Lovestills™ Behind the Lenses: Q&A with Visual Storyteller Lena Karelova
Lovestills sits down with Barcelona-based professional wedding photographer Lena of Lena Karelova Photography to learn more about her emotional and raw storytelling techniques and use of a mixture of medium for that authentic re-telling of love stories.
Q: Hi there Lena! Tell us a little about your story.
I was born and lived for 16 years in a small country - Moldova, an ex-republic of USSR. Then my family moved to one of the most beautiful cities in the world – Saint Petersburg, Russia and finally when I was 22, I moved to Barcelona – another beautiful city. This modern Mediterranean city was my dream since I was 6 years old! Everything: the culture, the language, the art – all those Spanish vibes inspired me.
I was 14 when my passion for photography started to develop. I was experimenting with black and white film with my Zenit camera, when my mom realized her daughter’s hobby is pretty serious – she bought me my first DSLR camera. Year by year, I tried out different directions in photography, still life, portraits and finally, wedding photography.
When I’m not taking photos, I like to spend my free time with my family, my little baby girl and of course doing some activities as playing badminton with my friends or doing yoga class. This is something that help me to have a healthy balance between home, work and motherhood.
Q: How did you get into wedding photography?
I was experimenting with genres and styles for a long time, as photography was just my hobby. In 2009, I started dabbling in wedding photography, but continued doing portraits and family photography.
When I moved to my beloved Barcelona city, I was studying and also working part-time doing online marketing. I soon realized while the job was nice, it was not for me. Meanwhile, I was taking photos of my friends and other couples and finally I decided that taking photos of people in love is my thing! Newly engaged couples with their sparkling eyes, their wedding day with the most important people by their side and finally taking photos of their kids – documenting the journey makes it unique to me!
Q: What is your unique photography style?
My style is a combination of documentary, fine art photography with an editorial touch. My images are filled with light and love. I am in love with emotional, raw storytelling, as I believe that these preservations of memories and moments are timeless and priceless. I firmly believe that the photos I produce for my clients will carry on their legacy long after their time comes.
Q: You use a mix of mediums for capturing your beautiful stories - both digital and film. Why do you choose to use both? And what do you love about each medium?
I’ve tried film photography years ago. It was both an old school black and white and color film, I was taking portraits of my family and friends. Then, digital cameras replaced my old Zenit, it was a cool & “fast” medium, something new to play with.
It was 2016 when I took a part at one photography workshop here in Barcelona when the speaker was teaching film photography. It was a moment I realized I want to get back to this amazing film medium, because it gives that incredible color you never could achieve with digital cameras and Photoshop.
For now, film photography is my favorite medium because of everything it offers: colors, softness, special meaning, something that it’s difficult to describe. I should admit, digital camera plays a huge role in my career as well. It’s super-fast medium with lots of possibilities! Thanks to digital photography we can take photos in different and sometimes difficult lighting situations.
Q: What inspires you?
I’ve become a mother recently, which changed my perception totally. So now my little girl inspires me a lot! My other source of inspiration is nature and discovering new places, countries!
Q: Having photographed so many couples, what are some of your tips to help couples feel comfortable in front of the camera?
Before the shoot, share your story with your photographer: How you met, where are you living now, what are your hobbies, etc. This information will help your photographer to know you better and to be able to make jokes or find ideas to help relax you. I’m always looking for a personal relationship with my clients, as my main goal is to make you feel comfortable as if you had a walk with your friend.
Q: You say Barcelona has stolen your heart since you moved there to study in 2010. Share with us, what makes Barcelona such an amazing destination?
When I visited it for the first time, the entire environment impressed me! I came from a country where people are quite reserved. But here everyone is always smiling and willing to help you even if you don’t ask.
That’s the best, but there are a few more reasons: an incredible food experience, good wine and amazing weather.
Q: Also, where are some of your favorite spots to shoot in Barcelona and where else would you like to shoot next?
Barcelona offers many photogenic spots! The most popular are Park Güell, Gothic quarter, El Born, Ciutadela park. But I’ll share my favorite ones that are not so common. For example, there’s a gorgeous park called Labyrinth of Horta. It’s an ideal place for a surprise proposal or a super romantic engagement session. My second favorite place is Montjuïc. The whole area offers so many spots, different small and cute parks and gorgeous views of the city.
I should mention there are also a few lovely places outside Barcelona, which is absolutely worthy to visit for a shoot. Sitges – is a small village about 40 min by train from Barcelona. This little village is composed by white houses with blue or green windows and narrow streets. The Montserrat mountain region is also another mind-blowing location.
Of all your shoots, what's the most memorable moment as a wedding photographer you have had?
I remember a shoot with one lovely couple from Hong Kong. We planned an itinerary at different spots, one of them was a very famous building of Antonio Gaudí – casa Batlló.
It was my first time shooting there, and we were looking forward to photographing there as the interiors are just breathtaking. The couple bought the early bird tickets which meant we had a special entrance at 8am, which included a permission to take photos. However it was only at the door when we learnt that wedding photoshoots required an entirely different set of permissions and costs (an additional 2000€). That was a huge learning experience for me as a photographer to always make sure to check ahead with the venue for any additional costs and permissions required.
Fortunately my clients didn’t give up and were open to other stunning photo options and we had a great shoot in the end!
Q: Last but not least, what advice would you give to couples to help them to get the best from their overseas wedding photography experience?
First of all, do the research and find YOUR photographer. Investing in a good photographer and experience would be worth it. I would also advise meeting up with your photographer of choice before the day itself (via Skype for example) to see if you can “hit it off”. Being comfortable with your photographer will ensure that you remain relaxed in front of the camera.
For couples looking for a balance between photojournalistic and fine art styles of documenting your prewedding shoot in Barcelona, do visit Lena Karelova Photography to see more of Lena's beautiful work (all images in this article has been kindly provided by Lena Karelova Photography) or drop her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get to know her better!