These are the words a recent bride and groom wrote to me. It stopped me in my tracks. This is why.
Bride Sarah with her grandmothers
I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago after I received a lovely thank you letter from Jade and Bevan. Their words really made me think about the impact our work has on those who have commissioned it, those who feature in it, and so many others. There may be rather too many clichés in this post, but bear with me.
Carolanne’s absolute joy!
One of the nicest things about my job, is the satisfaction of knowing that a bride and groom are delighted with their wedding photographs. As creatives, most photographers will tell you that it’s important for them to receive positive feedback for the work that they do. For me, more than anything else, I want to know that I have fulfilled, even exceeded expectations.
Jenny’s look of love for her soon to be husband
When I shoot a wedding my mind is racing with various thoughts; is my camera working (batteries charged, cards recording, focusing well) and am I where I need to be to capture the important moments? Am I happy with what I see in camera and am I achieving great compositions and creating art? Yeah I know, it does sound a bit poncey. Then when I am editing a wedding, am I satisfied I’ve got a good range of images that will tell the story. I experience moments of elation at certain shots where I considered I nailed it. I kick myself at shots that captured great emotion but were technically less than perfect. I submerge myself in the people I photographed, their expressions and emotions, and by the end of the process, to some extent, feel I need to step back from the wedding to take a more objective view of a couple’s wedding photographs.
I guess what I am trying to say is that there are a lot of thought processes going on. Obviously I know when a shot is full of emotion, but I am unable to just sit back and view it from a purely emotional stance. I’m critiquing myself, I’m judging the shots from an aesthetic viewpoint, I’m being harsh on myself (creatives always are and are never satisfied).
The look of happiness, love and pride in Jenny’s dad’s face
So, you see I don’t mean to, but sometimes, well most of the time, I forget that actually what a bride and groom see in their wedding photographs is very different to what I see. I may have shot a beautiful landscape of the venue with the sun bursting through the clouds. Everything just coming together perfectly in that moment. Or perhaps the bride’s designer shoes, resting on a gloriously decorative chair, a shot like something out of Vogue. The couple however, may gloss straight on over that image, it’s not that important to them. The images they keep coming back to are those of their family, a special aunt, a reaction to a joke, a look of love, a hug, a tear, just something they can’t put their finger on that creates happy vibes, spontaneous smiles, a hand to the mouth and a sharp intake of breath…
The Best Man’s speech, and after shock comes laughter
However good your memory is, you will forget many things, we all do. We believe we will always be young and that the future is a faraway place. It isn’t. Years will pass and memories will fade. Even as I look at photographs I’ve captured of the kids growing up, I realise I’ve forgotten so much. What seemed like an average snapshot at the time becomes a priceless memory. This is why I’m not a camera snob. You don’t need expensive gear to capture special memories. Most of the images I take of my family, and I suspect will mean the most to me in the future, are those spontaneous shots captured on my iPhone!
A hug and kiss for Natalie from her big brother
In the years ahead, I may forget a couple’s wedding day, I will definitely forget all those thoughts that went through my head while I was shooting it, and I may even be less harsh on myself about the results. However, those images will still be reminding that husband and wife, perhaps their children and grandchildren, of all the emotions of that day you followed them around with your camera.
The next time you shoot a wedding, and you critique yourself, be kind to yourself. When you lie in bed, the morning after a wedding, with total body ache and the worst EVER wedding hangover, just take a moment to remind yourself of the important job you do. Pretty darn priceless.
‘Thank you for our memories for when we can’t remember.’ Jade & Bevan
So this is a photographer’s viewpoint about capturing what really matters on a couple’s big day, but if you are a bride or groom reading this, I would very much like to draw your attention to a recent influential and very moving blog post by a friend of mine Laura Caudery. Do please go and take a look. You will find Share The Honest Love on Love My Dress. It will be 5 minutes well spent.