Judge interview: John Yates

Judge interview West Coast Wedding awards

We are excited to share this interview with 2021 judge John Yates from Celladora Photography! John has taught photography in collage and has been a photographer for 11 years.

Tell us about yourself! 

Growing up I dreamed of being an astronaut. Now I dream of photographing the first wedding on Mars! I’ve been a professional wedding photographer now for eleven years. I love getting to experience such a special day in people’s lives and having such unfettered access to people’s intimate moments. Travel is a big part of my life. I love visiting other countries and I’m trying to visit (and photograph) all of the US National Parks. In addition to photography I love teaching! I’ve taught classes in photography, business and critical thinking. It is such a great feeling to be able to give back and share my knowledge with others. A few years ago I took an improv comedy class and got hooked. I love performing and putting on variety shows with my comedy group. In my free time I enjoy playing disc golf and cooking.

What makes your business unique, different or special?

I really feel like I offer couples a chance to feel comfortable and really let loose and be themselves. My experience lets people feel at ease. My personality allows couples to really connect and be present in each moment. I love working with couples who look at their wedding day as a celebration and I’ve been known to get out on the dance floor with them.

How do you support your lifestyle when you have less weddings than expected for the year?

In addition to weddings I also photograph some commercial work which keeps me busy in the “off-season.” Being a wedding photographer really prepares you to do so many types of different photography work.

If you had one piece of advice for couples looking for a wedding photographer, what would it be?

Make sure you can connect on a personal level with your photographer! Your photographer will be by your side for 8+ hours on one of the funnest, craziest, most intense days of your life. You want to make sure you will be able to have a good time with them and that they enhance your day with their presence.

If you weren’t shooting weddings, what would you be doing for work?

Writing maybe? I definitely need my job to also be a creative outlet and I’m not great at drawing or painting.

What do you think makes a photograph good?

A photograph is “good” when it checks all the technical boxes: composition, lighting, exposure, etc. It also needs to have interesting subject matter. The trick is that anything can be interesting subject matter. It is up to the photographer to make the connection between that subject and the viewer of the photograph. A good rule of thumb in photography is if the photo isn’t interesting get closer to the subject. You can take this literally by moving closer or zooming in. Or you can spend more time learning about your subject and connecting with them before you push the shutter.

What do you think makes an image award winning?

Our society consumes so much media and at such an increasingly fast pace. The goal is to create an image that makes people stop for just a moment in the infinite scroll. Being able to hold a viewer’s attention is usually a sign that you have a great image. For me this comes down to creating connection and storytelling. Creating award winning images is especially hard as a wedding photographer because for much of the day you only get one chance to get “the shot.” You have to be at the top of your game technically so you can get the photos your clients want but also photos that push you creatively.

Any advice for new photographers? 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I had a really strong support system when I was first starting out. Being a photographer can feel like a lonely job, especially with all of the time we spend sitting in front of our computers. Find other photographers who can push you to be better and hang out with them whenever possible.

What’s something people need to understand about photography?

Photography isn’t just about pushing a button. A photograph isn’t good because the camera is new or expensive. A great photographer will make it look effortless but a lot of skill, time and preparation goes into capturing a great photograph. I love that everyone now has a camera in their pocket at all times. But we need to be more precious with the photographs we take. Print them out, make an album out of your photos. In a couple of years your phone won’t work anymore and if you haven’t backed up those images somewhere they are lost forever. I am so grateful to be able to look at photographs of my grandfather and his friends. I hope that future generations will feel that way about the photos we are taking now.


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West Coast Wedding Awards is an awards program for photographers residing on the west coast of Canada and USA.


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