who better to ask to be our new Wedding Ambassador? (Luckily, he said yes!)

How do you feel about being an Ambassador?

I’m absolutely delighted – it’s a fantastic thing to do. I’ve always loved Nikon products, and the people at Nikon are genuinely nice and great to work with. I was first properly “introduced” to Nikon after publishing my D750 review in 2014; it attracted a lot of interest, which Nikon picked up on, and I was interviewed for Behind the Image. The relationship developed from there. There are some exciting projects coming up, all of which I’m not allowed to talk about! What I can say is that I’m very much looking forward to it all.

What’s changed the most for you in the last four years since that interview?

I’ve transitioned to photographing high end and destination weddings. Most of my work is abroad, and as a result I’ve reduced the number of weddings I shoot from 45 a year to around 15. I’ve also become a judge for the same Wedding Industry Awards that I won in 2013 and 2014. The most satisfying part of judging the awards is understanding what it means for the winning photographers when they hear their names being called. I’ll be nearby with a massive grin on my face as I’ve been there myself and know how invaluable it can be in helping shape your confidence and business. It changed things for me, so when I was asked to join the judging panel I jumped at the chance. It’s nice to be able to help people and give something back.

What does a typical wedding shoot involve for you?

It usually means travelling abroad to beautiful locations! Generally I’ll fly out the day before, and I’m sometimes asked to shoot the rehearsal dinner; then I’ll spend 14-15 hours photographing the wedding day, head back to my hotel about 3am, and seven hours later I’ll be in a taxi to the airport to fly home. Sometimes I’ll stay on an extra day, because for weddings where there’s sun and water, it’s becoming very popular to have a boat trip or beach/pool party for the guests the day after. Great fun! While the weddings are exciting, there is a lot of travelling involved which can build up the editing pile. I have no children so I’m able to spend so many days away from home.

I shoot alone unless it’s a particularly large wedding and venue, in which case I’ll have one or two additional shooters with me.

Which cameras do you use?

I have two D750s and a D850 – its 45MP resolution is insane. I used to use a D3s, Nikon’s flagship from a few years ago, and I loved that camera and what I could capture with its sensor. Then I got the D750, double the resolution at 24.3MP, and I was literally able to halve the image and get the same results as my old D3s; now with the D850 it’s virtually twice as much again. I use it mainly for flash work, and the silent shutter makes it great for church ceremonies. It’s also very durable and well built, which is beneficial when you travel a lot. I’ve not had it that long, but I’ve had no problems getting to use it. That’s what I love about Nikon DSLRs; their ergonomics are top notch, so once you’re in the system you can switch between cameras very easily.

The D750 has amazing AF, and it’s particularly small and unobtrusive, which is one of the reasons I like using it for weddings. The RAW files also have a certain look and colour balance that’s different to other Nikons – they just click with me, and I find them the easiest RAWs to edit. It’s also my choice for street photography, which is what I do for fun; I usually fit in two trips a year, one in Europe and one further afield – my most recent was to Japan. The D750 and the little 35mm f/1.8G have been my favourite combination for street photography for years because they’re so portable, so small and so good.

What other lenses do you use?

I’ve also got the 24mm f/1.4G, 35mm f/1.4G, 50mm f/1.4G, 85mm f/1.4G and the 24-70mm f/2.8; I use the primes for all my ambient-light work and the 24-70mm mainly for off-camera flash shots. It was a conscious decision to concentrate on primes – it forces you to compose. If you can’t zoom the lens, you have to think more carefully about what’s in the frame. I’ve just grabbed the 58mm f/1.4G to -play with too. So far, so good!

And why do you stay with Nikon?

I need to shoot fast, so I need cameras that can keep up with me, and the only ones that can do that – and I’ve tried them all – are Nikons. And I feel with Nikon that my artistic vision is always fully supported by the technology.

Do you have a favourite picture or location?

The coolest shoot I’ve done was a sunset first dance in Capri. It was beautiful, although I did have to concentrate on making sure the people were balanced with the ground and the sky. One of my favourite wedding locations is Lake Como. It’s increasingly popular; I once did nine weddings there in three months. I’ve got to know a lot of the local high-end caterers and service companies quite well now, so whenever we meet up we shake hands, have a hug and catch up.

What do you find are the main challenges in wedding photography?

To excel in wedding photography today you have to be a master of storytelling, portraits, landscapes, understanding light, architecture, macro… and I could go on! Put a high-calibre wedding photographer into any other photo assignment and they’d likely be able to pull it off, but I think a photographer from any other speciality could struggle to perform in all the essential elements of a wedding.

The biggest challenge is to remain creative and not fall into repetitive patterns, but that also brings the biggest rewards – evolving who you are as a photographer, and a person. Before every wedding I set the intention of being my best, and I maintain that mindset throughout the day, using mental techniques I’ve learned over a decade of researching creative psychology. It’s a fascinating subject which I speak about a lot at events and workshops, and I’ve a TEDx talk on it lined up in the autumn.

Creative psychology is one of the key areas of focus of my photography workshops, which I run two or three times a year. As well as the pure photo stuff, I get people to analyse their thought processes, to see how limiting beliefs can be holding them back, and to open themselves up to change and new possibilities. I have people coming back to me a year later saying it’s not only their photography that has improved, but their lives in general – their relationships are better, their businesses are better – and that incredibly rewarding and heart warming. I don’t think I could teach a workshop that was just “change the aperture, use this mode and these settings” – that wouldn’t do it for me. There’s so much more to it.

Do you do your own post-production?

Oh yes I do; no one’s touching my images – the curse of being a perfectionist! Editing for me is a crucial part of photography, I couldn’t give my shots to anyone else. With cameras like the D750 and D850 which have such great dynamic range, editing the RAW files gifts you so many creative options. RAW manipulation is an intuitive thing for me, handing that process over to someone else would yield different results. Sometimes I transform an image rather than ignoring it during the culling/selection process.

There’s also a privacy issue – I sometimes shoot under non-disclosure agreements which means I can’t share any of the pictures without the bride and groom’s explicit permission, so by doing the editing myself I can guarantee both privacy and a singular creative focus throughout the whole process.

Usually I’ll take 4000 to 5000 images at a wedding, but if I’m shooting over a weekend I may come home with 10,000-12,000 pictures to go through. I’ll do the initial cull in a day, then I take my time editing. To ensure consistency in my work I do two colour editing runs; the first to get everything to a certain level, the second to perfect as much as possible.

For the third, “mastering” run, I take everything through Photoshop and do any necessary retouching. I have a consistent goal in my mind as to how a finished image should look. I always edit to reach that level. Consistency is key. Most of my clients live abroad so I don’t usually see them again after the wedding; they view all their pictures and albums online via specialist software.

What is the best part of being a wedding photographer?

For me, it’s the experiences I get from it. I’ve always said—and I truly believe it—that my camera is a doorway for experience. Being a photographer has sent me around the world, and given me so many opportunities I would never have dreamt of.

Do you have a photography-related confession?

I’ve had brides ask me for in-the-moment nude shots – “Oh and I’d like to give my 'husband to be' a gift!” – I maintain a professional poker face and reply “No problem” and get on with it, but it has taken me by surprise more than once! Before I started shooting weddings I shot some modelling and boudoir photography, so I’m comfortable with it, but “surprise boudoir” isn’t something you can generally plan for!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever had, or would pass on?

Always shoot for the couple, not for the money – if you do it for the money, it will be noticeable both in your attitude and your photography. If you’re upbeat and positive, and passionate about what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like a job, it’s who you are, and that will shine through in your work.

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