As a wedding photographer, I consider it a privilege to be present on a couple’s wedding day. There they are getting married in front of everyone special to them – parents, family, friends – and then there’s me, hired because I can take photographs with the right look to suit the couple’s tastes. But hopefully it goes deeper than that.
From the first contact, usually with just one half of the couple, a rapport is established. In the first few exchanges, as people do, I start to get a feel for this person, and they for me. Hopefully we like each other, because this isn’t just cold hard business. Sometimes they become friends, but even if they don’t, I’m going to be there recording every detail of a very intimate moment in their lives, a special moment which can and possibly should change their lives for ever.
I photograph weddings because I love weddings. If I enjoy something, engage emotionally with it, I photograph it better. People find it strange that I occasionally shed a tear, or grin inanely whilst taking photos of people I haven’t known for long getting married. I would argue that I couldn’t possibly do a good job on a wedding if I didn’t feel it.
Occasionally I get a parent of either bride or groom who would very much like to tell me how I should do my job. I don’t really like doing posed group shots, where the action stops for me. I like to observe the proceedings without affecting them too much, recording the story of the event, not stopping the action for sterile staged shots. That’s for the chav photographers. However, some people think that the record simply isn’t complete without the group shots, so I go along with it.
But is it real and genuine recording of a wedding? Perhaps it is, given that the photographer has, since photography first emerged, been an integral and ubiquitous part of the wedding day. Maybe I am part of the action, not merely an observer. I certainly do interact with the guests as I love people and enjoy talking to them and having a laugh with them. It’s been said by many a wedding guest that I blend in very well. Some people say I’m invisible, which is impressive given that I am of a stature which seems to dominate most group photos I’ve found myself part of. But perhaps that’s just advanced blending.
Many wedding photographers seem to be compelled to control everything. Some are rude and grumpy. Either way, they’re going to be photographing guests who have been pushed around, kept waiting, shouted at or possibly insulted, and that’s never going to result in good photographs. Just think about it – how would you look in a photograph taken by someone who’s brought a dark cloud hanging over everything, or even worse just prevented you from getting a really good photo of your own?
I know why they’re like that. They feel the need to control things because they’re gripped by a fear of failure. Only by controlling every detail of a wedding day can they possibly guarantee that they’ll be able to photograph it adequately. And me? Well I’ve been taking photos since I was five years old; and I’m considerably older now. I started before the era of autofocus and autoexposure and all that, in the era of film. I take photos like I walk or breathe. I can’t remember how not to do it. So failure is a non-issue. Consequently I’m relaxed at weddings, and confident that no matter what happens, I’ll be able to take good photos.
Of course, it helps if it also makes me a good living. Part of that includes the sale of extras to guests, such as prints and so on. So why on earth would I encourage amateur photographers? Of course guests bring their own cameras. Sure, they’re rarely up to the standard of my equipment, but I’ve taken great photos on the kind of cameras they use, and I’ve seen some damn good amateur photographers in my time – I used to be one! So don’t they reduce my income?
Firstly I can’t stop people taking photos, so I don’t. In fact as I said, I encourage them. I give them hints about using fill flash for backlit shots, and choosing a better background by changing their position. When they can’t get their camera working, I’ll try to help. Why? Well, isn’t it better to have 50-odd assistants working for me than 50-odd adversaries? Remember I’ll be photographing these people too, and I’d much rather they were throwing me genuine smiles on a personal level because I’ve helped them out.
But there’s more to it once again. People often ask if the rise of cheap, affordable digital photography for the masses has reduced my business, because people can now do their own photography for portraits or weddings. Actually it’s done quite the opposite. People appreciate good photography more now than ever before, because they’ve tried it themselves, and they know how difficult it is getting a good shot. If someone has stood near me and taken a shot of a wedding scene, they might think it’s a good shot. Often they’ll see my shots on the back of the camera, or later on the web gallery (which is usually available within a few days) and they’ll have something to compare with. Often they’ll buy my shot because “it’s a lot better” than theirs. Other times they’ll love my shots because there they are, photographed whilst taking a photograph, and isn’t that a lovely shot! Relaxed, candid, off the cuff, unposed and essentially just people doing what people do at weddings. Happy, joyful, and together.
It all comes down to your approach, I suppose. I am passionate about photography, but equally I’m passionate about people and life. I think I was born to travel the world, enjoy different cultures, and photograph all you amazing, brilliant, individual people wherever you are. Hence…
people · places · light · beauty · emotion · your life in pictures