Is wedding photography art? Well yes it is, sort of, it’s obviously a little more complicated than that for wedding photography.
I’ve been a photographing for over 25 years now and for the last 10 years with Howling Basset around the National Wedding circuit. I’d like nothing better than to approach a wedding on purely artistic grounds to photograph the couple and convey their love for each other, but the practicalities of photographing a wedding usually mean that I get 30-45 minutes at a wedding to purely focus on the couple themselves. The rest of the time is travelling between venues, group shots, appeasing the Vicar, trying to get everything done before the caterer starts to kick off. It’s a stressful time and the key to making it look relaxed, as far as the couple are concerned, is to be so experienced that it looks effortless.
Styles change and we’ve thankfully moved on from the completely staged photographs of the recent past. Having shot film in the day the only reason it was so staged back then was the prohibitive costs for film, processing and printing. It was literally £1 a shot in 1992 and that wasn’t for the finished set of prints.
Nowadays with digital it has really opened up weddings to be shot more artistically and hopefully emotively. Those staged shots still exist and should be too, get those in the can so to speak and then it’s onto more candid and reportage photography. In 1992 I would shoot 100 shots per wedding and the wedding day was from the Bride’s arrival at the church to the start of the wedding breakfast.
In 2013 I now shoot 2,000 plus images per wedding and that’s over a much longer day from the bride getting ready right through to the first dance. With this amount of shots and being there all day I can really now tell the whole story of the day. From the bridesmaids messing about, the father of the bride welling up as he sees his daughter in her wedding dress; the relief as the wedding ceremony finishes to the slightly drunken antics of friends on the dance floor.
The other great thing that digital photography now allows is fantastic low light abilities. I can now shoot, with some expensive fast lenses, in a dimly lit church without any flash. In film days you had a few choices of film types but you simply couldn’t shoot in an interior without flash. Most clergy don’t allow flash during the service so as a photographer you just sat at the back waiting for the signing of the register. Speaking of the signing of the register shot; its one of those archaic shots left over from weddings of long ago which still persist in today’s wedding ceremonies. I heard a lovely story the other day of a couple who refused the signing of the register shot saying something along the lines of “why would I want a shot of us pretending to sign a piece of paper” very brave and hopefully the start of modernising wedding photography.