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Category Archives: Thoughts and Rambles

“I bet you a fiver you can’t get a picture of Auntie Joan smiling” – this was a direct quote from a groom joking with me during the planning meeting for his wedding. (I’ve obviously changed Auntie Joan’s name, just to be on the safe side!). It was a pretty fair bet to be honest because, when I met “Auntie Joan” a few days later at the wedding it was clear that she was, what my Dad would describe as, “a bit of an old boiler” and, to quote another charming Northern term had a face “like the inside of a slate hangers nail bag”!

Auntie Joan apart, wedding guests are great fun to photograph and I always think it’s really important to include as many in the final set of images as possible. Photographing individual people is relatively easy and, the larger the group becomes, the harder it is to find and connection and meaning in the image. I’m not hugely interested in just photographing people in isolation as it’s always the context and the moment in time of the image that I find fascinating.

Group of wedding guests. Longstowe Hall.

The picture above is a good example. It would have been relatively easy to photograph the people individually or maybe in pairs interacting and chatting but it is much harder to make a coherent whole out if several relatively disconnected elements. First of all the image reads rather pleasantly from left to right as your eye follows the aim of the photographer’s lens through. It has an almost preplanned curve and as you travel along it you become involved in three little stories as the woman in the big hat chats to the man in the chair, the next woman fiddles with her camera and the final pair are in more animated conversation.

These individual little stories are punctuated by a nicely static person leaning in the background and by the rather bored looking static man with the drink on the far right (I wish I had included more of him). It’s a rather subtle image but becomes all the more interesting once you take a bit of time to read it – it sort of hangs well compositionally and also in terms of it’s timing and storytelling as well and to me is much more interesting (and harder to photograph) than a static group or portrait of each guest.

There are always much more animated moments when guests are chatting and interacting as well and I am always on the look out for these as well. This is often where listening to what’s going on, anticipation and timing are vital. I have included a selection from the same wedding as the first picture below

….and…..just to make it crystal clear, Auntie Joan wasn’t at any of the wedding above and yes, I did win the bet fairly and squarely and presented the groom with SEVERAL smiling (ok, grimacing!) pictures of the afore mentioned old bag and sadly, I never did receive my £5!!

Bridesmaid with bubbles

baby at Longstowe Hall Cambridge

Guest at a wedding at Longstowe Hall near Cambridge

Chatting wedding guests

Wedding guests in the sunshine

Speeches in Longstowe Hall marquee.

Winter weddings can be beautiful, atmospheric and great fun  to photograph. They can also be a bit of a challenge in terms of lighting and logistics! – I remember photographing a wedding just before Christmas a few years ago when we were deep in snow and  as I was leaving it occured to me that I might not actually make it home. I had one of the most hair raising car journeys I have ever had and at one point was driving sideways up a hill, the snow on the M11 was so bad that it was fairly much impassable and I know that a large number of  the wedding guests stayed in temporary accommodation that night as they couldn’t get home!

There were no such dramas at Paul and Cat’s wedding apart from the bitingly cold wind and, yet again, a period of time when I somehow managed to find myself outside just in my shirt sleeves shivering waiting for the bride to arrive! I took lots of photographs of Christmas decorations, bridal preparations, people hugging and kissing and of course the ceremony itself but I have included just a few of my favourites below.

 

“Thank you ever so much for getting back to us so quickly. The photos are brilliant, we really love them!” Paul and Cat


The first two pictures are very much about moments – neither are particularly technically perfect, but both for me are visually strong and tell a bit of the story. I took the first from the back of the church during the prayers – there was this lovely moment where the man put his arm around his partner, have her a hug and leaned his head on her shoulder – I second later and they were sitting apart again but I thought that the gesture, particularly in the context of the rather solemn and personal moment in the marriage service was rather touching!



I love the immediacy of this second picture – it’s almost as if you are there and you can hear the laughter and what’s going on. It would have been an OK picture without the echo on the left hand side (both bridesmaids putting in their earings) but is much better and more satisfying from my point of view with that double story going on. If I had been a genius I would have cut myself out of the mirror and framed the people’s reflection as well!

Brides in veils……….always very photogenic!

This group of friends had spent quite a long time fetching and carrying things in the morning – it was wet underfoot and in the last few moments before Cat arrived at the ceremony they rushed up all flustered and in muddy trainers before engineering a quick change of footwear and continuing into church in serene calm!


A table quiz in the evening – children and grandfather working together as a team – what a beard!

Wedding at a Cambridge chapel. Bride waiting for ceremony

I love this photograph because it really does have all of the ingredients from the title above! The bride and her father were waiting expectantly at the entrance to chapel just prior to the ceremony. This is always a moment of slight nervous tension and I am always at this point looking for glances and connection between the bride and her entourage. Generally this will be a meaningful look between the bride and father, a teary eye or a proud smile, but in this case Lucy briefly turned round and received this brilliant “OK” of reassurance from her bridesmaid. The picture is also greatly enhanced by the lighting which, at this particular moment when Lucy turned round illuminated her expression beautifully.

So, there is certainly a certain amount of anticipation and timing involved in making an image like this but how much of it is luck? I suppose that anyone can take a lucky shot. In fact if almost anyone took enough pictures at a wedding and were concentrating on what they were doing they would, almost certainly, get one of two lucky shots. To a certain extent that is relatively easy but it is a completely different story in creating multiple “lucky shots” at a wedding. Creating a consistent and representative visual document of the day requires a much greater skill and the ability to “make your luck” through anticipation, timing, emotional empathy and attunement as well as a high level of technical proficiency. Yes, I was lucky to get this image but I was also prepared and looking for it and this is a scenario that happens over and over during the course of photographing a wedding. I do the very best I can to increase the odds!

Most of my photography is about images which show significant moments, small interactions that tell part of a bigger story. As far as I am concerned every image must have a storytelling, commentating or, to a lesser extent, a recording purpose so that when all of the photographs are put together the wedding had a coherence and balance. If you would like to see how all of these smaller elements fit together then have a look over at my albums page.

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