I’ve been asked across the years to photographically cover weddings for venue owners, wedding organisers and other wedding photographers and whilst every event retains an importance befitting a truly one off occasion, there is no doubt on a day where wedding professionals are the key focus, there is a mind shift in terms of how I experience their photography. Because as a documentary wedding photographer I choose to envelop myself in a day and truly experience the event rather than work from a shot list, perhaps it’s that in the back of my mind, there’s a heightened intrigue as to how they are seeing their day unfold from the other side of the counter.
And so I bring you Angus and Verity’s Wasing Park Wedding Photofilm, a real journey of emotion with an inevitable focus on food at one stage, as the groom is a director of the catering organisation driving this venue. And with each Photofilm presented there seems to be an enhanced documentary feel; the film breaking from musical score on a couple of occasions to experience simply the sounds and atmosphere recorded.
A clean break is not a term you may necessarily associate with subject matter relating to a wedding. Yet, when you’ve been planning a wedding for two years, looking forward to the date, the occasion and everything to do with this one big day, think of one of the most difficult phone calls you could make, exactly four weeks to the day of the marriage itself when you have to announce; “Darling, I’ve just broken my ankle.”
This wedding saw many a twist and turn (if you’ll forgive the gratuitous pun Tony) in terms of the tales of a day, including a professional comic as one of the best men. So, here’s a love story, actually, here’s a whole bunch of stories, in a Photofilm called ‘Stories to tell’.
It’s a wedding venue I know well, Wasing Park; under fifteen minutes from my front door, I’ve shot over 70 weddings at this one venue alone. Yet every day is different, and I genuinely feel that. We talk a lot in this industry about story telling, narrative building through wedding photography. By setting the images from a day to sounds recorded as the tale unfolds in real time, I really believe it’s a strong way to capture another dimension in terms of narrative. Here’s Duncan and Erica’s story as a Wedding Photofilm.
I was in an art shop, weekend just gone. I was chatting with the staff, and somehow we got on to the subject of photographic capture and how rapid frame burst meant that you missed nothing as a photographer; the automatic way to guarantee that you’ve caught something worth printing out. There are many industry terms used for operating this way; spray and pray being one of them. There is no doubt that the ability to capture frames quickly in succession is a feature heralded by say sports photographers, and you can see why. But in wedding work and many portrait scenarios, I prefer a somewhat calmer approach – that way you truly drink the atmosphere of what is building before your eyes.
In technical terms, comprehending how your subjects are or may just about to be lit, is an important process in the art of seeing – and for me, slowing your frame by frame workflow helps you develop an eye for light; arguably the most important facet of any overall composition. A very good friend of mine has just returned from Bosnia capturing a photographic suffix to a story he witnessed twenty years ago in the country when photographing within the military. He shot film, he shot considered. At the time of writing, one week on from capture, he was still awaiting the return of his films from processing. I am sure the results will be worth the wait.
As a dad to two boys, I imagine I’ll never understand the emotional journey a father takes as he traditionally accepts the offer to; ‘Give his daughter’s hand in marriage.’ I know this though; the adventure of raising little-uns, for me, has been one where I simply want my children to have the best opportunities they can, for all time.
This picture for me is a kind of clarity image. I see the bride’s father looking toward the man marrying his daughter, and I see this peaceful expression envelop his face as vows are exchanged. It’s an; ‘All is well,” announcement.
It rained. Oh, it rained. And then it rained some more. But you know what? Late November, Christmas rapping on the door with a reminder to check your behaviour for the naughty and nice list; there’s a romance to winter weddings that dispels any thought from your mind that mild weather is the only accompaniment to saying “I do.” Here’s a new Photofilm edit from Chris and Nicola’s Windsor wedding, with reception at Bijou Weddings’ Botleys Mansion.
Never forget that wedding preparations involve a cast of bridal VIPs. I see many portfolios that centre in on the bride, rightly so you may moot, yet forget that there are other key family or friends to photograph. Don’t ever underestimate how important it is for others to be considered within your collection of final images. We spend so long as photographers ‘shooting for the angle’ when it comes to creative representation of bridal preparations, that it’s easy to sideline the same artistic consideration for those playing a supportive role. In this frame for example, I’ve silhouetted the bride’s mother as she is readied for ‘the off.’
I was never entirely sure what was truly meant by the term ‘find your own style,’ a suggestion often mooted by photographic seniors I aspired to. It seemed to me that everything stylistically had been tried, tested, ripped apart, examined, re-examined, reinvented, copied and then more recently actioned again, but this time with some kind of vintage filter wash. So presenting something truly original would surely be like discovering a photographic holy grail.
But many years on, I now think I understand this style term, finally I do. It’s not as I once thought a challenge to be the pictorial mother of invention, but to be true to how you enjoy creatively working. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by others then replicating that technique to a degree. After all, unless you really do intend to set up the same shot, in the same place, with the same lens, working the same combination of shutter speed and aperture, there’ll always be a difference to how you interpret somebody else’s character in their work.
I quite enjoy the immediacy and grit of street photography for instance. I’m quite driven by the brashness of the likes of New York’s Bruce Gilden. There is certainly an inspired element of that in my close up reportage work. I was delighted when downloading this image from the camera cards weekend just gone, that looking over my shoulder, my wife commented; “That’s very you, that’s one of your photographs.”
If by that she means the vignetting of an image by people within the scene, or my two stops under technical approach, then maybe I’ve found that style thing everyone in the photographic course talked so enthusiastically about as I started out. If she simply said it because she saw me removing cards from my cameras and it was a natural deduction who they belonged to, then the hunt for the holy grail is back on!
It’s very rare that a guest at a wedding recoils from me as I ‘work the room’ with my 24mm prime. For fear of evangelising just a little too readily about this bit of kit, it certainly does make me act differently as a photographer. I couldn’t imagine being without this lens at any kind of event, it simply draws subjects in through the fact you have to truly engage with what you’re photographing. There’s no half way measure. This is either a ‘stand back grab a vista’ lens, or a ‘roll your sleeves up and join the action’ piece of glass.
It’s responsive, quick to focus, sharp even beyond the sweet spot and in the way I use it, almost always for fill the frame street photography style capture, perfect for delivering dynamic people shots that convey movement or close up people record shots. The image above displays this well. I tend to walk the floor a little between courses during a wedding breakfast. There are serving staff moving around, guests mingling; a perfect opportunity to melt in and photographically ‘climb shoulders’ to gather beautifully close up engaging record shots.
The groom’s nephew in what I believe can be considered a portrait albeit an unusually composed one. Captured at Silchester House last autumn, I’m looking forward to shirt sleeves fashion once more; bring on that spring like warmth. Parental awareness has opened my eyes to portraying young spirit. I know the best pictures of our own lads are usually ‘doing things’ photos and this is a simple example of that.
I try to capture pictures of young family members engaged in activity of some kind. There are obviously levels of success in this. Child playing on a DS, not necessarily photographic gold, child tucking into the cupcakes display unbeknown to anyone else in the room, absolute magic. Here I spotted the groom’s nephew approaching the the couple while I was gathering a few portraits. He was out of puff and needed help with his balloon. Shooting through bodies has framed the portrait and it’s a gentle ‘doing things’ tick in the box. Now all I need him to do, is to tuck into some cupcakes!