Say “Yes” and
Smile for the Camera
Illustration by: Mila Spasova
Ivo Popov is a wedding photographer living in Brussels, Belgium, and travelling all over the world.
How did you decide to go to Belgium?
I was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, and my wife and I moved to Brussels four year ago. What mainly attracted me to Belgium was the location and the convenient connections to most of the cities in the area (London and Paris in particular). The beer and the chocolate were an expected bonus.
You’ve majored in physics and now you are a wedding photographer — how did that happen?
Ever since I was a child, I wanted to become an astronomer — that’s why I decided to study physics. Two years after I was accepted аt the Physics Department of Sofia University, I decided to withdraw my application and just leave. My romantic vision of astronomy went up in smoke in a really short time, after lots of boring and long lectures. That was when I decided that I’d always wanted a career in IT. I started working in one of the most renowned at the time IT company in Bulgaria, and I stayed there for 10 years. One day, I realized that the initial zeel I had was no longer there, so the most logical decision for me was to start doing something new. I never felt any fear of not succeeding in any of my endeavors, I always believed that one can achieve anything with passion and persistence.
I have been engaged in photography for as long as I can remember. My first contact with it happened thanks to the elective subjects in school, one of which was photography. I am really grateful to my parents for setting money aside and buying me my first film camera — Smena 8M. I started working professionally a few years before leaving my IT career, and it has been 9 years since. Just like any other young photographer, I was shooting everything in the beginning: architecture, products, fashion, etc. My love for wedding photography brushed all ot the others aside, and now this is my passion and specialization.
What would you tell people, who are afraid of changing course and following their passion?
The best thing that can happen to someone in the creative field is going out of their comfort zone. The first step is hard, and it doesn’t always get easier later on, but life is too short not to follow our passion.
Is it hard to get into organizations such as ISPWP, WPJA, AG/WPJA*? How does one apply and what do these accreditations bring you?
А photographer’s hardest task is creating a portfolio, which accurately presents his or hers vision and style. Afterwards, applying and being admitted in photographic organizations is easy. ISPWP, WPJA, AG/WPJA are amongst the most prestigious ones, so being their member is not a small recognition. Admission becomes a fact after each photographer’s portfolio is reviewed. ISPWP requires a minimum number of wedding shots, as well as a recommendation from a photographer who is already accepted. These three organizations were the connection between me and my first clients outside of Bulgaria.
* professional wedding photographer organizations
Which is your personal favorite from all the weddings you have shot?
At the end of 2013 I had the amazing opportunity to shoot an American couple, who got married in Stonehenge, England. The ancient druid ceremony was conducted in the center of the stone circle and the background was the most beautiful sunset and full moon I have ever seen.
And which was the most extravagant?
One of the most emotional and impressive weddings I have shot was last year in São Miguel dos Milagres, Brazil — getting there took me 2 days, 2 flights, 4 hours of car ride, 1 ferry and 12,000 km, in summary. The newlyweds chose to get married by the Pacific Ocean coast sunset, surrounded by their closest people.
You specialize in shooting events that bring out strong emotions. Does your job ever burden you?
The wedding day is an extremely emotional experience, not only for the newlyweds, but for everyone around them as well. Personally, I am pretty emotional, so I often shed a tear or two behind the camera. For a lot of people, this is an event that has been planned for years, and that will never be repeated. My task, as a wedding photographer, is to shoot that day in the most sincere and beautiful way I can. This is a difficult and responsible task, but luckily I am one of these happy people that love their job and are not afraid of difficulties.
I truly believe in this quote, from a TV show I enjoyed as a kid: “The perfect preparation prevents the show from failing.” This is not оnly valid for photography.
You say that people should not allow their memories to fade. Is that what draws you to photography?
A lot of things draw me to it — the possibility to keep a favorite moment forever, to share it with your friends, to make someone happy, to see again someone you love, but who is not with you anymore. I really love shooting all my travels. I always find something interesting to shoot, even at places I have visited a lot of times. As one of my favorite street photographs, Saul Leiter, says: “It seems to me that mysterious things can take place in familiar places.”
How do you choose your equipment?
I use Canon, but I can not say I am a slave to the brand. They are what I started with, so everything seems familiar and convenient. I also bring a Fuji X100s when travelling — an outstandingly comfortable, small and light camera. Last year I spent a month in India, using exactly that one most of the time.
New technology and equipment pop up all the time in the photography field. I try to stay up to date, but for me convenience and comfort always come first, so I do not constantly feel the need to buy all the new things that the market offers.
What’s your opinion about Instagram?
It is amazing that we live in a time where it’s possible to share moments and experiences with the whole world in real time, and for free. I think everyone should take advantage of that. I really love Instagram, and recently I’ve been spending more time there than on any other social media.
Last year I met a guy in Varanasi, India. He makes a living by working on a boat taking tourists through the Ganges river. When he heard that I am a professional photographer, he immediately told me that he really likes taking pictures, but unfortunately doesn’t have a camera or a computer, so he’s counting only on his mobile phone. I advised him not to get discouraged, but to use his phone and different social media to share his images. I helped him set up a Facebook and Instagram account, and now I am constantly amazed by his photos of one of the most incredible cities I have ever visited.
Rustic, minimalistic, pompous: which wedding style is trending now?
Rustic and DIY wedding have been pretty popular everywhere in the last few years.
More and more people choose to celebrate at some faraway and exotic location (the so-called destination weddings). I am happy that recently I’ve had the chance to shoot weddings in such wonderful places like India, Brazil, Dubai, Ireland and more.
Some tricks for the amateur photographer?
Nothing helps the amateur photographer more than non-stop practice. Shoot everything that gets your attention and intrigues you, and do it as much as possible.
Quoting Robert Capa: “If Your Pictures Aren’t Good Enough, You’re Not Close Enough.”
Walk us through a typical day of yours.
Until recently most of my non-working days were quite the same — getting up late, a few hours of work (image editing, website updating, social media), an hour or two running in a forest nearby Brussels, meeting some clients and in the evening, almost every night, movies. Everything went upside down in the last two months, as the most wonderful thing in the world — my daughter Liliyа — was born.
I hope I will make more and more people happy with my work, at even more exotic places, and to have the opportunity to travel and share interesting experiences with my wife Tanya and our daughter.