Interview: James Day on Sony Alpha and the art of taking great photos

The Sony Alpha Awards are back in 2019, bringing together the greatest images from across Australia and New Zealand captured on Sony Alpha cameras and lenses, with over $25,000 worth of Sony camera gear up for grabs for the winners. Entries close this Saturday!We spoke with Sony wedding photographer and Alpha Awards judge James Day, to find out what makes a photo great, what’s rough about shooting weddings and his signature photographic flavour – dark chocolate.


Image by James Day. Used with permission.

AU: In your opinion, what makes a great photo?

James: For me in my world – a wedding photographer – a great photo is one that people will want to revisit. For the person who features in the image, a moment in time was captured where they truly felt something, whatever that may be.

AU: What is the hardest part of life as a wedding photographer? What’s the easiest part?

James: The hardest part is the fact that I work when my friends party… so my social life takes a bit of a hit. But the easiest part is that I pretty much socialise for a living… so I guess it balances itself out.

AU: You’ve been shooting weddings for 16 years and counting; what has been the biggest change you’ve seen in that time – be that in weddings, or technology, or both?

James: Because of instagram – well social media in general, but mainly instagram – people’s expectations of what is good versus great has changed. People are practicing photography every day, whereas when I first started, most people didn’t really know how to take a great photo. So people expect -deservedly – a pretty damn polished finished product.

Image by James Day. Used with permission.

AU: You’ve gone viral for your creative ideas and evocative images a few times now – has that changed the way you shoot? 

James: It hasn’t. While going viral can be fun and cool, it can be a HUGE distraction from what is important and when it all blows over you go back to every day life and wonder why the heck you ever wanted to go viral in the first place. The truth is, I photograph for my clients, not for the rest of the world. 

AU: If you could only shoot with one lens from now on, what would it be?

James: If I could have only one I’d shoot with the 35mm 1.4, if I could have two, I’d have the 24mm 1.4 and 55mm 1.8.

AU: Do you remember the first time you were super excited about a photograph you took? Can you describe it for us?

James: Yes! I was in London and I was 18 and I had just purchased my first digital SLR. I’d just met a homeless man who lived under an overpass. He told me he was a missing person who didn’t want to be identified or found, but I wanted to take a photo that reminded me of the encounter, so I took a hand held long exposure, which blurred the scene and brought out a painterly feel to the image. It was exciting that I was able to not just photograph exactly what I saw, but create something fresh.

Image by James Day. Used with permission.

AU: Do you have a favourite part of a wedding day to photograph? If so what is it?

James: The dance floor for sure. People pretend to be proper all day, yet on the dance floor they let loose and show us their true character.

AU: If your photography was food, what would it taste like? 

James: Dark chocolate. Tasty, a little bit naughty but will leave you satisfied. In case you didn’t know already, I’m obsessed with chocolate.

AU:What are your thoughts on formally studying photography versus jumping in without a certificate or degree?

James: For me personally, I think getting in there straight away and getting on the job experience is the way to go. Learning from someone directly who is doing what you want to be doing can’t be beaten.

AU: What advice would you give an aspiring wedding photographer who is just getting started in 2019?

James: Don’t over invest your time on social media. Get out and meet people. Tell their stories. Let them put it on social media.

Image by James Day. Used with permission.

The Sony Alpha Awards close for submissions on Saturday August 31st at 11:59pm AEST, so there’s still time to enter your work in their eight categories: Astrophotography, city/street, landscape, nature, portrait, seascape, sports and wedding. Visit the Alpha Awards website to find out more and enter your images.

Primary and high school students can also enter the youth competition with the theme “speed” here.