A short interview with Mott Visuals photographer – Aaron Joel Santos / by Anh Nguyen

You’ve shot a lot of fashion and documentary work, how does that background influence your wedding photography?

I’ve always felt like my fashion and documentary backgrounds were the perfect mix for shooting weddings. As wedding photographers, we’re dealing with fast-paced, energetic, and hectic schedules, with so many things happening all at once, so my documentary background comes in quite handy. It’s helped me keep calm in the center of all that potential chaos. Beautiful chaos, but chaos nonetheless. Mix that with my fashion background and the expectations of beauty and artistry that come along with it, and you get a kind of wonderful blend of both worlds: someone who knows how to be there to capture all of those fleeting moments throughout the day while paying attention to the beauty and artistry of everything around him. Or at least I hope so.

If you could only show your client one wedding picture from your portfolio what would it be and why?

Oh man. That’s a really difficult question. To reduce an entire wedding portfolio down to one image is insane. I love to think that my photos build upon each other, each a crucial piece of the larger story. My favorite images tend to be those natural moments where the light just seems perfect and everyone is looking their best and maybe there’s something a little strange or off-putting or just odd enough to stand out in the background. So maybe this picture has all of those disparate elements. Though I don’t think I’ll ever delete all of my other pics and just have this one in my portfolio.

You shoot a lot of Vietnamese weddings, do speak the language or have any communications problems?

My Vietnamese is pretty good, so I’ve never really had a problem communicating with local brides and grooms. That being said, we’re always working with our own Vietnamese crew members as well, so on the off chance I don’t understand something, help is usually only a few feet away.

What piece of advice would you give to a bride and groom on how to make better photos on their big day?

Give me a huge cash tip at the beginning of the day or else I’ll take terrible pictures of you. Simple. Just kidding. Just try to relax. You can really see stress on someone’s face, so the photographs will reflect that. Trust in the day and let all your worries go. We’re there to take some of that burden off of you too. Practice your smile in the mirror. It may seem embarrassing and silly, but who cares. Everyone has a different style of smiling. See what looks best for you! Make sure you feel beautiful, that you’re happy with your hair and makeup. You can really tell when someone knows they look like a million dollars. It radiates in photos, that self confidence, and it’s amazing.

What piece of advice would you give to potential bride and grooms about choosing their destination wedding photographer?

Um. Honestly, just hire me. I’m smart and funny and if you’re getting married on the beach, chances are I’ll end up in my underwear taking photos from the beach or pool.

Why did you join Mott Visuals Weddings?

Justin and Chris have been great friends for as long as I’ve lived in Asia, and I respect their work as much as anyone else’s in the region. It’s such a great feeling to work not only with people you consider wonderful friends, but also with wonderful friends that are stellar photographers. It’s important to work with people who push you creatively through the work they’re doing, and both Justin and Chris do that for me. Plus, Justin’s smile gets all the boys to the yard. And Chris has a great graphic novel collection I like to borrow from.

Do you recommend the bride and groom to leave the resort to capture the local culture when you are shooting a destination wedding?

I think it’s a brilliant idea to get off the resort and get a bit of local color and culture in your wedding images. It adds another dimension to the final visual story, plus it’s a fantastic way to interact with whatever town you’re getting married in. There’s nothing better than hitting the streets of Hoi An or somewhere similar in your wedding dress and suit and having all the shopkeepers clamoring over how beautiful you look, yelling their congrats to you, and stopping to have their picture taken alongside you. Sometimes it’s those seemingly small and fleeting moments that mean so much when you return home.

Have you seen any interesting trends in wedding photography?

Trends are a funny thing. They’re gimmicky by nature. They’re a little like choosing Gangnam Style as your wedding song. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but the overall longevity and relevance is questionable at best.

You rely a lot on natural light, what do you do when a wedding has bad weather?

There’s this idea that bad weather means bad photographs, but really nothing could be further from the truth. Bad weather just means different photographs. It means we get to get creative. It means we go chasing the sun, or we’re finding windows with beautiful streaks of water to shoot through, or we’re using those dramatic skies to various ends. Some of the best photographs come out of the craziest situations, when we’re all pushed to our limits, running through the rain, dashing under umbrellas, cursing and laughing and everything else. It’s the emotions of the day that make amazing images, not the weather.