In the enchanting world of wedding photography, where each snapshot tells a story of love and joy, Karoelien Rust stands out with her remarkable ability to capture the essence of a couple’s special day. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for storytelling, Karoelien has carved a niche for herself as a sought-after wedding photographer. In this exclusive interview, we delve into the creative mind of Karoelien Rust, exploring her journey, inspirations, and the secrets behind her stunning photographic artistry. Join us as we uncover how Karoelien masterfully freezes moments in time, creating timeless memories for couples to cherish forever.
How did you get started in wedding photography, and what inspired you to specialize in this field?
I started my photography career while working as an Emirates aircrew member. I knew I wanted to be in the wedding industry and slowly started building my portfolio in that direction. It took some second shooting, and one wedding after the other; I got more inspired and officially started shooting weddings on my own in 2021.
Can you describe your photography style and what sets it apart from other wedding photographers?
My photography style is documentary with an editorial feel. I’m all about capturing the fun and candid moments. I find inspiration in my clients and let their personalities be my guide. I don’t believe in a visual style (moody/bright/editing) but rather let the feeling define my style. Every wedding and project will look different, but the “feeling/mood” will consistently show. What sets me apart? I try my best to give my couples an authentic, uninterrupted experience on their wedding day. The main goal for the day is to have more time for family and friends and not be dragged away for photos. That gives me ample opportunities to capture the real moments. I try my best to tune into what is important for my couples and then focus on that the entire day.
What equipment and camera gear do you typically use for wedding photography, and why?
I shoot with two Nikon bodies. A Z7 II and my very favourite D750, I’m already stressed about the day I can’t use it anymore!!! My go-to lenses are the Sigma 35mm 1.4, the Sigma 85mm 1.4, and the nifty 50mm 1.4. It gives me diversity, and shooting with two lenses gives me an instant change in focal lengths. I can’t live without my Godox V1 speedlight! Flash photos are making a huge comeback, and it’s an incredible flash to play and get creative with!
How do you approach the pre-wedding consultation with a couple to understand their vision and preferences for their wedding photos?
It’s incredibly important that a client’s vision and expectations align with my creative approach. With my pre-wedding consultation, I attempt to understand their vision and expectations and educate them on my approach. Instead of just looking at the end result: “This is what we want; this is what I’ll give you,” I work on building trust and getting to know them and what they are about. If they trust me and know that I have their memories as my priority, I can inject my creativity and capture their day in the best possible way. Every couple receives a wedding guide from me explaining my approach and touching on all elements and how we can make their experience as authentic as possible. That way, we can spend more time during the pre-wed meeting to get to know each other
Can you share some tips for couples on how to choose the right photographer for their wedding?
Go through their Instagram/website not once, not twice, but multiple times. Familiarise yourself with their photography style, editing style, and creative approach. You need to like what you see because your photographer won’t be able to deliver something different for you. We all have our specific styles, that is why we showcase them for you to see.
Schedule a meeting. This is the best way to get to know their personality. A huge part of a photographer’s service delivery is their personality and how they conduct themselves. A meeting will give you a good idea if your personalities are compatible. I’ve had calls before where I immediately realised that we don’t have the same expectations, and I would much rather see that couple find the right photographer to really get what they want.
What are some common challenges you face when shooting weddings, and how do you overcome them?
Couples that are difficult to photograph. Unfortunately, I’m not always able to schedule an engagement shoot with my couples, and on the day, I might have a couple that is extremely shy or just more reserved. I’ve learned to match my energy to my client’s. That way, I’m not coming in full steam excited and overwhelm them even more in the process. Instead, if my couple is shyer and quiet, I give them the opportunity to enjoy the day that way. If my couple is hyped and excited, I will most likely be dancing with them from getting ready to the last few minutes on the dancefloor. By matching their energy levels, I’m more observant and ready for their special moments.
How do you handle unexpected situations or changes in lighting and weather conditions during a wedding shoot?
It is what it is. I embrace chaos and thrive under pressure. I can operate my camera’s closed eyes, and being an over-shooter makes it near impossible to miss a moment. During my pre-wedding meeting, I also discuss managing expectations with my couples. It is extremely frustrating planning an outdoor wedding for months only to change it at the last minute because of rain and wind. But at the end of the day, you’re not there for the decor and setup but to celebrate your love. Anticipating and embracing imperfection has a certain charm for me.
Can you walk us through your typical workflow on the wedding day, from preparation to post-processing?
Creative prep entails a photo timeline and a creative shot list. My shot list is not something I tick off but rather a guide to inspire me and approach every couple differently. I try to create different mood boards based on my clients’ expectations and vibe to give every couple a fresh approach without copy-pasting the same poses/prompts. Physical prep entails charging and formatting cards and ensuring my entire kit is ready to go the day before a wedding. The morning of a wedding I try to spend with my family.
Wedding day: Always a cappuccino for the road. It has always been my pre-workday ritual. It calms me and combined with a good playlist, it really gets me going for the day.
When getting ready, I have recipes that I follow to ensure that I capture everything, including behind the scenes, focusing on the bride or groom. Detail shots that matter. Placing the bride and groom in the best light and then letting them do their thing without repeating or interrupting. For portraits, I’ll have them moving, dancing, and chilling to get natural shots. I step back and let everything happen naturally during the ceremonies, canapes, receptions, and parties. It’s the most essential part, and both guests and the couple should be able to enjoy these moments. I might quickly step in to get a shot, but mostly everything is candid. I use more direction and prompts to get creative for the couples’ session, decor, and family photos. My post-processing entails copying and backing up RAWs the day after the wedding. Mondays are usually reserved for culling (I use Narrative Select) and importing the selected images. I usually give around 100 sneak peeks, trying to cover every aspect of the day. I like to have these ready for my couples and the vendors while the excitement is still there. Final delivery will be around eight weeks after the wedding, and then the album process starts.
What do you believe is the most important moment to capture during a wedding, and why?
The moment of interaction with loved ones, including Mom helping her daughter get dressed. Sister adjusting the dress. Dad handing over his daughter. The groom seeing his wife for the first time. These moments with loved ones are the images that make you relive your day. It evokes emotion and guarantees that couples will view their photos and go, “Wow, you really captured EVERY single moment.” I remember my first reaction to my own wedding photos was: Look at everyone enjoying themselves. Look at my mom’s reaction there, etc.
Do you have a favorite wedding you’ve photographed or a memorable experience you’d like to share?
I will NEVER forget the wedding of Libby and Paul at Lion Sands in the Kruger National Park. It was absolutely exquisite. It also caused a complete turning point in how I capture my couples as they really trusted me to capture candidly. The bridal getting ready and portraits happened in 20 minutes and the groom’s in 15 minutes. But every moment came out perfect. After that wedding, I realised that I have a specific client that I would like to book, and that client is someone who trusts my approach and only wants to enjoy their wedding day.
What do you believe sets a great wedding photograph apart from an ordinary one?
A great wedding photographer captures for the client. Not for their portfolio. Yes, it’s essential to ensure you get stunning images; why else will they book you? But, in the end, you are there to listen to and serve your client and let them experience their day to the fullest. With that as your main goal, you will not miss a shot and capture more moments.
Do you find any specific moments or details at weddings particularly enjoyable or challenging to capture?
My favorite moment to capture during a wedding is when the bride arrives at the ceremony. The faffing, the anticipation, and the special moments with her loved ones overwhelm me with joy. The most challenging for me to capture would be family photos.
Can you recommend essential tips for capturing candid and emotional moments during a wedding?
Allow extra time in your timeline! A rushed timeline will cause a rushed photo experience. Make your ceremony 30 minutes earlier to have time with your friends and family. Scale down on getting ready activities to enjoy and chat with your bridal party. Every now and again, I get a wedding where every minute of the day is spent getting a specific shot, and I always see the lack of candid moments in that gallery.
What advice would you give aspiring wedding photographers looking to establish a successful career in this field?
Do not undervalue yourself. The repercussions of charging too little are massive, not just for you, but this also creates an unachievable expectation for the rest of the industry. Get the right experience, don’t just second-shoot and assist blindly. Choose photographers you would like to learn from or who inspire you, and then LEARN from them. Observe how they operate/direct or just interact with their clients. Treat the industry with respect and professionalism. We don’t do 9-5, but we still need to establish working relationships. Being friendly and humble can take you very far. Leave conflict behind and focus your energy on your customer experience.