Some time ago a friend asked me if I would do the official photography for his wedding. It would be a joint effort with another friend of ours. We agreed. The wedding was on Saturday.
I’ve taken a lot of photos at weddings, and done one other wedding as an “official” photographer (with the same friend who doubled with me on this recent one). Although I enjoy it, it’s hard work.
I’m best at taking photos of landscapes or architecture. Things that don’t move, in other words. I use the time that gives me to tweak things and try out different angles and exposures and compositions, and to generally take my time lining things up. You don’t get that luxury with people. If you don’t capture the moment, it’s gone. Even if you do capture it, you can get it wrong by under-exposing, over-exposing, or getting the focus wrong. And, on the other side of the coin, there are many moments you do end up capturing that have people blinking, or looking goofy, or are generally unflattering.
Taking portraits of people is not too bad in itself. If you have time to direct, compose, wait for them to look natural or laugh – rather than grinning stiffly into the camera – it works nicely. If you have time to look for interesting compositions and direct the subjects to stand here, move over there, look that way, etc.
At a wedding, you don’t have a lot of that time. People are rushing about, trying to stick to a schedule that inevitably slips. They’re nervous, or thinking about other things, rather than relaxed and ready to be directed and sit still for several minutes at a time. Much of the time you just have to get in there and fire away with your camera.
I’m sure you can get better at it. Plenty of people make a living out of shooting weddings. But you know, seeing some of those wonderful creative shots of happy couples or bridal parties in scenic surroundings and dynamically posed makes me realise just how much time and effort and thought must have gone into those shots. You can’t just take a bride and groom into a garden for half an hour and get a drop-dead gorgeous photo. You need to plan it, and you need to direct the subjects. You need to stop time for them and have the luxury of an hour or two where there’s no rush to be somewhere else or worries about what’s next on the schedule.
Sometimes I think the best wedding photography isn’t done on the wedding day at all. It’s just too hectic. It has to be staged as a photo shoot, without all that other stuff happening around it.
To really do a wedding justice in photographs, I wish I had more time. Oh, I’m pretty happy with some of the shots I got this time. There are just some where I wish I’d had a bit more time to adjust things to get the shot perfect. This is not to complain. The day is for the happy couple, after all, and forcing them to bow to the whims of a photographer is not conducive to stress minimisation.
Maybe I just need more practice.