Expressing My Personal Perspective through Wedding Photographs

Summer is the season for weddings. They start in May and for every weekend through the end of September, caterers, photographers, florists, musicians, DJs, and planners are booked solid. Two weekends ago, I attended, for instance, to my cousin’s daughter’s wedding and two weekends before that I went to the wedding of the daughter of a close friend.

Sometimes it’s hard to get an image of the wedding couple sharing what seems to be an intimate and private moment. They were between photos with the ‘official’ photographer, when I saw them caught up in laughter and snapped this image.

As a the daughter of a professional photographer, I spent countless weekends at weddings assisting my Dad behind the camera. (This was a big help when it came to planning my own wedding years later because by that time, I had been to and seen so many weddings that I knew exactly what I wanted to do for our own.) The routine was a bit different then. We could shoot three weddings in one day–morning, afternoon and evening– with either myself or one of my brothers finishing up at one wedding while my Dad went to start the next.

My cousin beamed with pride when he had his Father-Daughter dance at his daughter’s wedding. I had my Nikon pro camera with me that evening and good lens so I managed to snag this image of him when he turned on the dance floor with his daughter, the bride. Sometimes, it’s not all about the bride.

That era ended with photographer Dennis Reggie in 1980, who Ethel Kennedy had hired to ‘cover’ her daughter’s wedding. Reggie, a photojournalist, took the assignment and then hit the professional photography speaking circuit to show and tell professional photographers all over the country how he did it.  I attended one of these sessions and knew then that the art of wedding photography, as I had learned it from my Dad, was changing.

The mother of the groom is usually much more relaxed and available during any wedding but is sometimes overlooked n the ‘official’ documentation. I caught Sheila at a moment when no one else did.

When digital cameras were introduced, it changed yet again because photographers could capture literally thousands of images at the ceremony. They soon discovered that this wasn’t such a great idea because clients were overwhelmed by that many images. Too much of a good thing, you might say.

Wedding photographers have since trimmed it back to a more reasonable delivery but some still present as many as 1,500 images. Think of the editing process entailed in cropping, adjusting color, retouching, adding special effects and eliminating  all those images. The post-production often takes longer than the 12 hours wedding photographers now typically spend photographing the event. I’m not sure even National Geographic magazine photographers turn in that many images to their editors.

Toasting the Bride and Groom
Taken with my pocket point and shoot, I raised a glass to toast Yuliya and Yama at their wedding and took this image while I did,

While I rarely accept wedding assignments these days as a professional photographer (except for special clients and smaller ceremonies), I almost always take one of my cameras with me whenever I go to a wedding because I, like you, enjoy having a visual memory of that day, particularly when family is involved.  Usually I take my pocket point and shoot, or my bigger but compact trusty Canon (yes, I do own one Canon), instead of one of my professional Nikons. I seldom use my mobile phone to take the pictures even though some phones images are terrific. But when it comes to preserving those images in the form of prints (which I still make and encourage you to do) or printed albums or books, cameras produce the higher quality high-resolution images you need.

My friend the mother of the bride, was way to busy the day of her daughter’s wedding to stop for many photos, but I managed to get her beside the ‘cookie instead of cake’ table during the reception.

For me, the images I capture on that day are personal and often are not the same as those the ‘official’ photographer is shooting.  That’s because while the hired gun is busily photographing every moment of the bride and groom and the wedding party, I’m focusing on my family and friends who are there, and the moments that capture my eye from my point of view as a guest. It’s something you can do too but you must be mindful to respect the working pro so as not to get their way as they attempt to capture the ‘perfect’ photo of ceremonial kiss,  the cake cutting, send off or formal portrait of the bride and groom.

From my seat. I was able to get the groom, Matt, and one of the bridesmaids boogeying during the processional. Note the photographer in the background, Matt s brother, the officiant, and the mother of the bride enjoying the moment on the left. I love this scene because of its spontaneity.

There are ways to get those same images, from your own vantage point. I like to find a seat on the end of a row where, if I want to stand during the ceremony to grab a quick shot, I won’t block anyone’s view. And while the official photographer is off shooting the bride and groom immediately after the ceremony, you can zero in on the family, the cake table, the altar decorations, whatever it is that attracts your eye and you want to remember.

Ringbearer Brody stands beside the table bearing the Bible and center candle that belonged to my aunt. The table, also my late aunt’s, served as the altar at my cousin Anna’s recent wedding.

Sometimes, it turns out that the images I’ve captured are ones that my family or friends also want because unless the bride and her mother (or whoever plans and directs that day) specifically point out the family member who’s never around, the best friend who traveled across country, the arrangement or setting that has special significance, the official photographer will never know to include it in their shooting list.

My aunt and uncle with my cousin Barry at his wedding reception is a special image. Only 18 months later, my aunt passed away from complications of dementia.

As a guest and/or family member, I have a history and relationship with the people gathered for this memory-making day so I know things others won’t and that is  reflected in my photographs.

I took this of Yuliya and Yama with my compact Canon while the ‘official’ photographer was shooting on the other side. Later, I used Photoshop to improve the exposure, give it a painted appearance and heighten the romantic feel of the image.

I love today’s style of photojour-nalistic wedding photography. I also love being artistically creative with the images I take at these ceremonies. But what I really love is the memories they bring to mind of the people, places and times that are unique and meaningful to me and my family.  And that’s essentially what wedding photography, whether from a hired pro or personal photographer such as myself, should be.

How to Choose a Wedding Photographer You’ll Love

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! With love in the air, what better time to talk about weddings and photography?

A short time ago, a friend of mine who lives in the Midwest, asked my advice in selecting a photographer for her daughter’s wedding next autumn. We sat down together viewed the on-line portfolios of photographers her daughter was considering.  

My own studio now accepts only a limited number of intimate, family weddings each year. Based on my years of experience and current working knowledge, I offered my friend some tips, which I’ll share here, to help in making their decision on a wedding photographer.

Your wedding is one of the most romantic days of your life.  Careful selection of your photographer will result in visual memories that you will enjoy for years to come.
Your wedding is one of the most romantic days of your life. Careful selection of your photographer will result in visual memories that you will enjoy for years to come.

Not surprisingly, foremost in the minds of most engaged couples and their parent is the price. Prices vary, depending on where you live, whether the photographer is a true professional or a hobbyist, how much experience they have, how much in demand they are and what’s included. Keep in mind that as with everything else, you usually get what you pay for. There are professional photographers out there that will fit your budget and many will work with you to come up with a plan that will satisfy your budget and your expectations.

Most of the time involved in the professional’s wedding work, and the cost, is not in the actual photographing the event.  About 7580% of a wedding photographer’s work, and thus their costs, occurs in the post-production end, in the editing, design,art and finishing process. The more photos the photographer takes, the more time that must be devoted afterwards to their preparation.

The bride and groom married on a boat in a beautiful ceremony but which also presented a challenges in controlling the light and exposure.
The bride and groom married on a boat in a ceremony that was beautiful but which also presented challenges in controlling the light and exposure.

I explained this the other day to a father of a groom who wondered why the photographer of his son’s wedding didn’t just download everything the next day and hand it over to them to see. To be sure, some photographers may actually do this.  If they do, they either have a very large production staff or they don’t care much about their work. RAW digital images from the camera, which is what most professionals shoot, are rarely perfect. They need color correction, exposure adjustment to bring out details in the shadows or the brighter parts of the image, called highlights. Most professionals also use a variety of ‘actions’ in their photo editing programs to punch up the color, correct complexions, brighten eyes, soften the light, or other special effects that will result in images that convey a romantic or exciting emotion.  This takes time, probably much more time than many non-pros are aware of or, perhaps, simply not willing to spend.

Following the ceremony, the wedding couple led guests in promenade preserved in this image.
Following the ceremony, the wedding couple led guests through a sculpture park in a promenade preserved in this image. Finding different points of view to create dramatic images is part of a wedding photographer’s job and talents.

Another consideration in a photographer’s price is the product. What, exactly are you getting when you contract with a photographer? And how good will the product be? By that I mean, if the photographer plans just to hand you a CD with the finished images (and be sure they are finished), will it be an archival CD? I personally discourage purchasing CDs only. The reason for this is quite simple. Technology. It changes so quickly. Prints or an album whether a book or an actual album, offer you a more permanent record of your big day. There’s no guarantee that you will be able to view or download from the CD in years to come. CD drives are already vanishing from some computers. Storing your priceless wedding images on an external hard drive or on the cloud isn’t foolproof either. For these reasons, I advise everyone to make prints or at least a printed book or album, of any event or subject that you’d like to have in years to come.

As for the albums, there are many fine products available today to couples. Professional photographers have a range of album styles that can be customized to fit you. Professional products differ from those generally available to consumers in that the quality control is much higher. The papers used in the final product are finer and often archival. The binding used is tougher. The selection of covers and designs wider and often sturdier. Reproductions of the image are held to higher standards. Quite likely, the album’s inside pages are custom designed especially for you. Yet another reason why it takes time to produce and why a professional’s cost is greater.

Compatibility is a huge factor in finding a photographer for your wedding. If you like photographer, you're going to be more relaxed and enjoy the wedding festivities.
Compatibility is a huge factor in finding a photographer for your wedding. If you like photographer, you’re going to be more relaxed and enjoy the wedding festivities.

A key factor in choosing your photographer is compatibility. How well do you communicate with the photographer and how well do they listen to you? Do they offer you advice about how to make your wedding photography go smoothly? Are they knowledgeable about the location of the wedding? Do they provide you with options for the images important to you? Do you the two of you click? Weddings can be as stressful as they are fun. The last thing you want is a photographer who’s disruptive, distracting to your guests, inappropriately dressed or imposing.

Today’s popular photojouralistic style of wedding photography means that photographers are less involved in “setting up the shots,” except perhaps for the wedding party groups. Still, your photographer should have a good working knowledge of how to make you look your best. There are little tricks and tips to how to stand, hold your hands, kiss, and cut the cake, for example, that can make a huge difference between a great image and an awkward-looking snapshot.

As a wedding photographer, you must be ready for anything, including a pair of doves about to take flight.
As a wedding photographer, you must be ready for anything, including a pair of doves about to take flight because there are no ‘do-overs’ for missed shots.

You may have friends or receive names of those who “do photography” on the side or as a weekend hobby and who are happy to photograph your wedding. They may be great but a word of caution. There are no “do-overs” when you shoot a wedding. Everything must work on command. Equipment can fail,weather can change and people can be difficult (or unfortunately sometimes drunk). Your photographer must be able to adjust to a situation quickly and still capture for you the images of your wedding day. Not all amateurs are as adept. You also don’t want to risk ruining a wonderful friendship should the photos not turn out as you had hoped.

Review the photographer’s portfolio, get together for a consult to meet and talk, study the plans available, revisit your budget, ask for referrals and then relax. If you’ve done your homework, you’re likely to end up with a photographer and wedding photographs that you’ll love.

Not your typcial wedding photograph, but this candid image of the bride seen through the beautiful hanging moss remains on my personal favorites.
Not your typical wedding photograph, but this candid image of the bride seen through the beautiful hanging moss remains on my personal favorites.