Before each wedding I photograph I get nervous. Really nervous. My job that day is to document the lives and relationships that a couple has with the people who witness their special day. I am honored and humbled by this responsibility every single time I do it- whether it’s a courthouse wedding with a few witnesses or a huge hotel wedding with 300 guests.
As a wedding photographer, I am witness to some incredibly powerful moments. Moments that will never be forgotten by those who were there. Moments that couples will tell their grandchildren about. Moments that will be shared by friends over and over at barbecues, at the holidays with family, at funerals. Stories that become part of a family’s history.
My goal is to have photographs that capture those sweet, fleeting moments in time. It’s a huge responsibility that I do not enter into lightly.
Weddings are multi-layered. There’s the couple, the family, the friends the details. And while each of these layers is important to telling the story of the wedding, there’s one that is much farther back on the list for me. Details.
I’d like to share a quick story of something that happened at a recent wedding I photographed.
The ceremony was a sweet, tearful event. Not a dry eye in the audience. The way the couple looked at one another, the way the parents in the front row held so tightly to each others hands, the way that the grandmother beamed with pride when her grandson winked at her during the sermon. That’s the good stuff.
The couple kissed and were on their way back down the aisle, as a newly married couple. My second shooter instinctively (and correctly) followed the couple back up the hill to the house where the reception would take place. I stayed behind to snap some images of the family and bridal party coming back down the aisle and then booked it back up to the house to join my second shooter and the family.
This is the time at a wedding where some really magical images can occur.
This is one of the only moments when a bride and groom are “alone” the entire day.
This is usually the moment when the culmination of months of planning, months of dreaming, and months of stress roll right of the shoulders of a couple. They are married- and that’s all that matters. That’s the good stuff.
As we are capturing these moments, the coordinators tap us on the shoulders and tell us we have to go inside “right away” and photograph the escort cards before guests start taking them and “ruin” the shot.
Uhm, well, sorry.
There’s no way in hell I’m leaving this special moment while I photograph paper on a table.
There is no paper pretty enough, no centerpiece glorious enough, no cake elaborate enough to tear me away from capturing the real part of the day. I can recreate the shots later, during dinner, when guests are all seated and enjoying their meal.
I know that my couples spend a lot of time creating those details, and I do love them. But I refuse to be photographing a bride’s fancy shoes and miss that special, once in a lifetime moment of when a father sees his daughter in her wedding dress for the first time. It’s not worth it, and I won’t do it.
Pictures of shoes, earrings, table numbers and escort cards are great. They can reflect a family’s history (something borrowed, something old, etc) and lots of hard work, and I do photograph them- but they are just a sliver of what makes a wedding special.
Let’s just put it this way- my couples aren’t ever going to blow up a photo of a bouquet or boutonniere on their wall to a 16×20. That 16×20 is going to be a photo of family and friends.
And here’s a little secret- most of these detail shots, as pretty as they are, are never are seen in the albums, prints, or even on the Facebooks of my couples. These detail shots aren’t as much for the couples as they are for the wedding blogs, potential wedding magazines, and portfolios for florists and wedding coordinators.
Yep- I said it.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to explain here. Detail shots are important- it’s wonderful to recognize all the amazing artists and people who made the day so personal for the couple. And I also enjoy being published, too… but it’s the last thing on my list to photograph.
My job as a photojournalist is to document the day, not the things. I’m there to get those sweet little moments that will only happen once.
The good stuff.