This gallery shows the fruits of a reasonably long journey, born of my time spent with over 700 couples and families during their most intimate times. I honestly didn’t plan to become a wedding photographer. There was no epiphany, no calling as such. I accidentally found a genre of photography, much misunderstood, often misrepresented, that clicks with with my sincere interest in human relationships. If I can record something that either did not seem obvious to anyone else in a room at the time or better still, was completely missed by all around me, I am genuinely excited by that privilege.
As a photographer I’m keen for brides and grooms to observe in a sense they’re not quite expecting. An American social, street and wedding photographer, Mel DiGiacomo, recounts a pertinent story where a bride commented that her wedding had actually been something of a blur. She had never really seen it at the time. “But you,” she enthused, “You were my witness. You showed me my wedding.”
Find something you really enjoy doing and learn about that subject. Eventually you’ll know your subject so well you’ll be able to read where it’s going before things actually happen. It’s having an extended sense to second guess what may develop before your eyes that’s important in this genre. If you can read a wedding, you can make a story. But it all starts by learning.
As you journey though this annotated gallery, you’ll happen across a series of short films known as Wedding Photofilms. As the recognised original pioneer of the Wedding Photofilm, these short stories are a marriage of photographs and sounds taken from a wedding day. Some take the origination one step further, with a narrative addition and short inclusion of some motion. Whilst many couples I photograph have a dedicated wedding film maker present on the day, the Wedding Photofilm is a unique option for couples who prefer unobtrusive photography but still wish to capture some sound.
Context is a word I use often within my blog pieces and certainly when meeting with couples. The cross themes this as a church piece, it’s a preparatory shot made just before the bride arrives for the ceremony. I’m sure if you visited this church today, you would still find the lad’s teeth marks in the oak pew. Seconds after I captured this, someone asked him to; ‘Smile for the man.’ But this, this is the real moment.
We’re moments from ‘the off.’ One side of the door there is a sense of energy and excitement, the other side, a rather more tempered anticipation. Certainly in a portfolio of important shots from a couple’s day, they are significant scene setters.
I picked up some sound advice when I started shooting weddings; don’t spend your time watching the day through your camera eye piece, firing frames carelessly without thought. Have your camera ready at all times, but make sure you observe first and shoot second. That way you’ll see scenes develop and people react to their feelings.
If asked to produce a Photofilm by a couple, it’s important to match the actual emotion of the day with the pace of the resultant film and of course the music. I make mood notes as the day progresses. This Savile Club Wedding Photofilm in London which features stills and sounds from the day, has a delicate narrative throughout courtesy of a clever Best Man’s speech.
Frivolity and humour is a key driver in terms of my engagement with the genre. I’ve watched brides being steamed in the very clothes in which they stand and all manner of creatures deliver wedding rings. Sometimes of course that frivolous humour is more subtle.
There has always been so much more to the picture above than gratuitous use of a familiar face. As a documentary story teller, I’m striving to be a couples’ eyes for the day, to show them what they didn’t see. The picture links to a Photofilm from the day and a reasonably energetic father of the bride speech!
There are two pivotal, expressive and highly emotive points of a day in particular. Often it’s the service and then the speeches. This is when emotional vulnerability is truly laid bare.
I can’t place a scientific absolute on the ratio of colour to black and white pictures I present to each couple, but there is a process behind why some images work more effectively as monochrome photographs. Colour is for the eye, black and white is for the brain, and if that sounds perhaps a little clinical, strip away the colour and you allow the story to unfold more comfortably. There’s less distraction and for someone who is absorbed by high contrast dynamic imagery, I get drawn right into where the light source is leading me. That’s certainly why some of the more emotional pictures within this gallery are classically black and white.
I’ve always felt it important to choose a photographer who produces pictures that resonate with you. Do you connect with their work, by which I mean how do you feel when you look through a portfolio of pictures from somebody else’s wedding? Wedding photography is about legacy, it’s about sealing recollection.
There is little doubt from my meetings with brides and grooms, past and present, that this picture is the one people most recall from the online gallery and whilst I would never presume to platform my work alongside the photographic greatness of Robert Capa, it is certainly a photograph made and inspired by his words; ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.’
With an emphasis within this gallery upon reportage or documentary wedding photography, you could be forgiven for thinking that I may not favour photographing groups of people and formal family portraits. My take on family group shots is that they’re an important part of the legacy and record of wedding photography but not something that should steal away a couple’s day. So yes, I’m confident in arranging groups and do so at every wedding to varying degrees. I’ve written a guide about group shots which you can link through to here. There is a similar page to cover that portion of the day where couples may wish for some portraits to celebrate this unique day. Take a tour to this page to read my thoughts about how this part of a wedding day can be approached whilst retaining a strong natural leaning to the day’s photography.
As a child, I banqueted on a feast of exceptionally charming children’s television classics which included Bagpuss, The Clangers and Ivor the Engine. Oliver Postgate created these beautiful works of televisual art where the animation had a glorious simple staccato nature. I’d been waiting for a Photofilm within which I could emulate the style of Postgate’s mastery. A picture that was flown 6,000 miles eventually brought that opportunity.
Available light photography enables me as a photographer to work close to people, far closer than you can when toting a flash and lighting up the room like a Christmas tree. Reportage or documentary style, it assumes many titles, is about how you act. I’ve heard it suggested you can only do that at weddings if you look like one of the guests, though some of the finest photojournalism around the world has been made by photographers who look like, well, photographers. If you act quietly, observe, make a picture, then move to the next interesting scene, you’ll be rewarded for that quietness.
I remember standing on a chair to gather this viewpoint. The party had started, the bar was busy, everyone was in engaged in the atmosphere. The head you see bottom right attached to it’s body of course collided with me. The guy had strong farmer like shoulders. I was upended, caught in my descent as ever by a very well meaning wedding guest.
I hope the pictures above resonate somehow with you. It’s flattering indeed when a bride or groom contact me to say they felt they were really at a wedding when looking at a particular picture, or could feel hairs raise on the back of their neck when listening to vows being exchanged or a soundbite from a speech within one of my Wedding Photofilms. It’s encouraging, perhaps validation that even when I can’t help a couple because I’m otherwise commissioned, they have reached out through pictures to tell me about their day, though I do wish I could split in two quite often. I’ve never intended to label myself as any kind of wedding photographer, save wanting to remain authentic as a story teller. Documentary or reportage is perhaps closest to it. I’m just wishing to make pictures for you that tell your story as it really was, so you can look back in years to come and say; “Yes, that was how it happened. That was really how it happened.”