DPP: In addition to those steps, one message you repeatedly conveyed while your workshop attendees were shooting was to slow down and perfectly set the scene so you can nail the shot the first time, which proved to be a challenge for many of the participants—myself included! How do you practice this, especially when under pressure or in a particularly stressful situation as a wedding can sometimes be?
Ghionis: The act of slowing down while shooting is a muscle memory that I developed early on in my career because my first professional camera was a Mamiya RB67. I took every photo while using a tripod and with a Metz flash. I was lucky enough to have a 220 back, which means that I was able to take 20 frames before having to change the roll of film. So, it conditioned me to create and capture my images methodically.
DPP: You shoot weddings photojournalistically by creating spreads that tell a story. How has this become an important style that helps your work stand out?
Ghionis: I tell my couples that I like to capture the magic that’s there and help create magic when I need to. I describe capturing the magic that’s there as shooting photojournalistically, at the ceremony and at the reception, for example. Then, my formal portraits are when I help to “create magic.” The reason I like to make images look glamorous and natural—as if I happened to be at the right place at the right time—is because they then blend in seamlessly with the photojournalistic moments.
DPP: While you seek out the best light and guide your subjects in posing to get the best shot possible, how do you help make potentially nervous subjects feel more comfortable and confident so that it shows in your images?
Ghionis: Slowing down is the key because couples will always feed off your energy. If I’m calm, then they’re calm. If they’re frantic, but I remain calm, then they’ll soon reflect that energy. Building trust with your couples is incredibly important, and that happens way before the actual shoot. Couples need to laugh with you before they cry with you. If you have confidence and empathy and can show that to your clients, then it will go a long way in getting them to feel more comfortable with you.
DPP: During your workshop, you shared some images that looked like composites, but were, incredibly, done in-camera. You also demonstrated capturing a reflection portrait on the hood of a hotel van, proving that you don’t need an incredible setting to make incredible images.
Ghionis: Believe it or not, MacGyver has had a huge influence on my photography career. Everyone in the ’80s was obsessed with the TV show, MacGyver. One of the best parts of the show was that he’d always make something out of nothing. And I’ve often asked myself, if MacGyver was a photographer, what would he do? It makes you think differently. Also, I often say that you photograph the way you are as a person. I believe that I’m a very positive person, which means that I can walk into a room that many photographers would ignore and I’ll see the positive aspects of it before the negative. All I need is a pocket of light or some elements that can make my photographs interesting.