Why do we photograph the preparations?
When you’re trying to document or tell the story of the wedding day, the coverage often starts a number of hours before the wedding ceremony. My aim at this stage of the day is to capture the atmosphere and feeling of the bride or groom I’m photographing, to set the scene and make images that can reflect the tension in the air.
From a documentary photography perspective this is the opening scene of the play, the first chapter of the story you’re trying to tell. It’s important to include all of the main characters and record the venue or location as well as the events that are taking place. It’s equally important to photograph anything that is important to the bride or groom. This is particularly apt if they are getting ready at home. There will be a lot of things that are personal to them that could be important in the story. These things are in addition to the ones couples may expect you to take such as the dress, flowers, jewellery etc. Whilst from a photographer’s perspective these still life photos may not make for great images, and surely won’t be hung above the mantelpiece!, But they are photographs that will help people remember the wedding day and might be images of great importance in the future.
When I arrive at the house or venue things are usually well under way. I say hello to the key people and find out where the dress, shoes etc are located. I spend a few minutes taking to get a feel for the atmosphere which influences how I approach the photography. It also helps to put people at ease about me being there.
Nothing I do at this stage is posed or directed, but I will have spoken to the couple beforehand and they will be aware of what I’m trying to achieve.
I need to be aware that people might be a little tense or nervous for a number of reasons, not least that they aren’t used to being photographed, so taking a step back and starting slowly is the way I like to work. I think it’s also important to be sensitive to the fact that some people might not be comfortable being photographed until they’ve had a chance to wake up, particularly if it’s an early start! But this doesn’t stop me getting in close for maximum impact, but it’s something that I build up to.
There are no hard and fast rules on what to shoot and when. I look for emotion, reactions, smiling, laughing and interaction. I want to create images that I think the bride or groom will like and will be important to them in the future. My aim is to capture this in good light, but sometimes any light is good enough as long as there is a story to be told.
For bride or groom prep I will usually work with two Canon camera bodies, with 35 and 135mm (or 85mm) lenses. I occasionally use off-camera flash for effects such as backlighting hairspray or illuminating the subject as part of a reflection. I also use off camera flash for lighting macro shots of rings or other detail. The images on this page are processed in Lightroom with my own presets.