An Interview with International Wedding Photographer Expert, Nora…
It’s a real treat to introduce our readers to one of the most in-demand and talented photographers in southern Spain today:
Nora, you are based on the Costa del Sol but famous for your destination wedding photography which has taken you all over the world. What drew you to set up home in southern Spain, and what does a pandemic-free year look like for you travel-wise? How do you typically split your time between domestic and international weddings? You must have visited some fabulous places!
We purchased a holiday home in beautiful Benahavis on the Costa del Sol, and soon it became our dream to live there permanently. At that time I was based in London, and, having started my wedding photography business in the English capital – a career which saw me travelling frequently to my native Italy and France – it just made more sense to uproot to southern Spain. The connections between Italy and France were great and easy, the international schools here are brilliant, and the wedding season lasts longer. Prior to London I was based in Switzerland, and just before that, Egypt. I have definitely visited some amazing places but Spain gives me the perfect balance between local and overseas weddings.
What inspired you to get into photography – specifically bridal photography? I have loved photography since I was 16. I studied at an academy in Rome. After seven years in Egypt, where I learnt underwater photography and filming with an English production company, I went to England and got my first job editing wedding videos. I fell in love with the idea of capturing weddings! Although I studied videography and photography, I preferred photography, so I decided to specialise in that for the bridal industry.
Personality is key when it comes to photography. What qualities should a wedding photographer bring to the table to get the best out of their skills and to capture the most incredible moments possible of a couple’s big day? I would say that 90% of my personality comes from the Italian way of being; not to be shy, to show who you are… All of which truly helps to capture bridal couples on their special day because you have already made a connection and put them at ease. Since I have worked in many places and with many different cultures around the world, I am pretty skilled at this side of things! I’m easy going and I love to laugh. It’s a learning curve, of course and every year I learn more and more, but after fourteen years of adapting to each individual couple, I have the knack of helping them relax, to see who they really are.
How do you settle a couple’s nerves over some of their biggest photography concerns? I tend to be able to predict their concerns, to be honest! I’m quite intuitive and try to cover those questions before they are even asked. I have video calls with my wedding clients and we chat on WhatsApp or over Instagram. I explain everything calmly to put their minds to rest.
Obviously the pandemic has hit many areas of the destination wedding industry, and fewer weddings were able to take place in 2020, with 2021 picking up slower than everybody had hoped, but what are your standout memories from the 2019 wedding season? Being blissfully unaware of what was coming and living in the moment! My main market is British and 2020 looked set to be the best year ever with many bookings on the Costa del Sol, as well as Como, Positano, Provence, and Paris. In total, I had 35 weddings to photograph on my own, so I’d decided to train an editor. Seeing the business grow, and the many directions it could take, was amazing! The most exciting wedding of 2019 had to be a Nigerian wedding that I covered in Paris with 350 guests!
What are you looking forward to most when it comes to capturing the special days of 2021 and 2022’s newlyweds? Creating, using my camera, capturing happiness, love, and freedom. I predict the weddings that do go ahead this year, and those moved forward to 2022, will be really emotional. Some of these amazingly patient couples have had to change their wedding dates three or four times because of the pandemic. The speeches are sure to be full of jokes about that, but they are also sure to be emotional. I think the exchanges of words during the ceremony will be very moving too. I can’t wait to hear them.
Can you run us through what a typical Spanish wedding day looks like for you? Spanish weddings start later in the day in the summer because of the heat – typically between 4 and 7 p.m. I love that. It gives couples more time to relax, and it gives the guests half a day at the beach! I tend to arrive 3 hours before the ceremony to start working. The wedding preparation time goes very quickly, and I like to capture great shots of the venue, building up the story of the day. Then I will move on to getting pictures of the bride in her PJs with champagne. The bridesmaids join us at that point and the more everybody talks, the more I become a friend. This helps me get lots of smiles for the photographs.
I will also take shots of the finer details such as the dress and shoes and flowers. In those hours before the wedding, I also offer an elegant boudoir photography package. This is something quite unique and not many photographers have it in their wedding repertoire.
Next I head to the ceremony’s set-up before the arrival of the guests to capture some lovely shots of the layout, decor, and arrivals. And from there I follow the flow of the day according to the timeline that has been given to me by the wedding planner. I tend to take group photos after the cocktail party so that everybody has had time to relax. Fifteen to twenty minutes before the reception, I whisk the couple away for their portraits. At sunset, I will borrow the bride and groom again to take another set of pictures. It’s so important to me that all of the effort they have put into the day is reflected in the most amazing photographs I can take. This is followed by some shots of the first dance, and then I will stay for a further hour and a half to get some lovely evening memories on camera.
How do you deal with the intense (and amazing) light of Andalusia… not to mention the heat? Seven years in Egypt prepared me for that! Not only did I shoot underwater there, but in the desert for documentaries, so I had plenty of experience. In any case, I am Italian so I love the sunshine and always aim for my pictures to be full of light.
What questions do you recommend a bridal couple ask a potential photographer when they first meet? It’s really important from the outset to understand how much experience a photographer has. Again, I like to anticipate the questions I might get asked. Some of these might be concerns about the heat, what time things should happen, how will I tackle the group photos and portraits and how much time is allocated to them, do I work alone or with a team? Couples always want to (understandably!) know how long they will have to wait until they receive their pictures. I usually send them a sneak peek of one or two pictures during the wedding, which always goes down a treat! Within a day I like to deliver a few more so they can see some of their special memories straightaway. But the full gallery takes a few weeks.
And, of course, couples like to know how they will receive their photographs.
Another very important question to ask a photographer is how they will capture the day? How invasive are they? How will they work? I’m a bit like a ninja! I have become very adept at surreptitiously squatting down and moving out again quickly to get the best shots…
Bridal couples should also ask what a photographer is looking to capture? This is a broad question but the answer reveals everything about their style – be it documentary, storytelling, fine art. Clients really need to understand exactly what they will be getting.
What are your favourite locations for bridal photo shoots on the Costa del Sol, taking into account the huge contrast between seascape and countryside, rustic fincas and chic boutique hotels? I think they are all beautiful in their own ways. The locations in this wonderful part of the world give the possibility of portraits and great memories. My favourites are those special places that immediately ‘speak’ Spain, and I don’t mind if they are country or beach. The photographer should capture their beauty in a way that makes the fact this is a destination wedding very clear. One such gem of a venue on the Costa del Sol has amazing gardens and a golf course. I know the sunset there will be incredible every time and it truly feels like we are in the countryside!
Nora, this has been such a wonderful interview, offering a fascinating insight into your unique and brilliant way of working. A huge thank you for your time and the magical images. Sunshine Weddings Spain can’t wait to work with you on future weddings!