Photos of a wedding

Article text
Some time ago, I had the chance to take photos at a friend’s wedding. You might have heard how stressful wedding photography can be. Well, I was lucky. I was only there as a second photographer, so I could happily take my photos without worrying too much and also learn a lot by watching the professional photographer.

The wedding took place in a beautiful manor house in the English countryside. There was hardly any place one would rather be, let alone take photos of. The house had been built with beauty in mind. Everything in and around it spoke of good aesthetics and harmony. The bride had the bridal suite at her disposal, a wood furnished heaven with ample natural light that gave me a perfect background to photograph the bride and her props. The groom was comfortably tucked away at the boys’ room with a “No girls allowed” sign hanging on the door as well as a chess board and a pool table to provide him with some distraction on the big day and me with lots of chances for candid photos.

Having taken the beautiful setting out of my worry list, I could then focus on the action. It was a very happy day with plenty of smiles and bright faces to photograph. Everybody seemed as if they had left their worries at home. This was a day for celebration, jokes, hugs and strong emotions. The bride herself didn’t seem in the least stressed and since she is a happy person by nature, she was very easy to get on with and graced us with her smile the whole day through. Candid moments kept coming one after the other, so it was only a question of being ready and fast enough to capture them.

The wedding took place in the early afternoon of a summer day and we were lucky to enjoy a sunny day in the East Anglia Fens. That meant that there was plenty of light even inside the manor house and the church, so I didn’t have to struggle with the complications of low light photography or rely on artificial light to save the day.

That said, no matter how bright the day was, the biggest part of the action took place in closed spaces, so the right equipment and settings were very important. The other photographer had two full-frame cameras with her as well as professional lenses. At the time, I only had my Nikon 7000 and a prime 1.8 lens. That means there were some limitations but at least the lens was bright enough for indoor photography. Later, I bought a 24-70 lens with a constant aperture of 2.8 which still enables me to take bright indoor photos but with more flexibility. Another thing to take into account when shooting indoors is the field of view. On a few occasions I found it hard to fit everything I wanted in the frame of my 35mm lens. A more wide-angle lens was needed. Even better, a zoom lens would give the flexibility of getting everything to fit in the picture without having to move too much and disrupt the process or distract the people in the church. I believe the professional photographer had a 24-70mm lens and a 70-200mm lens on her cameras.

Needless to say that, on a day like this, things happen very fast and candid pictures are all around all the time. For the photographer to be equally fast to capture those special moments, apart from a constant alertness, they need to be technically apt for the job. There is no time to think about camera settings, let alone, look for the buttons on the camera, so the photographer should know what to do and how to do it in less than a second. They also need to take into account the work of other people, mainly the priest but also the hairdresser, make-up artist and flower arranger and try not to get in their way when it’s time for them to do their job. Some consideration should also be given in order not to become too intrusive in private moments as well as to respect the spirituality of the process.

After the wedding ends, party time begins. Then there are even more opportunities for lively photos but with one extra difficulty. There are people everywhere and it’s very likely that one of them will get in the way just when you are about to press the button for that perfect shot. I still remember placing myself strategically outside the church to capture the couple as they were getting out and being stormed with handfuls of rice just to see the bride’s brother get in front of everyone to capture the moment with his own camera.

Last but not least there is the difficulty of organizing group shots. It’s not only about putting all people in front of a nice background and getting them to fit in your frame. It’s mostly about instructing them, holding their attention and also keeping them entertained long enough to get the shot you want. So, instead of being that invisible person behind the camera, you now have to be a little bit of a funny, loud, and firm little clown.

All in all, as it has been said a million times before, wedding photography is not for the faint-hearted. It’s demanding, stressful and tiring. It’s for those photographers who have a strong stomach and know when to have a strong presence and when to disappear behind the camera. It’s for those who are skilled, experienced and well-prepared.

But, at the end of the day, it’s a big big joy. You are there taking pictures of people on one of the happiest days of their lives and, believe me, their joy is contagious. While I was with the couple and their families, surrounded by so many smiling faces and so much love, I remember thinking to myself “Why do I complain? Why do I ever moan? Life is good. Life is bliss.” The stress, the tiredness… it was all worth it. I drove back home with a strange feeling of lightness, completeness and reassurance. Since there were days that could get as good as this one, life would always be good.