Looking back on the early days of his career, Mark Spooner says he built his business upon a series of “happy accidents.” He entered Gordon College to pursue a career in psychology, but also enrolled in photography courses to learn how to better use his Nikon D90. In between science classes, Spooner hardly put down his camera and “got a bit of a reputation,” he says. “I was the kid in my friend group who loved taking portraits.” After photographing a friend’s wedding as a favor, word traveled quickly, and Spooner found himself behind the lens at several other nuptials. Little did he know those celebrations would mark the beginning of Mark Spooner Photography. “Though my entry into wedding photography was [not planned], I was quickly drawn to the opportunity to create photographs that would be meaningful to my clients and their loved ones for years to come,” Spooner says. “It’s still surreal to know that an image I take may be shared within a family for generations.”
How do you describe your style of photography?
I approach wedding photography from a documentary background. I try to make sure that I’m [taking the] most photogenic images of what’s actually happening, as opposed to trying to create something out of thin air for the sake of a photo. I was told by a mentor early on that sometimes the most technically impressive photos are the least significant, and sometimes the most significant photos are the least technically impressive. I love when a client says, “We love the portraits of us out on a cliff at sunset.” But I get equally excited when a client tells me, “You caught this photo of my grandmother on the dance floor. She hasn’t danced in 20 years, and it was hilarious to see her personality come out.” That photo of Grandma might not [make] my portfolio, but ultimately, my goal is to take photos that are going to mean something to the clients.
So what makes a good backdrop for a photo?
[It] depends on what the photos are. For family portraits, my priority is to get the family in good light with a non-distracting background. The focus is [on] their expressions and faces. What makes a good first-look photo is a secluded area where the couple can share a moment alone. Moments alone together are so few and far between on a wedding day, [so] my goal is to be as discreet as possible and let the couple experience that moment for [what] it is.
What’s the best weather for photos?
The most forgiving weather is not too cold, not too hot, and slightly overcast, because you don’t have to be as careful with sunlight. That said, I think a sign of a good photographer—and a sign of an awesome couple—is if you mentally prepare yourself to be flexible. Some of my favorite shots that I’ve taken have been in a thunderstorm. You can get some really meaningful images. For instance, I once photographed a wedding on a pier in Charlestown. The rain was so substantial that the pier’s drainpipes could not keep up, and the floor in the reception [tent] flooded with 4 or 5 inches [of water]. The bride hiked up her dress and started kicking around in the puddles. I ended up getting this photo of her that captured her in her happy place.
Speaking of the weather, I’ve seen the photo you took of a couple with a lightning bolt and a rainbow in the background. How do you make sure you don’t miss moments like that?
That shot in particular is a great example of a happy accident. We were in the middle of their toasts, and then this rainbow [appeared]. All their guests were like, “You need to stop the toast and take photos by that rainbow.” So we were running to the edge of the cliff, and I was taking test photos as I was running to catch up with them to make sure I had my settings correct. I happened to catch the lightning strike.
Tell me about what a couple can expect to receive after the wedding.
I deliver digital galleries of images that are all edited with my color style, which is timeless and subtle. I do general color editing and sharpening. I’m not a fan of heavy composite work, and I’m not interested in Photoshopping anyone’s body to look differently than it does. From there, clients can choose to order prints or download the photos and print them through a third-party vendor. The site [I use] allows clients to design their own leather-bound or linen wedding albums. [The album] is not something that’s built into my specific packages, but the flexibility to do whatever you want with the photos is.
You are in the process of planning your own wedding. Congrats! How did you choose a photographer?
I wanted someone who cares about the same things as me and my fiancée, Molly. There are three things that make a successful wedding-photography experience. Number one is that the photos are technically sound. Number two is that you have a good experience working with your photographer. You feel like it’s easy to communicate with them, and that you can be as natural as [possible] while getting your photograph taken. Number three is that the photos you walk away with feel like you. I would be bummed if the wedding photos are technically impressive but miss that feeling of personality. The moments of interaction [between a couple and their guests] are more significant than getting a banger Instagram photo that you can make your friends jealous with.
Give yourself a break from smiling for the camera, and capture a few of Mark Spooner’s favorite detail shots.
Often, there are items that I wouldn’t think to photograph without knowing what they mean to my clients, so I always ask them if they have any objects of significance. Communication is key here.
Catering is often one of the most expensive elements of a wedding, so it’s safe to assume that the couple has thought a lot about the food they are serving and the ways that it’s presented. Document those details before guests are served.
I love to be in the midst of the action, but toward the end of a wedding, I try to find a place where I can step back from it all and do more listening than looking. The dance floor actually sounds different from across the field. Photos from this vantage point make a great final spread in a wedding album.
Taking a photo of the rings on top of rain-soaked leaves or the icicles hanging from the venue door are small ways to help clients re-experience the feelings they had on the day.
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