An Interview with Brian St. Denis Photography about his lovely Berkeley Fieldhouse Wedding shoot of Avery and Kyle.

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How does the venue serve to inform the kind of shots you are going to look for in a wedding shoot? What do you consider when you are preparing in a venue?

The venue plays a huge part in breeding creativity for me. It helps that venues are often an extension of the couple’s personalities – very much so in the case of Avery and Kyle. A venue like the Berkeley Fieldhouse was amazing to shoot in – so much variety and character packed in! I like to visit the site ahead of time if possible, just to start some ideas percolating.

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Your recent shoot at The Berkeley Fieldhouse with Avery and Kyle has a blend of fun whimsical pictures and romantic classical shots. Is there a list of “must have” shots you have in your head as the wedding is progressing? 

I once heard feedback from a couple (not one that I worked with!) that though they were happy with their photos, there wasn’t one that they wanted to frame on the wall. That’s stuck with me and it’s something that I’m always conscious of when I’m shooting – making sure there’s at least one (well, hopefully more than one) photo “for the wall.”

I don’t like repeating myself so I try to avoid having a rigid list of “must-haves” – it will depend on the couple and the venue. There were a number of things at Berkeley that I made mental notes to incorporate – the spiral staircase upstairs, the two windows in the main stairwell to frame the couple, the red exterior, to name a few.

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 Obviously the various couples you shoot have their own unique personalities. How does this affect your approach to setting up different types of composed portraits?

Getting to know the couples as much as possible ahead of time helps with this – I don’t want to force a moment or stage something that, on any other day, the couple wouldn’t do for a photo. If they’re a more gregarious couple then I’ll have different suggestions than I would with a couple who might be shy in front of the camera. And often (like in the case of Kyle and Avery) the personalities between the two partners are quite different. Avery is really excitable and bubbly and Kyle is one of the calmest people I’ve met, so I did my best to split the difference in their photos.

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Wedding pictures have a lifetime expectancy ..how does this reality affect your process?

By trying not to think about that! Just kidding.
Obviously trends in attire and decorations will naturally become dated, but I do my best to avoid aesthetic trends in wedding photography so the photos don’t age quicker than they should. Black-and-white photos with spot colour on the flowers are a good example from a few years ago. It might be cool at the time but you’ll probably cringe in a few years. The Instagrammification of photography is another one I’m leery of. That’s not a slight against Instagram or those that use it (which includes me), but adding those sorts of faux-vintage filters to photos…I think we’ll be past that in a few years.
 I also like to look at this every so often as a bracing reminder of “what not to do.”

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What is the preparation process you go through with a couple before you shoot a wedding?

I make sure that expectations are well-communicated between the couple and myself, so that there aren’t any “surprises” when they get the photos back. There’s the usual list of photos to take (details, dress, the kiss at the ceremony) but the couple may have some other specific ideas about what they do and do not want.
I always request a family photo list that we can hold to make that portion of the day less confusing and more efficient. We also talk about back-up plans for weather. For me having an engagement session with the couple is helpful to know what they’re like in front of the camera, and for the couple to know what it’s like working with me.

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 There must always be a gap between the plan and the unfolding of the day …has this ever created an unexpected positive outcome for your photos?

In my experience it’s usually the weather that creates that gap, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with couples who were prepared for inclement weather. Often the umbrellas make for really great photo props!

At Avery and Kyle’s wedding, we did all of the photos before the ceremony. Many of the wedding party and couple photos were done at U of T, with the plan being do a few more + the family photos when we got back to Berkeley. We were back in really good time – almost 90 minutes before the ceremony – but guests had already started to arrive. We ended up having to send some groomsmen down to sequester the early arrivals in the reception hall so that we could roam around and finish the photos! It ended up making it pretty fun as it felt like we had to sneak around.

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I love your picture of the groom in the Berkeley treehouse before the ceremony in black and white there is such a story in the composition of the shot it has a filmic quality (think Hitchcock) … are you looking for these kind of compelling pictures?
Thanks! Yeah, definitely. My education is in journalism and I’m a big film nerd, so my photography style is steeped in one or both of those influences, both of which are storytelling based. It’s something that I’m subconsciously aiming for even if I’m not explicitly thinking about it.

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all photos by Brian St. Denis

venue Berkeley Fieldhouse