At the turn of the year, I was looking back and was surprised to see how many weddings I shot back in the day.
In 2010, I did 23. Now, that’s not a lot for shooters who call themselves "Wedding Photographers" full time. But as a newspaper photojournalist — when I'm working long weeks covering everything — that’s a lot of weekends to fill with romance.
You have to realize a wedding shoot is about eight to 10 hours, just to start. Editing, posting and building albums takes another 20 — easily.
I finally wised up at about the age of 53 and cut way back. I think it was the right decision at the time, even though I loved doing each and every one of them. As long as my clients agreed to let me shoot in a journalistic fashion, they were a joy.
But I was burning out.
Lately, I’ve been dipping my toes back in, and with the wedding season coming up, I thought I could give some tips on the best approach. In this day and age of high-quality digital cameras and phones, more weddings are being shot by amateur shooters. Very often, it’s family and friends of the bride and groom.
So if you have a reputation as a strong photographer, there is a good chance you’ll be asked.
Let Things Happen
For me, as a journalist, this is No. 1: Letting things happen.
I want my images to show what happened and what happened naturally. When photos are staged or posed, the couple is going to remember the posing and not so much the event.
This approach is one of the things that makes a wedding shoot exhausting. To capture the moment, and the next moment and next the moment and the next and the next for eight hours. It takes a lot of attention and mental energy. But the results are totally worth it.
Of course, this does not apply to portraits, which are, by definition, posed. But even there, set the scene and let the couple be themselves.
This is a huge part in capturing the moment again and again, and it becomes easier through experience.
By staying tuned to what is happening around you, you can anticipate what is going to happen. This is so important.
When the groom surprises his groomsmen with a special gift, you want to get that moment. You don’t want to be saying, “Please pretend to be surprised by that so I can get the shot.” Same with a tear running down his cheek the first time he sees his bride in her gown. Or sneaking a kiss before entering the reception.
“Knowing” things are going to happen also allows you to be in the right place when they do.
Anticipating the shot is the first step to getting the shot.
Crave the Emotion
This a day filled with emotions. That is what makes covering one so special.
Don’t shy away from it. These emotional moments make the day come alive, but they are often hard to capture, since it's only natural to not want to intrude.
These are the moments of fear, of anticipation, of nerves and of joy and of relief — and they show themselves in many ways. How these emotions reveal themselves is what the photographer must show.
It is so much of what the day is all about.
For all of these thoughts, communication is key. Talk with the bride and groom ahead of the Big Day to find out about what they really want. Also, let them know what you want to capture.
I have found that the journalistic approach is what the vast majority of couples want in their wedding albums. They want the real stuff. They want real moments with real emotions. They want the real images to draw real memories from their wedding albums.
Letting the bride and groom know this is what you want to shoot and getting their approval will give you the confidence to get the shots.
The best comments about wedding albums I’ve built are on the order of: “This is perfect. I was so nervous that day I didn’t even remember these things happening. Thank you for capturing them for us.”
A comment like that, and knowing those images will live for generations, makes all the effort absolutely worth it!