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Daily Inspiration: Meet Joe Payne

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joe Payne.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
If you’d told me even 13 years ago that I would be working full time as a professional wedding photographer, I would have thought you were crazy. I’ve always had an interest in the visual arts and studied History of Art and Cinema at university back home in England. But once I graduated and got a corporate job, my sole focus became studying for my MBA and building my successful career as a sales director. It was all I really cared about. But, then, my outlook on life suddenly changed and my priorities took a total of 180. The catalyst for this was when my wife and I learned we were expecting our first child. I immediately got the urge to buy a “proper” camera to document our journey from newlyweds into parenthood. I then immersed myself in learning the art of photography and shared my images on social media. Friends saw my photos and asked me to take pictures for them: families, babies and, then, my first wedding which I shot the day before my first daughter was born.
Those two days changed my life forever.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Like all small businesses, there have been plenty of challenges along the way. It took me a while to establish myself in the area, get myself known by local venues and planners, generate word-of-mouth referrals, etc. So I lived pretty much hand-to-mouth for quite a few years. Obviously, the last year has been challenging with nearly all weddings being postponed or canceled due to COVID. Demand is at a high level now though so I feel that that storm has been weathered and good things lie ahead.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I still don’t see myself as a wedding photographer in the traditional sense of the word; more as just a guy who has a passion for art and loves family. I love the I get to be part of such an exciting, emotional, and joyful day for the bride and groom and their friends and family. I feel honored to be brought into the inner circle of a very intimate and personal time in someone’s life and documenting that day for them. From a social aspect, I really enjoy the interaction with everyone on the day, but I do tend to counterbalance that with not being too imposing or intrusive; I’m not really interested in injecting myself into the proceedings and directing someone’s wedding day to conform to an idealized idea I might have of how it should all look. For me, it’s all about getting at the soul of the bride and groom, capturing the moments honestly and truthfully yet in an aesthetically pleasing and artistic way.

Firstly, I am really driven to document moments rather than stage them. My background studying Fine Art in Europe has instilled in me an approach founded primarily on a documentary or photojournalistic approach. I truly believe that every couple is different and every wedding has its own unique character and spirit. My job is to capture that character in an artistic way so that, when you look back at your photos with your kids and grandkids in the years to come, the soul of your wedding day shines through in every image. As such, if you’re looking for someone to replicate the tired, clichéd images of the kind of soulless weddings you see on Pinterest and in wedding blogs, I’m probably not the photographer for you. That’s probably the worst sales pitch ever for a lot of future brides, but I’m just being honest! I’ll definitely take the time to get photos of your flowers and all the little details you have worked so hard on, but, for me, the focus is on human relationships first and foremost.

Secondly, a lot of the people who choose me tend to feel uncomfortable in front of the camera. This is totally OK with me because I feel 100% the same way! The way I work is primarily to just stay in the background, listen and watch. I concentrate and observe in order to anticipate the moments as they unfold and capture them with the best light and compositional elements possible. People tend to forget I’m even there, which lets me capture the authentic moments that count.

Finally, for the parts of the day when we will be taking portraits, the emphasis is on you guys just being yourselves rather than posing for the camera. I started out as a wedding photojournalist with a very purist approach: very little, if any, the direction of the day and just a few portraits of the bride and groom as needed. Over the years, I have developed a love and a skillset for the creative process behind portrait photography and I work hard to help you get the very best photos of you and the people you love. I still see myself primarily as a photojournalist in that I strive to capture the wedding day as it unfolds without directing too much, but my clients also value the artistic portraiture we can create together whilst staying true to the individual personalities of each bride & groom.
Looking back through my testimonials the words my clients use most often are “natural”, “artistic” and “real”. Those three words encapsulate my approach to wedding photography.

Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
First and foremost, my wife, Cristel. Without her support I would never have got started and definitely would not have been able to give up my corporate job focus my energies on building my business to become my sole source of income.

Cliff Mautner’s workshop in 2011 was instrumental in giving me a good foundation for my business and shooting style.
Following the work and MO of UK photographer Jeff Ascough has always given me a lot to think about in terms of a very purist, documentary approach to weddings.
The number one influence on my work, however, is Parker J Pfister. I’ve attended 4 of his workshops over the years and they have been instrumental in helping me find my own style and improving my skillset across the board.

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