I’ve not quite heard… sorry, I’d like to start this post again. Photographers, I’d be genuinely interested to receive your feedback on this one. Tweet me, post a message here, or just plain old fashioned DM me through the various social media outlets I have. So, to continue. I’ve not quite heard either the legally appropriate or correct reasoning for not allowing photography during the register signing. To date, here are the reasons; you could jog the signatory, your clicks will put them off, it’s a data protected document (which doesn’t work at all in that I photograph on the plain), it’s illegal to photograph during signing of a document like this. Actually I’m not sure that Chinese whispers haven’t conspired to muddy the waters on what the real reasons are for the prohibition of register pictures. For instance, today I was permitted to sign the whole process of the signing. In a church only a week ago, the vicar invited me to make photographs during the signing. In London the relaxed attitude to photography during this moment is well documented. If you think about it, the most important signatory pictures are well documented. I give you ends of wars, showbiz monikers and peace agreements. So the idea of not being able to make a picture of two people signing their agreement to spend a life together is somewhat odd. So why, the mixed messages? I don’t know? I’d like to share this though. For me, this is indicative of the reason for photographing the ACTUAL signing, and not the recreated moment that features a document that is brought in as the ‘stunt item.’ I can’t understand why photographers of reasonable standing can’e be trusted to just, do their thing. This is gold. This is reality, authenticity. And it simply can’t be recreated.
Shot data: focal length 35mm, f2, 1/125, ISO 1600, under-exposed by a stop
But all for a good cause. Whenever I’m asked about essential equipment for weddings, I am sure those who ask are expecting me to propose a particular type or make of lens, a camera body, perhaps brand of memory card. I often answer with a flippancy; a good pair of shoes. Or moreover, a strong pair of shoes. And my reason? Come the dancing you need to be in the thick of the action, moving in and out of the contorted steps, leg kicks and circles of energetic movers shaping their musical improvisations. And this is never more true than when you photograph the Israeli dancing during a Jewish wedding. My advice then for photographers who may never have made a picture at one of these incredibly potent genre of weddings, is to don your widest angle lens, a flash if you require and wade into the throng with your best pair of tough shoes, because if you really want to capture the energy, you need to be close. Wide angle close. By lowering your camera angle too, you increase the energy. But be aware if you want to get this close, that you’ll be accidentally ‘nudged’ from all sides. The results though are entirely worth it. New size 8s please.
Shot data: focal length 16mm, f2.8, 1/160, ISO 12800, over-exposed by a third of a stop
Yes and yes. And yes some more. In my eagerness to promote the reportage, documentary purpose of my photography at weddings, I’ve rather disengaged the website gallery from showcasing any form of contrived posed pictures. I know, guilty as charged. Do I think there is a place for such work at a wedding? Yes, I do. It’s more a case that I don’t believe such a session should devour the hour and a half of a drinks reception that is often afforded a couple at their wedding. I’ve spoken to too many chefs who have found themselves warming the starters a little longer than initially planned because the photographer needed, ‘Just one more thing’ in Columbo like fashion. I like to think of the portrait session as time borrowed. It’s not my time, it’s your time and the idea that the drinks reception has become known as photography time seems somewhat at odds with what I believe the day is about. But. But. I do think there is a legacy to what I refer to as; the mantlepiece shot. I have various mantlepiece shots from weddings. My parents. Their parents. And even one of my mother’s parent’s parents. That’s pretty unique, I think. Time borrowed for me ideally means twenty minutes, at most thirty. During that time though, the portraits are still relaxed in their execution. A walk, a talk. A stolen kiss. And a promise that the chef will not be chasing me with a meat cleaver for delivering you late to a flattened starter soufflé.
Shot data: effective focal length 77mm, f4, 1/4000, ISO 200, under-exposed by a third of a stop
Wasing Park. Shorty today, it’s late. I’ve been meaning to post this picture for a little while. Leading lines are often talked about in photography, a method by which to encourage the viewer to inspect a part or destination within a picture you want them to visit. Infinity lines are similar and here the Polaroids form a step down infinity line toward the back wall and bridesmaids chatting excitedly before the day’s wedding.
Shot data: focal length 35mm, f2, 1/125, ISO 400, under-exposed by two thirds of a stop
In yesterday’s blog post I talked of an eminent professional photographer who’d mooted the fact he’d never produced a selfie despite his decades within the profession. I’m going to cite some advice proffered by a conflict photographer I met three years ago in today’s post. That guidance was aimed at those who employ photographers more than the artist really and it went along these lines; “I’d hire the photographer whose trousers have worn knees.” Aside a little flippancy, his message came across loud and clear. Too many photographers spend their time photographing on one plain; that of their standing height. I’m reasonably sure I’d been experimenting with plenty of differing photographic angles; shooting past arms, through church pew ends, over, through and under door openings etc, but his words underlined an ethos that’s vital if you want to find creative ways of photographing familiar story lines each week. This image practises that concept placing the groom’s eye line on my level. So yes, I’m on my knees shooting through a gap in the audience tracking the whites of his eyes as they fall upon his best man making a speech. The groom isn’t centred. There’s a deal of negative space and the shoot through context makes this feel as if it could have been captured through the eyes of a guest.
Shot data: focal length 85mm, f1.8, 1/125, ISO 2000
I met a seasoned photographer last week who declared he’d only recently performed the act of capturing his first and only selfie. Belonging to one of the world’s most prestigious photographic agencies; Magnum, Mark Power is the King of the long tail picture assignment, so it’s not entirely surprising that selfies don’t flash with a strong green luminance upon his radar. Of course if he were to spend his time at weddings, he’d have discovered the brethren spend much time grafting upon the art of creating selfies. It’s a rather obvious photograph for documentarians these days, so creating a composition around photographing the photographer is key. I often choose to use a foreground feature or subject to hide behind, a suggestion of reveal.
Shot data: focal length 85mm, f2.8, 1/125, ISO 2000, under-exposed by two thirds of a stop
St Mary’s at Shaw in Newbury. May arrived, the ‘wedding season’ really began in fullness and with a trip away to film in London last week, three weeks has passed minus any blogging or Instagramming. Where do the days go? Catching breath and facing my keyboard once again, 365 continues; my attempt to post a photograph daily from the weddings I shoot. Here’s a photograph from a wedding I’m just releasing to William and Naomi, wed late April in what’s sometimes referred to as Newbury’s Vodafone quarter; a corner of the town that neighbours one of the world’s largest mobile network HQs. St Mary’s is an airy bright church with clergy that seem welcoming to photographers in a way that’s not always apparent elsewhere. In this case the minister incumbent is an Australian whose approach to the question of, “Where may I stand?” is greeted with the suggestion of, “Well as long as I’m not overly aware of you, anywhere you like, mate.” Told you he was Australian. I’m not suggesting you work harder or smarter because a celebrant affords you professional respect, but it certainly gifts the photographer a chance to experiment. In this case I was ‘allowed’ to search for a composition that I know will surprise the bride and groom. Shot through a pew end, everything I want is here; the two key players in this wedding story – and the outstretched hand of a vicar delivering his sermon.
Shot data: focal length 85mm, f2.5, 1/160, ISO 5000, under-exposed by a third of a stop
I used to moot that the 24mm focal length lens was really the best, for me, for getting in close in terms of documenting close quarter rapport between brides, grooms and guests during what I often refer to as; ‘The Hug-a-thon.’ That 11mm difference between 24 and 35 though, just allows me and those I am photographing a little breathing space. I still photographically love the 24mm lens for it’s energetic personal feel, where you, as the viewer may literally transport yourself into a picture, it is that close quarter. But the 35mm is one, perhaps two steps back – and whilst it may not be quite so urgent, it’s a super lens for documenting. Using prime lenses is an important rite of passage for photographers. To use your feet as the zoom gives us, as photographers a chance to be more a part of the overall scene. Photographing from afar with a powerful zoom, does not.
Shot data: focal length 35mm, f3.5, 1/200, ISO 100, over-exposed by a third of a stop
There are some images you make that you just know are impactful the moment you depress the shutter button. And whilst it may not be a high emotion picture, there’s an intensity that feels palpable. This week’s theme has been ‘under a watchful eye,’ and I think this photograph of a bridesmaid captivated by her auntie sharing vows fits the theme well. I talk often about photographing through the gap, or finding the gap. If you can capture context, that marries well when working to make a wedding story. The bride and her father vignette this picture providing the context.
Shot data: effective focal length 85mm, f1.2, 1/125, ISO 640, over-exposed by a third of a stop
It’s a subject I’ve blogged about before; unplugged weddings. Yesterday photographing a wedding at Rivervale Barn near Yateley, the registrar, during her pre-flight announcements suggested that guests could perhaps leave their phones in an unpowered condition and leave the job of photography to me. I’m never sure that I’m comfortable to be used as the excuse for any form of photographic ban, although I understand the idea being mooted by the celebrant. It was what she said next that intrigued me. Her suggestion was that the photographer’s job is to photograph the day and it is the guests’ job to feel the day. My eyebrow raised, I noted her comment. Because I think, or rather hope, that my job is to help those looking at the pictures I make, to feel the day too. Obviously not every frame carries an emotional current, but that’s what I’m there to find. A documentary wedding photographer has an enormous opportunity to share the feeling of a day. I often say to new photographers; “Take your foot off the motorwind gas, lower your camera, sense the mood of a scene and only raise your camera when you start to feel a story unfolding before you.”
Shot data: focal length 110mm, f2.8, 1/125, ISO 640
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