A Conversation with Scott Robert Lim – The Fine Art of Wedding Photography

© Scott Robert Lim

I make, teach, and write about fine art photography, themes, processes, and celebrate success in this genre. So one would wonder why I’m suddenly interested in wedding photography. It’s because all of us at one time or another experience wedding photography in our careers and instantly recognize that there is much more to this genre than we first contemplated.

Over the years, I’ve seen thousands of wedding images, and they generally fall into three categories: some are quite good, full of story, life, memory, and mood; others are ‘OK’ documentary; and others are, “what were they thinking?  However, none approach the wedding shoot as a fine art theme except one, “Scott Robert Lim.” http://bit.ly/14gokmS

© Scott Robert Lim

Scott is, without a doubt, one the world’s leading wedding photographers.  He earns exceptional fees, has attained numerous awards for his work, and is a fellow teacher at the Orange County Center for Photography and Digital Arts in Brea, CA. He directs the Lighting and Wedding curriculum and brings a master’s approach to contemporary wedding photography.

Lim’s work is bold, and celebratory in compositional structure, tone, and color. He believes that each wedding is an opportunity to narrate the event with a series of stunning visual statements. His work is, as that say in music, a ‘crossover,’ a body of images that inspire the commercial wedding venue on one hand, but at the same time are a fine art thematic. This is because he treats each wedding assignment as an individual theme around the character of the bride and groom. In his pre-shoot interviews, he learns about their lives and dreams, and focuses on the detail, which often reveals much about the couple’s personal story.

Recently I had an opportunity to interview Scott. He answers questions with his trademark high-energy style, but he also presents real-world facts. His beliefs transcend the wedding genre with a fine art photographer’s sense of theme.

BKFA: The image world classifies Wedding Photography as a subset of commercial photography but you have elevated the process to a signature art form. Can you tell us how you found or developed such a strong visual voice?

© Scott Robert Lim

Scott: Right from the ‘git go’ I had a desire to be a master. I want to create excellence in technique, excellence in emotional range, and to find a different path, one that would reveal beauty and character of any individual wedding participant. It really was a matter of practice, and there were failures before I began to understand which poses, captured moments, photo decisions, and post production techniques would allow me to present character, positive spirit and story in equal measure.

BKFA: Your use of light, both available and controlled, extends the emotional range of your work. When did you develop your sense of light and light control?

Scott: In the beginning, I was constantly sourcing exceptional available light. I was determined to master and use this type of light no matter what time of day the wedding. Wedding photography is often unpredictable and I could see that it was critical that I develop skills with artificial light. I had to master flash on three levels: as the only light source, as a contributing light source, and as a modifier of the wedding drama and mood. I used video lights at first but soon realized that there was not enough power there in many cases, and so I learned to master off-camera flash.

BKFA: Your work does not seem too self-conscious— or maybe it is self-conscious— but not very self-aware. When you are shooting, do you feel or pre-visualize your image outcome?

© Scott Robert Lim

Scott: I have to laugh at this question because I am aware that I am not self-aware. I intuitively translate this ‘in the moment’ sense to my subject. I direct my subjects to look away from the camera and me. I want my viewers to see the subject from the perspective that they are sharing a moment, that they are not being intrusive, something of the fly on the wall concept. This sense of direction allows the subject to be the subject, but it allows me to reveal character and interject style and light to compliment that character.

I am however very aware that that I have two views when I create an image. One is my photo vision and the other is my post processing vision. These are two completely different disciplines but they must work together to achieve a unique vision. Mastering both allows me to create a complete image that has unique style, one with a thematic value that brides appreciate on a deep personal level.

BKFA: Who were your early photography influences and why?

Scott: No question about it, Yervant from Australia played a big part in my style development. He showed the way with images that glamourized the bride. He also developed poses that exceeded narration; they revealed social interaction, sometimes subtly and at other times openly.

Today I see lots of work, but on a personal level I extend my sense of capture by studying paintings, sculpture, some of which is classical and others that are contemporary to stimulate my own style evolution and standards.

BKFA:  The evolution of your work over the years has been consistent with elevating the positive side of the human endeavor. This seems to be an internal theme for you. Can you comment on the message that your work conveys to the audience?

Scott: I am an encourager, and that is one of the reasons that I joined The Orange County Center for Photography and Digital Arts (insert web link).  I think wedding photography is narrative, perhaps in the cinema sense, but the theme is individual fantasy, personal glamour and a positive story to remember many years from now.

© Scott Robert Lim

BKFA: You are internationally famous for your sense and control of light. How do you see and evaluate light?

Scott: Its funny, because I don’t ‘see’ light; I see the absence of light, because I focus on the shadows. This absence of light, the area of the shadows, reveals or hides details and is the fundamental tool necessary to create drama and accent highlighted beauty. I don’t mean to say that I don’t think about such things as light quality, light volume or light type, I do. However, my focus is how light dramatizes subject and theme, thus I find the shadows to be key to my sense of drama.

BKFA:  You are bringing several wedding and lighting curriculums to the Orange County Center for Photography and Digital Arts (http://centerfordigitalarts.com/).  Why did you join the Board at ‘The Center?’

Scott: I’m so excited about ‘The Center’, because of the shared values of the other instructors. We believe that while video training has merit, it cannot mentor and deliver the hands-on experience necessary to grow. Photographers need encouragement, personal evaluation, and hands-on guidance, not rote technique. Students need to work with someone they can believe in and someone who develops their critical thinking. Consider this: which is the best college experience— one where you do the total class work online or one where you can interact with instructors and colleagues? The latter is generally the best.

© Scott Robert Lim

BKFA: You have a program entitled, “Think like at $10,000 Wedding Photographer.” (http://bit.ly/1bGpnza) This sounds like an exciting career opportunity. Can you tell us more about this course?

Scott: At its core, “Think like at $10,000 Wedding Photographer”  is about critical visual thinking and life skills. In class, we spend time on image capture technique, wedding image situations, poses, and light. But I wrap the entire course in how to think like a successful wedding photographer and the students invest time in business skills, operations, style development and how to build relationships that will allow them to photograph the character of the wedding, not to simply document the story.

BKFA. You also have a unique one-day lighting workshop known as “Crazy Stupid Light.” Tell us a bit how this program works and what a student can do with this information. (http://bit.ly/12CzgKm)

Scott:  Its about controlling light and message with simple tools and simple techniques. Most photographers are reactive to light instead of becoming proactive. In this one-day workshop, we change students’ thinking with respect to light and empower them to take command of light. Many photographers think that lighting gear has to be expensive, and the amount of light needed is gargantuan. The truth is that you can achieve great light with simple and inexpensive flash units and this workshop teaches how to achieve stunning results with processes that anyone can master.

BKFA:  Finally Scott, what kind of advice would you offer to those considering wedding photography as a career?

© Scott Robert Lim

Scott: This is an industry that allows anyone with full skills, training, and a passion for excellence to earn $1,000 on a weekend working part-time, or much greater income if they wish to pursue this genre full time. But you have to begin at the beginning, which is not an equipment list.

The beginning is training and learning from someone who has legitimately succeeded in the field, who is dedicated to helping you learn and succeed. Get involved with peoples’ work that you admire, and then learn to unpack your life skills in such a way that allows you to master technique and develop your own visual voice. Once you have immersed yourself in training for success, then success (and equipment) will come.

I think the Orange County Center for Photography and Digital Arts is a great place to begin because hands-on training with teachers who are mentors not only provides you with skills, it also develops your critical thinking and self-confidence. Learn from people who care about you and you will learn to care about the work and clients you will serve in the future.

BKFA: Thanks, Scott, for the sound advice and exceptional inspiration.

To reach Scott Robert Lim contact him at info@centerfordigitalarts.com or 714-529-4686.

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