This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is something that I live by as a wedding photographer. Now I could quote Robert Capa like so many before me, but getting physically close in order to take your shot is only part of the story.
I’m Andy Hirst a documentary wedding photographer from the UK, although for marketing purposes I call myself a natural wedding photographer. Getting couples to be natural in front of the camera can be a difficult task especially if you meet them for the first time on the morning of their wedding, a time when all sorts of emotions are whizzing around. Dealing with a stranger with a camera can be the last thing they need.
In that situation as a photographer, there can be a bit of tension and you would tend to step back and stick on a long lens and shoot from a discreet distance. To get close, you need to be close, creating some sort of bond between you and your couples before the wedding day will allow getting closer than any lens, the best things is, they will want you there.
I put as much personality as possible into my marketing and branding, this means the enquiries I get are from couples that I already resonate with. This is probably why a lot of my couples are dog lovers and are generally super chilled people. This is important to get the right clients in the first place. With the right clients you are always going to have a connection, so get your marketing and social media right and you are already halfway there.
Having open lines of communication is one thing, but meeting up at the venue to walk and discuss ideas is something that really makes that connection, better still offering advice establishes you as an authority. How you do your meetings will depend on how many bookings you have and where they are. For me, a local-ish wedding is easy to do a venue visit in advance. For weddings where I have to travel this could be the day before, this is not ideal for me, but in this situation, there is generally more contact over WhatsApp or email. On that note, I usually create a WhatsApp group with the bride and groom, everyone feels comfortable being themselves in a chat as email is seen as very formal these days. A group chat is normally filled with emojis and the conversation is a lot more relaxed.
So you’ve laid the foundation with your couple, it’s the day where this starts to pay off. The way you walk into the room for the first time is key to achieve this is so important. Image walking into the room all flustered, because you got stuck in traffic or you didn’t get your morning espresso, that will definitely not put people at ease. No matter what has happened that morning, take five minutes and breathe, relax, remember something funny and have a giggle. When you walk in the room, happy, relaxed and confident.
So when you get to morning prep and walk through the door everyone around the bride or groom will take cues from how you both interact with each other. The happy, relaxed and confident you will instantly put at ease your bride and groom, your presence will be comforting to them, and crucially everyone else in the room, mum, and bridesmaids etc will also be comfortable and at ease with you. This alone will certainly help you get shots closer and with a better atmosphere because people will let you in and even help you out.
Putting the work in before the wedding day gives you the access. Now you may be one of those super charming outgoing people who can turn up as if you’ve known them for years, that’s awesome. I am, however, not. I have always been super shy around people I’ve never met and it takes me a while to get past this. That’s why I put the work in before, I’m way over it by the time it comes to the day.
The result is a set of images from each wedding with a perspective of a guest, friend or family member. The images themselves are more personal. Being physically close is a technical detail, just like the lens you choose. To get there you need a strategy to be there naturally.
As a wedding photographer, you have so much to with the atmosphere and how the bride, groom, and guests experience that atmosphere, you are also the person who will make them that happy again when they look back at those images.