Interview with Nordica

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Browsing through the stunning photography of weddings in incredible locations around the world on Nordica, it is very hard not to be jealous of destination wedding photographers Cole and Jakob. Iceland, Mexico, Thailand, Africa, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Norway, Sweden… “Think of us like wild vikings on our boat with a mission to take over the world. But instead of
pillaging and plundering, we create stories with our cameras. Seems much friendlier.”

The Nordica site is clean, modern and minimalistic, much like Scandinavian design, and it’s clear that Cole and Jakob have put a lot of thought into their branding. Read the exclusive Shotkit interview with Nordica below to learn more about the way that they have carved a niche in the competitive destination wedding photography industry.

How did you get in to wedding photography?

We met at Umeå University in Sweden where we received our masters degrees in marketing, which was in 2007. When that finished, we went our separate ways – Jakob to Stockholm, Cole to Vancouver – and kept in close contact. During that time, we both began photography as a hobby and the hobby grew. Our shared interest was a certain style of photography which we felt could be parlayed into weddings, so Jakob came to Vancouver at the end of 2009 and we decided to go all-in with Nordica. We have been doing weddings full-time since.


How have you built a successful wedding photography business?

We constantly work our asses off to become better at every part of our photography business, and we’re cautious and selective about the work we share publicly.


Who/what inspires you?

Chuck Close said in an interview once that “inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.” We’ll go with that.

How do you interact with your clients to get what you want out of them?

We never enter a wedding or Document You session with preconceived ideas, or goals of any kind. Instead, the preparation for us begins well before the session or wedding in the emails we exchange with couples. We lay out the expectations very clearly for how we work best, and what we’re left with is a working environment that allows us to essentially do what we want. What we normally want is a situation where the lighting conditions are favourable and the mannerisms are as natural as possible. In between the light and the natural actions is when the magic happens.

Nordica Shotkit Interview

How do you handle ‘shy’ clients?
The shyness on a wedding day normally presents itself during the portraits, so we try to handle this before the wedding. What we say to couples is this is what we do, we’ve done this hundreds of times, we do not want shit pictures, so trust us. When they reach a level of trust, the shyness is washed away and we’re left with a client who overcomes their obstacles with the camera. It’s rare for us to have a clients who are completely shy on the day of the wedding because often times they’ve immersed themselves in our work and have an idea what to expect.


How do you achieve your ‘look’?

The couples who hire us often have environmentally-focused wedding locations, so outdoors locations seem to be a reoccurring theme. With that said, often the lighting is natural which we’re sure any wedding photographer would appreciate. Most of the day we’re completely out of the way, but almost every couple who hires us will do their portraits at sunset, which again is a working environment we enjoy working in. Achieving this working environment starts well before the wedding day as we lay out all the expectants.


What is your post processing workflow?

Photomechanic – Lightroom – (sometimes) Photoshop / ASE.

How long do you spend editing the average wedding?

If we’d have nothing else to do – which never happens – and we were in a rush to get things done, culling and editing could be done in 3-4 hours. That rarely happens though, since we don’t want to rush things and would rather take our time to make sure the results are perfect. Add slideshows, albums, prints, blog posts, SEO, etc. and the hours per wedding add up in the end.


You use VSCO to edit your images. How do you feel about the recent prevalence of VSCO in the wedding photography industry?

We’re assuming that you mean how VSCO is used by many photographers, and to that we’ll just say it’s a tool and it is what it is.

But of greater prevalence – and one more people should take notice of – is how VSCO is an absolute textbook example of branding brilliance. Everything that VSCO presents is flawless, and they have had a meteoric rise in a few short years to the point they’re a household name to anyone who takes a picture using a phone.

The prevalence here is a brilliant couple of minds saw an opportunity in the market place, became experts in the market deficiency, and created something beautiful. There’s a lot photographers can learn from their business strategy.


Why did you choose Nikon as your main system?

To be honest, we did not have a strong reason in the beginning. It was the system used at Jakob’s old job in Sweden back in 2007, and it was the system Cole’s mother (who is a photographer) has used for over 25 years. So the system was almost grandfathered to us in a way, and we went with it.


How do you feel about the Nikon Df? How does it compare to your previous cameras, the Nikon D700 and Nikon D3?

The Nikon DF is not perfect from a usability perspective. The handling is clumsy, the single card slot is absurd, and the low-light focusing is awful. But for some reason, we really enjoy the camera and the files are stunning.

Compared to the Nikon D700 and Nikon D3, can we say “none of the above”? These cameras are all tools with strengths and weaknesses, but we’re still waiting for Nikon to release a body which meets all of our needs (or maybe they’re wants). Right now, none of them do.

We see smaller bodies – such as the Sony A7 and even Leica’s progress with the Leica M240 – as being more widely used by wedding photographers. The bodies are not there yet, and of course native lenses for these is still not perfect, but within a year we wouldn’t be surprised if these systems were more recognized as viable options in the community of wedding photographers.

We also have a Nikon D600 and it’s amazing. Again, focusing issues are an obstacle and the body feels like a plastic toy, but the files are stunning and it’s an astounding, affordable entry-level price point camera. So we would place it in the same category in many ways as the Nikon Df as two Nikon bodies that are “almost there” with their strengths.


What is your favourite lens?

If we could only use one lens for an entire wedding it would be a 35mm. We recently added the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 (from the Art series) to our bag and it’s an incredible lens that is significantly less expensive than the Nikon 35mm f/1.4 equivalent (which we also still have, and it’s a beautiful lens).

Outside of weddings, we both use 50mm lenses – Jakob has a Summicron 50mm f/2 on a Sony A7 and Cole a Summilux ASPH on a Leica M9 – and those are perfect focal lengths for street and travel photography (which we’re both quite passionate about).


Describe how/when you use flash.

We only use flash during dancing, and there is nothing complicated about how we use it. Straight on flash, zoom maxed out, and drag the shutter.

What will be your next photography related purchase?

We’re investing a lot of effort into our store right now – Nordicastore – so from our point of view, that’s our next purchase focus (it’s more of an investment)!

But from a practical point of view, Cole will be moving more towards a full Leica setup so will add an M240 at some point and Jakob will probably be waiting for an D800s (if that’s what Nikon will call it) in hopes that it is the perfect wedding photographer’s camera. (Editor’s note – The Nikon D810 has just been released!)


Any tips for aspiring photographers wanting to head into the wedding photography industry?

Don’t look at other wedding photographs work, and nobody deserves to be put on any sort of pedestal in this industry. We’re all just people who take pictures for a living; that’s it.

Don’t overthink your gear; what you have is definitely adequate.

Show the work that you truly love and believe in and nothing else. Eventually people will hire you for that, and your shared appreciation for style will ensure happy clients who trust your vision, and hopefully inertia will build from there with your brand and getting the right types of clients.


Who would you most like to see on Shotkit?

Jakob: James Nachtwey
Cole: Ragnar Axelsson


Inside Cole & Jakob’s camera bag:

If you’d like to hear more about Nordica, how they do business, get bookings, market their photography… then check out the interview with Andrew Hellmich on Photo Biz Xposed – if you add your details on this page he’ll send you the premium version of the interview.

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  1. Romã Eventos on June 27, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    Amazing article :) Thanks so much for all the tips :)

  2. Arthur Rosa on July 8, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Oh my gosh. This guys are amazing. But sorry guys, I’ll stop view your job because I’ll follow you tip. :-)

  3. Fred on July 3, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Great words!
    It’s nice to see (and read) how those two guys remain humbles despite their success. A lesson for many “big head” photographers.

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