SNAP 2016 (Europe’s First Festival for Wedding Photographers): A Reflection

After an insane/amazing/surreal/inspirational week at SNAP (a wedding photography festival in Wales), I am currently sitting wide awake in bed at 4am. My body feels broken but my mind is buzzing. Buzzing with inspiration, ideas/plans for the future and memories of some epic and often surreal moments from the past week. As it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting back to sleep anytime soon I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on the past 5 days.

What I took Away from Snap 2016

Those of you familiar with my posts will know that I commonly write a reflection on a conference in a similar format where I highlight my key takeaways from each speaker. This time I’ll be doing things a little differently. Not because I didn’t take anything away from the speakers. Far from it.

The speakers were incredible and gave me a ton to think about which I will no doubt be processing for a long time to come. I’m writing this post in a different format because what makes SNAP SNAP goes far beyond the educational component. Below are the two things that made SNAP special for me. 

wedding time at SNAP 2016

1) Community Family – We had a F**king Wedding!

For context, SNAP takes place over 5 days in the far reaches of Wales at Fforest. The accommodation is shared and ranges from tents to lodges. The talks take place in a barn and the partying (be it a live band or a silent disco) takes place in a large tipi. All of this is surrounded my lush fields and forests and scattered with bonfire pits and hay bails. So a little different to my native London surroundings.

From the speakers to the attendees and even the staff at Fforest, from the very first day everyone was hanging out like they were one big weird, wacky and slightly dysfunctional family. It’s hard to keep track of the amount of inspiring, informative and for the most part hilarious chats I had with such a wide range of characters. Thinking about some of the people I met; it’s weird to think that this time last week I didn’t know them, because today they already feel like old friends.

But the single moment that highlighted this sense of family was the surprise wedding of Xeco & Rochan. Xeco & Rochan (two enviously cool and talented photographers/musicians from Spain) got engaged at last year’s Snap Festival. A year later we woke up on Wednesday morning to find invitations to their wedding that very afternoon. The ceremony took place in a stunning clearing below a rock face. There was singing, a maid of honour + best man (Sophie & Alex you both looked awesome!), tear-filled readings, confetti and as you might imagine a camera or 50 among the guests.

For me it was refreshing to enjoy a wedding without a camera in hand (it stayed at my feet for the most part with the exception of a few moments seen below). But the most surprising part was the goosebumps (for someone who never cries [some unresolved emotional issues I’ve been told] this is quite a big deal) I got during the ceremony for two people that I hadn’t even spoken to yet (there were 120 people at the festival). The sense of family was so strong in that clearing that nothing else seemed to matter. Best of luck to the Snap team on topping that next year :)

Wedding party at SNAP 2016

2) Helping Photographers find their own voice

The idea of finding your own voice as a photographer is not a new concept to me. It’s something that I’ve found hugely important to running my own business and have heard it highlighted at every workshop and conference I have attended over the past couple of years. I. But SNAP went further by not only highlighting it but clearly demonstrating it.

Mentioned by all the speakers, the importance of finding your own voice was also demonstrated by the speakers who were often polar opposites. For example one day we had Kevin Mullens explaining why he shoots 90% of his work in black & white and the next day Sassy from Assassination is telling us she only ever shoots in colour. Both of them run hugely successful business and their couples adore them for what they do.

And then we had Mr Alex James, the winner of the Snapsters speaking competition. Several months earlier anyone who had attended SNAP before was given the opportunity to give a 20 minute mini talk on a subject they were passionate about. From this, one person was chosen to give a full 2-3 hour talk on the same topic at this year’s SNAP Festival.

I’d never heard of this being done before and thought it was such an incredible way of giving people the chance to share their voice and passion with others. Alex was the winner and dam did we all find out why. I won’t go into the details but his talk was the most honest and inspirational one I’ve probably ever heard. And that includes the endless Ted Talks I watch.

Uncle bob photographers at SNAP 2016

Just before I wrap this up (starting to get hungry) I do want to give a shout out to all the speakers who were sensational. Ian Sanders, Oli Sansom, Tara Gentile, Anna Naphtali, Alex James, Whitesmoke Studio, Rossella Vanon, Kevin Mullins, Assasynation, Petar Jurica (who shot some mind-blowing photos of the wedding), Gabe McClintock & Jaye Cole. I highly recommend you check them out. 

To Laura Babb and everyone else who shed blood and sweat to make Snap happen you have created something truly special. Thank you so much! To the speakers and all those I had the pleasure of spending time with, be it a chat by the fire or in the sun, or random (often booze-fuelled) shenanigans thank you for making it such an unforgettable week! The future has never felt so bright and exciting :)