A CHAT WITH SAM AND ALI
Creative Directors of White Lane, interviewed by Bella
SO IN NINE WORDS TELL US ABOUT YOURSELVES?
Sam: Nine? Well there’s one. Now four. No, eight! Woops.
Ali: Eight’s my favourite number so let’s go eight.
Ali: Ahh I hate describing myself! How about I describe you?
Sam: I think this paints a good description of us.
HOW DID YOU GUYS END UP WORKING TOGETHER?
Sam: I like to say that we met with Ali as my teacher, and I her student.
And we ended up the opposite. Now I teach Ali…
*Ali punches Sam*
Ali was my high school art teacher. She helped me a lot to express what I wanted to say in a major work film I was creating. I had never picked up a camera prior, and my film was about my Dad who died a few years earlier. It was a process, and she helped me through it. From there, the trust built, and after I finished school I continued to ask her for help with different projects .
When I got invited to shoot my first wedding, I asked Ali to shoot with me as I knew she had a pretty extensive photography background.
Ali: Sam was one of those people who sneaks into that place in your heart that’s reserved for friends and family that you really care deeply about. I don’t know how he got in there, but I can’t get him out, so have figured he’s there to stay. He was a bit of a cheeky rascal at school, but every time I looked at him I saw a pile of buried treasure and I guess it’s been my mission ever since to help him to see the gifts that he has. He seriously blows me away with how talented he is. I keep telling him that it must have been because he had a super good art teacher, but really he just has a great eye and mind for capturing emotion and telling stories.
*Laughs, I’m happy to always be a student – but now the teaching/student thing is much more mutual.
WHERE DOES THE MAGIC HAPPEN FOR YOU?
Ali: We’re based near Sydney in Australia. I made the move out to the country with my husband, and now, waking up to bluebirds tapping on my window and kookaburras laughing is one of my bliss points. But I LOVE to travel – have Laptop and camera – will work anywhere!
Sam: We’re pretty geographically transient – and shoot all over Australia and the globe. Whenever we are investing in our equipment, we’re always considering how practical it is to travel with it.
WHY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHS AND FILMS?
Sam: I don’t know if I’d call myself a wedding photographer or film maker. I like to be that guy who’s struggling as an artist because I’m more passionate about the art of it rather than making a living from it. I think it’s all about celebrating love. I find it fascinating that cultures celebrated the love of two people coming together before they even knew other cultures existed.
Ali: I love people! And weddings are such a great gathering of family, friends and community. I love street photography too, but people tend to get a bit nervous when a stranger is pointing a camera at them. At weddings I get to point my lens at people and they can’t say no.
I always used to take a lot of photos at friend’s weddings and fell in love with the whole process. I think the thing I love most is revealing to people just how beautiful they are. It gives me great joy to capture someone’s personality and beauty and say ‘Hey that’s you!” A lot of people aren’t too confident that they look good, so when I am able to capture that special look or raw emotion – ahh, there’s nothing like it.
I'm also a graphic designer, and love the opportunity to design wedding stationary for couples. So if there is an idea you love then shoot it through!
IS IT JUST THE TWO OF YOU, OR DO YOU HAVE A TEAM?
Ali: We couldn’t survive without our team! We have some incredible shooters and editors who we have trained to shoot in our style. And who we have the best fun with!! We really are so lucky to work with such great people whose talent we admire. We try to out do each other with crazy ideas. And on weddings that I haven't shot, I love seeing the creative ideas our team have come up with.
We usually decide on who the team will be for your wedding a couple of months before your day and give couples a chance to connect with them beforehand. It's a great idea to book in a couple shoot, so you can feel comfortable in front of the camera and with the person who will be shooting your wedding. All of our second shooters are first shooters in their own right - so if you have Carmen, Josh, Ben, Alex, Luke, Nate, Deb, Sandra, Amy, Harri or Heath you can be assured that you will receive amazing service, have a lot of fun and have the most beautiful photos and film of your day.
Sam: Our team have worked with us for years so that our style is consistent and our standard is always high. We also occasionally have guest photographers come and join us who we have met on our travels across the globe. We ensure all our shooters are creative artists and people we implicitly trust - and as Ali mentioned - we often compete with each other to see who can produce the best work!
You may occasionally also get one of our assistants come along who we are training up (included with no charge to you, so sometimes you get a whole lot more photos that you thought you would!)
I HEARD YOU TWO EARLIER TALKING ABOUT DESTINATION WORK…
Sam: It’s when we get to pretend we are big stars and shoot weddings overseas. We never really make anything out of it. Well… financially we don’t. It’s all about the experience for us. It’s about “seeing the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel”
Ali: *Sings… ‘Check ignition and may God’s love be with you…’ Sorry everything brings a song into my mind.
Sam: I don’t know if she heard the question… let’s move on.
Ali: I was referring to your quote above! It’s a line from a song in Walter Mitty. Just at the point when he decides to launch himself into the adventurous life. But I guess David Bowie was before your time…
Ali: And yes we do love to travel… we’ve done several weddings in the USA, Fiji, New Zealand, Thailand, Bali, Hawaii, Poland, Italy, Brazil, London and Mexico, plus all over Australia – so yep, we will go anywhere!! We had a few OS ones booked before the pandemic hit, so hoping we will get to go in 2021. Meanwhile we have been loving doing elopements and small intimate weddings - they have such a special charm.
HOW ABOUT SAME SEX MARRIAGES?
We are 100% for it of course. We have been fortunate enough to capture some friends ‘celebrations’ in the past and we're so glad that now, at least in Australia, it's officially recognised. We have captured some beautiful same sex wedding recently (soon to appear on the website).
WHITE LANE – IS IT THE DREAM OR HAS IT BEEN TOUGH?
Sam: It’s been painfully lovely. I work best under pressure. That’s why I come alive at a wedding. But it is painful at times, I get stressed when I can't make deadlines because I'm such a perfectionist and want things to be 'just right' – But what’s growth without a bit of stretching or pain? What’s love without a bit of stretching and pain? What’s anything without it…
Ali: Yep definitely the dream! Mmm has it been tough? No not too bad, I worked in advertising and design agencies so know what it’s like to stretch myself to capacity… But painful sometimes, I fell down a ditch late one night down a country lane when we were doing some experimental stuff, and sprained my ankle at another wedding. I’m just waiting to see Sam fall out of a tree.
Sam: We often laugh when we remember how it started. We would meet in a cafe every week and just chat about dreams and possibilities. Or just chat with friends. And suddenly it just took off! We shot 8 in our first year, then 48 in our second… until now it's nearly every weekend.
WHY DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL? I HEAR YOU ARE BOOKED OUT A YEAR IN ADVANCE?
Sam: I can never really answer this question. I just kinda look at the ground and shrug. As all artists, I’m deeply insecure about what I create. If it’s not at it’s finest, I literally get the shakes. It’s a weird habit I really need to fix as it can be destructive at times… sometimes I delay giving films back for a while because I just need to make sure its perfect.
Ali: I think it’s because we are so crazy and passionate to do things just a bit differently perhaps? We like to have a creative edge to our work and everyone on our team loves to push each other to the limits. We really dislike the posed, cheesy wedding look – and we seem to attract clients who feel the same way.
Sam: The biggest compliment we’ve ever gotten was that we are sensory photographers.
Ali: Yeah I loved that!
Sam: Perhaps it’s that. Most of our work comes from word of mouth, even the destination work… so maybe it’s that we genuinely care, not just about our product, but for our clients too. When the groom feels awkward in front of the camera, I totally get it. So I work 110% harder to capture him naturally. Same for the bride.
I think it’s become determination to be the best version of myself I have to offer. And through that, these last few years have been incredibly successful.
SO, WHAT'S THE PROCESS WHEN A COUPLE ENQUIRES?
Sam: Most people contact us from our Connect page on our website. Our studio manager will shoot through some information about us and the Packages we offer – and then check to see if we are free on that date.
Ali: We then arrange a time to catch up over coffee or wine – or a phone call or Zoom. It's a great opportunity to find out if we are the right team for them. We discuss a few ideas on how to make the process as easy as possible and give some recommendations of people we know and love in the industry, because we know the people who really care! If couples are keen we can also organise an engagement/couple shoot for a bit of fun.
Sam: We keep in contact, answering any questions up to the wedding day. We also have a few online forms we send out to give us more detailed information so we can plan properly for the day. We also send an online quote – where you get to choose your options, then a contract and an invoice with payment information. There is a $1500 deposit for photography and $2000 for cinema, and then the remainder needs to be paid 6 weeks before the wedding. We tell people not to stress if they need to make a slightly different arrangement with us. We’ll still be there, camera ready, to capture the day exactly as it happens.
Ali: Depending on the package, we usually photograph and film for around 8 hours, covering both the bride and groom preparation, the ceremony, a bridal party shoot and the reception – and often some fun shoots at sunset or under the stars. We usually finish at 10pm, but if you would like us for longer you can just book extra hours on our online quote form.
Sam: They are pretty full on days and we don’t stop to take breaks for lunch and don’t take the risk of going away from the reception to order dinner, so we would be very grateful for a meal at the reception to give us some fuel to keep going!
Ali: We then edit our images and choose over 800 photos (depending on your package), a mixture of colour and black and white, and send you an online gallery in around 8 weeks. You’ll get a few sneak peaks before then too! During busy months it might take a bit longer. We view your wedding portfolio as a work of art, and we won’t rush it. So if it is taking a little while it is because we are making sure it is the best quality possible.
Sam: Yeah, sometimes life happens. I've ended up in hospital a couple of times and when we are working overseas we get a little behind, but most of our couples are understanding. We never give anything over just because we haven’t met the deadline. We keep working until the product is the absolute best it can be. Cinematography takes a little (sometimes a lot) longer to return. There’s many hours of re-watching the film, and handcrafting it so it is artistic and truthful to the day. It’s a huge process! Depending on the season, films often take 10-16 weeks.
Ali: After the day clients choose their favourite images and design an album and order some prints. Print is always SO much better. It makes sure your photos don’t get lost in a computer file somewhere. It’s so nice to open up a book or walk past that image on your wall and relive your memories. There’s just something about it that keeps reigniting your love every time you see it!
Thanks for reading a bit about who we are. We’d genuinely love to hear from you whether you’re engaged, passing by, or even a creative yourself.