I’m often asked about my ‘approach’ or ‘philosophy’ behind my work, which also leads me to be always thinking about what to write in my website Bio, About, Artist Statement, or whatever fancy term you like. I don’t like to pigeonhole myself, because when it comes to art I don’t believe in rules, but I definitely do not consider myself a traditional wedding photographer. Trying to explain the difference to a potential client not only sometimes confuses the client, but also myself. When I came across an interview with British wedding photographer Jeff Ascough on the photo.net site I realized that I’ve been trying to say exactly what he said about his approach to his work, except he did it more concise and eloquently. But then again, aren’t the Brits always more eloquent? Anyways, here’s the excerpt:
“I never tell my clients to do anything on the wedding day. I prefer to document what actually happens rather than what I think should happen. I also believe that once you give a couple some direction, they spend the rest of the day looking for more direction.
In terms of picture aesthetic, that is down to my skills as a photographer and the way I see the world. I honestly don’t believe a picture can be improved by interfering, because then the picture isn’t a moment—it is a photographer’s idea of what that moment should be.
Having this approach forces you to look for images. Controlling the situation would take all of my concentration, and would prevent me from seeing other, possibly better images that could be happening around me.
In terms of posed photographs, I usually cover six groups and a couple of bride and groom pictures. These are done right at the end of the drinks reception (cocktail hour) so the clients have the greatest amount of time with their guests, and I have the most time possible for taking my documentary images. The formal images take no longer than ten minutes to complete. I don’t worry about missing images when taking the groups, because if I don’t take them, they never happened.
I also don’t deal with the parents when it comes to the coverage, even if they are paying the bill. If they do complain, they do it to the bride and groom, and I rarely get to hear about it.
My main focus is on the couple and the closest people to them – bridal party, parents etc.
It is impossible to shoot everyone at the wedding without the coverage resorting to nothing more than snaps of guests, which the guests themselves are more than capable of doing. I’m not offering a complete, shoot everything that moves coverage; I’m offering more than that, and in order for me to get the images which my clients book me for, I can’t be concerned with shooting hundreds of pictures of guests. I don’t show lots of guests pictures, not in my sample albums or on my website. I don’t know the relationship with the guests that the client has, and it would be impossible for me to ascertain that relationship.
If a client wants a flavor for the quantity and types of guest at the wedding, then I will often incorporate a lot of scene setting images with lots of guests in those shots. If a client wants to see everyone at the wedding, then we suggest a big group of everyone. Obviously there will be times when the guests interact with the bride and groom and then they will be in the pictures, but I will never take a wedding on where the client expects me to go and shoot everyone at the wedding, because that client is after nothing more than a record of who was there on the day, and I believe my skills are worth more than that.”
Although I do find myself directing a few shots, I try to keep it minimal. This is part of why I’m not in the Family Portrait business. I do sometimes find myself spending more than 10 minutes on formals as I find the day goes smoother when you appease the parents, but only if I have to. The majority of my clients are the type that don’t want to stand around all-day for formals; that’s also why you don’t see many on my site. They also tend to be the types that don’t want the cheesy dips, bridesmaids running and jumping, Reservoir Dogs groomsmen reenactments, etc.. I also like how Jeff brings up the issue of shooting guests- I never walk around the reception asking people to stop and look at the camera and smile. I call those the ‘Facebook Photos’ and Jeff’s right when he says that every guest with an iPhone is more than capable doing them. Sometimes I get stopped and asked by guests to do these, and I sometimes do to be polite, but I do sometimes have to (politely) decline them if it’s interrupting me from observing something that might make a more interesting image.
I guess that if there is anything that I’m trying to convey here is that what attracts me to wedding photography is capturing the excitement of what is really happening that day, not making a photographic record of who was there with neat smiles so the Aunt’s can use my client’s wedding to knock their Christmas cards off their list.