Philadelphia wedding photographer Michael Ash of Ash Imagery begins his bio with one word: Passion. Spend just a few moments reading his Spotlight Interview and you will realize how absolutely fitting this word is in describing Michael. His excitement for people, for love, for photography is genuine and obvious. A true artist, wedding photos are Michael’s medium and he excels at creating work that is dreamy and beautiful while also completely authentic and real.
So Michael, why photography? What draws you to it, and why wedding photography in particular? This is such a tough question to answer. I’m drawn to photography for many reasons. One of the most prominent reason is that I love a good challenge. Taking pictures is simple. Anyone can do it. Taking GOOD pictures is harder. This is where a professional photographer steps in. Taking AMAZING pictures is a different level. That is where I want to be. That is the challenge. Can I go into this wedding and create something absolutely amazing and breathtaking for my clients? I want to deliver images that blow them away. That make them cry. That make their jaw drop. Wedding photography isn’t simple and I think it gets a bad rap outside of the wedding world bubble. People come up to me all the time at weddings and say, “Wow, this must be a good gig for you. You get to travel around and get paid to take pictures.” Yeah, that’s true to an extent and I always nod my head in agreement. But what they don’t understand is the time and effort that go into it. They don’t see the challenges with lighting, location, weather, personalities. They just see me holding a camera and taking a picture. But there is SO much more to wedding photography. And that’s why I love it. It’s always changing and evolving. None of it is simple.
I have noticed that you shoot with Polaroid/Instant film frequently. Tell me about your work using film. I love film. I don’t have some great story about how I found my dad’s camera growing up and went with him to the darkroom. I didn’t take a darkroom class in school. To this day I still have yet to use one. I shoot film for pretty much one reason – it’s what I like. I’m not a big technical shooter – I tend to shoot more for reality, emotion, and atmosphere. For me, film allows me to make that happen. When I first started, I would see an image from a photographer I like – and almost all of the time it was a film photograph. At some point I just said to myself, ‘Why try to emulate it digitally when I can shoot the real thing?’ It seemed like the right thing to do. I’m an avid believer that as a photographer you need to follow what YOU like. Not the trends. Not what other photographers enjoy. You need to be you. So in my case, I felt better shooting with film so I did it. And instant film gives me the ability to experiment and create a unique image straight from the camera. I absolutely love clicking the shutter and then having a print in minutes. I have no desire to go back to my office, download images from memory cards into the computer, bring the images into a software editing program, and then spend a significant amount of time editing. That sounds terrible to me! I’m a photographer, not a graphic designer. I want to be with my camera – not my computer. I want to shoot constantly, not sit in front of a computer. And instant film is just another way of me getting back to the roots of photography. No editing. No computer. Just me and the camera.
What is your favorite moment or tradition at weddings? The first time the bride and groom see each other. It doesn’t matter if it’s a staged reveal, a first look, during the ceremony … it’s all the same. They see each other for the first time on their wedding day. It always puts a smile on my face and I love photographing it.
Any place you are dreaming of shooting next? Banff, Patagonia, or the mountains of Japan. No particular order. I’ll take any of them. Can Junebug make that happen?
We will do our best! So, what is your favorite wedding location so far? Anywhere with trees and mountains. I don’t get to do that enough and I adore it. I’ll be photographing a wedding in Lake Placid in 2014 and I’m extremely excited for it!
What’s one thing you’d like every couple to know before their wedding? Lighting matters. Our entire existence (as photographers) is based around light. Without natural light, we have to create it. And I’m not a fan of artificial lighting. Yeah, those candles look awesome on the table but its not going to matter much when I have to light it up. I wish more couples thought about how well the room is lit they are getting ready in, how well their ceremony is lit, and finally the reception. Quite often, a little light can completely change pictures (for the better).
How has being a wedding photographer made you a stronger photographer over all? Adaptability. I can adapt to any photography situation now. I firmly believe, that besides conflict photographers, weddings are the toughest to document well. I have to think quickly and smart. I have to react fast to situations happening in front of me. I can’t be off my game.
Describe your wedding photography style in less than 6 adjectives Real.
Nice! What makes you give yourself a mental high five? Nailing a sick shot. It’s one of the greatest feelings (for me) in the world.
How has witnessing so many weddings impacted your life/outlook? I get to witness and take part in one of the (if not THE) happiest day in a person’s life. How can that NOT impact you in some way? At a wedding, there are no problems in the world, no personal family drama, no sickness or diseases, etc. It’s pretty much all gone. What I get to see is people happy. People enjoying life, enjoying family, enjoying each other. It’s a day where people drop what they are doing and forget their personal issues and just have a blast. I get a weekly reminder of how precious life is.
Do you have a favorite first dance song and why? Come Away With Me by Norah Jones. It was mine.
What’s your favorite style of wedding? Anything relaxed. I personally feel there is way too much emphasis put on the details of a wedding. I get it. I understand that some people like that. Personally, I prefer a wedding that goes easy on the details and focuses more on stepping back and focusing on the core purpose of the wedding – to be married. The details I like to photograph are the way the couple holds hands. The way the mother of the groom looks at her son while dancing. The way the bride’s hair falls on her shoulders. People. Laughter. To me, that’s what makes a wedding special. Those are the moments I want to capture.
Best thank you that you’ve ever received? I don’t necessarily have one particular thank you in mind but my favorite one to receive is when I’m told that I am a true artist. I’m attempting to photograph a wedding in a way that is unique and meaningful to both the couple, and myself. And when I am told they completely understand my art, it always puts a smile on my face.
Any good tricks you use to capture images of reluctant subjects? I set up or stage a shot…take a picture…keep the settings intact…lower my camera away from my face…wait for them to relax…click the shutter. In between moments are the best moments.
What is your favorite reaction from a client when you deliver their images? Simple. That they are happy. I can’t ask for anything better.
How do you know you’ve done a great job for your wedding clients?Day of – they come up to me as I’m leaving and I get a solid hug, kiss, or handshake followed by a heartfelt thank you. Day after – I receive an email/text thanking me again and acknowledging the job I did for them. After seeing the images – I receive an email/call/text informing me they love the images and couldn’t be happier.
Knowing they are happy makes me happy.
And finally, I receive an inquiry from someone they referred. The circle is complete and I know I provided an amazing experience for my client.
What are looking forward to most right now? This coming off season. I worked my ass off this year. I jam packed my schedule and I’m ready to have some down time with friends and family. I have a lot of personal projects I want to explore – some photography related, some not. It was an amazing season and 2014 is looking wonderful as well. But this coming winter is something I’m looking forward to.
Thank you, Michael!