Ever since you were a little child, your parents would take your picture telling you to look at the camera, hold still and smile.
That’s how they took pictures, and in so doing, they trained you to mug for your pictures and play to the camera.
Today, you’re all grown up, and you may be out on the town one night with your friends, and someone in your group pulls out their phone and aims it at you and your friends, and what do you all do?
Exactly! You “assume the position”! You all stare at the camera, staying motionless… smiling… waiting… smiling… waiting… for the picture to be taken.
Just as you were trained to do ever since you were a little kid.
But those aren’t the kinds of images you want to have to remember your wedding with – unless you’re okay with average photos, but if you’re reading this that may pretty much say you’re not that type of person.
You may feel strongly that the best photos of you have always been those where you weren’t aware of the camera.
You’d be right about that.
It’s because those candid photos captured you being yourself.
When they’re done well, that is, when they catch “definitive moments”, they capture your personality, your essence, the story.
You may have heard that people act differently when they know they’re being observed.
Just like you may drive more conservatively than you normally would if you knew there’s a police car behind you.
This is why television shows like “Big Brother” actually hide their cameras, so they can capture people as they really are, being themselves doing what they do, because if they were aware of the camera, they’d be doing things affected for the camera.
But you want to be photographed on your wedding day as the person you are – not someone you’re not.
You don’t want to end up with a bunch of “smile for the camera” shots.
(Don’t worry – Your guests will take plenty of those.)
But if you unplug yourself from playing to the camera on your wedding day you’ll get your real moments instead.
Because you’ll be having real moments of genuine, natural interactions, all of which can be photographed. Those will make great memories. Better memories.
And great photos.
Tell “Stories” With Photos. Not Just “Take Pictures”
People become photographers out of a love for taking pictures.
And when they get into wedding photography, typically they look around and say, “okay, what pictures should I be taking?”
Then they see what other wedding photographers are doing.
And they do the same.
Which is why you’re seeing many of the same shots from photographer to photographer. “Jump in the air”, “headless bridesmaids”, “dipping the bride backwards”… it seems they’re repeated from wedding to wedding. They’re routine.
But photos with emotional impact however, rises when one photograph builds on the next, compounding the depth and layers of the story being told. Not routine shots.
In fact, it’s how magazine photographers report news stories.
So as you you see, there’s a difference between merely taking photos – and telling stories with photos.
Story-telling photos also fill in the moments between the big moments – which tell us more about what happened at your wedding, how it happened, what the people in the photos were all about, and how they felt.
Those are your wedding stories, your memories, right there. That’s the reason you get a photographer.
But photographing a wedding as many do by just “taking pictures”…In the end only gets you a scrapbook of random shots. Same as your guests would get.
Your photographer’s empathy goes a long way to getting the type of heart-touching images you desire from your wedding.
The camera doesn’t know what photos to take at any moment.
That task is obviously up to the photographer.
So, how do they know what shots to take that will be the most meaningful to you, a complete stranger?
Some photographers, especially those who work for “wedding factory” studios, routinely use “shot lists.” Those are ideas for photos to shoot. Those ideas might be based on what their studio likes to sell (i.e. “clink champagne glasses and smile at camera”).
Or they might be based on what the photographer envisions your wedding to be. “Clasp your hand over hers and look into her eyes,” says the photographer after the toast, implanting his or her contrived moment on your wedding day. But it’s still not a genuine wedding moment.
Being preconceived and artificial, all those shots aren’t based on what actually happened at your wedding.
They won’t have any memory or feeling to them other than “that’s when the photographer told us to look at each other and smile.”
But you want photography that comes out of what actually happens at your wedding.
Obviously otherwise they’re not real moments.
Besides being bothered by a photographer in your face all day long.
So some photographers say they won’t direct you all day long, and that’s a good start.
But it’s not a guarantee they’ll get photos with memories and emotions in them.
In fact, I’ve heard where photographers miss those moments. And here’s why:
I’ve found that the best, most meaningful, height of emotion wedding photographs, are only captured when the photographer’s trigger finger is directly connected to his or her heart. I know, I know. It sounds corny. But it illustrates my point.
Something in the photographer’s emotional chemistry is what tells them when a particular moment is dear. It’s like second nature. It just happens. They don’t even have to think twice about it. They just grab it. And that’s what you want because the worst thing you can have at a wedding is a photographer who’s not sure to capture what means the most to you. Then they miss moments. And if their heart isn’t in the same place yours is, if you’re both not on the same page – they’ll be unsure at your wedding with practically every shot they take.
Here’s an illustration of what I mean: Let’s assume you have two photographers at your wedding.
At some point while people are dancing hard, your father comes over to you.
He has a tear streaming down his cheek. See, he’s been feeling something since he gave the toast and it’s been welling up in him all day.
He knows the time has come to let go. It’s been on his mind and in his heart. His child is off to start a new life. As a loving parent, it’s entirely natural for him to be experiencing these emotions.
And he’s feeling it all right now. Hard. He hugs you, closely. No words are exchanged.
Now one photographer in our little example spies that and he or she just knows that endearing quick moment between the two of you needs to be captured. It’s a no-brainer.
The other photographer sees it too but its significance doesn’t quite register with him or her quite in that magnitude. It’s not in their emotional lexicon to get the significance of it all.
To that photographer, it’s just another moment same as any previous moment earlier in the day when dad may have hugged you. So… no biggie not getting this shot, is what they’re thinking. Besides, it’s party time now and he or she’s involved with taking shots of people dancing.
And so he keeps right on doing what he was doing. And because the moment was lost on him, he loses your moment. Forever. Because when it’s not photographed, it’s as if it never happened. It simply won’t be there for you to recall it when you look at your photos.
The bottom line is: It’s the emotional wiring of the photographer that’s at play here either way. That’s why who’s behind the camera is more important than the camera.
**G.E. Masana (portrait artist and Huffington Post contributer) As Seen In HUFFINGTON POST | MARTHA STEWART WEDDINGS | THE KNOT | NEW YORK MAGAZINE | BRIDAL GUIDE | BRIDES | STYLE ME PRETTY | ELEGANT BRIDE | GRACE ORMONDE | WELLWED | TOWN&COUNTRY **
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