A short interview with Mott Visuals photographer – Aaron Joel Santos

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You’ve shot a lot of fashion and documentary work, how does that background influence your wedding photography?

I’ve always felt like my fashion and documentary backgrounds were the perfect mix for shooting weddings. As wedding photographers, we’re dealing with fast-paced, energetic, and hectic schedules, with so many things happening all at once, so my documentary background comes in quite handy. It’s helped me keep calm in the center of all that potential chaos. Beautiful chaos, but chaos nonetheless. Mix that with my fashion background and the expectations of beauty and artistry that come along with it, and you get a kind of wonderful blend of both worlds: someone who knows how to be there to capture all of those fleeting moments throughout the day while paying attention to the beauty and artistry of everything around him. Or at least I hope so.

If you could only show your client one wedding picture from your portfolio what would it be and why?

Oh man. That’s a really difficult question. To reduce an entire wedding portfolio down to one image is insane. I love to think that my photos build upon each other, each a crucial piece of the larger story. My favorite images tend to be those natural moments where the light just seems perfect and everyone is looking their best and maybe there’s something a little strange or off-putting or just odd enough to stand out in the background. So maybe this picture has all of those disparate elements. Though I don’t think I’ll ever delete all of my other pics and just have this one in my portfolio.


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You shoot a lot of Vietnamese weddings, do speak the language or have any communications problems?

My Vietnamese is pretty good, so I’ve never really had a problem communicating with local brides and grooms. That being said, we’re always working with our own Vietnamese crew members as well, so on the off chance I don’t understand something, help is usually only a few feet away.

What piece of advice would you give to a bride and groom on how to make better photos on their big day?

Give me a huge cash tip at the beginning of the day or else I’ll take terrible pictures of you. Simple. Just kidding. Just try to relax. You can really see stress on someone’s face, so the photographs will reflect that. Trust in the day and let all your worries go. We’re there to take some of that burden off of you too. Practice your smile in the mirror. It may seem embarrassing and silly, but who cares. Everyone has a different style of smiling. See what looks best for you! Make sure you feel beautiful, that you’re happy with your hair and makeup. You can really tell when someone knows they look like a million dollars. It radiates in photos, that self confidence, and it’s amazing.

What piece of advice would you give to potential bride and grooms about choosing their destination wedding photographer?

Um. Honestly, just hire me. I’m smart and funny and if you’re getting married on the beach, chances are I’ll end up in my underwear taking photos from the beach or pool.

Why did you join Mott Visuals Weddings?

Justin and Chris have been great friends for as long as I’ve lived in Asia, and I respect their work as much as anyone else’s in the region. It’s such a great feeling to work not only with people you consider wonderful friends, but also with wonderful friends that are stellar photographers. It’s important to work with people who push you creatively through the work they’re doing, and both Justin and Chris do that for me. Plus, Justin’s smile gets all the boys to the yard. And Chris has a great graphic novel collection I like to borrow from.

Do you recommend the bride and groom to leave the resort to capture the local culture when you are shooting a destination wedding?

I think it’s a brilliant idea to get off the resort and get a bit of local color and culture in your wedding images. It adds another dimension to the final visual story, plus it’s a fantastic way to interact with whatever town you’re getting married in. There’s nothing better than hitting the streets of Hoi An or somewhere similar in your wedding dress and suit and having all the shopkeepers clamoring over how beautiful you look, yelling their congrats to you, and stopping to have their picture taken alongside you. Sometimes it’s those seemingly small and fleeting moments that mean so much when you return home.

Have you seen any interesting trends in wedding photography?

Trends are a funny thing. They’re gimmicky by nature. They’re a little like choosing Gangnam Style as your wedding song. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but the overall longevity and relevance is questionable at best.

You rely a lot on natural light, what do you do when a wedding has bad weather?

There’s this idea that bad weather means bad photographs, but really nothing could be further from the truth. Bad weather just means different photographs. It means we get to get creative. It means we go chasing the sun, or we’re finding windows with beautiful streaks of water to shoot through, or we’re using those dramatic skies to various ends. Some of the best photographs come out of the craziest situations, when we’re all pushed to our limits, running through the rain, dashing under umbrellas, cursing and laughing and everything else. It’s the emotions of the day that make amazing images, not the weather.


The deconstructed image – episode 1

When I see an interesting photograph I always start deconstructing it in my head – this is how I picked up a lot of skills and especially in the early days of my photography career looking at the Exif data of images on Flickr or reading Joe McNally’s book The moment It Clicks really helped me to develop this skill further.

So I figured to do a series of deconstructed wedding images – this can help aspiring wedding photographers to get some new ideas but also gives a bit of an insight to couples of how we work. Here is the first one – let us know what you think.



So this shot was taken on a pre-wedding shoot in Hoi An in April. It was beautiful afternoon sunlight around 3pm but as you can see in the shot there was no direct sunlight here – the natural light used here is light that bounced of the walls on the other side of the road creating a nice and soft fill light.

I always like to create different layers in my photos so in this case I tried to place the groom about 50cm to 1m from the nicely patterned wooded wall to blur it out slightly and then i place the bride 3 meters in frot of him so I can blur her out in the foreground.


For the EXIF data freaks among you here you go:

Camera: Canon EOS 6D

Lens: Canon 35mm f1.4 L-series

Apperture: f1.4

Exposure time: 1/4000 sec

ISO: 100

no flash

For the post production I basically increased vibrance, clarity and contrast, pumped up the blacks a bit and did some burning on the outer parts of the frame to create the darker mood.

I hope this was interesting and helpful…


Mad Men Series Finale Location (Spoiler alert) | Wedding in Big Sur

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You’re probably thinking what does Mad Men have to do with wedding photography? Don’t worry I’m not going to attempt to drum up some weird deep connection to the two just because there is a buzz about the series coming to an end. This is simpler than that. I am in many ways similar to Don Draper with my rugged handsomeness, complex inner struggles, and checkered past. No, no, no, that isn’t it either ok ok I’ll get to the point.

I’m huge Mad Men fan and I’ve seen every episode on flights all over the place en route to various shoots. For the finale I was able to be at home, sort of the opposite of Don Draper in the finale. I sat down in front of my TV, dressed in my 3-piece suit with a bottle of scotch and drank in the episode. As Don escaped to a wellness retreat on the stunning coast of Big Sur, California I couldn’t help feel familiar with the location.

It was indeed the exact setting for a beautiful wedding I photographed a few years back at Anderson Canyon. For a wedding photographer and for a bride and groom you couldn’t ask for a better setting, it was breathtaking. For those fans of celebrities this is also the place where Natalie Portman got married.

So yes this blog post is a long-winded way of saying “cool, I’ve shot there”. While Don Draper ends in a Zen moment doing yoga I sprained my ankle that day not far from his yoga aread, but hey I never said I was as cool as Don Draper.


Here are some of my favorites images from that day.


Blog by Justin Mott/Mott Visuals Weddings

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Emily and Danny's Wedding Story by Mott Visuals Wedding PhotographyBig Sur, CaliforniaJune 2013


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Emily and Danny's Wedding Story Big Sur California by Mott Visuals Weddings 080



Venue | Anderson Canyon, Big Sur


Photographers | Justin Mott and Stephen Lam/Mott Visuals Weddings

Wedding Planner | www.allisonweddings.com


An Interview With Mott Visuals Wedding Photographer Christian Berg



How did you come to Vietnam?


I grew up in Germany and I first came to Vietnam about 12 years ago. It is actually quite funny as we have more and more clients from Germany and many of them are really surprised when they find out that they actually hired a German photographer in Southeast Asia. But back to answer your question – I first came to Vietnam 12 years ago when I studied Southeast Asian Studies back home… I fell in love Vietnam, I stayed longer for internships and freelance work with different media organisations. And eventually I stayed.



Describe your style of photography?


I come from photojournalist / documentary background. So one of the pillars of my style is capturing natural moments, rather then setting up scenes. For me the beauty of photography was always to give my own interpretation of reality. In a sense as a photographer I try to “read between the lines” and try to show things that others might not see, without actually changing the reality. Natural light plays a big role here.

Apart from that I like more complex compositions with different layers of foreground and background.


Why did you join Mott Visuals Weddings?


I think with Mott Visuals, Justin established the strongest brand in Wedding Photography in Asia. I have been following Justin’s work and we also have been friends for a long time. So when he asked me to join Mott Visuals Weddings I did not think twice – I love working together with other photographers as passionate as Justin and Aaron and we constantly push each other to become better shooters. It is a very inspirational environment.



What is your favorite destination for shooting weddings and why?


That is a tough question because there are some many beautiful destinations in Southeast Asia.

But I think my favourite is still Danang / Hoi An in Vietnam – the central coast has beautiful wedding venues such as the Intercontinental Danang Peninsula Hotel, where there are always new shooting opportunities to discover – and if the couple likes another portrait session the ancient city of Hoi An is simply amazing in the late afternoon light.



If you had to show a potential client only one picture from your portfolio what would it be and why?


this shot – i think it perfectly captures the joy a wedding can bring to the couple –


Chris Berg interview _ Favourite Client photo



Do you speak Vietnamese and have you had to use your language skills on a shoot?


I speak pretty fluent Vietnamese – and yes I had to use it on many shoots . Mainly on editorial assignments, but also on Wedding shoots with Vietnamese clients – for example it might be that bride and groom speak great English but maybe their parents don’t – so speaking Vietnamese definitely helps breaking the ice…


How is your style different from local photographers?


I would not so much distinguish between local and foreign photographers, but rather say my style is different from traditional wedding photographers – I have seen weddings where the photograher basically chases the couple around the whole day – do this, do that, repeat, repeat again… this can be really annoying for everyone involved. Of course for the portrait shots i do there are a few staged shots involved, but apart from that it is really more about storytelling and actually capturing the moment..


Can you share some of the memorable moments that you’ve had while shooting?


There are lots of memorable moments for sure, but one that is still in my mind is a wedding I shot a few years back in Mui Ne – it was supposed to be a beach wedding but the weather turned terrible – however the couple, Uyen & Kha, really kept up the great spirit and it was a great party and very memorable for everyone – the photo above is actually from that wedding.


What piece of advice would you give to potential bride and grooms about choosing their wedding photographer?


I think first of all you should look at their portfolio – check out the weddings they have done before and find a photographer whose style you really like. Secondly you should make sure that the photographer has shot already many weddings and does not use your wedding to practice – wedding photography is not easy and you want to have someone on the day who really knows how to get the best shots. Also have a look at the pricing – are you quoted and all inclusive price (including travel, lodging etc) or are there additional costs? how many images are included in the deliverables etc…


What piece of advice would you give to a bride and groom on how to make better photos on their big day?


Have a Skype call with your photographer a few weeks ahead of the wedding to go over details – he also might be able to give a few timing suggestions (e..g when is the best light for photos etc..) – set aside a bit time for portraits just of you and your significant other (usually even half an hour with the right light can lead to amazing results) – and share ideas with the photographer about images you like…