Reflections from a bride on her wedding photographer (me)
This is an honest, direct and truthful reflection by a real life bride called Helen. I asked her to write something in her own words because I knew she would be completely honest. I promised I would copy it word for word with nothing changed, altered or missed out. I asked Helen because she's brutally honest, I like that in people and I knew she would provide a straight talking reflective set of words that hopefully other people (like you) could understand and connect with.
"When someone asks you to write a guest blog for their website based around their abilities to do their job, you have to assume that they are pretty confident and competent (these things being very different...!!) in what they do! But when you are choosing the person who is photographing potentially the most important day of your life, it is not that simple - I guess Paul has asked me to write this because of my honesty and so I hope if your reading it that you will take on board that I guarantee to be 100% honest in what ‘my perspective’ was...and not just be nice.
I had some pretty fixed ideas about how I wanted our wedding to be - a summers day, a church, a shared picnic in the meadow and games and fun and hopefully all in bed by 10pm! I’d trekked up enough mountains after my partner in the vain (and it was in vain...!) hope that there might be a ring at the top, and probably spent most of those steps, quietly planning and thinking about guest lists and dresses, more than the view and my aching legs! When the ring eventually found it’s way onto my finger (and it was terribly romantic after all!) - we compromised on a barn, and a sit down meal but on the condition that I could have everything as relaxed as possible in every other way...!
When it came to choosing the photographer, I am afraid I wasn’t very imaginative. I had a google, looked at a few sites and portfolios, looked at a few prices..., had a stiff drink, and plucked up the courage to look again!
I found a lady not to far away from me and met her at the venue - she seemed nice enough, her photo’s were the usual mix of the shoes, the dress, the venue, a few line ups and some loving gazes thrown into the mix - everything I understood a wedding portfolio should be. £700 just about seemed reasonable - provided she did an engagement shoot within that price - I signed on the dotted line and I paid my deposit... how then does Paul come in you might ask?!
When you get married, particularly if you are a bit of a DIYer... it is really hard (well I found it hard!) to stop yourself joining all these Facebook groups, gathering ideas, building Pinterest boards - and Paul happened to be in one of those groups. I wasn’t any part of the conversation going on but I remember thinking, what he said sounded interesting - that you could go the whole day without having to force your guests to wait endlessly around while great aunt Pat finds her hat to wear for the line up and cousin Susan wonders off after her errant child while she is meant to be smiling graciously for the camera. I’d actually been the maid of honour at a wedding the year before and been in charge of this aspect of the day - it is bloody hard work getting people to stay where they are put - I genuinely think adults are worse than children... and as a primary school teacher of 5 years, I am well placed to know...
Blown away by the portfolio on his website, I messaged Paul. The way he talked about not accepting every couple and being very busy - I think I must have seen it as a challenge! We sent a few messages back and forth. He was making me laugh, I think I was winning him over, I swooned over the pictures on his website...my husband to be asked me if I was sure I was marrying the right man as I seemed to like this photographer an awful lot?! But eventually I pinned him down and he promised to make the trek from Manchester to Cambridge.
Just a tiny problem...I had already booked the photographer! I had shown her the venue, introduced her to my parents...!!!! I had had a tricky enough time persuading my husband that this was a good idea (it was, after all, a wee bit more money!), my parents are even more difficult to please (and for financial reasons it was important to please them!!). Bless my mother, she was not impressed at all. She decided she didn’t like Paul’s pictures, they weren’t the usual wedding pictures, and if she didn’t get a picture of us all together properly on the day, she was going to be very cross...! My father absolutely could not get his head around it at all...the thought of no line-ups and traditional photos were pretty much inconceivable. I had to do some serious persuasion and absolutely promise that there would be pictures of us together but just not in the usual boring way, and in fact, in the end, I had to do just a tiny bit of foot stamping...just a tiny tiny little bit! - I would like to think that that is not my usual modus operandi but desperate times and all that!
I did feel guilty about cancelling the other photographer and suffice to say, I never saw that deposit again and really, rightly so.
The wedding day approached - the usual crap that goes with these things (that you think will never happen to you) inevitably does. Extra people want to come, other people don’t want to come, the heating company cancel. None of those issues involved Paul, from start to finish, everything was straight forward. He sent me a questionnaire to fill in, asking about any really important people we definitely wanted pictures of, and a few other minor details - but it was only 1 page, not 20 - hurrah! He sent me a contract - all very straightforward, no surprises. He offered me the option to pay some money from his invoice towards a charitable cause he was supporting at the time - no additional cost to me, only from himself - a no brainier for me!
And then the day arrived. Now I am not really a people person, I am a total introvert. I can do extrovert - after those years of teaching, you learn how to do it pretty well - but I find it tiring and I knew how much energy I would have to put into the rest of the day, I didn’t want to use that all up in the morning... From the moment he arrived, bearing a bottle of champagne, Paul took up none of my energy - he was just there, discreetly capturing me cuddling my springer spaniel so I could avoid talking to people and get through the morning. He won over my father (not an easy thing to do on one of the most stressful days of his life - my father is not a people person either), he had my mother laughing, he listened to my sisters sociopolitical discussion (read rant), and didn’t bat an eyelid at some of the more eccentric goings on in my family household (I won’t bore you here...!). And all the time he was doing this he was working. I still don’t actually know how he does it, some sort of sorcery? Magical trickery? Somehow he managed to be ‘on it’, working, capturing every moment, every second of the day, and at the same time, managed to fit in with all of the guests and become one of them. Some of them genuinely thought he was one of them! He photographed moments I had no idea had happened and caught us on camera when I had no idea he was there. The vicar tried to set up the ‘signing of the register’ shot, not realising the photo had already been taken. The guests asked when the lineups were going to be, not realising that they were already in them. Trying to persuade them that they wouldn’t have to wait around for the traditional shots was also rather difficult!
When you are a bride, it does all go by in a bit of a rush. Because of our barn location, we had an 11pm ending to our wedding, but had it been 3am or 4am, I have no doubt that Paul would still have been there right until the end - making sure that he didn’t miss a thing and we have the photograph to prove it - genuinely the last man standing.
Prepared to wait an age and a day for the pictures to come through (that is traditional after all!) I put them out of my head. Receiving a wonderful preview of the pictures in a video clip about 2 weeks later was the last thing I expected! I’d never heard the song he chose to set it to, but it has now become one of our favourites as it has such happy memories attached to it. The pictures, unbelievably, were ready about a week after that and there were some serious happy tears all around, new husband, parents, great aunts...everyone needed a hanky. Any of my families original fears, completely allayed and forgotten. I made a photo book online (and one for each set of our lovely generous parents!), not having to worry about copyright or whether I had to ask permission to actually print the pictures. And each and every time I look back at that book - the sniffing starts again - I honestly never could have imagined how much I would love those photos, how much they would show the personalities of the people, the story and the very essence of the day and just how much they would mean to me."
So there you have it. Words from a bride. Huge thank you to Helen for writing this!
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