Photographic Diaries | 1 | Weddings

I have taken hundreds of thousands of photographs over the years and alongside these I have some incredible memories of places, experiences and characters I’ve met. Photographic Diaries is a way for me to relive some of these memories and share them.

2006 Wedderburn Castle.

I’d like to share some thoughts on how I approach photographing weddings.

This was the brother of the bride. He struck me as a bit of a maverick and I liked him instantly.

For me, the thing that keeps photography at a wedding fresh is the sheer diversity of skills required to be truly successful at it. Of course you must be technically in control of your equipment. You must understand how to deal with often difficult lighting and be organised and prepared for working with a huge variety of characters and their equally varied personalities. You have to know how to look after and communicate effectively with those people who are really relying on you. There is something else, though. Something which is harder to teach at a photography seminar, impossible to learn from a text…

You have to see through your own eyes. Develop your own style, trust it and work on it forever…because you can always improve as a photographer. That is where much of the freshness and energy comes from. If you stop being excited by your own images then you need to look for another angle and understand your subject better.

Ok…when Robert Capa suggested that if your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough, what did he mean? I have always taken that to mean that you don’t know your subject well enough. Get closer to an understanding of your subject and you will like the results more. I don’t believe for a second that Capa was so obvious as to suggest simply putting the lens nearer would make for a better image.

My favourite wedding photography doesn’t deal with the obvious. I’m not saying don’t take a photograph of signing the register or cutting the cake, because I do all of those things… I get more excited by the characters, scenes, colours, sounds, laughter, fashion and individuality of a wedding than I do the parts which are pretty much the same at every wedding. Get the main requirements completed quickly, efficiently and as inventively as you can and then look around. The most powerful and exciting photographs taken at weddings (in my opinion) are those which cannot be simply replicated at the next venue…pose one, pose two, pose three, all exactly the same apart from the faces and the location. Models pose. Actors pose. Couples in love don’t. My best gauge of a truly great wedding photographer is this…do people look uncomfortable in the photographs? If they do…why didn’t the photographer see that and do something else? You have to have that sensitivity as a photographer.

Everything I do at a wedding revolves around making people comfortable. This helps me find their real personality amongst the kilts, castles, cakes, speeches and wedding rings. I find it fun to interact with people at a wedding, when appropriate. Enjoying a joke with the bride’s brother created the photographs below. As much as it is about observation, it is also about achieving personal enjoyment from your work.

There is no work I would choose in front of being a photographer.