Through The Lens: An interview with award-winning wedding photographer Zabair Khaliq (ZS Productions)

Zabair Khaliq is the co-founder and creative director of ZS Productions – a multi-award-winning photography and cinematography studio based in Bradford. ZS Productions have worked with big name stars such as boxing heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and production powerhouses like Channel 4, giving them the skillset and experience to provide their customers with the very best the wedding photography industry has to offer. Here, we spoke to Zabair to find out what goes into creating a memorable wedding photograph, share some of his wedding highlights, and discover the stories behind his most notable works.

What got you into photography?

Growing up I was always painting, drawing and building things. At the age of 10 I entered a Yorkshire-wide competition for designing a tie and won first prize. As part of my reward, I was whisked away in a Jaguar limousine (I remember because it was my first time sitting in a Jaguar or a limousine and I was amazed that there was a fridge in the car!) and visited Leeds City Hall where I cut the ribbon to open a new gallery exhibition. I met stars from the Leeds Rhino rugby team and was also gifted a camera. I absolutely loved that camera and cherished it until it fell apart years later. And that’s where my love for photography started.

Can you tell us about your background as a photographer?

ZS Productions was the brainchild of me and my older sibling. We both wanted an outlet away from our daily nine-to-five jobs to get our creative juices flowing so we set up our business in 2011. Due to my brother not being able to hold the camera steady, I took the lead in filming events while he photographed them. It was only in 2015 when he decided to part ways and focus on his teaching career that I took over the reins of the business and really sunk my teeth into photography. Moving from being a videographer to a photographer made the transition easy and it also meant I had the flexibility to pick and choose what I wanted to cover during events. Eight years on, I have honed my skills in both aspects of the business and recruited the best talent out there to give us a real edge over the competition.

What makes a good wedding photograph?

If I had to pick, I’d say the top two elements of a good photograph are composition and capturing emotions.

Put simply, composition is how a photographer arranges subjects, foreground, background, and everything else within the frame. It’s also about getting the framing right too. During my classes with budding photographers, I sometimes give an example of photographing a door. Most people will not put too much thought into it, but a good photographer will compose the photo in such a way to make the door look more interesting than it actually is.

A really good photograph captures a snippet in time. It tells a story and it captures emotion. There are so many ways this can be achieved. From the reaction of subjects to the lighting that sets the mood, almost every element in the photo can be (and should be) used to tell a story and capture raw emotions.

What equipment do you use, and do you implement any particular techniques or camera tricks?

I made the jump from Nikon DSLR cameras to Sony Mirrorless cameras about four years ago. I find their autofocus to be the most reliable on the market and as a hybrid shooter (someone who shoots both photos and videos), I find it very useful when covering video shoots as well as photography. However, my team use a range of cameras from Canons to Nikons and it really depends on personal preference. Most importantly however, is getting to know your camera and mastering the ability to take exceptional photos even in less than ideal conditions. You also have to learn to adapt quickly, especially during weddings which are usually non-stop, and you will be expected to be on the go. You can’t exactly tell the bride and groom to wait mid-dance while you play around with your camera to get the settings right.

What’s the most memorable wedding you’ve shot this year?

The most memorable this year was a wedding we covered in Stanley, County Durham. The wedding only had seven attendees and that included the bride and groom! It was such an intimate affair and the families were absolutely amazing to work with. Having such a small guest list meant we spent hours on the couple shoot and the couple even had a change of outfits to freshen things up. Needless to say, the end results of the photos and movies were exquisite!

What destinations rank highest on your wedding bucket list?

You’ve got to love a destination wedding. Especially if it’s some place with nice views and great weather. I don’t have any destinations on my bucket list in all honesty. I’m more of the type to see where life takes me. Having said that, if any couples reading this are thinking of tying the knot in the Bahamas or Hawaii, hit me up!