DOCUMENTARY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
The other day, as photographers do in the dark Winter months, I was updating my web site’s wedding gallery and doing general non photographic “businessy” things; Looking at the images started me thinking about my “ ideal client” and decided that whilst there really isn’t such a thing as a “perfect” client any more than there is a “perfect” photographer, I came to the conclusion that the most successful relationships come when at least some, if not all, of the following are present.
Loving my style of photography is a pre requisite to booking. I want brides who love my documentary style, and it usually is a “she” but not exclusively. I have had some great chats about photography with prospective grooms too! Buying into my style and approach is so important. So much of what I do on a wedding day will be “documentary” in feel with a little time set aside for some slightly more composed photographs of a couple. Those who are looking to book just to tick off photography on their “wedmin” list are not the best fit for me! It’s those who want to see the most important day of their lives,through my eyes,in my documentary, observational style and handed back to them in the imagery I produce.
The lovely Becky, whose wedding I shot last Summer, dropped me a text the day afters received her album in which she summed this up perfectly
“ Suzy, The photos are absolutely stunning and will forever remind us of the most beautiful day. You have captured the whole day and told it back to us through the photographs. It is incredible, thank you. Becky xx”
There are many, many photographers out there…. some heavily photoshopping their images. It is a more theatrical approach but far more set up and posed that anything I would feel comfortable producing. That said it has a market, just not my market.
When I photograph a wedding I seek to anticipate the next moment, relying on my experience I can work out what is likely to happen next, get myself into position, frame a composition in my mind before I ever press the shutter. So, although my images look natural, even candid and above all documentary they are in reality purposefully crafted, considered and consistent.
I love this quiet image of a bride just before she entered church, she is gathering herself, stealing her nerves and is about to step forward to the next stage in her life. It says so much.
In 2015 The Guild of Photographers awarded me the “ Documentary Wedding Image of the year” Here is the link http://blog.suzy-mitchell.com/2015/02/10/documentary-wedding-photographer-of-the-year-2014-the-photographers-guild/
This is probably one of my all time favourite images….the rain was so heavy and all involved were so anxious but there really was no choice other than to make a dash for the church door!
On a less stressful note I love this image taken in December last year – again not staged but as I turned round all this banter was going on!
The lost cricket ball at this Marquee wedding last Summer caused some consternation!
The little girls below were unaware this was even being taken. Love their differing expressions.
The ideal client needs to be someone who can engage and wants to collaborate with me, working together towards those relaxed,documentary images which we both seek. To this end I hold a pre wedding consultation with each couple to better focus on what is really important to them. Pinterest, on line blogs and wedding magazines are fantastic resources and really help clients convey their vision to me.
I explain that for most of the day I will be working in the background, unobtrusively documenting all that happens, but that there may be moments when I see fantastic light or an amazing backdrop and I’ll gently move or reposition so as to capitalise on these. This leads me onto trust. Trusting me as your photographer to be doing the very best I can for you, utilizing the environment to the max and guiding you through the photography on the big day. Trust is a big one!
It was really helpful that I had Skyped with Ksenia and met her a few days before her wedding for a full consultation….it was quite a big ask to suggest they walked together through the day trippers by the river holding hands. But I am guessing that having spent some time with me they just decided to “go for it!” So glad they did! This is a great example of seeing an idea, a fantastic backdrop and then utilising it in the image.
3) TRUST -is only really built up when we get to know one another. For this reason I like to have a pre wedding shoot with clients. This is a low key, relaxed shoot, usually a few months before your wedding where we will try out a few ideas for the all important little session we will have on your wedding day when it is just you and me and my camera! . It’s helps me to see what you are comfortable with, how relaxed you are on the other side of the lens and for you to tell me any ideas you have or shots you have seen that we might like to emulate. I can use the pre wedding shoot to do this and then on your wedding day we can start from where we left off and work towards gentle, relaxed imagery, still with that very documentary feel which will sit well with the rest of the photographs I will be taking.
Here are a couple from Alex and Joe’s pre wed….
Here is the link to the pre wedding shoot gallery on my website
When you book me to be your wedding photographer we are in effect investing in each other. We will each be giving something of ourselves; I need to see a little of who you are, what makes you “you.” Relaxed documentary imagery doesn’t just happen; It takes a little time and some trust. Even if logistics mean we can’t meet before your wedding day at the very least a few Skype sessions can make a massive difference.
Documentary photography looks easy, it isn’t! So often I hear that a couple are asking a relative with a “good camera” to document their day. This raises a few questions. Does he or she have the skill set to know what to do if the promised blue sky and sun is in fact a force 10 gale and driving rain? Will they be able to produce a full set of perfectly edited images showing each part of your wedding day? How long will it take them to get the images to you after the wedding? Will they be unobtrusive on the day? In the end your photographs will be your reminder of the best day of your lives and the quality of the images in your album should be commensurate with their importance as family heirlooms and as an artistic document of your wedding day.
Below is an excerpt from an on line article published by “Rock N Roll Bride” back in the Spring last year.
” There appears to be a complete lack of value placed on what a professional wedding photographer actually does. And believe me, its way more than having a fancy camera, lighting equipment and retouching software installed on their computer.
“When it comes to other aspects of the wedding where a couple might want to save money, they always also seem to understand that cutting corners involves some element of risk. I’ve spoken to countless brides who’ve ordered dresses online from China for example, but they always preface by saying “I knew it was a gamble, but I thought it was worth it to save so much money”, or “The quality wasn’t as good as ones on sale in bridal boutiques, but we didn’t have the budget to spend any more so I was fine with it”.
So why, when it comes to the photographs, which are one of the only things you’ll have left after the wedding, do so many couples spend way less than average but are completely blind to the risks of doing so?”
Pretty well sums it up!!
You are making a financial investment in me and I am so very conscious of this; When you book me to photograph your wedding you are paying for my expertise built up over many years, my documentary style, my investment in top of the range equipment and back up equipment, an assistant at most weddings, together with consistent, and above all, beautifully edited black and white and colour imagery. I love what I do, the challenge,the sharing of wonderful times with fantastic couples who I really “get” as I hope they” get” me.