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10 years of Canberra weddings

Laura Peppas

From traditional receptions and gowns to backyard celebrations and jumpsuits, photographer Kelly Tunney has watched Canberra’s wedding industry evolve behind the lens for over 10 years.

Since launching her photography business full-time in 2006, Kelly has been a driving force in Canberra’s wedding photography industry, winning over 50 awards for her stunning work and most recently, becoming the first female to win the AIPP Australian Wedding Photographer of the Year.

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She says wedding photography has come a “long way” since her first shoot.

“When I started out it was incredibly traditional, there weren’t many options for venues, people would go for the stock standard function room wedding and there were expectations for the photographer to follow the same formula for every couple, it was very much a ‘one size fits all’ approach,” she says.

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“They’d suggest all the same poses for every couple, for instance the bride pinning the corsage on the dad, looking over her shoulder – it was all very staged.

“As Reconciliation Place was new at the time all the photographers would inundate it and it was quite normal to see six other weddings there at the same time, they’d all wait in line and everyone was sort of fighting over the best spots. There weren’t many people challenging the norm.”

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That all changed when Kelly met an outgoing couple in 2008, who were eager for their wedding photos to push the boundaries.

“They really wanted to be as unique as possible and they gave me the freedom to run with that brief,” says Kelly.

“It was exciting, like someone had given me a free ride to do what I want.”

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Kelly’s photo of the couple hanging from the beams of the National Gallery of Australia car park in their wedding gown and suit – in the midst of a spontaneous set of chin ups – is still one of her favourite shots.

“After that photo shoot I had so many couples coming up to me asking if I could do something similar for their wedding, and from there it just snowballed,” she says.

“In my first year I was photographing about 30 or 40 weddings annually but after that wedding it went up to about 67.”

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Today there is a new realm in wedding photography, where individuality is embraced and nothing is off limits.

“I go into every job with the attitude that wedding photography is going to be different for everybody, you can’t follow a method or regime that’s one size fits all, you have to have a really strong sense of the couple and go from there,” she says.

“People have really began to express themselves and their lifestyle through their wedding, so I’m there to help people express that and photograph every wedding on its own merit.”

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Kelly says there is much more of a focus on DIY weddings now, while destination weddings “have done a complete 180.”

“In 2011 I was doing a lot of destination weddings, but people are realising how hard it is to organise a wedding externally, especially in another country,” she says.

One of Kelly's destination weddings.

One of Kelly’s destination weddings.

“So I think people are coming back to basics almost, the amount of backyard weddings we’ve done in Canberra is quite crazy.

“Canberra has become a hotbed of not just photography talent, but of designers and stylists and florists and makeup artists, we’ve got a lot of here in our own backyard whereas before people would be getting these sorts of services interstate or overseas.”

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Another big change in the wedding photography industry, says Kelly, is that is was largely male-dominated ten years ago.

“People would probably expect it to be more women than men, but there was really only one or two other women at the time – that’s changed to be about 50/50 now,” she says.

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“I was the first woman in the AIPP’s 40+ years to win the Australian Wedding Photographer of the Year, so interestingly enough we’re only just paving the way in that area on a national level.”

Kelly says it’s also easier than ever for wedding photographers to gain international exposure, thanks to destination weddings and social media.

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“The amount that people share on Instagram or Facebook for instance, your photos can make their way around the world very easily,” she says.

“I’ve recently been invited to speak at a conference in Canada, so it’s great to have that recognition and be able to connect with other photographers doing what I’m doing.”

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For more on Kelly Tunney and her work, click here: or follow Instagram on

All images by Kelly Tunney. 


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author