Weddings I think are the sort of thing that you either love or hate. I don’t mean love or hate the idea or concept of a wedding, just the process. Weddings can be incredibly formal and drawn out, or quite informal and relaxed. Church weddings tend to be the most formal and solemn of all but, depending on the setting and the priest or celebrant, a wedding can be quite humorous and relaxing. Being a wedding photographer and/or videographer on the other hand is anything but an informal or relaxing occupation. I’ve done a number of weddings in my time, more than I actually realised, starting in the early 80s, and looking back I’m not sure whether there have been many that I’ve actually enjoyed doing. I came to realise long ago that you have to be of a specific character and temperament to enjoy wedding photography (and lately videography) as an actual full time job, and I have a lot of respect for those that do weddings year after year and do it well.
The photographs in this story are in no specific order, just some examples from over the years with all manner of cameras. The first wedding that I ever covered was when I was working for a studio after graduating from university with my photography degree (an Applied Science degree actually, as I’d studied what was more industrial and scientific photography). It was a wedding somewhere in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and, thankfully, I didn’t have to do the entire box and dice but just the ceremony and some group shots afterwards, all in the church grounds. I can’t remember why that was all I had to do, but I’m glad that I didn’t have to do more as this was something that was never covered in my course. To be honest, I didn’t really have much idea of weddings, as I don’t think I’d ever attended one previously. I did have some idea of what was involved and fumbled my way through and managed to get what was required. Or at least I thought I did as there were no complaints, though I never had to do that again. I also thought that would be my first and last wedding. Famous last last words indeed.
Some years later I was asked to do a friend’s wedding (more a workmate) and I agreed before giving it sufficient thought. It was something that I ended up regretting, as I realised that I was just being used to get a free service and had to put in far more effort than was justified or what recompense was offered. What made things worse was that I had to travel to Melbourne from country Victoria, cover the wedding in one part of town and then drive to the other side of Melbourne for the reception and then back again without ever having enjoyed the day or night whatsoever. I think the only thing offered was a room in a cheap hotel somewhere in Melbourne, where I didn’t get one minute of sleep as the yelling and other noises kept up until the early hours of the morning. I was quite haggard by next morning and I just got in my car and drove the 200km back home half asleep. I vowed never to agree to any wedding requests from thereon in.
But over the years I was asked to cover one wedding or the other and reluctantly agreed, as it was difficult to refuse as my wife and I were always invited as wedding guests. My last wedding was that of a nephew, which I agreed to cover, though I wasn’t looking forward to doing this. One of the things that gave me pause was that I was part of the family and really didn’t feel comfortable or happy about being the ‘uncle’ with the camera. So, as I’d guessed, while everyone else was having a good time, I was working flat out constantly worrying about the next stage and thinking about how to go about covering the wedding given the venue and the woeful weather that made outdoor coverage impossible afterwards. It was very late in the night by the time I could put away the camera and try to enjoy myself at the reception, while everyone else had been having a riotous time for many hours. I was so tired by this time that it only took a few drinks and I was fast asleep.
As with all weddings, it’s up to the photographer to produce the goods, so the wedding work doesn’t end when you leave the reception, it can go on for much, much, longer as you work on the final results. In the film days, you’d take the negatives to a film lab, produce proof sheets, and present these to the newly weds who’d then select what they wanted printed. You’d then take the selections to the printing house and they’d produce the final prints. It involved a bit of work, but most of it was done by others. Move forward to the digital age and, after a wedding, you’d sit in front of your computer going through all the shots (now usually way more than in the film days), select the best, colour correct etc and then print proof sheets on your own printer. Then you’d repeat the selection process with the newly weds and print the final shots on your printer. Dedicated wedding photographers will use a print house, but I wasn’t a dedicated wedding photographer. So while the newly weds were no longer newly weds and the guests had all but forgotten the wedding, the wedding photographer would often still be at work. And people wonder why some wedding photographers charge so much.
So along rolls one of my niece’s weddings and again I have my camera in hand (this time a cinema camera). What was I thinking, you might ask? However, this time it was voluntary, no one asked me, and all I did this time was film just the wedding ceremony to give myself some film production practice. I made no promises as to what the results would be, if anything, and I made no guarantees that I’d produce anything at all. It could all have ended up a dismal failure with nothing fruitful coming of it and I didn’t mind that one bit. I was just doing it for my own pleasure as a learning experience, as well as a bit of a challenge, and it would also keep me occupied during the wedding ceremony. The big factor here was that there was no pressure on me, so I could do what I wanted and how I wanted. It was actually a bit of a liberating experience, being able to go through the exercise without anything hanging over my head regarding expectations. Did I take what I was doing seriously? Sure, I was absolutely trying to produce the best possible outcome, but the lack of any pressure allowed me to be a lot more free with what I wanted to do.
So were my endeavours successful? I heard that it brought tears to the groom’s mother’s eyes (hopefully because she liked it) and the bride is happy, so I guess that’s all that matters. Did I learn anything from the experience? Yes. Firstly, it reinforced the fact that I don’t really want to be a wedding photographer or videographer. Secondly, I gained a lot more knowledge and experience about filming and editing from this wedding exercise. Every challenge is valuable, whether old or new. Thirdly, the experience wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be and I realised that I’m still up for a challenge, which is a good thing. Finally, I learned more about my equipment from some mistakes that I made as, no matter how prepared you try to be, there’s always something that can prove to be a problem, but the challenge is overcoming the problem while on the go.