Hello Sugar is a destination wedding photographer based in Belfast who specialises in romantic, natural and airy wedding photography. I had a quick chat with Paula recently about the importance of finding the right photographer for your big day.
What inspired you to start Hello Sugar?
I became interested in wedding photography when one of my best friends got engaged in 2014. Before that, I was always the one who takes pictures – when I was 9 my younger brother got a film camera but had no interest in using it, so I quickly took over. After taking the whole roll of film I opened the back of the camera and exposed all the shots.
For a few years I had a travel blog, so getting a better camera was an essential step towards better travel/lifestyle photos. About the same time, I received a scholarship at Queens University to finish my master’s thesis. I originally planned to stay in Belfast for 4 months, as I wanted to go back home and get involved in my best friend’s wedding preparation.
Looking for wedding inspiration for my friend I remember finding a video of this couple getting married in a small church in Iceland. The ceremony was intimate, very different from what I’ve known, simple, relaxed and so real. I remember thinking “Oh my god, I want this!” and I didn’t even mean the wedding (being single) and Iceland (being broke). What I wanted was this feeling, this absolute heart melt when I was watching, this beauty I couldn’t even explain.
Once I joined Queens University I started hanging out with the Photo Society. I extended my scholarship for the whole year and had a big learning curve in my photography style. The following autumn I assisted my first wedding – my best friend’s wedding! It was a magical day. Shortly after, I started going out with my current boyfriend, whom I also met at the PhotoSoc. I started posting my wedding work on Facebook and created Hello, Sugar’s website. I didn’t know where it would take me and it was such a courageous thing to do for me. As a foreign person just starting her business, with no friends or family to support and help, I remember that time being quite sad and overwhelming at times. I still think I would have been so lost without Neil and his family!
Take us through a day in the life of Hello Sugar
Is it a regular day or a wedding day? If a regular, then I’m getting up and looking at Instagram! I wish I could say I don’t, but I’m always on top of my inbox, emails, messages. I’m lucky to have my own office at home, so I’d usually go there and start editing, writing, resizing, pitching, answering emails and doing all that jazz. I wish a photographer’s job was only photographing, but there’s so much admin and copy-writing involved in it I don’t know where to even begin!
On the other hand, if it’s a wedding day I’m stressed beyond myself and usually don’t sleep the night before. I always admire those photographers with ”inner chill” and I do my best to look innocent and smile all the time, but in my head there’s about one million thoughts per minute to make sure I’m doing everything in my power to get the photos right. I photograph real moments and that split second might be super important for the couple, hence all the focus. Wedding portraits are only about 5% of the wedding gallery, the majority of your images are candids taken throughout the day. I photograph literally everything.
What kind of wedding do you enjoy shooting the most?
I love small, relaxed weddings where the couple is present in the moment and just happy throughout the day, not bothered by small imperfections. I love family moments, grannies & grandpas, precious pets, small gestures and tears. I focus on presenting the day in the most elegant way and I love a good stylish wedding with lush flowers and dreamy details. Destination weddings are one of my favourites too, it’s just a whole different experience and I love to travel. I believe that there’s no such thing as an ideal client or an ideal wedding, but there is an ideal photographer. If you want to book someone who will make you look and feel like a million bucks I can certainly make that happen!
What advice would you give to a bride-to-be who is currently looking for a photographer?
Speak about it with your partner. He might seem not interested but try looking at portfolios together and agree on what is that you like about this photographer. Are you keen on moody photos? Do you want more contrast in them, more drama or cinematography? Or do you like classic images? Images with flash? Documentary? Elegant? There are so many styles, make sure you see a full day portfolio (ideally from your venue) before you commit. And make sure you vibe with this person! Budget for photography, plan on how much you can afford. Realistically you can book something between £500-£2500 and make sure you know why there’s a price gap. Be clear about your expectations.
What are you looking forward to in 2019?
I’m looking forward to all the weddings I’m photographing this year and all the travel I have booked. It’s going to be a very busy summer, apart from organising a big retreat for photographers in Spain I’m photographing 6 weddings abroad over June – July, so I’ll be away for nearly 2 months! We’re thinking of renting a camper van and seeing the majority of Provence while in France.