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Flavio Bandiera: the phantom photographer

Flavio Bandiera: the phantom photographer

© Flavio Bandiera

January 2016

In wedding photography there are no second chances. The rings are put on once. A bride’s father may only shed a single tear. And the much anticipated first kiss is always shorter than you had hoped. It is nerve-wracking, intimate and spectacular. CPN Web Editor Deniz Dirim speaks to top wedding photographer Flavio Bandiera on how he keeps creative under pressure come rain or shine.

All about the bride

“In the morning in the beginning of the shooting I tell the bride that I will work on this day with no rush. The only thing you have to think about is to be yourself. Don’t look at me. Just live your day without any kind of worry. After a few shots, I show her just one single picture. Just to empower her, ‘look how beautiful you are!’ And she’s charged this way,” shares Flavio.

Flavio’s clientele knows how to put on a party. The weddings he shoots are high-end productions featuring an utterly chic guest list occupying an impeccable setting, adorned with centrepieces worthy of a Vogue magazine cover. Flavio meets his clients in person for the first time on the special day and begins photographing their elegant display pronto. If the wedding is relatively close to Italy, he will bring an assistant or two. However, if the celebration takes place in Las Vegas or Hong Kong, Flavio travels alone.

No easy feat when you’re carrying three camera bodies: two EOS 5D Mark IIIs and an EOS 7D Mark II. One EOS 5D bears Flavio’s go-to lens: the EF24mm f/1.4L II USM; on the other he alternates between the EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM and an EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM. As you can imagine, invisibility is part of his job description. For crucial moments which he must capture (not partake in) Flavio arms his EOS 7D with his preferred telephoto lens: the EF85mm f/1.2L II USM and, when the situation demands, the EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM.

© Flavio Bandiera
© Flavio Bandiera

Going low and wide against the light helps give a dramatic look to this stylish couple. Fill-in flash ensures maximum detail without losing the mood. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF8-15mm f/4L FISHEYE USM at 13mm; the exposure was 1/5000sec at f/4, ISO 400.

“I don’t have a preference between the two [cameras]. They are different bodies. I love wide-angles, and so I can use wide-angles on the EOS 5D Mark III. I love to use short lenses but sometimes I use telephoto lenses to remain far from the scene. I recently discovered the EOS 7D Mark II. Even if it’s not a full-frame camera, I love it because it’s very fast, the autofocus is great, and the body is really light,” says Flavio.

The trinity

Flavio was initiated into photography by his father during the analogue era. He only switched to digital with the introduction of the EOS 5D – the first full-frame DSLR with a compact body and a consumer price tag. Hence, Flavio prefers to create as much of the image as possible ‘in-camera’.

Flavio shares his holy trinity with CPN: “My approach is very simple. I analyse just three aspects: light, background, and subjects. Light is the most important aspect, because with bad light I can’t take interesting pictures. I look very carefully at the background because I don’t like to spend a lot of time in front of Photoshop. When I cross light and background I can leave my subjects free to move in this box.”

© Flavio Bandiera
© Flavio Bandiera

“I try to capture 90 percent of an image with the right background,” says Flavio. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF16-35mm f/2.8 II USM at 16mm; the exposure was 1/160sec at f/4.5, ISO 100.

In his role as ‘party phantom’, Flavio likes to leave his flash at home. He prefers to put his cameras to use and up the ISO. In true Mediterranean style, Flavio relishes natural light, only using a reflector where necessary. But daytime shadows can be unforgiving and if he must, he turns on his Speedlite 600EX-RT flash.

A story of romance

Flavio always delivers the client two digital products: a web gallery and an album proposal. He does not see his work as complete when the wedding ends. For him, the true romance starts with a photo album.

“My work is not to take some pictures of the day but to tell a story. I always push the clients to have an album because, in my opinion, if you don’t print an image it doesn’t exist. If you leave an image in the digital domain, you cannot enjoy it completely,” insists Flavio.

Working with internationally well-known clients on their most private day may be glamorous but it comes with its own disadvantages. Flavio says: “Lots of my clients don’t allow me to publish my work. I can’t show a lot of amazing weddings I photographed all over the world; these photos are on the walls of my studio and on my server."

Willing a shot

Even after 24 years in the game, Flavio says his vision is always evolving. Back in the studio, he discusses his work tirelessly with his two fellow photographers. He uses black and white when appropriate but mostly opts for colour. “I love black and white when I feel that black and white gives me more. But black and white is an interpretation and it simplifies photography. Colour mirrors the reality of your eyes.”

© Flavio Bandiera
© Flavio Bandiera

Flavio says: “I focus on the atmosphere, reading with my eyes the best light possible, using the best lens for my goals, my targets.” Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with an EF8-15mm f/4L FISHEYE USM at 13mm; the exposure was 1/13sec at f/4, ISO 3200.

He is one of the most in-demand wedding photographers in the industry and somehow Flavio still has time for extracurricular activities. When he’s not capturing lovers’ special days, Flavio gives workshops on his methods. He enjoys the insights gained when speaking to aspiring and accomplished wedding photographers across continents. “In Italy, less than 20 percent of wedding photographers are female. Last summer, I held a workshop for Canon UK near London and there were a lot of women; it was great! In the U.S. I know that women make up the majority of wedding photographers.”

While many would shudder at the thought of travelling solo far and wide to please exclusive clients no matter the weather, Flavio welcomes it: “I have no family so I can travel a lot. I follow the client everywhere. When I travel to new places, wow, I’m excited. I look with new eyes and give 110 percent.”

So how does a photographer achieve their creative vision under pressure? Flavio concludes: “You have to be ready to face any kind of action during the day. And wait for a reaction. I follow the action but I don’t put down my camera. I almost try to wait for something else. I always have the camera to my eyes – always, always, always! You can take amazing pictures whenever you expect to capture them.”

Flavio Bandiera’s five top tips for wedding photography

  • Encourage the bride on the day with a single photo
  • Be prepared for all weather conditions
  • Use ISO not flash in low light
  • Expect a reaction to every action
  • Breathe

Biography: Flavio Bandiera

Flavio Bandiera

Born in 1970, Flavio Bandiera learnt his trade from his father Stefano, an acclaimed landscape and advertising photographer. He grew up surrounded by imagery and eventually specialised in international fine-art wedding photography with his work being published in many renowned magazines including Vogue Sposa. Drawing praise from both the public and industry alike, he founded the premier invitation-only association Best of Wedding Photography, which spotlights the best wedding photographers from around the world, in December 2009. Based in northern Italy he lives between Turin and Milan.


Creative use of shadows and silhouettes, enhanced by a fisheye perspective. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF8-15mm f/4L FISHEYE USM at 15mm; the exposure was 1/50sec at f/4, ISO 100.