Gabe McClintock, based in Calgary, Canada, has been photographing weddings since 16 years. He shot his first wedding for friends who asked him to document their special day since he has a background in Photojournalism – he replied “sure…you buy the film, feed me dinner and I’ll shoot it.”
Gabe travels 100+ days a year capturing elopements, weddings and conncetion sessions all over the world. Yes, he is a photographer, but most importantly, he is a family man. He does all this for his family!
1. The images in your portfolio are filled with intimate moments, revealing a sense of vulnerability in front of the camera. What method do you use to create such a safe space and close connection between your couples?
For me, I do things a little different as I am always in communication with my couples while I’m shooting. Most couples find silence from their photographer awkward, as they tend to feel they’re doing something wrong. So I am always providing direction to give me the best possible image. But saying that I also know when to shut up and let them have their time and moment. If you’re couples feel like you’re taking care of them photographically, they can relax and connect with each other in a real and honest way instead of worrying about how they look. It’s the self-confidence or lack of, in front of a camera that has the greatest impact on how comfortable people feel.
2. What is your process before meeting a couple to make them feel comfortable around you and being photographed?
For me, the curation of my work online has been the number one thing I feel provides my couples with a sense of comfort before we even shoot. They have a good idea as to what I am after in my work before I even pick up the camera.
3. What kind of directions do you give your couples without being overly intrusive?
I explain to all my couples before we start shooting a few things I am looking for. I also explain that I don’t want them to worry about what they look like or if something is flattering or not. I want them to simply concentrate on each other in that moment and allow me to take care of the rest.
4. Some photographers use prompts to get reactions/emotions out of their couples. In your case, how are you able to foster subtle communication/interaction between your couples without using words?
The best thing I have found to foster connection is to explain to them that during the shooting portion, that they are not allowed to talk to each other. That they need to find other ways to communicate affection, love and their feelings towards each other then talking and most times that means by touch. So they way he touches her arm, the palm of her hand, the way he pulls her in or the way she touches his chest or face. To me the most powerful and intimate communication, visually, comes from touch.
5. During a photo shoot, if you notice a couple positioning themselves in a strange/unflatteringpose, how do you go about changing things up without disturbing the flow of the shoot?
Like I mentioned above, I am always in communication with them in hopes to minimize that happening. Now sometimes even in communication, it’ll happen and for me I would personally rather stop the flow, start again and create something visually beautiful for them (and myself).
6. What kind of details do you aim to capture during a couples session?
Obviously the connection between them, but with that I also want to capture the environment that they are in. Many couples who hire me, not only hire me for the connection aspect of my images, but for the way I incorporate the surrounding environment into my work.
7. How much do you influence the style, timeline and location of a photo shoot in order to keep in line with your aesthetic?
The timeline and location, I definitely try to influence but sometimes with wedding days and timelines that isn’t possible. But for me the strong curation of my work attracts clients
whose locations and styling more often then not are inline with what I am after aesthetically. And because of my curation, portraits are very important to the couples that hire me, so timelines tend to be based around when I want to shoot and the light I want to shoot in.
8. Are there times when you find it challenging to get uninhibited, real emotions out of your couples? In this case, how do you go about the shoot?
There are couples that need more direction then others for sure, but every couple will get there. We as photographers just need to know and understand that what works for one couple may not work for another. So we need to be able to read a situation and quickly adjust accordingly. Some just need to be talked through it for the entire session, while others simply need starting directions and then are able to go from there.
9. What advice do you have for photographers struggling with fostering an authentic conncetion between their couples?
Curate your work to show connection. The number one thing I noticed when talking with other photographers at my workshops or conferences that say they are having trouble getting their couples to connect, is their portfolios don’t show many images of couples connecting. If your couples see connection and honest moments between your subjects, they already have a better understanding of what you’re after. Having this understanding consciously or sub-consciously allows them to feel more relaxed and in turn, connect.