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Memoirs of a Wedding Photographer

Updated on June 4, 2011

Weddings are by far the most stressful of all photographic endeavors while, at the same time, being one of the most rewarding. A wedding is the culmination of wishes and dreams, the epiphany of lifelong fantasies for a little girl who has reached adulthood. For years a child has practiced and rehearsed for this monumental celebration, the consummation of an eternity of patience. It is up to the photographer to capture this momentous occasion and record it for posterity.

One mistake by the hapless photographer and this moment could be lost in oblivion. A camera malfunction can render this day neglected in the annals of an individual’s life. An ill maintained battery or insufficient memory could hinder the documentation of this critical point in the life of a princess as she takes her place upon the throne of matrimony.

There are no other words in the English language that will infuse fear into the heart of a photographer as much as, “Will you photograph my wedding?” Better to be asked for a kidney or a lung, at least then you could live with the consequences if there were complications. That bride, that innocent child, is asking for a guarantee of success. You are faced with a dilemma, to disappoint a credulous angel or back away in apprehension. 

I have photographed innumerable weddings over the past thirty years and I still tremble at the contemplation of recording another. The responsibility is so enormous and the outcome so uncertain. All other styles of photography can be repeated or improved, but a wedding is a once in a lifetime event and no miracle can retrieve a moment subsequent to its passage. A photographer must be omniscient, omnipresent and infallible. This master of the image must possess divination to be conscious of where to be at that critical moment while remaining invisible to the participants of that glorious day.

Countless books have been written, documenting the procedures necessary for successful wedding photography. “How to” articles abound chronicling the steps required to record that illustrious affair. But no one can prepare you for the mental strain that is encountered while preparing, photographing and delivering the finished memories of that fateful day. 

So now we come to that all-important question, “Why would anyone agree to photograph a wedding?” I will counter with additional questions: “Why do people climb Mount Everest?” “Why do people swim the English Channel?” “Why would someone dive in front of a bullet to save the life of person they did not know?” The answer: because it demands a courage and tenacity that challenges the artistry of the photographer like no other creative form.

A wedding photographer must stalk the quarry much like a master of wildlife photography is compelled to track an illusive animal. One false step and the target could become aware of the unwelcomed intruder and the candid nature of the encounter is lost. A fashion shoot can takes days of preparation and completion, but the outcome is assured. Images of a wedding are not afforded this luxury: the moment must be captured or forever lost in obscurity. If a sporting highlight is not recorded, the only individual disappointed with the outcome is the photographer. This is not the case with a wedding. A fumbled image can affect a generation. 

The rewards of the wedding photographer are not merely confined to the images created. Greater satisfaction emanates from the smiles of the bride, the comments of the family, and that one photo that generates awe from all those connected with the event. Wedding photography is not about simply earning a living: it is about creating memories for generations. It is not for the weak of heart but for the courageous, the determined and the adventurous individuals who are willing to face all obstacles to capture that invaluable moment in the life of a princess.

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