“What do you think we should do?” This is a question one might be asked if they are the deciding factor in where to eat, which movie to see, or even how to approach that big business presentation meeting in the morning. However, one might be amazed at how many times I (the photographer) have had this question asked of me…at weddings!
Imagine this: I am hired as a lucky bride and groom’s wedding photographer and, on the surface, my job description is pretty clear cut. I show up at a pre-arranged time, spend several hours capturing professional portraits and then head home to edit. I do not know people in the parties (though I get to know the happy couple more and more as the months tick by leading up to the big day) and I do not know anyone in attendance. For all intents and purposes, I am a well-dressed stranger with really neat camera equipment. So, imagine my surprise as, more and more, I am asked to make some pretty integral decisions regarding the ceremony.
Now, I understand the portrait portions of the day are planned around myself and the wedding parties. It is understandable I would be an integral part in this as, without me, it would just be a group of well-dressed men and women, standing in a sunny field, smiling into the wind. And I am used to photo ops cropping up (both at weddings and not) when all heads immediately turn to me and ask, almost in unison: “Where is a good place to take a picture? You tell us, you are a photographer.” And I’ll tell you it is an exquisite, forcefully creative experience to be put on the spot like that, especially when that spot is bordered on two sides by neighborhoods, a half-full parking lot on the third and a McDonald’s across the street. But…I digress.
No, what I speak of is actual ceremony and venue setup questions. In our more than three years photographing weddings, on more than one occasion, I have been asked questions which have nothing to do with the camera and more to do with actual proceedings. This includes everything from where decorations should be placed and when people should walk down the aisle to when music should be faded and ceremony order. I suppose attending several weddings a year can give me leg up (and maybe even a fallback career if the field of wedding photography completely tanks), however, this is a very surreal request of the stranger in the room.
As a photographer and an unknown between the two families, I instinctively want to be a fly on the wall and only act as an observer during the actual proceedings. If only Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility were real, right? In fact, you might even nerd out a bit more and reference Star Trek’s Prime Directive here (for non-Trekkies, the directive is essentially one of non-interference). Basically, my gut will tell me to simply capture the day as it unfolds per the families’ design…not guide it’s path beyond the bounds of portraitures. Alas, as is typical in life, reality has other plans and, in the end, some things one sees at their loved ones’ weddings might have taken place at the recommendation of the photographer. Let that sink in for a moment.
Personally, I do not mind being asked, as it might be nothing more than a request for the opinion of a third party observer. In fact, it is kind of an honor to be included on this front. However, it is a profound task no less. After all, this is one of the most important days of their life and, now, what I say might have a permanent effect on how it goes.
Overall, it adds to the already-robust life of a wedding photographer. Not only do I get to spend a decent portion of the couple’s big day (typically, nearly three hours or more) with them, but I also affect some of the non-photography related portions as well.
So far, I have not been stumped and can typically draw on my various wedding observations to assist to the best of my ability and I hope to continue to be of helpful service in the future. After all, if this is a side note in a wedding photographer’s job description, so be it. I will just do that to my professional best as well.
On the photography front, the summer is off to a great start. The weather, believe it or not, has been more than cooperative for the outdoor weddings/portraits and I am busier than ever. Between weddings, engagements and my regular photography sessions (not to mention the garden, sleep, meals and grounds maintenance), I am hard at it dawn to dawn…and it is time to grab some lunch and get back to it. Until next time!