Ah, I see, that image got your attention! OK then, I'll tell you all about my first ever wedding shoot! Friday 25th May, on a postcard-perfect, beautiful day, Carrie and Nathan got married... awwwww! It was sunny, not a cloud in sight, hot with a chance of sunburn and a slight breeze. Perfect, right?
Erm, not quite. 'What???', I hear you asking in an almost outraged tone. Isn't that what everyone - from the bride to the photographer - wishes for on a wedding day? Actually, not. A brilliantly cloudless day not only makes all the guests squint a lot more, therefore producing a lot of closed eyes and funny faces that no amount of editing can put right, but also, perhaps even more importantly, it can wash out highlights and produce what photographers call "burnt" images. This is where the light is so harsh that it stops showing any decor, folds or various other details on a wedding dress, or any other outfit, object or plant. This is most noticeable on white and light colours, and worst of all, on faces, making people look featureless. Not to mention how a hot day can make everyone uncomfortable and impatient when posing for any considerable amount of time.
In preparation for the day, I had a lot of things to focus on. I am quite comfortable with photographing landscapes, buildings, flowers and wildlife, as well as various other commercial subjects. I have a lot of experience and positive feedback in those areas. However, this was not only the first wedding I was photographing, but also only the third wedding I had ever attended in my entire life, including my own. It's one thing to read guides, tutorials, blogs and all that, and a whole different thing to actually do it. Until you get your hands dirty, so to speak, you won't know what to expect and no idea if you're any good at it, or enjoy it.
But on the day, my thoughts were totally focused on the job at hand. Shooting the Langley wedding really opened my eyes to the workload of a wedding photographer. I had previously thought that creativity, an eye for good composition and good technical knowledge would take care of it, but all these things 'doth not a wedding photographer make', as Shakespeare would put it. I guess I somehow imagined that people would know how to pose, where to stand, and that someone would ask me all the time where I wanted everyone. Well, the first lesson I learned is that you need to be very good at what my wife calls 'stakeholder management', and have no qualms about ordering people around a bit. No room for shyness or misplaced fear of antagonising people... Be too quiet and polite and you won't get the shots you want. Be too loud and bossy and you will exasperate people. You have to find a balance between pressing 'pause' to take all the main shots you need, in peace, and letting the event flow freely, without being intrusive.
I found, however, that all my experience of capturing wildlife and nature's unexpected prepared me well for the unforeseen side of weddings, and that was reassuring. Indeed, many of my images from the day illustrate that.
There were also touching, emotional moments I strived to capture, knowing the story behind them. There was the worried look the Bride and Groom were trying to conceal as they thought about their eldest daughter, missing the chance to shine as one of their bridesmaids - only the night before the wedding, Georgia had been rushed to the hospital and operated of appendicitis. The Bride looked beautiful and radiant as she arrived in her Silver Shadow Rolls Royce - you wouldn't have guessed she had spent the night at the hospital. Then, just as the famous "Bridal Chorus" from Wagner's 'Lohengrin' started to fill the Church, there was a quiet, teary-eyed look between the Bride and her sister - the Maid of Honour. Both were obviously missing their Dad, who had passed away a few months before the wedding, and in whose place the Maid of Honour was giving the bride away. They held hands tightly and walked together down the aisle.
In the event, I was very happy, relieved and even somewhat surprised to read the waves of positive feedback, both from the happy couple and some of their guests, and others who had seen the pictures.
So until the next time, enjoy the Jubilee celebrations and the Bank Holiday and spare a thought for me, as I'll be spending it working - a very demanding client has hired me to shoot a few formal portraits of her and her beloved Corgis!