A recent train journey provided me with an amazing opportunity to meet ‘the’ Elly Mac a world known photographer who travels the world through demand of her exceptional skills. This inspirational lady works hard, she has given up the social events, the weekends and fully committed herself to a career in photography, and that’s why Elly gets nominated for prestigious awards. Getting to where she is today has meant spending much time in transit on trains, planes, buses, tubes, taxis and living out of a very small vintage travel bag. It’s not all glamour, fun and games!!
Elly specialises in wedding photography a career that began shooting at friends and family weddings ‘the turning point for me was when I was asked to do one of my sister’s weddings, she had booked a professional but when we compared albums she preferred mine over his’.
There wasn’t so much an inspiration behind Elly’s choice in career rather it was more of an inherent desire to be a photographer. Elly’s Father died whilst she was a baby and it was photographs that provided her with a chance to get to know who he was, his character, and his mannerisms ‘so for me, although he is no longer with us he is forever alive in these images’. Elly believes photography makes people immortal, not only those in the photographs but those who have created them ‘a photograph says just as much about the person behind the camera as it does about the person in front of it. Because of my father’s death, and how important those few images are to me documenting what I see and the world around me is such an integral part of my life (I am also a prolific diary keeper). Words and images will last forever’.
Over the years Elly has collected and shared some amazing images, skills and information with the world around her. In particular Elly has grown to love and involve the vintage influences with hints of retro dreamy hues. Elly has been appreciating recent work coming out of the West coast of America ‘photographic work is all about soft colour palettes that evoke the innocence of old world love. The dreamy hues refer to the pastel soft colours of the treatments I sometimes apply to images to make them look like they are retro’.
‘I absolutely adore the simplicity of wedding photographs from the 20s through to the 60s, I have a collection of anonymous wedding photographs from this time period that are not posed traditional shots, just the couples being themselves, not following any of the rules of wedding photography because the rules were not established. These images are timeless and so simple they are striking in their effect. One is of a Paris bride catching a bus from 1961’. Wedding photography needs to be timeless and it should always look like it was just taken. When Elly says vintage romance she means stripping everything away from the images and just focusing on the intimacy between the couples ‘even the wedding albums I do are inspired by images from the 20s through to the 60s. Black pages with tissue paper, why? Because this is timeless and classic.
Elly’s first wedding photography experience was when she was 15 gaining work experiences with a leading wedding photographer in her town and after this she was self-taught, there was no slowly does it. Elly jumped straight into the deep end never second shot for anyone else or assisted anyone else and that’s the way she likes it, learning the hard way and making mistakes has played a great role in her success. ‘If you do not make mistakes and learn as you go then you are not really pushing your boundaries. If you do make a mistake, then take everything as a learning curve and move on’.
‘When I first started out I was learning how to be photographer, the next main phase was really learning how to run a photography business and this has now all been combined to this new phase I am in which is all about photographing the way I choose to photograph and building the Elly Mac Photos brand. It’ not just physical work that’s involved you need to be a stong person mentally, be driven, motivated and hold a positive can-do attitude. Self-belief has played a key role in Elly’s success ‘believing that I am a fabulous photographer and people will want to pay for my services and also recognising that wedding photography is not just about photographs is about who you are and this can be used to build your brand’. Elly has learnt to be herself with her camera hence having her own fabulous style ‘photograph the way that comes naturally to you and then find the clients who love your style’.
Elly has worked and is still working very hard on her career and shares some words of wisdom ‘anyone going into wedding photography firstly needs to understand that because the majority of your commissions are on weekends, you tend to miss out on a lot of social events and if you are going to travel for work, be mindful of the fact that you could be in a different place every week and you spend a lot of time on transport but you meet some wonderful people whilst out and about, but to be honest I would not have it another way’. Elly hasn’t had a holiday since Christmas 2007 let’s be honest… it’s not as though she hasn’t done her fair share of travelling, recently Elly was in Lake Camo for 4 days (poor Elly) followed by a trip to Paris to meet clients!!
Elly has taught me that being a professional photographer isn’t as glamorous as some may be led to believe, it has its perks as with any job. Professional photographers work very hard so it hurts slightly when Elly hears ill thought comments such as ‘so you’re a wedding photographer, what do you do for the other 6 days of the week?!!’’ I guess people assume that you only work one day a week and that it’s glamorous, that you’re over paid, it’s easy and anyone could do it. People assume that wedding photography is not an art and therefore without skill, I just received a text message from a client who said “You’re a genius, the photographs are amazing” you do not get that reaction from clients without having a talent’ go Elly!!!
Of course Elly has a soft spot piece of equipment a AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G for when she is out and about. ‘I tend to carry a camera in my handbag and this lens is just ideal for my style, especially when I do street photography. When I am shooting weddings I use a combination of prime lens (fixed focus) and zoom lens. A prime lens gives better aperture settings but the zoom is ideal for not missing a moment. It’s a personal choice really but I am also Nikon girl all the way’. (Nikon should be all over that comment!!)
Standard…I always ask photographers In general, during a session, how many pictures would you say you take to find “the right one”? Elly responded with the most unique reply in my encounters so far ‘it’s not about finding the right photograph is more about producing a series of images in the allotted time that tell a narrative, whether that’s 2 hours or 12 hours. I passionately believe that no one photo is more important than the other but together they must tell a story. I once worked out that I take 3.3 photos per minute which works out to 198 per hour but I can’t stress enough it’s not about taking lots of images in the hope that one works it, it’s about using your time to capture the event without interrupting that event in anyway. I am there to witness and document a moment in time not interfere and stage manage it’.
Of course I asked Elly if there were any names to look out for in the world of photography to my disappointment her lips are sealed though I’m enjoying the suspense! All I know is those second shooters and assistants of hers will no doubt be of a great standard and having an opportunity to learn form Elly will empower them with what they need to keep on achieving great things!
Thank you so much for your time Elly, it was a privilege meeting you… even though you had no choice in the matter, there was no escaping me that day hey!