Design Aglow's Wedding Week 2016: Jim Pollard

Hello, Jim! Can you tell us about yourself, where you live, and how you got into photography.

Okay, well I am Jim, hubby to Vicky and dad of Charli and Toby and our furchild Moosedog. I am creative, passionate, adventurous, probably overly sensitive (thanks Mum), chirpy, loyal, empathetic, hard-working and curious amongst others no doubt. I think I'm also one of those "Extroverted Introverts" which I know is an oxymoron, and that suits me just fine. I thrive on being outdoors in all landscapes, human or natural - though mostly natural. I spent my teens and twenties hiking and snowboarding in mountains all over the world.

We now live in a home we designed and built, nestled amongst the mountains and lakes of the Southern Alps in New Zealand. We are extremely lucky to live in a Pollard Paradise, we have ski fields, lakes, mountains, forests plus all the infrastructure of Queenstown on our doorstep. Though I have to add this life was not handed to us on a silver spoon,  we had to work hard to earn it. Life is about choices.

I come from a long line of photographers and artists, though none were professional. Professional standard for sure, but art was deemed an unrealistic career choice back in the day, so amateur they remained. I'm actually one of the first in the family to make the jump into doing a job for the love of it. Travelling as much as I did in my young adult life, a camera was always part of every journey. To be honest becoming a professional photographer was an organic affair, there was no real plan. Interest in my photography increased to the point where we able to say goodbye to working for others and do something for ourselves.    

The weddings you photograph are at the most phenomenal locations. Can you tell us about your all time favorite wedding venues?  

I'm super happy to say our couples are adventurous types when it comes to their weddings. People keep saying it, but you have to find the right clients to suit your love and work.

Hmmm, top 3:

  1. Vanguard Peak, New Zealand. Trent and Nikki's outrageous, foolhardy and extremely magnificent wedding ceremony. The location was the top of a snow capped mountain here in NZ, in early Winter, with all of their guests (60+). Access was by 12 helicopters and it was a complete surprise for the guests, they had no idea until they were bused to the helicopter hanger. Incredible.
  2. Ohau Lodge, New Zealand. I fell in love with this place through snowboarding, there's a small ski field there. Ohau is a stunning place and the lodge there exemplifies a great Kiwi wedding venue. It's slightly eclectic in that Kiwi way, the staff are amazing, the views to die for. I love the fact that you can bring very different families from all over the world together here and they all just relax and become one for the wedding.
  3. Melchsee Frutt, Switzerland. This location high up in the Swiss Alps accessed by gondola, offers a stunning alpine environment with a lake, an ancient old church and a modern and very architectural hotel for the reception. And most importantly friendly cows roaming around the scenery with their bells clanging.       

Your landscapes, although sometimes photographed in harsh or splotchy lighting, are never blown out. How do you achieve this consistent look?

I really think we have the harshest light in the world down here. There's no Ozone Layer or pollution, which makes for very very strong lighting. I always shoot/expose for the highlights. Most modern cameras can cope with pulling detail out of the shadows, especially with software like Lightroom. But once highlights are blown, they're pretty much gone. I guess it comes down to the fact that we shoot for the environment we're in and this will shape your photography.

Photographing so many outdoor weddings must make for some interesting weather situations. What is the most extreme case of mother nature you have dealt with?  

One of the most important things about working well with people is being able to relate to them. You need empathy to understand their situation. You can't go shooting a couple on top of a mountain with the bride in a skimpy lace wedding dress in freezing winds, when you're wrapped up in a down jacket. You need to feel what they're feeling, once you can understand that, you can start working with them and the environment.

I shoot in alpine environments all the time, so I'm pretty used to the conditions. Invariably the most extreme weather shoots turn out to be the best. Keith and Emma's Spring wedding started off with a hot sunny day and intense light, by the time we were off to do the portrait shoot the weather began to close in. We were lucky enough to use a chopper to fly us to a couple of locations. The first was an extremely windy spot with flat light, so we went hunting for another. The chopper was buffeted by strong winds and I think the pilot in hindsight was angry. We found another spot on a ridge that had little pockets of sunlight, all about that light. Getting Keith and Emma into place, we were again attacked by gale force winds, flurries of snow and then the sun popped back out and boom. It was probably about minus 15c (5f) in that wind and Keith and Emma were from the tropical north of Australia, they were legends. They earned those epic pics.  

If you could go back to the beginning of your photography career, what are 3 things you wish you had known or done differently?

Ah this is tough. I think we need to go through trials and tribulations in order to learn what works and what doesn't:  

  • Be very clear about the type of photography I want to shoot, I tried everything back in the early days and often I'd come back from a shoot completely distraught. I learned pretty quickly that I didn't need to do stuff I didn't enjoy or relate too. This applies to your clientele too, you have to work with people who get you and what you do. Learn who these are and focus on them. If you are all things to all people you'll never stand out or be happy.
  • Not to be overwhelmed by the "everything". As photographers we have to quickly become experts in so many fields; sales/marketing, editing, shooting, technical stuff, design etc. It's important to focus on the important and what you're good at.  
  • Remember that this is typically a lifestyle job. That means it shouldn't own you, emotionally, physically and consume your every waking hour (and dream time). Make sure that you control it and not the other way round. However, it is a business and you need to treat it as one. People are paying you to do a professional job, behave that way. Go to workshops, network, use professional equipment and back everything up - twice at least. Don't be scared to charge appropriately for your market and needs. And enjoy yourself.  


Jim is a wedding photographer based in Queenstown, New Zealand. Most of his weddings are in the NZ Southern Alps, but he has a tendency to roam and shoot weddings all over the globe. He shoots in an informal, relaxed manner and likes to utilise his past life as a snowboard coach where possible. Jim's work is known for the magnificent landscapes in his portraits, as well as capturing beautiful candid moments that make up a wedding story. In 2015 he won a coveted place in Rangefinder Magazine Top 30 Rising Stars.


To see more of Jim's work, visit him at


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