‘I’m a documentary wedding photographer’ says almost everyone, even those who clearly aren’t (liar liar pants on fire!), but you could NEVER question Kevin Mullins about not being true to the genre… no group shots, no portraits, just straight up happiness captured candidly, you want real documentary wedding photography? Well in that case he’s your man!
We quizzed him a little about the technical side of his work and hope to do a full in depth interview about his work for the podcast soon!
For those who aren’t familiar with your work Kevin how would you describe it?
Honest candid wedding photography.
Your work has a real photojournalistic feel to it, have you always been a wedding photographer or did you specialise in another area to begin with?
God no. In 2009 I didn’t even own a camera let alone know what to do with one. Up until then I ran my own business in London. We’d moved to the West Country and I was commuting about five hours a day. One day, I picked up a magazine on a train that someone had left behind and there was an article in there about styles of wedding photography and one of the photographers they focused on was Jeff Ascough. I was mesmerised by his images (and still am). I took the magazine home and told my wife “I’m going to be a wedding photographer”. She promptly told me I’d be rubbish because I was miserable and didn’t have a camera. I shot my first wedding about six months later.
Who have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
Within the industry, I still have to say Jeff Ascough. It was his work that inspired me and still does. During my journey, my good friend Neale James constantly inspires me with his amazing ability to produce so much quality, constantly. But outside of the wedding world, I look at people like Luis Garvan and Nikki Boon who are both still working photographers and produce honest, beautiful imagery.
You shoot JPEG I believe? When did you make the decision to switch from shooting RAW?
I used to shoot JPEG when I had my Canon systems. I don’t recall any conscious decision to be honest with you. Remember, I knew nothing about cameras or photography so I worked on the assumption that if the camera has the ability to do processing for me, then I’m going to trust it to do it.
Everyone is obsessed with Dynamic Range these days, do you find with JPEG you have less DR to play with than RAW?
I’d only be concerned with that if I was printing large images. For wedding albums and web compressed images etc it doesn’t even come into my mind. That said of course, editorial photographers, landscapes etc will have a more delicate need for a good DR. Personally, I find I can recover around 2-3 stops with a JPEG file and 5 stops with a RAW file.
Talk to me about white balance, how to do you manage the lack of post processing possibility vs RAW? Do you set custom white balances in camera?
When the light is very turbulent I’ll shoot RAW these days. I’ll occasionally then set a custom WB (depending on the band lights etc). But I have to say, 95% of the time I’m shooting JPEG and the auto white balance on modern cameras is pretty amazing. It’s been nearly five years since I shot with DSLRs so I’m sure the same is true of those these days too.
Do you find it’s a lot quicker to edit JPEG files as you’ve had to nail it in camera initially?
I don’t think the JPEG part of it is what helps me get it right in camera (which, of course, I sometimes get stratospherically wrong) – I think it’s the fact that I have cameras with electronic view finders. There isn’t really much of a reason to get the exposure way off because what I see in the view finder is what the image will look like when I download it from the camera.
But you are right, workflow is much quicker simply because the camera has done 90% of the work. The files are smaller.
Remember though, that I don’t really do any “editing” as such. I don’t retouch images, so this approach suits me. Those that want to move things around in images, or are shooting bridal portraits that will want retouching will likely shoot in RAW as it gives more scope.
You’re a well known Fuji ambassador, when did you make the switch to Fuji and what were you using before?
I first started using the original X100 in 2011 and by the end of 2012 was shooting everything on X-Pro1 cameras. Prior to that I had a Canon system which was great. I really loved the Canon system, but it was just all a bit big and heavy. Then, when I saw the film simulations in the Fujifilm cameras I was sold.
It was serendipity more than anything. At the time, really, I had the choice of the embryonic Fujifilm system or the Leica system. Leica wasn’t feasible and, so I went with Fujifilm.
What’s the biggest challenge you feel someone shooting JPEG faces vs RAW?
Confidence. I can tell you now that 50% of the price you paid for your camera is from the cost of the processing engine. The people that build these processing engines are a lot brainier than me and so I let them do the work for me in the most part. But again, remember, I don’t believe in the whole “JPEG is better than RAW” argument. I just believe in using whichever works best for the photographer.
Most people I know who shoot Fuji shoot in JPEG, what advantage do you think the Fuji JPEGs have over their RAWs?
Smaller files, amazing tonal range, in camera noise reductions, sharpness, s-curve design……loads, really.
If you had to pick one of your images as your favourite from this year which would it be and why?
Probably this one. This image is the kind of image I love to get. But what is far far more important than me capturing the moment, is the moment itself. I shot this with a 23mm lens quite close – but the approach is simple, one shot then I move away and allow that moment in time to evolve naturally. Had I stood there and shot 5, 10, 15 or more frames – even on rapid fire, the moment would be interrupted and that is the absolute antithesis of what I hope to achieve with my photography.
A huge thank you to Kevin Mullins for answering our questions, we can’t wait to interview him for the podcast soon!
Kevin Mullins – kevinmullinsphotography.co.uk