April 30, 2021 | Awards

An Interview with John Gillooley — First Place in Creative Wedding 2021

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bride and groom kissing in front of amber fireworks
John Gillooley — Silver Award in Creative Wedding

John Gillooley has won many awards from different organisations over the last few years but this is his first time claiming first place in an IPPVA awards category. Having previously came in second place in both Classic and Creative Wedding in 2018, and qualifying as a finalist in 2019, we’re delighted to see his beautiful images and efforts being rewarded with a first-in-category this year.

I make photos for people that love. People that aren’t looking for traditional wedding photography and want to see their day documented as it happens with a bit of creative portraiture added to the mix.

— John Gillooley
bride and groom embracing under backlit tunnel of wisteria vines
John Gillooley — Bronze Award in Creative Wedding

Would you share with us a little bit of background on the awarded work?

I was so delighted to win the creative category this year. It’s absolutely been a goal of mine ever since I joined the IPPA in 2016. I came close in 2018 with second place and to win it this time was a highlight of my year. I absolutely targeted this category and entered very little in the other two categories. One of my creative entries was actually recategorised as Classic and I tried my best to convince the awards panel to change it back, such was my determination to do well in the creative category!  

Bride and Groom pose in fron of a wall with cartoon-style graffiti of a couple
John Gillooley — Bronze Award in Creative Wedding

We know a lot of our readers will love to hear more about gear, equipment and post-treatment. Tell us more. 

I’ve always shot Nikon and all of these images were shot with a Nikon Z6 and native glass. I’ve since upgraded to the Z6ii. I usually shoot with a 35 1.8 and 85 1.8 lens. They’re so light and sharp. For images with flash, I tend to use the 24-70 2.8 but it totally depends on the shot and environment. I use Godox for lighting. V1 on cameras, AD200 for OCF.

In general, my editing tends to be fairly minimalistic but for awards entries, I’ll often take extra care in relation to post-processing to create something unique. In the case of the heart fireworks image, I blended two exposures — taken seconds apart — to create an epic heart-shaped firework. For that image, I also had an AD200 setup behind the couple as a backlight but it was failing to trigger. I would normally run over and fix it but I found that the large LED light the videography team of Hitched Films used worked a treat. 

bride and groom under a small white umbrella in a large room exploding with confetti and paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Two wedding guests are at either side with confetti canons
John Gillooley — Bronze Award in Creative Wedding

What are you working on at the moment? Any personal projects or commissions you want to share with us?

I am mainly working on attempting to maintain some semblance of sanity, juggling wedding reschedules while keeping a very lovely 3-year-old entertained. I’m working in the evenings to up my SEO game but I have no major personal projects underway.

I am enjoying shooting film a bit these days. I’m shooting on a Nikon F100 and have recently picked up a Pentax 6×7 I’m really looking forward to experimenting with both. I mostly shoot Ilford HP5 on these cameras. I was shooting Portra 400 but I just love the look of analogue black and white. Also, it’s cheaper than the Portra, LOL. As much as I am loving the challenges of slowing down with medium format, I do struggle a bit, as my main subject is our three-year-old son, Flynn, who is not a fan of standing still. 

A joyful bride and groom crack open a bottle of champagne outside at night
John Gillooley — Bronze Award in Creative Wedding

Is there a particular image or artist that has inspired/moved you?

My favourite artist of all time, in any medium, is Stanley Kubrick. I have a mild to medium obsession with the man. His films are just perfection. I love his use of light, music, colour, composition and usually very black comedy. He was also a total nerd when it came to lenses, equipment. I managed to make it over to London in 2019 to see an exhibition featuring a treasure trove of Kubrickian artefacts and I was in heaven.  I’m not sure how or even if he has inspired my photography but he’s certainly inspired and moved me more than any other visual artist. 

bride and groom standing inside a wood-framed greenhouse door, looking and smiling at each other. There is a reflection of the scene in the foreground
John Gillooley — Bronze Award in Creative Wedding

Have you had any other professions before becoming a photographer? Did you study photography or are you self-taught?

I studied photography as part of a larger syllabus in a Media Production course in D.I.T. In addition to Photography — this would have been 1999-2001 so all Film/Darkroom fun — I studied video editing — yes video, I didn’t get enough leaving cert points for the film course, lol — script, media analysis, and audio editing. It was a wonderful two years and it culminated in several students from the course directing a short film.

Bride and groom kiss while surrounded by applauding guests in a dimly-lit, intimate chapel
John Gillooley — Bronze Award in Creative Wedding

I was lucky enough to be one of the students who made a film. It was called The Box, and it was a Twilight Zone-esque short film that, being honest, wasn’t very good. I wrote and recorded the music for it and enjoyed that aspect of it so much that it took me on a different path and I attempted a short stint as a film composer. I wrote and recorded the music for an Irish Zombie feature film — it played in one cinema for two weeks! — called Dead Meat. It was a fun film but my phone didn’t start ringing with offers from Hollywood and, after writing the music for a few more short features, I slowly realised I wasn’t going to make a career out of it. 

Bride and Groom stand looking at each other but with their backs to the camera as amber fireworks go off in the sky in the background
John Gillooley — Bronze Award in Creative Wedding

Following this, I went through my “wilderness” years where I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do and ended up getting a job in a call centre taking IT calls. While the job itself wasn’t a monumentally happy memory it led to me meeting my wife Anne Marie. Who knows what she saw in a man in his late mid-twenties that still lived in his parents’ house, working in a call centre but I’m not complaining. 

I ended up climbing the I.T. ladder and ended up in a stressful yet underpaid job as a Problem Manager for a major IT company. That job is EXACTLY as fun as it sounds. Myself and Anne Marie married in 2011 and life was fairly uneventful, for a short period.

bride and groom stand by a bright window in a dimly-lit pub, holding tow half-drank pints of Guinness. Their faces are reflected in, and framed by, two picture frames in the foreground
John Gillooley — Bronze Award in Creative Wedding

In January 2015 we were excitedly awaiting the arrival of our first son, Max. We were over 41 weeks pregnant when, on the 11th of January, our world was shattered. We were told there was no heartbeat and that Max had died. I don’t have the writing skills nor the strength to neatly encapsulate how this affected us, and still affects us but my wife has been able to say more than I ever could do in her inspiring blog.

Shortly after Max, I was made redundant from my IT job and very quickly made the decision to follow my passion back into photography. We were in such a world of grief that setting up a little photography company gave us such a positive creative outlet to focus on. In that first year, we offered a bit of everything but I very quickly discovered that weddings were for me. I haven’t looked back since. 

architectural image of a Groom in a traditional kilt, standing against a white brick wall and holding a half-drank pint. The light from the sun is harsh and he is framed by a building in the left foreground and shrubs on the left
John Gillooley — Bronze Award in Creative Wedding

What would be your 3 main tips for a photographer with a strong portfolio of personal work wanting to start a business?

  1. This is a service industry. If you ace the customer service element you’ll go far. Go above and beyond for your clients, as much as possible. Don’t let your ego get in the way of the fact that you are creating these images for them. 
  2. Don’t think for a second there’s any shot or style you’re not capable of. Experiment, study and fail. Then do it all again. 
  3. Make friends. Your fellow photographers will lift you on your journey. This can be a lonely job so surround yourself with people who are fighting the same fights and putting out the same fires. Never turn down the opportunity for a good piss-up. 
A smilling Bride in her wedding dress stands in a white room with classic wall moldings. She is framed by an empty, dark doorway behind her so she really stands out
John Gillooley — Silver Award in Creative Wedding

What would you most love to photograph right now if Covid restrictions weren’t a reality? What do you miss the most?

I miss weddings. Genuinely, there isn’t anything else I’d rather be shooting if all the restrictions were suddenly lifted. 


Find out more about John Gillooley

John Gillooley - Photos for people who love. Joy is the key to essence of my work and I live to capture joy, colour, love, family and chaos on a wedding day. I am a multi-award winning wedding photographer based in Dublin and I would love to ...

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