I was actually eyeing a totally different wedding on Joshua Mikhaiel's portfolio to feature here before the Australia-based photographer pointed me to this elegant country nuptial, one he says was "truthfully, probably the highlight of my working year."
I was definitely intrigued.
"I could tell from the very first meeting with Hailee and Jarad that they were going to be a perfect fit for my style," Mikhaiel says. "I place a huge emphasis on connecting with my couples and making sure I really connect with the story I’m telling, and as they shared their story and talked about what they were planning, I was already getting super excited for their wedding."
This wedding remains one of the most memorable for Mikhaiel largely because of the people. "The joy that was just so evident in what was happening and the raw and honest way the couple interacted throughout the day was just beautiful," the photographer says, and of all the wonderfully beautiful details throughout the wedding, he loved "how they involved the children and included them into the proceedings as the two families became one."
As a journalism and graphic design student four years ago, Mikhaiel bought his first camera and fell into wedding photography "completely by accident," he says, initially wanting to take his camera abroad to become a war correspondent.
"My flatmate at the time was getting married and was broke so he said, 'Hey, you’re creative, and now you have a camera. You can take our wedding pictures, right?' And as a young clueless guy I thought, 'Yeah, sure! How hard could it be?'" Mikhaiel recounts. "At that first wedding, I just fell in love with telling stories with a camera instead of with a keyboard, and the freedom I suddenly had to get right inside the story I was telling."
"The reception speeches were pretty fantastic as well," Mikhaiel says. "I love a great speech and I’ve always enjoyed shooting crowd reactions almost more than any other part of the day because it’s completely candid and unscripted."
He made sure to capture the most emotionally significant moments, including one off-script moment in particular: when Hailee’s son got up to make "an impromptu speech accepting Jarad to be his Dad," he says. "I mean, that stuff just makes me melt and cry at weddings. I love it."
As is the case at most weddings, Mikhaiel did encounter some obstacles to tackle along the way, one of which was the rather dark reception hall as the sun set out of sight. "It creates a beautiful mood for the whole room, but it can be a photographer's worst enemy at times," he says.
"I hate using flash if I can ever get away without it, so I really had to work hard to make sure I was hitting my focus points and managing the increasing noise my camera was putting out as the night went on," he explains. "It was so dark at one point my camera and f/1.2 lenses just really didn’t want to co-habitate willingly, so I switched to shooting live view and manual focusing during the speeches and on the dance floor to make sure I got everything nice and sharp. I would always rather have noisy photos that really make you feel like you were there in the dimly lit room than bounce a flash and distort the way things actually looked on the day."
In Joshua Mikhaiel's Gear Bag
CAMERAS: 2 Canon 5D Mark III bodies // LENSES: Canon 35mm f/1.4 L (his "go-to lens all day"), 45mm f/2.8 TS, 50mm f/1.2 L, 135mm f/2 L // LIGHTING: Canon Speedlite // OTHER: Holdfast Gear leather camera straps, "to keep everything balanced and my back in shape as well."