Finding the right photographer for your wedding is not all about choosing someone who can just take pretty photographs, it's finding a person you can trust to capture your wedding in its uniqueness. Your wedding photographer has the important task of documenting those special details that colour your incredible day. Ultimately, he or she will know where to look for those moments that while small, are special.
Our friend and Toronto wedding photographer Niv Shimshon, with his polished, documentary-style photography, is one of the best at capturing this type of moment. His work is subtle and contemporary, his images memorable. What makes his imagery so special is that it never feels forced. Looking through his site, it’s immediately apparent that every couple he works with looks comfortable in their own skin; he makes room for them to express their individual personalities.
Originally from Tel-Aviv, Israel, Niv moved toward Toronto's bright lights where he now lives in the west-end with his baker-extraordinaire wife Alex and their adorable and high-spirited daughter Olive, and their dog Freddy. We sat down with Niv to chat about about his documentary photography process.
His work has caught the attention of Junebug Weddings, The Wedding Co., Rock 'n' Roll Bride and Style me Pretty.
One Heart Films: All couples want to look natural and at ease in their photographs, and we've always felt you do such a good job at facilitating that. So, what's your secret? How do you help couples feel more comfortable during a shoot?
Niv: Thank you! No special secret here, just talking with the couple before the shoot and helping them understand that this shoot is about them and not me. The couple doesn't need to pose for me, and they don't need to do anything they wouldn't normally do. This is the reason I tell my couples to choose a location/activity they would normally go to or partake in. I want them to be in their element and feel as if they are on a date. The most important thing is the connection between the couple, and I try to highlight this connection as much as I can with minimum interference.
OHF: In a lot of your photographs, location plays a huge role. How do find places that convey the right emotion for who your couples are?
Niv: I don't look for a "beautiful" location and then suggest it to the couple. Instead, I talk to the couple and understand what they love, and why. Some couples will tell me about a particular location that they like, while other couples will say that they love urban/nature places, and so I suggest photo locations accordingly. I think that more important than the place is the light. Some of my favourite photos were taken in parking lots, in front of restaurant signs or alleyways. If I had taken them at a different time of the day, they would be a different photo altogether. The real challenge is to get the couple to feel at ease to the point they forget I'm there, and then the magic happens.
Q: Speaking of location... you've taken a lot of wonderful photographs in Toronto and around the world. Out of all the places you've photographed, what is the most memorable place you've shot at?
A: Memorable places I've shot aren't significant because of the location; they are memorable because I felt like I was having the best time, just hanging out with friends. Luckily for me, I feel like this most of the time.
Q: In many ways, what makes a session so special is the story being told out of the frame. What are some ways that couples have helped to make their love story more clear to you and, ultimately, helped you make it visible in the final photographs?
A: Communication is a key factor in having the couples' love story evident in the photo. I try to ask the right questions in our first meeting, and then usually we will talk a few days before the engagement shoot. I try to make them as comfortable as possible before the shoot, and I even encourage them to send me photos of what they are planning to wear. I tell couples that changing outfits too many times or bringing props to a shoot is usually a bad idea, as it will result in them concentrating on those things instead of themselves. The more a couple shares stories about their relationship, the little things that they love, with me, the better the photos will tell their love story.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
A: Mainly from photo books. I love going to Toronto reference library. On the fifth floor, you can find rare photo books of all the great photographers. Usually, most of the books I love are related to street photography or documentary photography. This kind of photography, where the photographer works with a given environment and makes the best out of it is, for me, the most basic and elegant form of photography. I also love to watch films and try to understand how they use light to create a certain feel, build a scene.