Valeria Manzoni on What it's Really Like to be a Wedding Photographer in Italy

| Thu, 10/18/2018 - 03:04
Wedding photographer

A dramatic location and the right dress are crucial points for an unforgettable wedding. But as time passes and memory slows, photos help us fill in the details and remember the charm of the day. No one knows this better than a wedding photographer. We asked Valeria Manzoni – a Neapolitan photo-reporter who decided to fully devote herself to wedding photography, launching her studio Valeria Manzoni Fotografia after the birth of her daughter – to tell us about her career change and to share her best tips for taking wedding photographs you'll cherish forever.

Luciana Squadrilli: Ciao Valeria, thanks for letting us pick your wedding photographer brain! You’ve been working as a wedding photographer for at least the last ten years. What made you decide to focus on this area of photography?
Valeria Manzoni
: Photo-reporting was too demanding with a baby, and income was always uncertain, while there was – and there still is – always a huge demand for wedding photographers in Italy, both from Italian couples and people from abroad who decide to get married in Italy. I started out of necessity, but then it quickly became a passion, since I put much of my previous experience as a photo-reporter into this. I don’t like posed pictures much, and I prefer to tell a story mostly through spontaneous images. On a wedding day, there is so much going on. So, as a photographer, I do many different things: portraits, reportage, food photography and more!

All photos courtesy of Valeria Manzoni

LS: Has your job changed a lot over the years? Is getting married in Italy still as desirable and popular as it's always been?
In Italy, get married is still a major moment in anyone's life.Yet nowadays the [average age of newlyweds] has increased; brides and grooms are usually older and wiser, thus weddings are bound to last longer. Or, at least, it usually is so. But it also happened that a groom left his spouse only two weeks after I took their wedding photos!

LS: What are the main pros and cons of being a wedding photographer?
Planning the work and personal schedule is easier, since wedding dates are usually set with huge advance. Yet it is a tough job: it starts from the very first encounter with the couple, since you have to understand which are their desires and their expectations. Usually, they come to my studio because they like my informal style, yet sometimes they have specific needs or requests.

LS: Do you notice any recurring differences in working with Italian or foreign couples?
Well, usually what is different is their approach to getting married. Italian couples still want to include a deep ritual meaning to the wedding, and it mainly involves family and tradition; brides and grooms sleep in their own family homes the night before and get dressed there, helped by parents and bridesmaids or receiving family visits; I have to document all this, taking pictures of every step. Food is very important to Italians, too; they usually have long lunches or dinners with elaborate menus. Foreign people mostly choose Italy for its natural beauty and its historical heritage: they look for beautiful churches, stunning sceneries and are more interested in having fun with friends. Usually getting dressed and preparation is shared with friends in a hotel room and they mainly focus on the after wedding party with music and drinks. This is why they usually prefer the scenic coastal area between Sorrento and Amalfi, full of wide, charming hotels and locations, rather than the city. 

LS: Can you share some of your favorite locations?
I love the Baroque church of Santa Maria al Faro in Naples, facing over the small harbor of Marechiaro. The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento and Villa Cimbrone in Ravello are stunning locations for elegant, sophisticated weddings. Yet – also to keep costs down – many couples are now opting for the boho-chic style, choosing a countryside location, such as a beautiful agriturismo. Think rural touches: a simpler dress, a bouquet of wildflowers, hearty food and a relaxed atmosphere.

LS: Is there one wedding in particular that stands out in your memory, one you absolutely loved shooting? 
I loved taking pictures of the wedding of Ermanno and Wendy. He’s Italian, she’s from Hong Kong and they live there yet they chose to get married in Sorrento. They invited their friends from abroad and it was really great fun. After the civil rite, they went to the small Sant’Agnello harbor to board on a caïque (a large wooden boat) sailing to the restaurant in the beautiful Nerano bay. They toasted and partied on the boat and the bride tossed the bouquet from there.

LS: What are some strange requests you've gotten? 
Recently, many couples have asked me to shoot the so-called “pre-wedding” photos, taking pictures of them in the places where they first met or where a major moment of their relationship happened. Yet, sometimes it was in a different city so it can be hard to manage! A bride asked me to take pictures of her coming out from the sea, with her beautiful dress on. Of course, this was on the day after the wedding! Another one was very fond of her dog, so she wanted many pictures of the two of them; the groom was not part of the shoot. 

LS: Lastly, for any readers who are engaged: Could you give your best tips for taking flattering wedding photos?
First of all: devote some time to choosing your photographer; taking great pictures requires time and attention. For brides: Invest in professional hairstyling and makeup! They have to last until the end of the wedding day and must be carefully executed. Avoid exaggerated, intense makeup as well as poufy dresses or sleeveless ones, unless you’re in perfect shape. I usually suggest to opt for soft fabrics and loose lines, and to wear a bodice underneath: they work miracles! White or similar colors are the most common of course, yet some brides choose different ones. It can be tricky, so what I suggest is opting for bright colored details such as red shoes matching with the lipstick and the bouquet. In winter, warmer colors are perfect, while for the summer season a lighter palette works well. This year, onion skin and turquoise are the trendiest colors.