I’m Neale James, a wedding photographer and filmmaker based about an hour west of London neighbouring the Queen’s castle residence in the shadow of London’s Heathrow airport (well she’s loosely in the same county at any rate).
I’ve been shooting weddings for 15 years. Prior to that I worked in radio broadcasting as a presenter at the BBC and in commercial networks. I’d describe my style as predominantly documentary, though it’s a much-stretched term it seems these days; it being a strong genre identity in digital marketing.
I’m very much inspired by the great photographic story tellers of our generation, figures like Tom Stoddart, Don McCullin and Salgado.
Though it was a less featured photographer, in terms only of celebration, who has been my continual inspiration and mentor; Giles Penfound, a former Chief News Photographer for the British Armed Forces, without whom I probably wouldn’t have driven my career forward quite as enthusiastically. Everyone needs a mentor!
In terms of kit, I’ve been making a gradual transition away from Canon to Fujifilm. I was an enthusiastic 5D user having photographed with every version of this classic wedding photographer’s camera from mark one through to four. But the lure of mirrorless has been too strong for me and though Canon introduced their own incarnation only recently, I’ve been familiarising myself with Fujifilm’s range for some time now.
It’s a system I know well and the comfort in relation to form factor and the incredible images produced by the new X-T3 convinced me to make that full-time switch. The camera focuses faster, the image quality is strong; both jpeg and RAW, the noise at high ISO has greatly reduced and I’m impressed by the latitude I have within edit.
I certainly didn’t set out to become a wedding photographer. I’d actually planned initially to open a portrait studio and share my time between radio and photography, but the creative freedom and subject matter of shooting weddings had me hooked early on.
I often joke that life takes you down aisles you were otherwise not expecting, and in my case, it’s been really quite literal. I’ve shot 800 now and they continually surprise me, both creatively and culturally.
Life changed dramatically for me seven years ago, when I photographed a bride who was terminally ill. I knew her husband and their young daughter as I’d shot a portrait session for them. Asked to photograph their wedding I offered to audio record the day and present the stills and accompanying audio narrative as a slideshow film, which I called a Photofilm.
It was a legacy piece really for their daughter, so she could hear the event as much as see it in the years to come. They’d not wanted video, but I know the audio would be a potent reminder of her mother, particularly as the daughter was making a speech. This style of presentation became my ‘thing,’ a USP and of course fitted well with my background in radio production and presentation.
To the kit …
I use two Fujifilm X-T3 bodies with a backup X-T2 body available. I do have a power grip for the X-T3 which tends to be used only when I’m filming material.
In terms of lens choice; the 10-24mm is a staple for video documentary work, the 16mm with its effective 24mm length in terms of full frame is a favourite focal length for me, with the 23mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/2 and 56mm f/1.2 available to select from the bag. That may seem like a shed load of glass, but the weight and space taken is far less in my bag than what I previously had.
Godox flash units and some Manfrotto Lumimuse 6 LED lights come to the party for evening parties, though wherever possible I prefer to utilise available light.
I’m a big fan of Peak Design camera straps, particularly since I can untether quickly and I keep one body always on my belt with Spider holster accessories.
I keep a couple of extension tubes handy; the MCEX-11 and 16. I don’t have a committed macro lens, so these lightweight tubes give me the chance to get creative and close up with detail.
What does differentiate my kit bag from most photographers is the inclusion of sound kit. I use Zoom F1 and H1 units to record brides, grooms, and other actuality, that goes to produce my audio and still Wedding Photofilms. It all fits into a Think Tank Airport Essentials bag.