When I first told a friend that Chris and I had got engaged, her immediate response was: “Oooh, you’re going to find choosing a wedding photographer really tricky!”. She was right. Doing what I do means I’m very picky when it comes to images and styling, and I spent ages trawling wedding blogs and photography websites in a bid to find the right person. Then someone suggested Louise of Taylor & Porter – one look at her ethereal, radiant and beautifully crafted work, and I knew the search was over.
Cornwall-based Louise specialises in wedding photography, couples’ and family portraits, branding and editorial shoots. Her images are incredibly inspiring and have been featured on wedding and lifestyle blogs numerous times – most recently a romantic and moody spread on Once Wed. I was instantly drawn to the way she captures light, atmosphere and detail, and the way her photographs tell a story. She also uses film – something which I’ve wanted to try for a while, but which I’ve always found a little daunting having started photography in the digital age. I chatted to her about her background, her approach, and her tips for those of us who want to give film photography a go…
What’s your background, and how did you get started in photography?
“I first took an adult education night class in photography while working for a jeweller after leaving school. I loved it, so I applied to study photojournalism at the University of the Arts, London – although part of me wishes I’d chosen fine art photography instead, as my course was largely digital and I soon realised I missed the dark room.
“After university, I went to do work experience with the course leader in photographic retouching. He shared an office space with portrait photographer Muir Vidler and fashion photographer Tom Craig, so I was exposed to all sorts of creative influences. I assisted Muir at a shoot one day when the booked assistant didn’t turn up, and he ended up employing me for two years. He shot on film so I gained lots of experience in working with medium format film and editing negatives, as well as learning how to put people at ease and evaluate spaces very quickly.
“From there, I went on to work as an in-house photographer and retoucher for Empire Design, an award-winning creative agency that produces film posters. All the work was digital, but I still focused on film photography in my spare time, and in 2012 a friend asked me to photograph her wedding on film – the first wedding I ever shot! It was a huge learning curve but I really enjoyed it. Around that time I was starting to think about leaving London for a different sort of life in Cornwall, and I realised following what I was passionate about – film photography – could be the ticket I needed to make the move. I set up Taylor & Porter almost four years ago now, and I’ve grown it slowly but steadily since then.”
How would you describe your photography style?
“It’s luminous, graceful and very editorial. I work almost entirely with natural light, and I focus on telling stories about the people and places I shoot. Every frame is considered individually as if it’s a painting, but with a narrative thread that ties them together. I approach every commission with the same care and attention to quality that I would if I were shooting a magazine spread.”
What inspires you?
“First and foremost, I’m inspired by the location and time of year of each shoot – the light, the season, the atmosphere. I have a strong sense of discovery, and I like to reveal those little bits of magic that make each place special – a shaft of sunlight falling on a curtain, plaster crumbling from an old wall. My eyes are always open to every detail. With weddings, I’m also inspired by the couple and their story. I like to work in a collaborative way with all my clients. I feel that the dynamic between the photographer and the model, individual or couple is such a special one, and it truly works best when we’re both striving to make magic. To do this, I invest time in those relationships and consider the motivation and chemistry behind each story I make. I’m not a casual observer; I actively want to create photography that feels painterly and considered.”
Why film photography?
“It’s how I first started, so it will always appeal to me. I can still remember the magic of working in a dark room for the first time and seeing my photos develop before my eyes. I also love the way film photography makes me shoot. You can’t fake anything; you have learn the true craft of photography and consider every frame. It’s about honest, organic capture and waiting for the perfect moment, rather than taking hundreds of shots and hoping a couple will turn out well.
“On the most basic level, the difference between film and digital photography is the difference between squares and circles. Digital photography electronically records light as square pixels, whereas film photography captures them as overlaid circles of light-sensitive emulsion. This gives film photography an intrinsic softness, and it makes light and colour appear more real and flattering.
“I think a nice analogy for film versus digital capture is that of a musician playing a melody. To me, shooting medium format film is like playing on a grand piano: there are no electronics involved, and the piano sound has an organic warmth which, to me, is how film feels. The same melody can be played on a top-of-the-range electronic keyboard and still sound amazing – it’ll just be different. Both instruments have their own qualities and are just tools to create with. The absolute key, of course, is the person playing.”
Does Cornwall influence your photography?
“Hugely. It’s so rugged and wild, with a sense of space that I really missed when I lived in London. The vast timeless ocean, the horizon stretching for miles, the way the sea kisses the sky… there’s so much to love. I feel much more connected to the changing seasons and natural light than I would in a city, and that renews and energises me.
“I also find the people very inspiring. Cornwall is full of creatives who have made a big choice to come here and build a different sort of life, so there’s a sense of boldness and bravery among them. It’s great to be part of a community of people who are following their passions.”
Do you have any favourite locations?
“I love shooting places with a deep sense of history, and thinking about all the stories which must have played out there. I’m drawn to historical buildings, open landscapes, places that can ground me and that feel eternal. Wild places like Scotland, and Northumberland where I’m originally from – and of course the Cornish coastline.
“I absolutely adore travel and there’s nothing I love more than exploring new places. It fills me with creative energy. My childhood career plan was to be an archaeologist and I see myself as a sort of creative archaeologist! I seek out spaces and details that speak to me, try to show their magic, and use them to create something beautiful that will speak to the world.”
Finally, any tips for anyone who wants to give film photography a go?
“Start small with an old 35mm camera – you can pick them up for next to nothing these days, and many people have one lying around in a loft or cupboard. Don’t use any auto settings; you need to learn the basics of photography (shutter speed, aperture, ISO), rather than relying on the camera to make the decisions for you. You can pick up a huge amount of information from books, and even just from reading your camera’s manual.
“But if you don’t get on with film, don’t worry. Good photography is about finding the right tool for you. If that’s digital and that’s how you want to talk to the world, then that’s absolutely fine. It’s no different from a musician choosing their favourite instrument.”
If you’re interested in commissioning Louise for a wedding, a couple or family portrait, branding work or an editorial shoot, you can contact her via the Taylor & Porter website.
All photography by Taylor & Porter