Perfecting the Imperfections of Wedding Photography
It’s been a long time since I actually had a chance to sit down and write a blog post. Finding the balance between parenthood and growing a business is challenging. There is, however, one thing they have in common; I continue to learn on the job every single day.
This long post started off with the intention of a recap of 2015 with the pictures I took over the past 12 months, but eventually turned into a summary of what I learned over the years in doing what I love to do. But hey I figured this would be a good way to kickstart 2016, right? :)
A little while ago, during a consultation, a client asked me this great question regarding where my work has been published. After hundreds of meetings, that’s actually the very first time anyone asked me this, and that really made me reflect. Over the course of my 7 years as a wedding photographer, I never wanted much publicity, but did not understand why. A part of it is probably attributed to my personality which does not like to draw too much attention to begin with. But in the end, I finally came to the conclusion why it never appealed much to me to submit my work to all the major blogs.
Perfecting the Imperfections
Bridal blogs online, to me at least, serve as great resources for bride-to-be’s out there when they’re planning their wedding, as well as wedding planners looking for inspiration. Their main focus is always on details, details, and details, which is great to some extent. However, from a wedding photographer’s perspective, I feel like there’s a lot more than that which I want to express.
I still remember some of my most treasured photographs from when I got married about 10 years ago from memory, even though the last time I looked at the photos was several years ago. But the images that are burnt into my memory that won’t fade away in time, were when my mother looked like she’s smiling genuinely but not smiling for the camera, or when my uncle and aunt were very buzzed and blowing cigarette smoke circles towards the camera. These are are the bits and pieces of my wedding day that I missed experiencing. After all these years, those are the pictures that help me treasure these memories. This is what got me interested in wedding photography in the first place.
Some of these images would be meaningless to those who are outside of the bride and groom’s circle of friends and family, but what I learned over the years is which moments to capture that will be creating these priceless memories for the couple. But these photos might be the ones that are found to be meaningless to a bridal blog, or a wedding magazine.
For certain individuals, these images would be considered imperfect to be published. But to me, these are the very rare occasions when I can capture the almost perfect slice of beauty without artificially creating it. Sure, at times I will intervene to reposition a couple of items, or move the subject to a better spot to allow me to take a better photo, but at the same time, I do it with respect to capturing what’s really happening instead of asking you to do what I want so I can do my job.
I’m not staging for the perfect shot.
I’d rather accept the imperfections of that almost perfect photograph captured naturally.
Doing it Once
I remember when I shot my very first wedding to help out a friend’s friend. I wasn’t ready for the ring exchange as I didn’t have the right lens. Because I wasn’t quite ready for that moment, I missed it. The pastor also made it a point that he didn’t want us getting in too close, and in the end, they reenacted the scene so we could move in close to get the action. In retrospect, those pictures are absolutely meaningless because they only represent a reenactment.
Sure, some moments can be reenacted and the average viewer would not notice. But the point is I know it, and the subject knows it, and to me that matters. It will always be on the back of my mind knowing that I took a photo of a reenactment rather than the moment of the ring exchange. Or if it’s a second time of a first look and the emotions of their real first look are lost.
No, I won’t run up to you during your ceremony to tell you my camera is out of battery. True story though, I really have seen a videographer halt a wedding once because his battery died on him, and he had to run to the back to get a fresh one. I check my batteries and memory cards before all events, and I always have 2 bodies ready to go. I want to get it done right, the first time, because it makes it that much more meaningful.
Staying far… far… away
Staying further away from the action serves two purposes. First of all, it allows me to capture beyond only the core of the action, and second and actually most importantly, it allows the viewer to take a step back from all the action and take a glimpse of this from a third person’s perspective, which is especially important during a ceremony. This gives the viewer a break while literally taking a step back to allow you to see the big picture, as illustrated in the following image taken at the Langham Horseshoe Garden, when I set up the camera ahead of time and ran back to get the shot.
Up Close, and Personal
While staying further away doesn’t allow one to tell the whole story, we need to balance out the photo journalism approach with closeups and portraits. Also, there are certainly plenty of times when the interaction is more than necessary to get that picture to look right. I believe posing is important and it is a very critical part of photography, but I firmly believe that you’re hosting a wedding for the guests instead of hosting a wedding to allow your photographer to do a full day photo session of you in a wedding gown. So, I always do my best to continue to find the right balance.
As always, I’m continuing to refine the art of maintaining the right distance to tell the story. Like the above image for example where I was standing about 6 feet away, versus the one immediate below where I shot with a much shorter lens getting up to a few feet away, and doing all that while maintaining the organic look of the image without telling them what to do, or changing a thing about the genuine look of the images.
Sometimes simple directions are all that’s necessary.
I much prefer guiding my couples into a natural pose. But when the timing is right and the moment calls for it, it’s always great to get a nice photo of a timeless kiss that looks a little more epic.
Never forgetting about the details
Taking pictures of the little things that matter the most is one of my favorite parts of shooting a wedding. It takes time to set up, and I also have to take it slow, but it also gives me the opportunity to think outside the box or to think hard to try to get something different, something unique.
It’s never quite as easy as working with items in a studio because I don’t have all the time in the world during a wedding to photograph these details. So the challenge is to race against the clock while working with the limited resources at any given point to deliver something that’s hopefully out of the ordinary.
Staying true to myself, and Defining my Own Style
I continue to struggle to figure out what to call my style, which now I think is probably a blessing in a disguise. But I’m very sure of the following
- I’m not focused only on doing portraits
- I’m not focused only on doing details
- I’m not focused only on doing group photos
- I’m not focused only on photographing what blogs and magazines want, and
- I’m not focused only on doing candids either
But I do focus on striking the right balance to deliver a phenomenal set of photographs that I hope you’ll treasure for a lifetime.