Guest banter | New wedding photographer tips
I love chatting to people at weddings, you never know who you’ll meet and how interesting they are. Obviously my day photographing a wedding isn’t simply an excuse to go along to a party and have a good time - although that’s exactly what I do.
Really I like chatting to people because it makes them comfortable around me, if I engage with people like I’m a guest I get treated as a guest, they relax and don’t see me as “The photographer”, just someone else who happens to be there. That’s really how I get the pictures I do - by not being seen as the photographer at all.
I had an interesting chat with a guest the other week, we’d spoken a few times during the day and come the evening a fair few drinks had been consumed which is where the banter usually starts. It went along the lines of
“Your jobs a piece of piss mate, walking around taking a few pics, beer in your hand”
“I know, easy isn’t it”
“You get paid a fortune to party with us, not bad that eh”
“I could think of worse ways to be earning money to be fair”
“You’re not even taking that many pictures, I’ve been watching you”
“Shhh don’t tell the bride and groom though”
Now then, if you’re new in the wedding photography game or thinking of starting out you’re probably thinking wooohoooo easy money !!
Here’s the reality though, even though I do literally walk round chatting to people all day and don’t appear to actually be doing anything particularly taxing.
To get to this point I’ve put in thousands of hours of work with my camera before going into weddings, I continue to do it now - it’s rare I don’t have a camera in my hand. So yes, to a casual observer I’m merely occasionally randomly take the odd picture here and there but really it’s the pre-work that’s gone into getting to the stage where I can take pictures on autopilot (like driving a car doesn’t take any thought but it’s a highly skilled and complicated thing to do)
My casual walking around for a day usually clocks up something like 25 miles on average, that’s a lot of walking without a sit down. I shot a wedding in Italy last year, when I got home 2 of my toenails had come off and I had blisters all over my feet (sorry to be gross but there you go), not to mention sunstroke that was my own fault though.
Then there’s the constant thinking, sure I’m stood talking to people but while I’m doing that I’m acutely aware of my surroundings, listening to other conversations going on, watching other happenings, framing my next picture blah blah blah. That’s an awful lot for a brain to do for 16 hours straight. To put some context here, I usually have a 2 day brain hangover after a wedding where I feel like I’ve been on a weekend bender. I’m physically and emotionally drained.
Not to mention the stress - now it’s not really stressful once you have a bucket-load of experience but there’s still the responsibility associated with the most important day of someone’s life in your hands. You still have to be on point throughout the day, weddings have a habit of throwing something you weren’t expecting at you and even when they don’t there’s still the additional thought that needs to go into ‘absolutely making sure’ you don’t stuff up pictures like the aisle walk etc
Shooting a wedding well from a documentary perspective is hard graft, physically and mentally - a real documentary photographer isn’t simply taking random snaps, there’s a method, a story, a lot of observation and quick thinking involved. All while making the whole thing look effortless, actually being so effortless you’re not even noticed.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, yes my job is a piece of piss mate, it’s a doddle and I get to party, chat, be involved and thoroughly enjoy someone’s wedding along with everyone else, and do something I’m massively passionate about - but it’s not simply a case of buying a camera, tipping up and taking a few snaps. Well it is kind of I suppose, it just depends how good you want those pictures to look.