“Wedding Season” used to stress me out…
The Logistics of Wedding Photography
One would think that after many years of doing a job (in this case wedding photography) a person would get set in their ways, and for the most part they do… I know a lot of photographers that do what I do and I have had occasions to work with them over the years, they all seem to have a logical “way of doing things”… Almost like painting by the numbers. They have found a rhythm and developed a plan to fit the event into it… Working like a conductor guiding an orchestra and it and it works for them. They stay in close contact with the other “vendors” and kibitz about how and where things are going… Then they make predictions and plans. My wife is a Bridal Consultant and Wedding Coordinator so I get to hear a lot of talk about predictions, plans and the conducting of weddings. When to do this and that how it’s going to go…
They are all nuts… Weddings are Chaos
Over the past few years (I think starting in 2008) I decided to surrender to the chaos… Really… Chaos reigns supreme at a wedding so why try to control it? So I go in with this plan: “Take the path of least resistance and don’t trip anyone else up”… I’ll generally ask for an hour between the ceremony and the reception to be dedicated to photography and it’s usually spent herding cats in order to include those obligatory family shots but from there on out I’m shooting as presents. I always have a loose plan to steal the couple away here and there for some semi candid romantic shots but it’s catch as catch can… Basically, I don’t go looking for the shot anymore, I watch and wait for it…. And you know what? It always comes, no need to force anything (this attitude seems to infuriate wedding coordinators but…).
It all needs some kind of…Zen
I used to pack all kinds of equipment… Something for every possible scenario and a back up for every possible scenario Something… Just in case Something broke. I would comb over “The Plan” with my assistant (got to have an assistant to take care of all this stuff so I can concentrate on what I’m doing) and run drills to sharpen our response to every possibility. On the fateful day we would hit the scene like a tiny Hollywood production company and run around like lunatics for a bit looking for a safe place to sit the stuff we wouldn’t be using.
We shot from a list… A comprehensive plan developed from a check list set against a fragile timeline… A time line that even included space for “candid” spur of the moment shots… My assistant ran between me and the Dragon Lady (wedding Planner) to clear every second of time we seemed to be steeling from the wedding… At the time that all seemed pretty rational… It was insane.
I came to see that trying to chase and control the chaos only amplified it… Communication breakdown was the rule even though I have worked with some really great kids I could never get an assistant exactly when and where I needed them. Messages always lost something crucial in the translation, over time it came that the only reason they were there was to watch over the equipment I wasn’t going to be using.
I’ve finally pared it down to precisely what is necessary and a back up to the necessities should they, in the unlikely event, fail… Weird… I can carry all of it myself and I don’t have to look after an assistant anymore and that has given me more time to concentrate on what I’m doing… This in itself has cut the photographer panic factor by about 90%.This box and a duplicate backup in the trunk of the car is it. And the case doubles as a step stool as well.
I have found that being light and moving like fluid rather that trying to wrestle order from chaos works better for everyone… The less “footprint” I have on the day the better being not so much the “fly on the wall” but more like the guest that nobody really knows. I have even found that the less I know going in the better, the preconceived notions I have gathered prior to the wedding day seems to almost taint my vision with ideas that just don’t “come off”.
What used to be a job of politely commanding performances has become a touch on the shoulder and a quick whisper of “Hey… Have you got a second? I just found some beautiful light in the middle of some urban decay in the ally out back” In the beginning of this wedding right after Lisa got into her dress I taught her this simple “glamour pose” on the fly so all told… From concept, to the walk out back, to the shutter drop… This shot took about 1 minute and I had her back indoors to the reception before anyone noticed we were gone.
It has been a remarkable transition, I feel I have actually blended everything… (Wedding Photojournalism, Traditional, Editorial and just plain Something Else) into a shooting method that actually works… I leave the stress to someone else shooting a wedding is fun.
… Now if I could just find the Zen in Post Production.