Weddings are beautiful events.
Two bare feet in the sand on a tropical beach or 200 guests noshing on delicious gourmet fare at a banquet hall. The one thing they all have in common? Ideally, the bride and groom are hopelessly in love with one another, proclaiming it to two or two hundred, voicing a lifelong commitment and shedding authentic tears at the moment they end their time together as a couple and foray into the world of married life.
For me (and I’m sure most wedding photographers), photographing weddings has always been about the emotions. The groom’s face as his future bride steps down the aisle, the tears in the eyes of the father-of-the-bride as he shares his first dance with the daughter he gave away. To me, the details – bonboniere, elaborate floral displays, I Do cutlery, embossed napkins and cheese plates have always been an afterthought. Of course we still captured the shots, but our focus was always on the couple.
Wasn’t that the idea?
After receiving a dozen blog rejections in the span of a year, I finally realized that the way we were photographing events was not the way most wedding blogs wanted us to see them. Which I do realize makes sense - brides seek inspiration for their own wedding day, and want to see the details they can recreate. I was dumbfounded - but, the image of the groom brushing the cheek of his new bride with his newly adorned finger has no place on these posts?
We've worked with vendors who have approached us after the day asking where the photo of the empty table setup was. I just shrugged... but we have details of the couples enjoying the setup, why the need for an empty table? I know, because they want the images for blogs. But we're not there for blogs - we're there for the couple. We have never been detail shooters - and when we tried to shoot shoot shoot the details, it felt phony and I knew that energy would have been better spent capturing candid images of the couple and their guests.
Look, I get it - couples pour thousands of dollars in to their event decor (and photography) - so it's understandable that a photo of the reception setup would be crucial. But then I realize, as a bride, what did I want? I can count on half a finger the amount of times I've swooned over the photos of the candles and wedding cake from our big day.
Okay, honestly, I still swoon over the wedding cake because it was delicious. Instead, I was taken aback by the images of Adam and I tenderly dancing with our family smiling in the background. To me, incorporating the bride and groom into the details, instead of alienating the details from the event completely, is the way our brides want their day photographed, because it's what we shoot best, and what we're passionate about capturing.
So instead of breaking away from the story you're trying to tell to take detail shots, try incorporating necessary pieces into the flow of the images.
So I stopped submitting to blogs and shooting for anyone else but our clients and ourselves. Don't get me wrong, I can take rejection (as a journalism major, I wouldn't have graduated without the ability to accept constructive criticism).
I realized, however, every time that blog rejection came through telling me we didn't capture the essence of the day, or the time a planner said we didn't achieve good enough images of the details, I felt downhearted and almost thought we might need to change my shooting style.
Then I realized once again that to our brides, capturing the essence of the day meant making them feel comfortable, photographing the table filled with close friends and family, tearing up at mom's speech to the newlyweds, toasting with champagne glasses and dancing under the fairy lights until the wee hours.
We work for our brides, and I'm completely at home with the fact that we might never get published in a blog again. At the end of the day, you need to be comfortable and confident with your style because the work you show and love is the reason your couples are investing money in your services.
If you do happen to have a shoot published, show it off because you will love and be proud of the images within the feature! Shoot what you love, shoot for the art, and you'll never lose sight of why you started shooting weddings in the first place.