ROSS HARVEY - WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
Published 13th Dec 2017
In 2010 Ross Harvey packed in the day job to become a full-time wedding photographer - and he's never looked back...
With a successful career in creative design for global corporations, and with a Masters in Advanced Computer Science under his belt, everything changed for Ross Harvey in 2006 when he first picked up a camera on impulse and 'fell in love' with photography. In 2010 he packed in the day job to become a full-time wedding photographer.Over the last four years he has built a stellar reputation as one of the world's leading exponents of the art, with a slew of accolades and awards under his belt, including Best Wedding Photographer in England 2013 & 2014, the top UK Fearless Awards winner in both 2013 & 2014 and a coveted place on the Junebug Wedding 'Best in the World Wedding Photographers' roster. A passionate Nikon user, Ross recently published a review on his blog explaining why he has made the new D750 FX-DSLR his main wedding camera, with his beloved D3S as a back-up. Find out more about his meteoric career, and why he finds the 24.3-megapixel D750 so irresistible…
Intuition and impulse led me to buying a second-hand camera on eBay in 2006. I fell in love with photography instantly. Christmas 2008 arrived and my father presented me with a single gift, beautifully wrapped, and accompanied with a single note: 'Follow Your Dreams.'
The gift? A Nikon D700. My father had seen me researching full-frame cameras over the last few months. He left the room for a few minutes and returned with even more gifts – professional Nikon lenses, flashes and batteries. I'll never forget that day, that gift and that note. It changed my life.
Originally I wanted to become a fashion photographer. I spent a year shooting model portfolios and teaching myself studio and on-location photography. It wasn't long before a friend asked me to shoot their wedding. Then another, and another. It snowballed from there. By 2010 I had taken the leap and become a full-time professional photographer, moving to using two Nikon D3's.
I endeavour to combine various elements and techniques of photography in my work; story, emotion, mystery, intelligent use of light, juxtaposition, contrast, advanced composition (geometric and/or abstract), layers and framing. Easy enough to do one at a time, but stacking multiple elements is where the challenge – and hence the magic – awaits.
Mystery is especially important to me. I want to invoke the imagination of the viewer, to engage them and form emotional bonds. That's why I chose photography over videography. Videos explain everything exactly as they were. Photos allow the viewer to dream.
Weddings are emotive and colourful, and I endeavour to capture and represent that in my editing. I'm not a fan of presets or actions that dull contrast and colour; they seem to sap the energy out of the viewing experience. I shoot predominantly in colour too, and employ black and white only for specific artistic purposes.
Last year I shot 45. That's a lot of effort when you factor in all the pre- and post-shoot work that accompanies wedding photography, including editing down the 4000-5000 pictures typically shot in a 14-hour wedding to a core of around 500. People don't see that behind-the-scenes work; I'm often asked what I do in the week! I'm now more selective – this year I've shot 35 weddings and next year is limited to 20 so I can spend some time with my partner, Holly, and work on other photography projects. I've worked every weekend since March, and we're now into November…
The biggest challenge is to remain creative from shoot to shoot and not fall into repetitive patterns – it's too easy to 'rinse and repeat', operating habitually rather than proactively. Related to this challenge, however, is the biggest reward; to expand and evolve your skillset. Before every wedding I set the intention of being my best, and I maintain that mindset throughout the day. Understanding the mechanics of the human mind in terms of intention and creativity is a fascinating and highly enlightening subject. I've spent over a decade researching psychology, quantum physics, neurology, philosophy and consciousness within the context of happiness and creativity.
I believe that wedding photography is underestimated, probably due to the frankly awful stuff that used to be churned out years ago. To excel in wedding photography today you have to be a master of storytelling, portraits, landscapes, understanding light (direct, ambient, flash), architecture, macro etc… You could put a high-calibre wedding photographer into any other photographic assignment and they'd likely be able to pull it off, but I think a photographer from any other speciality would struggle to perform in all the essential elements of a wedding.
Nikon cameras don't get in the way; there are no ergonomic or functional limitations or nuances that hinder creative output or ability. I see and shoot fast and need cameras that can keep up with me. The only cameras that have been able to do so – and I've literally tried them all – are Nikon. A relevant analogy; musicians inspire me. When you watch a world-class musician in full flow, they are at one with their instrument. Their combining is the key to the expression of the artist. This is exactly how I feel when shooting with my D750 cameras, and before them the D3S; my artistic vision is always fully supported by the technology.
I've been very open and public with my love for Nikon gear, and have been the catalyst for many amateurs and professionals alike to adopt or move to Nikon. With the D750 review, it must be over a hundred. Easily.
I adore the D3S – it's been my main camera for several years. I've been a very strong advocate of it as the perfect wedding camera and I've (passively) persuaded quite a few pros to ditch other systems for it. But with my two bodies getting towards the 300,000k shutter point, it was time to find a replacement, and I found it in the D750. It's basically a mini D3S. There is simply nothing on the market that can match its combination of price, size/weight and performance. This camera is an absolute gem.
It has amazing AF, with spot-on focus, and its low light AF is the next level – it exceeded my expectations. Dynamic range is great, even at ISO 9000, with no chroma noise, no patches and no banding. Its high ISO ability is on a par with the D3S. This has a profound effect on post-production, giving you mind-boggling detail recovery even when you're shooting five stops under at lower ISOs. And there are the ergonomics – it's smaller and lighter than the D3S, yet with virtually the same performance (except the FPS and buffer size), and when you're travelling a lot and carrying two cameras around with you over a long day, it makes a big difference.
I've got two D750 bodies, with my two D3S DSLRs as back-ups – something I thought I'd never hear myself say! I've also got the 24mm f/1.4G, 35mm f/1.4G, 35mm f/1.8G, 45mm f/2.8 tilt-shift, 50mm f/1.4G, 85mm f/1.4G and the 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses. I do 95% of my work on the 35mm lenses; the f/1.8 is brilliant for street photography, while the 1.4G is my professional choice for its better contrast and colour reproduction in tougher light.I use primes for all my ambient-light work and the 24-70mm for any 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 about what's in the frame, and 'zoom' by moving your feet.
I set my goals high but I didn't think it would be so quick – it's taken just four years. The key is to do what you love, then it doesn't feel like a chore or a job, it's just what you do. I'd originally intended to follow in my father's footsteps and be a computer programmer, but I taught myself graphic design while I was doing my computer science Masters, and then taught myself photography while I was working as a graphic designer. Both times I achieved what I set out to do because I was doing something I was passionate about.
Always shoot for the couple. Give them everything you have. Don't ever do it for the money – if you do, your lack of compassion will come through, because people are intuitive. It's a social occasion and you need great social skills. If you're upbeat and positive, that will shine through naturally in your attitude, and be represented in your work. What we create is a complete expression of our state of being; our fears, hopes, loves and dreams