Ep2. Like Your Wedding Photographer, Photographer Fiona Handbury

Dress Designer Sally Mussared delivering you the Insider tips from Melbourne's top wedding professionals. Meet Portrait Photographer Fiona Handbury of the Garage Studio who explains why it's important to Like Your Wedding Photographer.
Like Your Wedding Photographer

Ep2. Like your wedding photographer, Photographer Fiona Handbury

Mussared design studio create handmade silk wedding gowns www.mussared.com.au
Fiona Handbury portrait photographer www.thegaragestudio.com.au

Cover photography by Sam Irving Photography https://www.facebook.com/SamIrvingPhotography
Recording by Bella Hazelton

1:06 Favourite venue
1:33 The best time of the day to shoot
2:18 Time frame for the best wedding photos
5:16 Where to hold flowers
6:12 Most important tip
7:15 Uniqueness – feel comfortable
8:16 Fiona’s love story

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Hopelessly Devoted podcast. I’m bridal gown designer Sally Mussared delivering you the inside tips from Melbourne’s top wedding professionals.

Today, we’ve got a very special visit. We are at the Garage Studio in Sunbury visiting Fiona Handbury, who’s an amazing portrait photographer, particularly for weddings and newborns. We’re here today to discover more of what she does.

Yay (laughing).

So welcome.

Thank you.

I would love to know, what’s your standard procedure when you’re approached by a bride particularly? What happens?

So, they’ll normally send us an e-mail or give us a call, and they’ll say, “Are you available on a particular date?” And that’s where I stop the conversation. I go, “What’s your name? What’s your partner’s name? And tell me about how you guys met,” because I want to know more about my clients, not just am I available to photograph their wedding. I think by getting to know them first, I’ll know whether or not they’re going to be my client and if I’m the right photographer for them, so that’s always a good start.


Yes, absolutely. What’s your favourite venue to shoot at?


I’m sure there are lots of memorable ones, but what’s something that’s particularly stuck with you?

I really enjoy Cammeray Waters out at Woodend. Um, I think it’s beautiful. It’s got lots of natural environment, which I really enjoy, and it’s got a slight vintage feel to it. Same with Abbotsford Convent. That’s a stunning place to photograph, as well. I think anything that’s relaxed, country, or vintage is really totally what I’m about.


Fantastic, and what is your dream time of the day to shoot?

Photographers have this saying, “The golden light,” so we love that hour before sunset when a really warm hue comes through from the sun. You get that beautiful back light, the rim light comes around the veil and the hair. It’s just a stunning time of day to shoot, whether it’s dawn, pre-dawn, or sunset. It’s always fabulous. Okay, and so for the whole hour before? For the whole hour before, yep, definitely. You can, you can go just after sunset as well just into twilight. If you’re working off camera flash, it can be really quite dramatic, but it depends on the feel that you’re going for, but you really cannot go past the beautiful hour before sunset. The back light photos, say walking through a field or a lavender field or anything beautiful, rustic, vintage, country, like that, is just stunning.


Okay, and so how long is your ideal time between when? How long do you like before the ceremony, after the ceremony?

It really depends, Sally. It really depends on whether they’re getting ready at the venue or if they’re travelling from a home to a venue, so I get really greedy. I like at least an hour and a half with my bride before she goes out for, the ceremony, so if she’s getting onsite, I can cut that down to an hour, but I’d really like at least an hour and a half, and that way I know I’ve photographed the details, I photograph the getting ready, that last bit of hair and makeup when everybody’s starting to look really fabulous and not so daggy.

I get them in their bathrobes, the special robes that they may have bought for the day. Those little details that on the day, you just think they’re part of it, but when you look back, they go, “Yes, that was really special. That was something I looked for on Etsy months before the wedding,” and you really want to make sure you capture those details, and then that will also give me plenty of time to get the bridal portraits, the bride on her own. I love cornering the bride on her own in a room where it’s just the two of us.

Why is that?

Just so she can relax. She doesn’t have anybody fussing over her. She can just take a deep breath and go, “Yes, okay, this is my wedding day. How do I feel? I feel great. I’m ready to do this. Let’s go.”

And then they have the ceremony.


And then after, how long do you like for the couple and entourage?

Again, I can be really greedy. If we’re onsite …

If you had your dream, what would it be?

At least an hour and a half.


If we’re onsite, is fabulous. That’ll give time for the bridal party to have cocktails and canopies, or, you know, champagne and beer, whatever, with the canopies, without having to rush the whole time with, you know, “Let’s go and do pose B in position A and we’re going to go and stand in front of this door and we’re going to stand in front of that hedge and we’re going to do this.”

They’ve just got time to relax and enjoy the process, whereas if you give me a very limited amount of time, I’m going to be very, not mechanical, but very processed in, “Okay, let’s make sure we get a photo of the bride and groom. Let’s make sure we get a photo of the bride with the bridesmaids, the groom with the groomsmen, and so on.”


So the more time you can give a photographer, the more creative we can be, and the more time we’ve got to plan the shot. Having said that, if you give me 25 minutes, I’ll still create something. It just won’t be the same relaxed atmosphere that you would have had if you’d given me an hour and a half.

Okay, have you always scouted out a venue beforehand?

If I haven’t photographed a venue before, I always go. I always want to know what I’m walking into. I don’t know if it’s just me, or if it’s photographers in general, but whilst I like surprises. I want to know where the light is falling, because you could go, you could go to a venue and go, “I’ve seen some amazing photos in front of this wall,” but if you go there on the day, or I normally go a week before, and there’s construction or, um, a mural that they really wanted to be photographed in front of has been defaced with graffiti, you need to have a plan B.

Also, by judging where the light’s going to fall, I can say, “You know, that was a great venue in winter when the light fell beautifully across there, but right now, you’ve got direct harsh sunlight and you’re not going to be able to look at the camera, so let’s look for another spot.”

Right, so it’s kind of wasted.

Exactly, so light is my most important thing I look for, followed by location.


Okay. We have a pet hate when we see photos that come in, and the bride is holding the flowers right in front of their waist because we’ve spent so long trying to get that lovely silhouette and to get a lovely silhouette, we need to show off the waist.


And so if they pop their arms in front, hold their flowers, you can’t see it. What are you telling brides to do with their flowers?

Belly button or below. Um, you don’t want to go too low because that’s just a bit awkward. If you come too high, you are covering that beautiful silhouette. You’re covering any beautiful detail work in the dress, and same with the bridesmaids, so I always say just down a little bit lower to open up that shape, but when it comes to the bridal portraits after the ceremony, you don’t need to have the flowers in every photograph, so you can take some stunning portraits with the flowers in there, and then just say, “Hey,” to one of the bridesmaids, groomsmen, whoever likes the flowers, “Can you hold these? We’re going to do some beautiful portraits to get some stunning silhouettes of this dress or some stunning shots of this dress.”


Very nice. What’s your one big tip for a bride on their …

Can I be honest?


Like your photographer.


Don’t book a photographer just because you’ve seen one photo that you love. Meet with them, talk with them, and find out if you have a connection, because I’ve been to the odd wedding where I’ve not felt a connection with the couple, and the day, it just feels a little bit, you know, “Okay, we’re going to do photos now, and that’s great.”

I’m not, it sounds terrible, but I don’t feel as giving, whereas if I’ve managed to establish some form of connection, you know, we’ve had a good open line of communication … I always meet with my couples before the wedding. We might have had a coffee, gone for a walk, checked out a venue, done a test shoot is really important, too, just establishing that connection with your photographer so on the day, you’re having a friend take your photo, not somebody you’ve never met before. That I think comes from my own wedding when I had booked a studio and thought that I was getting the photographer that I met with, and then on the day, some random turned up and said, “I’m here to photograph your wedding,” and to this day, I don’t have any wedding photos up in my house.

Yes. Wow.

Meet your photographer, make sure you’ve got a connection, make sure you’ve got the same sort of sense of humour that you want to hang around with this person for, you know, half of the most important day of your life, so to speak. Connection is important.


Great, Is that the main thing that you strive for? Is that, is that what you consider, The Garage Studio is unique for?

I would say it is now. When I started as a wedding photographer, I was booking everybody. Anybody who rang me and said, “I want you to photograph my wedding,” I said, “Yep, great.” Now, I’m looking for couples that I can relate to, have a connexion with, maybe set the same values and establish that over our conversation. Do we get along? Do we have the same values? What’s important to you becomes important to me on the day, so yes, I would say that’s our point of difference, that it’s important for us to get to know who you are and not just capture your day.

And you can draw them out as you go through the day.

Exactly. That’s it, drawing out that personality, the emotions. Finding out the love story in advance is really cute, too, because you can say, “Remember when you guys, you know, kissed in the car park on your first date?” And suddenly I’ve got a natural smile and not something I’m forcing by saying, “Can you say smile for the camera?”


Yes, nice. Okay. What’s your love story? You see, I’m a hopeless romantic, so we’re putting together a collection of love stories at the moment. How did you and your husband meet?

Okay. I had flown to the UK to London, and, um, I arrived on a Monday with no job and nowhere to live. Caught up with my cousin, and the Friday was the Australia Day, so we decided we’d go out for Australia Day celebrations.


Cold, yes. Went out to the local pub in Piccadilly Circus and my cousin is beautiful. She’s drop dead gorgeous blonde with a personality to match. She’s just fabulous, so she naturally, you know, attracts a lot of attention, so there’s this swarm of guys around her and I’ve gone to the bar to get us both a drink. On the way back from the bar, this Argentinian is chasing me going, “You’re an Australian. You have to kiss me. It’s Australia Day,” and I walked up to this group of guys surrounding my cousin and said, “Somebody has to save me. This Argentinian is trying to kiss me.” My husband stepped forward, planted a kiss on me, and said, “Consider yourself saved.” Knight in shining armour right there in London.

That’s gorgeous.

Yes. He’s a bit of a spunk sometimes.

Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for sharing all those tips with us.

Yes. I hope they’re useful.

Yes, absolutely. I’ll put in the show notes below details on how to contact Fiona, just check it out.

Ladies and Gentleman, thank you for listening. I’m Sally Mussared. Remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

take his breath away, Sally x