Define the Goals of Wedding Photographers
I think at the end of the day, we've got three main goals as wedding photographers, as storytellers. We must Tell the Story, we've gotta Capture Moments at weddings, but we've gotta be able to Create Moments as well. Because it's not every day that our clients are just beautifully falling into position, in beautiful light, in beautiful poses and all the rest of it. Even though they think that they can. Do you ever get that? Yeah? I've often had brides come to me and they say, "Oh Ryan, we just want everything natural. "Just like what's up on your wall." And you have to giggle a little bit and say something like, "Well, y'know, "There's some help in that shot from me, in terms of lighting, in directing, and all the rest of it." But at the end of the day, there's a really beautiful, natural moment within all that. So, we've got to be able to do all of those three things really, really well. If you think about wedding photography though, who would agree and, hopefully you will, if you're ...
all wedding photographers, who would agree that wedding photography is one of the toughest jobs in our industry? Yeah? It is, isn't it? Yeah?
I would raise my hand.
Yeah, well you can.
Hopefully the people at home are agreeing as well. But if you think about what a wedding photographer has to do on a wedding day, we've gotta be every type of photographer, don't we? We start the day being product photographers, if you think about it. Because we shoot details, yeah? And then we're fashion photographers because we're shooting gowns and beautiful people and suits and all that sort of thing. Then we're family, portrait photographers. If they've got flower girls and page boys, we're children photographers. We get to the reception, we become architectural photographers. We get through the church and the reception, we become reportage or documentary photographers. We're all of these photographers combined into one, so it is pretty daunting, isn't it? Out at a wedding? The thing about weddings is we only get one chance to do this.
There's no second chances, there's no going back to do it again. Yeah? So we've gotta be all of these things, and they say three things in particular: Telling the Story, Capturing the Moment, and Creating the Moment is what we're going to focus on right now.
Absolutely. I guess as you can see here on the screen, the most important aspects of wedding photography are expression and capturing the decisive moment. When to press the shutter, okay? After working for many years as a wedding photographer, there are certain photos you can capture week-in and week-out, but you need to be in tune with these things. So my love for reportage style photography began when I first started photography. My idols were the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, a lot of street photography. But I also was a freak about fashion photography. I loved the likes of Mario Testino and Richard Avedon and so on. Okay so these were the guys that inspired me so the funny thing was that back when I first started, you were either a PJ photographer or you were a posey photographer. You couldn't be both because you were frowned upon either camp. Right? So "Ah, he's a PJ- he doesn't know how to use light or pose." "Ah, he's a posey photographer, he doesn't know how to capture moment." Well I said, well I don't agree with that, I want to be both. I want to be able to capture moments when they're there, then also have the ability to create above and beyond what just being a PJ photographer can be. So, it's about incorporating both. At the end of the day, though, the amount of what I do at a wedding, really depends on the couple that I'm photographing. Some couples love that natural, capture the moment style, y'know not a lot of directing. But then there are couples that really hate that and they want you to meticulously place them in every single shot so that they get that look, that I guess is on our website and throughout our work.
I think the word for it, which we use to our clients as well is balance. I think there needs to be that balance throughout the entire coverage and that's what we try and really concentrate on so.
Absolutely. So you know, at the end of the day when we start talking about capturing stories, it's about identifying moments. But being in tune with your surroundings which is really, really, really important. And I'll give you some examples. Sometimes, to tell a story we need a sequence of images to tell a story. But when I talk about sequences, I don't talk about putting the camera in motor drive, and spraying off 400 frames to capture maybe, two, three... Okay, I'm not talking about that, it's about reading what's about to happen, preempting what's about to happen, positioning yourself accordingly, and capturing the moment, which it's all about. So let's look at this image here, we have, this is the hotel room where the bride was getting ready. And this is what I was confronted with. A scared, panicky bride. (Ryan laughs) And I think the look here says it all. Okay, so that was the shot. So, there was anxiety. I needed to be able to recognize that anxiety, and document things accordingly. The minute I turned my camera 90 degrees, who did I see that was there to comfort her? The bride's father. So this is going to be interesting. So I'm waiting, I'm waiting because he's looking at her, and there are things happening, he's feeling what she's feeling and then we get to the pinnacle of the story. And this pinnacle of the story was this, this beautiful hug from dad. Going up and capturing, y'know, that beautiful emotion. Which is what it's all about. So it's about recognizing, feeling the moment, putting yourself really in their shoes, which we'll talk about in a minute. And then, following, following and then there it is. And all this comes back into understanding your client needs which we'll talk about extensively today and tomorrow as well. So, we capture moments using several images, but we can capture moments just using one image. That says it all, I mean here was during the speeches, beautiful expression. Okay, you're there you're waiting for the moment. We see the moment here and we react to it. Bang, there's the shot. As opposed to just rattling off frames after frame and then, possibly missing the shot.
Yeah, I think I want to concentrate on that point as well because I hear of so many people that say to us, "Look, I come back from weddings with four, five thousand images," and that's--
Yeah it is, it's really, really scary. I think they refer to it as spraying and praying.
Spraying and praying.
I think part of what we do is that we're comfortable in our own skin and with our equipment, that we can wait and wait and wait for that perfect moment to happen. And then, just concentrate on those little moments that we need to tell the complete story.
This is another one of my favorites here, this is (Ryan laughs) contemplating a murder here. We actually were contemplating a murder of the mother of the groom, but that's another story. But anyway, it's about once again seeing what's about to happen, okay, reading the story. This was shot with a very long lens, really honing in on the expression, and the guy on the left, I believe, makes the shot because his eyes will bring you back into the frame, so it's framing things. I guess as photographers, we choose what we include in the frame and what we exclude in the frame. And then you get the goofy, you know, celebrant, that wanted to look at my camera to see the image that I've taken, (Ryan laughs) little did she know that she needed to look at the back of the camera, not the front of the camera. And this poor lady being in the wrong place, at the wrong time. This was just one of those moments where you just react quickly. The bride and groom were about to be announced by the celebrant, and this woman just walks out of the background, into the middle of the crowd. So, yep, and she wasn't even part of that wedding, which was really funny. (Ryan laughs) But it's about reacting quickly when things happen.
I love that shot. It's crazy. I think sometimes we gotta be able to help the moment as well. And being able to help the moment so that it comes together in an entire picture. So this moment was happening, but it was helped by me, in terms of telling the bride exactly where I wanted her to stay on the steps or stop on the steps. So, I saw the light come down and hit those steps, and as she was walking into the church, I said to her, "Look darling, you see that patch of light, right there on those stairs, it's about half-way up, I want you to get to that patch of light and stop." That's all I really said. As the girls went up, they were trying to fix the gown for the bride, and for me, basically for the shot. And just off to the side, their dad sort of having a moment, just by himself. Reflecting on everything that's happening, she's just about to walk in. But it ties that entire story together. So we've gotta be able to just help these moments along slightly as well.
Yeah. Absolutely. You know kids are an incredible source of inspiration at weddings. And this really depicts kids at weddings. Boys and girls, you know? Two very different camps, two very different thoughts, of behavior I guess. Little girl not being impressed and of course, little boys being little boys. But once again, it's about being ready and preempting what's about to happen.
Yeah. This is preempting, I guess for me, I knew something would happen around the bridal table, and you can very easily see this shot as you're walking up to the reception. You saw this moment sort of being created in front of your eyes. It was just being ready in a time and place of when it's gonna happen. I often to say people, it's like, people call me sometimes lucky, "Oh Ryan, you're really lucky, man. "These things happen in front of you
Sure. "- And you have a good camera, so you must be able to get these shots all the time." It's a bit like saying like, was Pele the best soccer player in the world? And was he lucky just to score all those goals? Probably not. He probably knew where to be so that he'd get passed the ball and get goals really easily, right? Same here. I want to be in a position where I know something is gonna happen, this is around the speeches time. There was gonna be toasts, so I positioned myself outside of the reception, and waited for the toast to happen.
Pretty much, I mean, we're here to tell a story. As an author, I guess uses words to tell the story, photographers, we use pictures. And at the end of the day, we're not there to just produce pretty pictures. It's more than that. We are there to memorialize events.
A major event in a couple's life, which is, the wedding, I guess.
Yeah. I think because we're working with real people as well, they're not models. They're not people out of Vogue, they're real brides and grooms. That's what we shoot all the time. We still shoot 60 weddings a year, each. So we need to be able to just control those moments, to a certain degree, yeah? So. I mean in this one, this is literally during their first dance but, just prior to their first dance, I said to them, "Guys, I don't want you to just do your first dance as you normally see it." Those really stiff, we've all seen it, those really stiff first dance where they look like robots. I said, "Hug, enjoy the moment. Embrace each other." They were the key words that sort of resonated in their mind, and as they were doing that first dance, I bet you they were thinking, "We need to embrace here. We need to be in this moment." And then it's the right timing of light, and crop, there's a certain crop to that we don't need to see all of the subject in the shot, in order to feel what's actually happening. We can feel it through that embrace.
At the end of the day, it's really about evoking an emotion with our imagery. With the use of light, the use of cropping, and use of composition, later on when we shoot in the afternoon, you'll see us put all these things into practice. And how cropping is such a huge part of storytelling.
Absolutely. 100% I'll go back to creating these little moments as well, and through these shots, I was literally shooting a quite standard portrait of mother and bride basically, and as we were doing these shots, I could see that they were very close, and I could see that there was something about to happen. I just needed to give them permission for it to happen in front of me. So as I was doing the shot, I said to them, "Ladies, do you feel like hugging? "Do you feel like really hugging?" And they both said to me, "Yeah, we do." "Well, do it."
Let's hug it out.
Yeah. And I needed to be my own second photographer in this case as well. As they were hugging, I got the shot and the embrace of mom and daughter, but then I wanted her expression as well, so they kept hugging, I walked around them. Literally walked, 180 degrees around the other side, and shot the bride's expression, as well. So we've got both connected moments. Does that make sense for everyone? Yeah? We're all good with that? It's weird that we can't see the live, the internet going as well. If you could just nod the camera up and down that would be
Absolutely. (Ryan laughs) So there you go. That's it.
So keep nodding.
Awesome. Nice. Fantastic.
We move on to and this is a probably a bigger thing here, in the States than it is in Australia, we don't often get these moments of the reveal, we just don't shoot it, our days don't run like that. So when we do, we wanna make sure that, again, that story has real passion, real emotion throughout it all. And it's just getting the people their permission, at the end of the day, to react that way in front of us, or to act that way in front of us. Not act, but just do it in front of our cameras. And not be scared, and not be so uptight. And I think that's how mostly to do it, with how we relate to people as well.
Yeah absolutely. And one of the things that we communicate with our couples is very simply, that, unless we tell you do something, just be yourself. So don't freak out just because I'm standing next to you with a camera. Unless we tell you, just keep on being yourself. And if we need to change things, or orchestrate things, in any way shape or form, we will communicate that with you. We're not going to be there, just because I've got a camera in my hand, doesn't mean you need to freeze "Oh my god there's a photographer there." (Ryan laughs) and we need to take the photo. It's not about that. Giving them permission as Ryan said to be themselves, which is very, very important.