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Dreamscape Documents + Raw Emotion // Captured by Photographer Samantha Donaldson

Tender and beautiful imagery from Samantha Donaldson eloquently encapsulates love in it’s rawest form. A celebration of connection and lasting romance. Wild Hearts are delighted to glimpse into the wonderful world of Samantha Donaldson this winter. In past moments Samantha shared her experience in the wedding industry, what inspires her and how the essence of her photography is filled with genuine moments showcasing the bond between couples. Alluring now to further explore the journey with photography, we absorb her knowledge and experience in this gorgeous interview below.

“I love that I get to combine the documentation of those real, raw moments during a wedding day with the ability for me to use my creativity and produce work I love and am proud of. Delivering a full gallery to a couple and hearing how much they love the images and the experience they had with me, how they cried watching their slideshow and how the images made the whole memory of the day come rushing back – that for me is pure satisfaction and makes me feel so warm and happy inside. I also love that I get to spend a whole day surrounded by love and happiness – I always get a sore face from smiling so much.”

When rugged up with a scented candle and a glass of red tune in to our first chat with Samantha HERE about all things passion, inspiration and her outlook on weddings.

We loved catching up with you for our last blog and are excited to be featuring your beautiful work again. We would love to hear about what you have been up to over the past year post-lockdown and how wedding season 2021-22 went…

I’m so excited about this feature – thank you guys! The past year has been busy but in a different way to usual. I had a wonderful season of amazing clients, but alongside my own lovely couples, I also stepped in to shoot weddings for other photographers who were unable to make the date for various COVID related reasons. It’s been topsy turvy but I’m so grateful to still be around capturing beautiful weddings for wonderful couples! Alongside that, my branding & interiors side of the business has been taking off and I’ve been working with a lot of absolutely incredible women business owners in various creative fields. I’m very passionate about both weddings and my lifestyle work and so grateful to have the balance of both.

How have you found the changes in the wedding industry and what have been your silver linings? 

Yes I think couples are seeing the value in more intimate weddings, focusing on what is important to them and increasingly throwing tradition out the window. I think that not being able to have big weddings has made people take stock… like hang on, what do we actually need here, just our nearest and dearest and our love.  I’ve been booking more elopements and small weddings and I love that! 

What aspect of photography do you feel is most sentimental?

Definitely freezing a moment in time that will forever bring back a memory and a feeling. A moment that possibly would have otherwise been forgotten.

Just seeing couples open up and show real connection when I am photographing them. I get excited when I can see they are just being them, fooling around, having a laugh, cuddling, having a dance or whatever unprompted. That’s where real magic happens in photos. What moments am I looking for? Genuine connection. There are certain moments on a wedding day that to me are quite raw and one of a kind, for example Dad seeing his little girl in her wedding dress for the first time and the enormity of the life occasion hitting him like a tonne of emotional bricks or seeing tears well up in guests eyes during a ceremony. We as photographers carry quite a responsibility in portraying these moments for the couple who cant possibly soak them all in or in some cases aren’t even aware of them happening.

What style of couple would be a great fit with you?

Relaxed, adventurous and willing to let go and have a bit of fun and show some vulnerability. I love movement and in between moments that bring the story together, so am continuously shooting as we walk and talk from one location to the next so I guess understanding that its not just about perfection, rather celebrating some beautiful imperfection too. Also couples that aren’t afraid to bring some uniqueness to their weddings and do their own thing, rather than following prescribed traditions just because they feel they have to.

If a couple are expecting rain on their wedding day, how do you approach this and is there anything they should bring?

If I can see in the forecast in the days leading up that a wedding is going to be rainy, I have a chat with my couple and we talk through a plan. Majority of the time you can continue as normal in the rain if you have some clear or white umbrellas which I usually have on hand in my car. On the rare occasion (eg a cyclone) it is torrential combined with high winds then we need to shoot undercover which with some venues (especially if its private property in the middle of nowhere!) can be tricky, but not impossible. If there really was nowhere and the weather was that atrocious we couldn’t get anything then I would be discussing the option of shooting portraits on another day, but I’m yet to have to do that in 9 years (touch wood!).

Do you have a preferred app or web space you can recommend for our couple to help keep their galleries safe and what made you choose this?

Yes I use Pic-Time for delivering all my client galleries which stay live for 12 months with the images nice and safe in that time! I love the modern interface of Pic-Time and the ease for clients to share, buy prints from the integrated print store and ease of downloading their images.

Taking a step back, when you ventured into the magical world of picture taking, what was your first camera and what sort of imagery did you first explore in your experimental phase of photography ?

My very first camera was a purple rectangle film camera when I was a kid! My first ‘serious’ camera was a Canon 3000n – also a film camera – which went with me travelling overseas before I joined the digital world with an entry level Canon 400d. Travel photography was a huge part of my experimental phase and that’s when I realised I loved capturing people and interesting places.

Do you have a favourite lens to shoot with ?

Probably my 35mm 1.4. I also love a 50mm focal length (I’m currently on a 55mm on sony) as its such a versatile length and has  beautiful results for portraiture.

What trends in photography have you admired and drawn inspiration from and when do you feel at your most creative?

I think it’s a combination of things coming together – give me amazing light and a client/s who are vulnerable in front of the camera and willing to try different things and have a bit of fun experimenting and magic starts to happen.

I’m always quite wary of trends to be honest because they date easily but I’d be naïve in saying that I don’t follow any trends at all because everything kind of is a trend at the end of the day. Also that’s not to say I don’t like to experiment and I love seeing when photographers do amazing double exposures, shooting through different materials and playing with reflections. What I do love is the ‘trend’ of modern photography being what you want it to be whether it’s editorial style, doco etc. There’s a lot more authenticity now than there was 20 years ago when wedding photography was rather stiff.

Do you have a dream wedding you would love to shoot and have not yet? Perhaps a dream dress to photograph too?

A dream wedding for me would probably be an elopement or micro wedding in a remote location with out of this world scenery. Elopements hit me a little differently, it’s hard to describe the level of emotion and intimacy that is felt where there is only a handful of the most important people in these couples lives. Add in some jaw dropping surroundings and that’s me, Im done. As for a dream dress? Well that’s a very hard question ha ha. Anything that’s a little different I normally get excited about. Some of my favourite bridal ranges at the moment are Hera Couture, Brooke Tyson Ritual, Karen Walker and Rue de Seine.

If you were speaking to your younger self, what piece of business advice would you gift yourself?

Learn about tax and accounting and do a CODB! Boring but essential. Also charge your worth; its all very well thinking you’ve hit the jackpot turning a hobby into a career and doing it for the love of it. But working for less than minimum wage does not make a sustainable business unfortunately.

Do you have any notable advice to other creatives looking to take a step into the wedding industry?

I think do your research and chat to some wedding photographers about the ins and outs of it all. Understanding that we aren’t just photographers who turn up to a wedding to take pretty pictures. There’s a lot that goes into the prep for a wedding day in terms of planning, for example helping the client with their timeline so that everything runs smoothly. Whilst we aren’t wedding planners there is certainly a large planning aspect that comes with the job and we are often the timekeepers on the day. The wedding industry is hard and it’s a saturated market so you’ve got to work hard to stand out, but it’s also amazing if you can make it work – sharing in someones happy love filled day is very uplifting.

Have you ever explored scheduled apps for your social media layout, if so what is your favourite and why?

Yes I have and I use Planoly. I just found it quite simple and easy to use compared to others I tried. You can play around with your grid before posting, schedule posts, save hashtag groups etc. You can upload on a computer too, not just phone which makes it easier for writing captions etc. Especially if planning multiple posts at once.

What do you carry in your bag on a shoot day?

Sony A7iv x 2 / Lens (all Sony) / 35mm 1.4 GM / 55mm 1.8 / 85mm 1.4 GM / 24mm 1.4 GM / Godox Speedlights V860 + V1 plus varying attachments for diffusing etc / Tripod / Video Lights / Harness / Spare batteries and memory cards

What are your views on how photographers can play a part in sustainability?

This is something really important for me that I’m forever striving to improve. I think if you are sending out prints or gifts or anything to your clients then being conscious of what packaging you are using, making sure it’s recyclable or compostable or that you’re reusing materials. And any marketing collateral – again being conscious of the materials you are using and choosing to use companies who are sustainable and have eco friendly processes and where possible based in NZ (not always possible!). Some examples and who I use are No Issue, Pinc, R3 Pack and Moo and I print through Trig Point who are big on sustainability.

What’s next for you and your business? Have you got any exciting projects in the pipeline? 

Well next summer is already 90% full so I’m VERY excited for a bumper season, I’m currently involved in an upcoming styled shoot which will be fun, and I’m excited about the branding work I have booked in the next couple of months with some very talented ladies. I’ve been exploring analogue a bit more lately too so I’m hoping to find some time to create with my new film camera and start offering this as an option for couples as an add on.

We are excited to have Samantha Donaldson as part of our Wild Hearts Vendor Collection. Click here to check out more of her beautiful photography and book your special day with the wonderful Samantha.

You can follow Sam on Instagram at @samanthadonaldsonphotography and on Facebook.

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