From the age of seven, Leeds-based Heather has been passionate about photography and, slowly but steadily, her life brought her to a point where taking the plunge, turning hobby to career, was the natural next step.
She hasn’t looked back since and now crafts beautiful portraiture and documentary-style shots of weddings at the helm of Heather Butterworth Photography.
Seizing the energy and creating beautiful images you’ll want to look at forever is Heather’s skill, and her atmospheric and stunning shots truly speak for themselves. We’ve caught up with the woman in question to find out more about her approach, what inspires her the most and what her favourite parts of a wedding are. She’s also running us through the prep for the big day and giving us behind the scenes peeps into the life of a busy wedding industry supplier.
If that wasn’t exciting enough, we’re also pleased to announce that Heather is currently offering you, our readers, a lovely 10% off bookings, so what are you waiting for?!
Hi, I’m Heather and I’m based in Chapel Allerton in Leeds. I’m a documentary wedding photographer and I like minimal posing and maximum reality. I’ve just added videography plus aerial work with drones to the menu too.
Where did your passion for photography come from?
I’ve been into photography forever. My Grandad gave me my first camera when I was 7! I formally studied photography at art college before completing a design degree. I then spent a decade in the corporate world which enabled me to buy a nice camera but wasn’t otherwise providing much job satisfaction. When I got on the right end of a round of redundancies, I took the plunge and decided to convert my hobby into a living, and I’m so glad that I did because I totally love what I do.
For me, food photography actually kind of paved the way into this. My brother is the founder of I Am Doner, the much loved gourmet kebab operation in Leeds and Harrogate. I’ve done various shoots for him in his shops and taken all the photos for his menus.
What do you love about capturing a couple’s big day?
It’s a big responsibility to be entrusted with making the photographic record of a wedding, and I will never lose the buzz I feel when couples say they want to book me. That’s a real placing of trust and endorsement of what I do, and I relish the challenge of then delivering my part of the bargain – photos they love! What I love most are the times when I see a shot briefly for review on the camera’s display and I think ‘YES, that’s the one’. Then I can’t wait to get it over to my couple as quickly as possible!
How would you describe your style of photography?
True to reality. It’s always tempting to say things like ‘natural’, ‘documentary’ and ‘story-telling’, and those things are accurate and, rightly, all over my website. But we do all say those things, or similar, so I’ll try to go a little further! I see my style as suiting couples who want their photographer to be unobtrusive, easygoing and to generally blend into their wedding day to the point where they largely forget I’m there. When I got married we didn’t want a photographer or anyone else shaping the day too much – we just wanted it to flow naturally and happily, and for us, our friends and our families to have the best day. When I take photos I’m capturing events as they unfold, rather than influencing the events themselves. That’s the core of what I do and that’s how I get the kind of shots I love.
What’s your approach like on the wedding day?
All the standard stuff. I do multiple kit checks, a good breakfast that’ll keep the fire burning all day long, note any last-minute ideas and make any weather-related adjustments to the plan. I’m on the end of a message or a call if my couples need me but all the timings, locations and any other special requirements are locked and loaded long before the big day, so it’s generally just a case of getting myself and my gear to the first location. If I’ve not worked at the venue before, I’ll usually go and have a snoop around ahead of the wedding to find some good spots to shoot and to understand the light. It’s good to say hello to the staff at the venue too, as they often have the best local knowledge and can pass on some hot tips.
Preparation is key, so when the big day arrives my couples will already know what to expect from me and how I work. Then it’s all about forgetting I’m there and enjoying themselves. There may be some shots that my couples have requested, or ideas we’ve had in advance, and, where these require a little prep, I’ll make sure that isn’t on their time. I do love to work with off camera flash for a faux sunset or a sparkling dance floor, so I’ll be making sure everything is set up and firing in plenty of time.
How do you build relationships with your couples?
In whatever way they are most comfortable. I don’t expect every client to become a new best bud, but for my style to really work the more familiarity there is between us, the better. Just turning up and expecting to take great photos of relative strangers just doesn’t really work for me. As a minimum we’ll almost certainly have had a few Zoom calls, starting way back at the point when they are still deciding who to book.
I do pre-wedding shoots too, and this is brilliant for getting to know each other a bit and also acts as a dry run for the big day. I think it really helps if couples have already been in front of me and my camera, know how stressless it is and most of all have an idea of how fab they will look in my photos! It’s not unheard of for me to meet up with local couples in person, too. Where better than the pub for some wedding planning!?
What sets you apart from other photographers?
The million dollar question! There are lots of brilliant wedding photographers out there, many of whom provide inspiration and ideas that have shaped my style, and will continue to do so. The couples that book me always say that they love the way my photos look and they want that look for their wedding too. I think it also helps that I’m pretty easy going and fun to have around, and I also take the time to get to know my couples and the details that will shape their day.
Do you have a favourite part of the day to capture?
Honestly, I love it all; I love a good party and I love taking photos! Every wedding is different, so the high points are different each time too. But if I must pick a part of the day then the bridal preparations are invariably lovely. Everything is still to come and everyone is full of excitement, plus I’ll have got a few gorgeous photos in the bag.
Where does your work take you?
To some fantastic venues and locations all over the north of the country, and a little trip to Skiathos a couple of years ago. I’d happily go wherever, although I have a 2-year old so anything much further afield might have to double as the family holiday!
What would be your top three tips for couples searching for a wedding photographer?
Take your time, find a style that you love and speak to your photographer before making a final decision.
And three absolute no-nos?
It doesn’t matter how amazing the portfolio looks if you don’t click with the photographer then don’t book without giving yourself some reassurance you’ll be able to rub along. Don’t ignore your gut feeling and don’t worry about asking lots of questions before you book.
What options do you offer when couples are booking you?
There’s a £100 deposit to book me and, if Covid-19 scuppers things and I can’t accommodate the new date, I’ll refund in full. I offer a few different packages, including a ‘Covid Package’ for small scale weddings which is £400 for 3 hours. My husband, James, is a videographer and qualified drone pilot, so I also offer his services in addition to my photography packages. It works well keeping it all in-house and means we can work together in post editing to make sure the photos and video are stylistically consistent with each other. My packages are flexible and I’ll happily tailor a quote to specific requirements if needed.
Is there a special discount that you would like to offer to our readers?
I’m offering readers 10% off any booking and that’s in addition to any other discounts e.g. midweek discount or some autumn/winter dates. I’m also currently discounting 10% for NHS and other critical workers. When couples enquire with me they just need to mention UNVEILED or Brides Up North and pay the £100 booking fee before 31/07/2021.