Wedding photographer Alina Raynal started her career in Moscow, but then she married a Frenchman, moved to Paris and started to photograph French wedding celebrations. Her clients don’t solely consist of Parisians. She shoots couples from all over the world who come to France to celebrate their wedding, to make a beautiful marriage proposal at the Eiffel Tower or to take an atmospheric photo in Parisian cafes.
Alina is invited to weddings in other countries, ranging from Uzbekistan to Switzerland, and her photos have been published by Vogue. Alina told us about her vision, the difference between the French and Russian wedding industries and about the “non-glamorous” celebrations that she shooted at the beginning of her career.
About why she started to photograph weddings
I wanted to get into the history faculty at Moscow State University and study the history of fashion. But once my tutor asked me: “What do you like doing in your free time?” Then I realized that I’m spending all my weekends taking photos using a camera that my dad offered me. I found out that there is a photojournalism department at Moscow State University. So I decided that since I like photography and literature — this is my calling.
I’ve always loved fashion and, as a student, I worked as a stylist for a magazine. But the atmosphere in glossy magazines wasn’t for me, and I returned to photography. After looking at my term paper for the Faculty of Journalism, my supervisor said that it would be better for me not to take photographs, but to try, for example, video editing. Fortunately, I didn’t listen to him and decided that I would do what I truly love.
About the first ad and non-glamorous weddings
The first wedding I photographed I found by myself. I saw a photo of my friend's bachelorette party and offered her my services for free at her wedding. She already had a main photographer, so she quickly agreed, despite the fact that I had no experience. I really liked the work, especially since the celebration was very fashionable at that time: a beautiful tent, decorated “in the Tiffany style”.
I posted an ad on Avito (russian Craiglist) that I’m a wedding photographer, set my price at 6,000 rubles, and some couples responded. So I saw other weddings — without the “Tiffany style”, but with a lot of alcohol and contests, which you need to take part in! I can say that I saw everything. Drunk guests who asked me to take a photo of their intimate places and drunken brides who start their morning preparations with vodka at 8 am, and grooms who at the end of the wedding admit that they’re going to file for divorce. And yet, it was a very cool experience for me.
Of course, I understood that I needed to develop professionally. I started working as an assistant photographer. It was the best school: you help a professional and at the same time watch what he does, how he takes pictures and talks with clients. During the first day of working as an assistant, I learned things I hadn’t been taught in 6 years of photography at university. But now I understand that the people who worked there did simply not belong to photography. They loved to criticize, but not to photograph. Since I started working as an assistant, my professionalism has improved completely.
The difference between wedding photographers in Russia and France
I have worked together with French photographers and videographers. I think they don’t have such a level of professionalism as they do in Russia. Sometimes they don’t understand what exactly needs to be filmed at a wedding and when. They don’t promote their works on Instagram, they don’t have the top equipment that Russian photographers use. Yes, that’s not the point, but it shows an attitude to work: if you invest in technology, you invest in your business and the client. For example, I’m obsessed with hardware — I have the top-end lenses I need, and I would never settle for more versatile and comfortable lenses with a worse picture quality.
About her ideal style
I can’t say that I have achieved my ideal style. There’s always something that can be changed. Now I’m working on the perfect color for processing. Before each photoshoot, I think about how this time I can take pictures a little differently, in a more interesting way. You can’t stop developing in this career.
About her favourite photoshoots
I really enjoyed photographing a French grandmother and her granddaughter. It was very touching. And later on, by the way, I also filmed her celebration.
There was one funny situation. I had to take pictures of the love story for a walk, but the young man was very late. The bride, my assistant, and I were all nervous: she asked to wait, but we had to go to another photoshoot on the other side of Paris. And finally, her boyfriend runs up, we quickly take a photo at the tower, and suddenly I see that he’s pulling something out of his jacket... I realize what is happening, I ask the assistant to shoot a video, and he gets down on one knee and proposes. Usually, men warn me if they want to propose on a walk, but it was very cute, unexpected and emotional! And as it turned out later, he was late, because he bought the ring in the Tiffany & Co. boutique. on the Champs Elysees.
I have a lot of favorite weddings, but if you need to single one out — then this is the wedding in Uzbekistan, because this was my first big outdoor shoot and it was there I met my husband! It was interesting to see unusual Uzbek traditions and a unique couple: the bride is an Uzbek woman who lived in Australia for 10 years, a Muslim, and the groom is half French and half Ukrainian, a Jew, converted to Islam. They met in Moscow, celebrated a religious wedding in Uzbekistan, and they signed their documents near Paris. There I also met many guests, who later became my clients — I have already booked a wedding for some of them, and one more is planned.
About being published in Vogue, recognition and beauty of the world
Photos from Anna Andres' wedding were published by Ukrainian Vogue, and this, of course, was my dream come true. True, it was a little overshadowed by the fact that they didn’t sign me, but I’m working on it. It seems that it’s very important for a photographer to know their rights, and to understand the importance of copyright.
But such recognition isn’t the main thing for me at all. It’s important for me that couples like their pictures. It’s important for me to do my best on any photoshoot to which I agreed, whether it’s some kind of free photoshoot not for a portfolio, or a shoot for a large fee. And I believe that with this approach, this publication in Vogue won't be my only one. And there will be more beautiful projects, couples in love... I’m constantly amazed at how magnificent this world and beautiful events are, where we sing the joys of life.