The Northern Star
I thought for blog post number one on my new site, the best topic would be to write about photographing person number one at any wedding: the bride. If someone were to ask me what’s the best way to photograph a wedding, I would say, just follow the bride. She is the Northern Star I follow throughout the day and although there are other moments and characters to capture, she is the one who gets the most attention from my camera. Above all others it is HER day.
Virtually every critical shot involves the bride. Starting with her getting ready in the morning, be that in a room in the venue itself, or in her parents house. When I first meet her on the day I will be seeking to put her at ease, asking if she slept alright, asking how she’s feeling, if she’s nervous, excited and so on. I’ll then let her know I’m about to start photographing and that unless I ask her to do something specific, she should ignore me as best she can from now on. I need her, and everyone around her, to feel as unselfconscious as possible if I’m going to get the natural looking shots that I’m looking for.
Assuming the bride is getting ready away from the venue, the next big shot I’ll be looking to get will be her getting out of the car at the venue. I want her to look poised and graceful as much as possible in these shots, but I also want to capture her anticipation. Stepping out of the car marks the end of her preparations and the start of her big moment. As she approaches and enters the venue with her father, particularly if it’s a church wedding, there can be great opportunities for framing the pair in an arched doorway, for example, and there can be some quite visually striking moments to be captured with back-lighting from the sun.
Where I stand to capture the processional will depend very much on the venue. At a church, I will stand in front of the altar and use a long lens to track the pair as they move up the aisle and then move off to a discreet position on the left where I know the bride will always be facing front or towards me. Again using a long lens this can be a great opportunity to get portraits shots of the bride, particularly when she turns to face the groom. A lot of critical shots are happening here with the making of the vows and the exchange of rings. It’s a great time for reaction shots, especially from the bride, who is frequently tearful at what has to be one of the most joyful moments of her life.
After the exchange of rings, I step out into the aisle to capture the first kiss. Then I move to the back of the aisle for the recessional, with the newly wed couple walking slowly towards me. Once outside the venue, with the anticipation and climax to formalities over, the mood changes to one of celebration. Lots of hugs and emotion, a lot of interactions to capture, so again I need to be on the look out constantly for expressive moments to capture between family members and especially the bride and groom. With the drinks reception, the wedding starts to take on more of a party atmosphere.
The formal portraits are next, where I take aside the bride and groom and take formal shots of them together at particularly dramatic, interesting or photogenic spots around the venue that I spotted on my recce prior to the big day. Most people don’t particularly like being photographed and the couple need some direction from me to look more natural, as contradictory as that sounds. Often I will have a selection of poses to put them in while continuing a casual conversation about the day, offering my congratulations, asking them how they are feeling and so on. With the poses, really I am just creating a framework within which they can start to express themselves towards each other, which leads to more interesting and satisfying images than them just standing there holding hands, which most couples would do left to their own devices. I remember one bride thanking me with a knowing smile on her face when she got what I was up to.
As well the longer, full-length shots and environmental shots where you see the venue and surroundings too, I’ll also be honing in on details: the brides bouquet, her veil, details of the dress, the ring. Once, a bride was given a horseshoe by her grandmother as a good luck gift and her reaction to receiving it made for a lovely impromptu portrait.
After the portraiture are the group shots. Then we move on to the cutting of the cake, the wedding breakfast and the speeches. My attention here is not just with the unfolding events, but with the couples reaction to them.
The first dance rounds out the day, a somewhat technically tricky occasion to capture with often a variety of coloured and directional lights, but one which is also fun and a good moment for some creative experimentation. I’ll then say my goodbyes to my clients. If I get a hug from the bride, I’ll know I’ll have done OK.
20th September 2017