Jeff Ascough - A World Class Wedding Photographer

Regarded as one of the top ten photographers in the world by the prestigious American Photo Magazine, Jeff Ascough thoroughly deserves the acknowledgement given with such an amazing accolade. After more than 20 years in the business, his maturity of style is clear to see. 

He is truly committed to his cause - to bear witness to one of the most momentous events of your life, capturing every emotion with beautifully composed, timeless images. His custom made wedding albums are like fine art photography books.  They are heirlooms, each image evoking emotion that is preserved in print for the generations to come. 

Being held in the highest regard by photographers worldwide, together with his long list of accolades, you may be forgiven for thinking that success may have gone to his head, but you couldn’t be more wrong.  Quite simply, by his own definition, he is just an ordinary guy who loves spending time with his family in his beautiful home by the sea.  He is blessed because his driving passion is photography and that is what he gets to do every day. As I spoke to Jeff, his warmth shone through, matching his boundless enthusiasm for what he does. 

Your work is recognized globally and you were named as one of the world’s top ten photographers by American Photo Magazine, what is it about you and your work that has earned you this prestigious accolade and as a consequence do you now work all over the world?

When I first heard the news about American Photo, I was convinced it was someone winding me up, so I rang a colleague in the states and he confirmed that it was true!! It was a fantastic honour to be the only British photographer to make the list. However, the biggest high for me was when the Washington Post featured my work and said it was among the best wedding work they had ever seen! The article they ran on me put my work in front of more people than I could ever imagine, and got my images out into the photographic mainstream.

I guess what they saw in my work was a maturity of style - a result of more than twenty years shooting weddings combined with a use of natural light which gives my work a three-dimensional quality, and a heavy use of strong compositional elements. For weddings, my style of documentary photography is still pretty avant garde, particularly with my ‘hands off’ approach to shooting.

What they saw in me was a total dedication and passion for what I do. I constantly challenge myself, continuously evolving and pushing my photography forward.

I do get asked to work all over the world, and could possibly cover 20+ weddings internationally. However, I prefer to limit my international work to no more than two overseas weddings a year so that I still get to spend quality time with my family. Working overseas takes up an incredible amount of time and hard work. It can take four or five days of travel in some cases just to cover one day of shooting. A lot of inexperienced photographers are often seduced by the thought of working abroad and often don’t charge properly as a consequence.

Despite your success you remain incredibly grounded and Brides love working with you, what keeps your feet on the ground?

First and foremost I’m a photographer, I am passionate about what I do and taking pictures is completely natural to me. Photography provides my living and I’ve always looked at the long term, I still want to be taking pictures in 20 or 30 years time. In order to do this I know that I can never become complacent or think that I can’t improve my work. Besides, success for me is not how many accolades I get, but how much my clients like my pictures.  My wife also keeps my feet on the ground. She isn’t a photographer so she has a really good balancing influence on me.

What is your photographic style and has this changed over the years?

I started off in the late 1980’s shooting traditional wedding pictures; lots of formal groups, staged bridal pictures, that sort of thing. Away from weddings I used to document everyday life with my camera with lots of grainy black and white images of people and places. My personal work was the complete antithesis of my day job. In the mid 1990’s I became more and more frustrated and bored with the traditional wedding work, so I decided to mix in my documentary style on the wedding day. My brides loved these fresh pictures and over the next two or three years I moved totally over to the documentary style. I became an observer on the wedding day, unobtrusive, quiet, just taking images that interested me. I have been acknowledged as someone who pioneered this style of photography in the UK, which is nice, but really I just did my own thing and didn’t worry about what anyone outside of my clients thought about it.

It is often said that you were inspired by the work of Cartier-Bresson, for the uninitiated, who is he and what is so special about his work?

I first came across Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work when I enrolled on a photography course at college in 1989. I was blown away by his use of composition and his ability to capture a photograph at just the right moment. He was one of the most famous documentary photographers the world has ever seen. He pioneered the street style of shooting pictures - photographing people and places with an approach that demanded unobtrusiveness, observation and and ability to capture what he called the ‘decisive moment’ - the point when composition, light and the subject came together for the photograph. For me he was the master of composition and an inspirational figure. I wish I could have met the great man before he died several years ago.

Brides and Grooms are often advised by those in the know, that they should ‘invest’ in the best wedding photographer that they can afford, why is this?

A wedding is a huge event for everyone involved in the day. It is a coming together of families and friends and for some it can also be a very spiritual experience. It is one of those defining moments in your life. To me personally it is so important that it is photographed properly to allow future generations to enjoy the day through the pages of an album. However, it is quite common for brides to put photography quite low down on the list of importance and budget during the planning stages, but after the wedding the photography suddenly becomes the most important thing. The problem is that you don’t get any second chances at shooting the wedding again if the pictures aren’t very good. So investing in a cheap or inexperienced photographer could end up being a source of disappointment and frustration after the day, with that album you wanted as a family heirloom simply sitting in a box because it is too disappointing to look at.

One of the first questions I always ask my clients is how important their Wedding photography is to them.  I am very fortunate because with my clients having good photography is paramount to their wedding day; many have experience in the arts and creative media and so have a fundamental appreciation for the visual aesthetic.

What was your most memorable wedding and why?

Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien’s wedding without doubt. I am a massive Radiohead fan, and it was one of those days which will stay with me for a lifetime. I have shot some huge celebrity weddings, but this may have been the only time I was actually star struck (but only for a few minutes!!) as musically these guys are just such a big part of my life.

You have now photographed weddings for more than 20 years, what makes a really good wedding?

The people. The best weddings I have been to haven’t been the biggest or ritziest but the ones where the family and friends matter to the couple more than anything else. As an observer, there is something truly amazing about the vibe you can feel when everyone is having a fantastic time! The better photographs come from the people, not the place they are getting married in.

To find out more about JEFF ASCOUGH PHOTOGRAPHY, click here.

  • 18 comments "Jeff Ascough - A World Class Wedding Photographer"

    Add your comments

  • Pee Jay says

    4th May 2010 at 4:17 pm

    I spend far too long looking at Jeffs pictures and trying to learn from them. The use of natural light is just stunning. I'd get married again just to have him take the pictures. lol

  • Sally Reid says

    4th May 2010 at 6:57 pm

    I attended a recent seminar held by Jeff Ascough where he shared a wide range of his images and without exception they are the most inspiration images I have seen. As someone looking to build a photography business I found Jeff to be hugely approachable and generous with his advice and approach.... my aim is develop my own style but Jeff will stay at the top of my list of influences... hopefully someone may ask me for that list one day !!

  • Jonathon Watkins says

    5th May 2010 at 10:01 am

    Yes, I saw Jeff Ascough and Edmond Terakopian in Edinburgh for their 2 day seminar. Wow - the thought and care that lies behind each image is phenomenal. I aim for 90% photojournalist images at each wedding I shoot and Jeff has long been an inspiration.

  • Greg Thurtle says

    8th May 2010 at 7:50 pm

    A great interview of a fabulous photographer.

  • Anna McCarthy says

    10th May 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Yes, Jeff's work is consistently inspiring. I would bet that most wedding photographers have his blog on their list of favourites and follow and learn from it weekly. The ability to photograph a wedding (or a family or any group of people) with a total hands off/fly on the wall approach is what separates the wheat from the chaff in the documentary photography world. Jeff stands back but still engages us/the viewer in the emotions going on in front of him. He also has the inner confidence and personality to share which in this day and age is something to celebrate and encourage in us all.

  • Patrick Montgomery says

    11th May 2010 at 8:21 am

    When shooting 97% reportage it's not sufficient to be at the right place at the right time, you have to be there ahead of the right time and see the picture before it happens. Then you might just be ready to get a shot that has all the components of an image that looks so simple and yet captures all the joy and emotion that "really means something" to the couple. Jeff just does it! He's a top banana photographer. Patrick Montgomery.

  • David Colbran says

    11th May 2010 at 9:33 am

    Jeff has the talent of making photography look effortless - that's the inspiration for me. Making people relax to the point they no longer remember you are there is key. Definately one of my favourite wedding photographers - thanks for the interview - really interesting!

  • Sunny Kalsi says

    13th May 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Jeff's an inspiration for me. I everytime I see one of his images they entice and absorb in equal measure. It makes me want to shoot there and then, and that's the biggest compliment for Jeff. Great photographer!

  • Mark Kathurima says

    13th May 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Simply put, Jeff is the Cartier-Bresson of wedding photography

  • Doug Mcgoldrick says

    14th May 2010 at 3:18 am

    Great interview, Jeff's work has been such a great guide for some many photographers including myself, I continue look at and learn from his work.

  • Krzysztof Mazurkiewicz says

    9th July 2010 at 9:18 am

    Jeff is my authority

  • Suszanna Malikai says

    3rd August 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Can someone please provide me with Jeff Ascough's contact details please?

  • Mark Strefford says

    3rd August 2010 at 6:40 pm

    @suszanna - Thanks for your comment, Jeff's contact details can be found here

    We've also fixed the broken link at the bottom of the article...

  • James Fear says

    27th October 2010 at 9:37 am

    The Master. Full stop.

  • EyeToEye Photography says

    10th November 2011 at 10:42 am

    I just stumbled across this site, Great interview great photography.

  • Bali Wedding Party says

    15th December 2011 at 7:35 am

    better to marry retreat just because
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  • Wedding Photogrpahers says

    15th August 2012 at 11:14 am

    Great interview, I really like all the questions and answers, also the photography done is amazing. Great post.

  • Jannie Erasmus says

    26th March 2013 at 4:19 pm

    I have to agree with Pee Jay!! Your use of natural light is awesome. I really enjoy looking at your photography.

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