I want to have a conversation about wedding photography. Not about the price (there’s no argument; it’s expensive), but the role photography should play in a wedding, and what roles different styles of photography play. And figuring out what I want for myself.
I think about wedding photography as coming in 3 broad flavours, with some fuzzy boundaries between them:
Now, hyper editorial stuff bugs me. This is the one where the couple are essentially acting out parts in a make-believe story. It’s like fake photojournalism. “Oh, we’re just wandering down this lonely dirt road dressed in a suit and satin gown. I guess our car must have broken down 2km back that way. But it’s ok, because clearly we’re about to have some sort of very romantic adventure.” Or, “My friends and I hang out draped across trees/playground equipment in various poses like this all the time.” (Haha, these are fun. I should stop now though*).
I think it comes from trying to emulate magazines. In order to artfully showcase fashion, and make it more compelling, magazines often weave a fantasy story around a photoshoot. It’s a story we pretend is true but is not. They do so in the absence of a real story happening. That’s cool, nothing wrong with telling stories as an artform. But when you get married, there is a real story happening. But now we have people pretending to be in magazines, which are pretending to be real.
So my ideals were very ‘all photojournalism, all the time’ until I came across a comment on East Side Bride one time (I searched but I can’t find it anymore. I think it was years ago anyway) where a wedding photographer pointed out that portraits do in fact serve a purpose. It would be nice, one day when our wedding is in the past, to look back at clear pictures of who we were on that day. Particularly I’d love great face shots, to record exactly what our faces were like on the day we got married. Actually I kind of already wish I had some great face shots of momentous occasions in my past – like, this is how I was on day I immigrated to New Zealand, or, this is how my mother and I looked on the day I moved out of her place and started living independently.
I do think the portrait sessions easily get overblown though – what is the real purpose of having a picture with each possible combination of relatives? And, for the love of Dog, let’s not waste hours of precious reception time not attending your own celebration, and effectively snubbing your guests. I think a portrait session before the ceremony is a good way to do it.
So I thought I had this all figured out until listened to Hindsight Bride’s podcast interview with wedding photographer Laura Murray, who talked about giving editorial direction, like telling people move into a space with better light. And now I’m thinking maybe some editorialising is a good thing, provided it is only minorly disruptive.
I’d love to know how wedding photographers feel about these issues. What is the most valuable style of photography? And, given that the full photography package is unaffordable, what should someone do when they only have $700 to spend on photography? Is it better to use it on some great photojournalism, or on some great portraits? Which photos should be done with a photography rock star, and which photos can be pulled off ok by relative amateurs? So many questions!
* “Maybe we should have stayed with the car, because now we appear to be lost next to this abandoned train track we came across”
“In the manner of a Victorian explorer through Africa, we always have porters bring comically heavy and inappropriate furniture when we venture off the beaten track”