Meet Michael Briggs, aka Briggsy, a Melbourne/Yarra Valley Wedding Photographer, a family man, joker, musician and genuine legend.
Yeah, that time in my life I was like, alright, I’m going to be a musician. I want to be a full time musician. And I was in original band or a couple of different original bands. And, yeah, we played a lot of gigs and we get a lot of support gigs. And I played some cool shows and yeah, it went really well, but it’s kind of Not until we get to that stage in your life where you kind of need to make money and it’s notoriously very difficult to make money out of playing music.
I still play here and there, sometimes at weddings for fun during reception.
I’ve done so many different things. Yeah, that’s why people say me at a wedding, They expect you like did you go to uni to study photography? I’m like, Ah, shit. No, I have not done photography forever. Yes, yes. I’m also a qualified carpenter by qualified carpenter. I mean, like I did my apprenticeship and then stop working as a carpenter after I completed my apprenticeship.
Yeah, yeah, awesome question, man. I actually love that question because I did my apprenticeship as a mature age apprentice not like super mature. I joined again that was similar to when the move was about the time when the music stopped. And I was like, I need to get a real job. And my old man’s a carpenter/builder. So I started, I went to work with him. And because I’d kind of just like dicked around doing shitty office jobs or call centre work or whatever, and try to play music, I was like, I’m gonna get a real career. So my first thought of being a real career was to be a carpenter.
It wasn’t until I was working on a building saw that I realised I am shit at like, maths and practical work. I just, I just could not calculate Because carpentry is this exact work. It’s like everything is going to be exact, because if it’s not exact the fucking house falls down. So that was like my realisation that like, All right, cool. I can’t figure this stuff out. This is not in my brain, in my mindset. And that was like, that was my first real realisation as an adult who was like, Okay, I know what I need to do. I need to do something creative with my life. So even though I did that apprenticeship, but you know, I finished it because I’m like, wants to start something. I’m going to finish it. Um, so I did, I finished it. And I haven’t, I couldn’t tell the last time I picked up a hammer. Um, but yeah, it was a great realisation that was like cool. My brain doesn’t work that way
I can tell you my realisation behind like doing wedding photography full time; there was a light bulb moment behind doing that.
To Fast Forward many years in a few seconds, like after I’ve tried the carpentry thing or work some other jobs, office jobs and stuff like that. I didn’t really love it that much. But my biggest lightbulb moment for wedding photography was when I quit my office job that I was doing. I thought I had organised about enough work to be able to do wedding photography full time.
I started shooting weddings in 2011. So from 2011 to 2015. I kind of just dabble around in weddings, dabbled around and a few office jobs. And the start of 2015 I was like, Alright, cool. I left when I had enough work. Yeah, by the way, I did not have enough work to do wedding photography full time. But that was the biggest rocket up my own ass.
Pete The Celebrant: How many Weddings were you doing then?
2014 I was doing 20-25 weddings and I wasn’t really charging enough. I was probably only charging two grand a wedding so like, like 50 grand a year of weddings. So then 2015 I had maybe like, like 30 or for like 30 weddings booked in 2015 Yeah. And so that amount of weddings that I had bought was substantially less than the salary that I was on in the office job that I was currently doing. Yeah, we got back from my own honeymoon. And that was I was like, cool. I’m going to shoot weddings full time. And I knew that I was going to that I wanted to shoot weddings full time, so I quit my office job. Yeah. And I was like, Alright, we’re just gonna do it. And that was everything changed and that was my lightbulb moment. So all my work like you if you look at my website, like there’s nothing prior to 2015 on my website. So all my work, my mind, my creative mindset, my business, mindset, everything. Everything just changed completely when I had to pay mortgage and I had to pay my bills and show every time I picked up a camera at a wedding. That was life. Like, yeah, that was that was when it changed. And just from that at some touchwood it’s going pretty well. It’s going pretty well since then. Yeah, I rambled a little bit. But that was a that was a lot of years in a pretty small nutshell as well.
Pete The Celebrant: So 2015 is when youre career took off?
Briggsy: Yeah, this there’s nothing like the need to pay the mortgage or pay for food to be like, Oh, I better take this seriously.
Pete The Celebrant: Yeah, but obviously, you’ve got the talent to back you behind what nice like I’ve seen photography. It’s unreal. Thank you. It’s great. I’ve got some great shots from you.
Thanks, man. Appreciate it. Thank you for those photos.
Briggsy: You do bring your own lint roller? Every time?
Pete The Celebrant: No, not every time. Sometimes it makes it in the bag. Sometimes its in the car. Sometimes I’m rushing and don’t know where it is?
Briggsy: Do you lean towards the sticky lint roller? Or the you know the ones with the sticky ones or there’s the ones that you just roll? And then not sticky? Oh, a cloth sort of, what’s your what’s your lint roll a preference.
Pete The Celebrant: I’m definitely sticky lint roll person…A lot of things we could say with that. But it’s just it. It’s quick. It’s easy. And it always just cleans it up. No, I can just, whip it out. Zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom. If it gets too much lint. Just peel it off. Go again. Yep. And just fantastic. You put on another Sticky Strip.
(We talk about lint rollers and a multi tool he purchased)
Pete The Celebrant: How many weddings do you do now?
I around 70-75 weddings a year. I’ve never gone more than 80 and I’ve never gone less than 70. Yeah, so I sit somewhere between 70 and 80 weddings per calendar year. And wedding seasons to me is an absolute crock shit.
Pete The Celebrant: Is that a good balance for you?
Yeah, or that sort of that’s as much as you can sort of cram into the I’m both a bit of boys. You know what, like, I probably could do more. Like I actually couldn’t like in hindsight, sometimes I look back and I’m like, Oh man, I should just do more and paid off more of my mortgage and stuff like that. But, um, but, but also like I if I did that I might have given myself some kind of like, nervous breakdown. So, yeah, yes, certainly it is a good number I can manage that without that bothering me without being stressful. That still allows me so much time in my family that enables us to have a you know, a decent holiday or two every year which a lot of self employed people don’t get to do.
But yeah, 70 has always been my happy number.
Pete and Briggsy at work together
Pete The Celebrant: So I’m keen to know, from a photographer’s perspective, so a couple maybe before booking you, I don’t know what your process is exactly. Do you meet with all the couples beforehand? Do people just they just book you before? Like, how does that work in terms of couples getting to know you and getting to know how you work and then I want to ask a bit about what that process is like and what questions they ask you.
Briggsy: Yeah, it’s kind of 50/50 I reckon half the couples I meet in person at our local barbecue joint and Mooroolbark where I live, over a coffee or a beer or burger or some brisket. Um, we do that. Yeah, that’s 50% and the other 50% often word of mouth or they’re confident in my Google reviews or Facebook reviews. And they just booked me online. Yeah, so I would say almost split exactly down the middle. So I would say half the weddings, half the weddings I rock up to I’ve never met the couple until their wedding. And then the other half I’ve met them once or twice before the day.
Pete The Celebrant: do you find any difference between those who meet and those you just meet on the day?
Briggsy: No, no, no, no. Not at all. And it makes no difference. It makes no difference whatsoever. Yeah, I can give some pretty like, transparent answers about that.
I’m just you know, I’m all in and I’m a no bullshit. So here we are. So yeah. The two biggest transparent reasons why that doesn’t matter is one, people change so much on their wedding day. I can meet a couple at the local at the local barbecue joint, in their jeans and T shirt and they’re the most chilled out couple in the world. And I’ll go home and I’ll say to my wife, like man, these guys are so chilled out. Their wedding day is gonna be amazing. And then I get to their wedding day and the bride’s mom has gone crazy or there’s a crazy bridesmaid or the bride is just high strung on her wedding day for whatever reason. And I’m thinking “You are not the people I remember in your jeans and tshirt”; they jjst changed completely on their wedding day.
And the other side of the coin, I can meet people down at my local cafe. And they can be really nervous because they’re meeting 10 photographers and they’re nervous about being sold to because the other nine photographers all just tried to sell them shit. And they’re just like, on edge and then they’re like, Oh my God.
And then I get there on the day and they’re just chill as fuck, that’s the biggest reason. Yeah.
The other one is, and any anyone who would listen to this would not look down upon me for saying it. Is that most of the time, even if I have met them or haven’t met them? It’s 12 months before their wedding day. And when it gets to their wedding day, I don’t actually remember them anyway, for the most part, because I’ve met so many couples in between that time.
And I know that sounds rude, but I shoot a high volume of winnings. And that’s what I do. But again, you know, like, little things will trigger my memory when I start chatting too. I’ll be like, “hey, how’s work?” And they’ll say, “oh, this and that”. I’m like, Oh shit. Yeah, I met you and I remember you talking about that, but I don’t leave a couple meeting and I don’t write down stuff like Austin was a fireman and Kelly was a psychiatrist. I didn’t write that down. So it’s like it’s all up to my brain to remember which is all shit house.
Pete The Celebrant: Yeah, now I think that’s a massive difference between a celebrant and a photographer. We do all that work beforehand. It’s my job to know and to get to know them and yeah, then be that… not to be their best friend, but to appear as if I’m their mate that’s been by their side the entire time to say “Here’s how they got together.”
But similarly we meet couples almost 18 months before the wedding, sometimes before that. Like, I’ve got, you know, we’ve got 2022 weddings.
So to catch up with them 3 to 4 months before their wedding… sometimes I’m like, No, I remember their face like vaguely, but I can’t remember what they do. But that’s what we meet again for, and like you I remember bits and pieces from that original meeting. The brain can only hold so much.
Briggsy: Yeah, and I obviously like I don’t want to sound rude or arrogant or anything by saying that; like I love my couples and my couples are the reason that I get to do what I do. And I feel like on the day like I have a great rapport with my couples, but that rapport to me, I think it’s just, personally, that report exists, whether I’ve met them five times, or whether it’s for the first time on the day like that’s the kind of person I am. The same goes for remembering the guests at a wedding. If there’s 100-150 people eat each wedding, after 70 weddings a year…that’s a lot of people. When people recognise me. I play this game in my head to try and remember their name.
Pete The Celebrant: That’s when you know you’re becoming famous Briggsy, getting noticed in the carpark, haha.
Briggsy; You know, I never got that rock star thing. Now it’s time to do that with photography, haha.
Pete The Celebrant: Do you do most of your weddings in the Yarra Valley?
Briggsy: No, no, 70-80% of my work is in the Yarra Valley. Obviously like the way I market myself, my website and my wording and my marketing is Yarra Valley orienteted because that’s just marketing. When I want as in as in do one thing and do one thing somewhere and do a bloody well and I feel like that’s kind of like my thing. But I do Melbourne city weddings and country weddings, I’ve shot in most states in Australia – even shot in Las Vegas last year. Yeah, I’ve been everywhere man. So yeah, a lot of my work is Yarra Valley but um, I’ll shoot it no matter where, even in their back yard.
Briggsy capturing that incredible petal shot
That is a good question. Um, every couple has different questions. One of the most common things that people say is naturally are attracted to my work and the kind of way that I shoot. So yeah, like they say “we just want to relax to any we want a casual wedding we don’t want to pose in our photos.
And all that kind of stuff so um yeah we don’t like posing wedding photos, that’s a really common thing that people say naturally because of the kind of work that I show, that it’s not super like high end You know, like fashion posey show kind of work.
So yeah, that’s probably one of the most common ones that people say.
Which is interesting because I always say to them that even though my work online looks candid or natural, or whatever organic, whatever word you want to use for all that organic; my photos are actually quite posed and quite set up.
I actually like telling that to people face to face because most people when I say that to them, most people are like “What, your photos are posed?”
I’ll tell that too anyone till the cows come home. The art in doing that is making these pose or setup photos look entirely like they’re not posed or set up. And to explain that a little bit further is that most couples have never done any modelling whatsoever in their life, like I’ve shot 400 plus weddings. And in that time I’ve had I can count on less than 10 fingers, the amount of the amount of brides or grooms who have had some modelling experience in that time. So that leaves 398 people who have never had any modelling experience whatsoever.
So if you just put them in front of the camera and just say, just go over there in some nice light and look natural…you can’t.
If you’ve never done any modelling how can you just stand there and relax and be like fucking relaxed.
That’s when it’s the photographer’s job to say. “Okay, cool. I’m gonna direct this moment. I’m gonna pose this moment I’m gonna help these people have an organic moment in this
completely unorganic situation. Like…when else in your entire life are you just in a field in the sunset, just sitting there going ‘alright, cool’.
That’s never happened in your entire life until your wedding day.
Without direction, how are they gonna make that look good? You know?
Pete The Celebrant: Yeah.
Briggsy: I love explaining like that to people because even though they love candid photos and love organic photos, trust me during your portrait session during those couple portraits, you want someone to help you out a little bit. So you give couples a lot
of direction. I give them direction and obviously that direction is to get to the result of it looking organic.
Every photographer has different ways of doing that though man. Everyone has their own methods and tips and tricks and stuff like that.
And I have done one on one mentoring sessions for photographers, and I’m running sessions for photographers for like four hours, eight hours and I’ve just spoken about posing couples and directing couples.
But yeah, absolutely. Yeah I definitely direct couples a lot. The most common thing I kind of hear is kind of did a go to list of poses or stances you want people to be in. Like “hug” and then I’ll play games with the couple and I ask them questions. So I’m like, “you know, like, do something simple like, you know, hey, groom, what’s the bride’s favourite TV show? And he always fucks up that answer. Then straight away like they’ll laugh at each other, because that’s kind of funny. Then I ask them “share your favourite body part of each other” And then that just says it quietly. And then they’ll laugh at each other.
And then when they laugh at each other like, they’re already in a nice pose and some nice light, and then when I have that moment, they’re laughing.
Like, again when you take those photos.
Pete The Celebrant: What else do couples normally ask?
People ask me our first looks a lot.
I think because people kind of, you know, naturally we kind of follow what America does on their movies and TV shows and shit like that. So as far as I know, majority of weddings in America, they do a first look. A couple of friends who shoot weddings in America for extended periods of time. And they’re like, pretty much every wedding in America they do a first look, it’s just an American thing.
But in Australia, it’s still probably only like 20-30% do a first look as opposed to America has like 90-95% .
Yeah, there’s pros and cons. The first looks, I have the world’s most epic blog about it on my website because if we’re talking Melbourne Yarra Valley, if you’re getting married between October and March, which is when we have daylight savings in Melbourne. Yeah, for the most part first of all is a huge waste of time. If you’re getting married between April and September, unless your ceremony is early enough in the day that you have enough light and time to be relaxed to have couple portraits after the ceremony, you need to do a first look between April and September.
But for October – March, it’s completely unnecessary. You don’t need to do it. That’s my that’s my short answer long answer about it.
Pete The Celebrant: To add onto that, I’ve had a bride recently ask this, regarding time. A ceremony is and most couples have it about three, four or five o’clock somewhere in between that but that’s the majority. A bride asked me my preference on time and I suggested they check with their venue, but then also the photographer because I know that you guys are thinking about lighting. You guys and gals photographers are..I imagine that’s what you’re mainly thinking about. If a couple asked you what’s the best time to have a wedding, what would you say?
Briggsy: Haha, no one ever asks that question – Entirely depends on the month, like in a city like Melbourne where our light and weather varies so much from month to month. It entirely depends on the map. Yeah. If you get a summer wedding, like totally have it as late in the day as possible.
Pete The Celebrant: Because you can also go for a big sunset shot?
Briggsy: Yeah, from a photography perspective, all you want is 15 minutes of sunset. That’s it. As long as I’ve got that, as long as I got that I can deliver something awesome to the couple. Yeah. And again, Melbourne, you don’t always get a sunset and it’s most you know, it’s much literal sense when like the sun hits the horizon and the light is beaming through, but even if it doesn’t, that last light of the day, even if it’s cloudy or overcast, that last light of the day. Just be like so beautiful and romantic. And that’s like an awesome time to take photos. So, yeah, as long as you got 15 minutes of sunset, so during the summer, it really doesn’t matter what time the ceremony is, to be perfectly honest. I mean, from a photography perspective, for your portraits, obviously like, but if it’s like getting married in Melbourne, anyone have a ceremony at 3pm in January, you like you need to prepare for the possibility that it could be 42 degrees… like think about that.
Think about how comfortable you and your guests, your celebrant. Florist, photographer and everyone’s gonna be…
And in winter, don’t have your ceremony to late, like don’t don’t have your ceremony at 5pm at night. Because by the time your ceremony’s over it will be pitch black, you don’t get any sunset portraits, no time for your family photos, anything like that.
So have it earlier in Winter.
For a summer wedding you have heaps of time and you can jus duck out for photos whenever, but with Winter, definitely have it earlier.
The biggest tip that I can give to people and I realised this by looking at my instagram photos and the couples are the happiest and the most comfortable and the most natural during that time of portraits and ceremony and during any part of the day is that they are present. That’s it.
The biggest tip you can give someone on their wedding day: Be present, be present. And that sounds so simple. But it is so hard.
Pete The Celebrant: Hard because they’re thinking about the day and everything coming up e.g. speeches?
Briggsy: Yeah, just humans, humans find it hard. Man you can like you can just google being present. And there’s a million podcasts, so audio books or novels or anything. You know, like, as I do most, I think one of the most famous books is a I can’t remember the author but it’s a book called The Power of Now is written in the mid 2000.
(we talk about being mindful and what he’s been doing during COVID to be mindful)
Awesome, awesome question. I love that…number one. But it’s ‘are the other couple having a good time?’
Yeah, I’ve constantly got to remind myself about that it’s just like, this is their day, they’re like yeah, we might have 45 minutes allocated for a couple portraits but if they don’t have any good time then just do something else. So, are the other couple having a good time; that’s the biggest thing!
And the other thing is just moments, I’m just constantly looking for moments. I remember it was about three days before Christmas last year and I was shooting/running a Collingwood children’s farm and I was just shooting guests arriving to the ceremony and, you know, just the usual stuff I do prior to the ceremony and this dude rolled into the ceremony. Nick Burly, a high school friend of mine, I hadn’t seen him since high school, we chatted for like 30 seconds, and then straightaway. I apologised to him I said, “Mate, the rest of the night and day you’re gonna have all these disconnected conversations with me” because I’m always looking around wondering; has Grandma rocking up, Is there a kid doing something cute and I’m like trying to focus on Nick who I haven’t seen in nine years. So I was just like looking for moments and I’ve like resigned myself to the fact that like if I’m shooting a wedding. I’m just looking, I’m looking for moments constantly, which is why I like people like friends who ask “oh can you shoot my wedding”. I was like I love shooting friends weddings like it’s cool, and 99 times out of 100 I end up shooting my friend’s weddings on the day and I don’t get to be the guest, which is fine and I find that really complimentary but I’m always… I can never actually truly just be a wedding guest. If I have a camera in my hand I’m just always just like looking for those moments. So the whole time from when I rock up to when I leave, I’m never present in a conversation that I’m having with someone at the wedding. I’m always present in just what’s happening at the wedding to me.
Pete The Celebrant: I 100% agree, when I chat with you. Yeah, I just thought you would just ADD, haha, This guys peaking right now! But now I get it. This is what you do, you’ve got to capture these moments in and not talk to some celebrant no matter how good he is, haha, you got to do your job. And so, yeah, totally testify and I’m glad that makes sense to me.
Briggsy: Yeah, I’m gonna, you know, I’m gonna nail this shit for them, so that’s my train of thought.
Briggsy: Just find people you connect with, I think particularly you know it any suppliers who you’re going to be spending any significant amount of time with on your day, such as the celebrant of photographer or videographer or even kind of the musician, you’re going to be chatting with them a fair bit you know.
There’s some suppliers that you don’t deal with that closely on the wedding day you know and that’s not to discredit what those suppliers do as a job, but particularly the supplies, you’re going to be dealing with like the ones I just mentioned. Make sure you connect with them, and you can gel with them.
For example, I’m thinking about booking Pete as the celebrant, would I be happy to have some eggs benedict with this guy on a Sunday morning, like, is this the kind of guy I want to hang out with? And if the answer is yes he sweet, this guy could be my celebrant.
Can I catch up with the corner hotel on a Friday night or would he be a bit awkward, then maybe he’s not your celebrant. But, you know, if the answer is yes to that then then Totally, yeah, to me, that’s the biggest thing, human beings you connect with.
Because they are gonna be hanging out with all your people, your friends and your guests. And yeah, connection is everything. Yeah, being connected and being present.
Man I’m sounding like I’m like, I’m turning 37 on Sunday and I’m just like, some sound like some kind of hippie meditating, being present and connected… but it’s, it’s very true, it’s very true.
Pete The Celebrant: Everyone’s gonna come out of Corona like, ah, I just love hearing your really sexy smooth voice, but also Briggsy is deep on an intimate level like, he cares about his soul and my soul he wants to be present and that’s yeah beautiful, you know.
Briggsy: When I say that, I’m being legit, I mean it though, haha.
Pete The Celebrant: For all that know you, you’re one of the most genuine people I know so you don’t have to worry about being misunderstood or fake.
Thank you so much for coming on the podcast and for all your wedding advice!
Briggsy: Thank you got having me!
Planning your wedding and need a Melbourne Celebrant – Look no further, you’ve found me! I’ll guide you through the whole process; vows, paperwork, story writing and stand by you on the day to deliver the ceremony you desire. Let’s talk!
Share this post