Here is another of a very occasional series of articles I'm publishing.
The way I work there is a lot of waiting around. I’m not hurrying people to get things done or arriving after the fact and asking people to stage what has already happened, I like to be there when it does occur, hence the waiting. If I know I have loads of time to cover the preparations I’ll occasionally step out of the room to get some other texture shots - if at the bride’s/mother’s house then something personal to them that will mark this transition phase of the relationship (parental wedding photos with something apt reflected or good luck cards) or if it’s at the venue then I might take the opportunity to photograph the ceremony room/wedding breakfast details.
There will always be things happening - hair is teased, make-up applied or checked, bridesmaids arrive, mum arrives, flowers delivered - the list goes on and on but in a logical progression, everything is building to getting the dress on and going to the ceremony.
Most of the time I’m standing and observing, waiting for those moments of activity that push the story forward and then it’s a flurry of activity from me as I move around my subject getting the story from various angles and from close and wide. This is where I’m constantly aware of the light - I love to have a good amount of natural light coming from one direction and will ask that things take place in this light if it’s necessary to move people (I used to be so hardcore as to not interfere at all but then I’d just be there cursing to myself that there was this beautiful light and no-one was in it!). If the room is dual aspect and you have light flooding from two directions I have been known to ask if I can close one set of curtains to get some beautiful directional light rather than have a very overlit, flat scene - but mostly you are fighting for light rather than fighting an abundance of it.
Preparation shots fall into a couple of categories for me: detail and scene-setting. I love to get the finer detail of what is going on: dresses being fastened, hair teased, make-up applied but also the situation in general: How busy is the room?, Who is around?, How many things are happening at the same time?, What’s the scene that the bride will remember? Are there any moments when people walk in and see the bride for the first time?(When parents walk in and see their daughter for the first time on her wedding day emotions run really high and there are only a few moments to capture this - I step back so as not to be part of it but capture the scene in a wide and with some close ups).
I always arrange with my brides when they are getting into the dress so I can get the details of this happening - quite often it’s tense, joyful, difficult, exciting but never dull and it creates a natural end to the preparation phase. If there is time after the dress is on I might see if I can take a quick portrait of the bride (in that nice directional light) as this is the freshest and most perfect she will look all day and it’s often an opportunity to get a nice portrait that you can show her in the back of the camera so she knows how fantastic she looks.
Next time I want to look at the groom and everything I might try to capture about him before the ceremony (normally you’ll find him in the bar).