Former national broadcaster Neale James became a full time professional documentary wedding photographer in 2005. Based near Newbury in Berkshire, he is also referred to as a reportage wedding photographer or wedding photojournalist, terms that are used to define natural unobtrusive wedding photography coverage. The genre of wedding photography has matured in the past decade mainly due to clients becoming increasingly image literate. Camera devices are more accessible than ever; image capture and immediate story telling has become part of popular culture; staid and staged photography becoming less relevant to clients seeking reality rich narrative pictures. Neale’s client list is certainly diverse both culturally and demographically, and having recently signed with Tony Cowell, is now also attracting celebrity commissions. He was the first UK wedding photographer to embrace sound recordings within his documentary photographic coverage, producing short films of still images for clients wishing to have a record of the vows, readings and speeches, whilst retaining comprehensive unobtrusive coverage by a photojournalist. It’s this unique approach that attracts clients to his style in a photography market that’s recognised to be one of the most competitive genres.
Are you a full time wedding photographer
The answer is a resounding yes. It’s my job. I specialise in this genre because no other field of photographic work that I’m able or willing to work in allows me to experience equal emotion. I’m connected with what I photograph and believe in it. That makes a difference. Weddings fund my mortgage too, so I take the work and responsibility seriously. You won’t be getting a call to say “I’ve decided to go back into insurance.”
Our friend says he has a good camera. Can you match his price?
Let me fire a question back first. How much do you value your day? How much do you value the memories? You’ve invested a lot of personal effort, not to mention money in this day. You’d expect me to say this of course, but really this truly is an exceptionally valuable one of a kind family memoir. There is a process within what I do that makes sure your day is covered comprehensively and then delivered in a proper album or as a short stills film. Trusted to your good pal ‘Dave’ you’ll no doubt get some reasonable pictures here and there, but friends so often leave great chunks of the day untouched and unless they intend to be saints for a day, the odd glass or four of Pinot Grigio doesn’t help their task. I can drive a car, Lewis Hamilton I am not. I can sear steak, but Marcus Wareing would know how to make it taste a hundred pounds. Owning a camera does not necessarily make you a photographer, it just makes you a [Canon] owner.
How would you describe your style?
Observant. Narrative. Calm. Natural. I know how to use a camera and I certainly know how a wedding flows. I’m comfortable that come rain, shine or candlelight, I can work with available light without napalming the environment with paparazzi style flash at every given moment. I work to be subtle where required and value the occasion. I’m not shy to pose an image or three but generally I’ll observe, follow, study and document. I don’t promote that clients step outside their comfort zones, that wouldn’t be natural. Leaping bridal parties and brides held aloft by the boys are not my bag; I prefer people to connect in a far more instinctive manner.
Can you travel?
Variety being the spice of life, I’m more than happy to drive cross country to shoot weddings, or indeed jump aboard a jet. I’ve shot weddings for clients in Europe and as far away as South Africa. Travel costs are negotiable.
Do you shoot alone?
Mostly yes. It’s a strength in that I can focus totally on the task in hand. I will not treat your wedding as a training ground for assistants. If I do take a second photographer or assistant you can be sure that they will have been fully briefed on why they’re there and what additional benefit I am expecting them to bring to the party. Most of my clients desire a discreet photography coverage. Discretion is tough to achieve when guests feel they’re being ‘papped’ from all sides.
Do you work well alongside film makers and videographers?
Absolutely! The two skill sets provide very different coverage angles. An observational note; videographers understandably have their own agenda from which they will record your day and I will have mine. Experience has shown that some clergy and registrars find it hard for whatever reason, to distinguish the difference. Freedom is restricted if officials feel they are being descended upon by what they see as a ‘film crew’ made of up videographers and photographer. I guess that’s why the stills films I produce are becoming more popular with my clients. If recording sound is the main consideration for commissioning a video or film, then it’s worth taking a look through the Photofilm files on this site.
We went to a wedding recently, the photographer pretty much took over the day. Will you?
Hopefully you will have recognised by the photographs displayed on this site, that’s not my style. You’ll have seen group portraits and these will have been agreed prior to the day at a pre-wedding meet. It is a balancing act, because I appreciate that many weddings have family guests who haven’t seen each other for years and a professional portrait is on the wish list. Most importantly it’s your day, not mine. I won’t be asking the chef to run the risk of overcooking the starter because I haven’t captured all I would like. I’ll come with a plan and make sure I work to it.
Will you let my friends take shots?
Of course! I sometimes wonder why ‘Uncle Bob’ wants to shadow me all day when he could be supping free champagne but that’s his prerogative. I won’t claim exclusivity of shots because I’m confident that I will always be shooting them differently. Actually, having guests ask you to pose for them takes your mind off the fact I’ll be capturing the scene from a different and far more natural angle.
You mention an unobtrusive coverage style. What do you mean?
Well, I won’t for instance summon your family members with a whistle – I know, I couldn’t believe that one either! But it happens. I’m also very respectful in church. It’s often seemed to me that everyone is welcome in the House of the Lord… except for the photographer, but I can understand that when I hear tales of my peers dancing in the aisles with zoom lenses and papping a priest or vicar mid sermon two inches from his or her ear. I was married in a church myself; I understand the solemnity of a service, whether it’s church or civil, I will work exceptionally hard to deliver some fantastic documentary moments in print, with a calm manner and subtlety.
What happens if you’re too ill to attend or get injured before?
In all walks of life you can never totally guard against the unexpected. I can call upon a small collective of photographers who work to a similar style.
Is it cheaper for cash?
As a professional I offer a service that has been financially calculated to cover the time and energy dedicated to your special day. Wedding photography is so much more than collecting ‘snaps’ from one day. Many of my weddings are booked a year to eighteen months in advance, so the knowledge that I will still legally be operating at the time of your wedding is vital. I operate within a private limited company bound by the tax and company laws of the UK. Yes you may pay cash, although it will still be accounted for by my company in the manner you would expect as a tax payer yourself.
Can I print pictures from the DVD we get?
Yes you can, absolutely. You have licence to print them wherever you wish for personal use. The only thing I stipulate is that you do not use them for any commercial purpose.