Ever wondered what it's like to be Wedding Photographer? Well here's a run-down on what can go on during a day's work as one.
With all batteries charged, lenses cleaned and bags packed the day before, I still wake early. I have notes to go through, gear to double check and breakfast to be had. Today I am photographing Sarah and Ross's big day. This amazing couple have been living in Morzine for a while and had decided to tie the knot in it's breathtaking scenery. I am super excited. Wedding photography is serious stuff. There are no second chances and no scope for error. But they are amazing days. They are so much fun! Weddings are the one day where everyone is together from the corners of the world to help celebrate a couple's great day. Everyone looks their absolute best and everyone is super happy. And I get to document all of that!
I am heading to The Farmhouse, Morzine's oldest building (built in the 1700's) and one of the best venues for a wedding a couple could ask for. I get there early so I can unpack my gear. After a quick round of 'good morning's with staff and guests, I head up to the Groom's room. Ross is there with his two brothers organising the many intricate pieces of kit that make up the formal scottish kilt attire. Cameras come out and I start capturing the smaller details first. Sporrans, sgian dubh (small sock dagger) and kilt pins are laid out on top of the tartan and shot while the boys are still shaving and frantically writing their speeches.
Then it's time for the lads to get dressed. Now a kilt isn't something you wear every day, so a few attempts were made (with brothers 'helping'), but finally a perfect outfit was created and a round of whisky was called for to celebrate.
Right, this part is done. I'm now off to the Bride's chamber. Typically, when i first arrive with the bride, there's both nothing happening and everything happening. Makeup is being done and dresses and outfits are being compared. I will usually chat with the girls for a few minutes, introducing myself to some of them, before taking the wedding dress away for the detail shots. This part is terrifying. I have in my hands the most important dress in the history of clothing. I have already scouted a spot I'd like to hang it, so I take it straight there still wrapped in plastic. Only once I have hung it and made sure it's secure, do I unwrap it. I grab a few different angles with the camera, make sure I shoot vertical and horizontal, then just as carefully, return the dress to the bride's room.
Next it's time for the detail shots. Shoes, rings and jewelry are taken aside to shoot. Swap out lenses for some macro shots, then again return everything.
Now I can turn my attention to what's happening in the room. There is much much more happening here than in the boy's room. Makeup, hair, dresses, champagne, breakfast, people coming and going. I'm capturing all of it. The makeup artist is positioned already near the balcony door, so the morning sun is lighting her perfectly. I try to grab some shots for the vendors as well, I like to give them some images for their own use.
Mum arrives, she's already looking fantastic and ready to assist her daughter's biggest day of her life. I make sure to grab a few shots of her interacting with her daughter as the excitement levels rise.
The dress goes on, finishing touches are made then it's time for Dad to turn up. This is always an emotional moment. This is the first time he's seen his daughter all ready to go. The realisation hits him that his daughter is all grown up and moving on and all this time I am keeping my distance, but still trying to capture all this.
The next step is the hardest. It is one of the stages of a wedding which is completely out of my hands and moving very quickly. The Ceremony. Thankfully this wedding was all at one venue. I didn't have far to go. Get some shots of people arriving, chatting with each other and the groom, then I try to position myself near the groom to capture his expression as he sees his bride for the first time. Then it's a quick dart around the side to grab a shot of her walking down the aisle towards him. From there on, I am just floating around trying to capture everything from the ceremony. Get the ring shot, get the first kiss shot, get the reactions of the guests, get a nice wide shot of the whole shebang.
Then we get to the walking out. The two walk between all their friends and family finally as a married couple! This time round, we headed up to the waiting decorated cars to do a slow(ish) horn-tooting tour of the village. This is a French custom and one that can't be missed! Great fun!
Once we get back to the venue, I will get a chance to whisk the couple away for a half hour location session. Just the three of us (sometimes a poacher with a cellphone!) getting some beautiful shots for them to have on their wall or album. This is fun. This is the first time the two of them have a wee breather and get to be together alone, so I usually just let them be themselves while I snap away.
Right! We are half way through the day now! Time to round everyone up and get loads of group shots. This can be a tricky one, but doesn't have to be. I tend to allocate the 'herding' duty to one of the groomsmen - someone who not only knows everyone important there, but has the authoritative voice to get everyone to their places. After the usual family shots, we decided to gather everyone together and get one massive group shot. I went on up to the top floor of the Farmhouse and hung out a window to choreograph this scene.
From there, we get to the speeches and toasts. Because this day's toasts were held around the back of the old Farmhouse, the area was crammed with people. I ducked inside and positioned myself sitting on a windowsill overseeing the whole thing. With my two cameras (one with a telephoto lens to get close in and one with a wide angle to get everyone, I just recorded the whole affair from above everyone's heads.
Right! Oh man, we are on the home stretch now! Everyone gets called in for dinner (or as some call it the Wedding Breakfast - I still have no idea why!) and food is being served. I have already managed to get the table details - anything the bride and groom have spent time designing - and cake shots, so there is little for me to do here but relax a bit, swap out some batteries and cards, maybe grab a drink or a quick bite to eat. I never take my eyes off what is going on however. No one wants pictures of themselves eating, but there are still interesting things happening all around. I'll try to grab some table shots as well (one of the few times during the day that I will draw attention to myself) to show the festivities.
Then came my new idea. I've been wanting to try doing a sort of photo booth for everyone at the reception to ham it up for the camera. I had the idea of mounting a GoPro to a two litre Génépi (local liqueur) bottle and pass it around everyone present. Not only did it capture some great expressions, but everyone got well into the swing of things after swigging from that bottle (oops)! It had to be topped up twice more too!
Now we move over to the cake cutting. Sarah and Ross have been so much fun all day and it's the same with the cake cutting. Waving a few wasps (where have those damn things come from this year??) away they attacked the cake with the crazy butcher's knife then proceeded to stuff each other with it!
Not long to go.... The bouquet toss. I position myself amongst the frantic ladies as they jostle for the best position. It's a sure throw, everyone is laughing then we get herded into the dance floor for the First Dance and general
I still stick around a little while longer, joining in with the fun, relaxing into a beer or two and snapping a few more final pics of the day. I never put an end-time to my day. I'll stick around to see what is happening. But otherwise I'm done with shooting. It's time to pack all my gear up and head home.
But don't think it's over yet! I plug all the cards from all cameras into my computer and upload them. Once that is done, I back them all up to a separate hard drive. Only then can I relax.
One nightmare still to go: I plugged the GoPro into the computer and opened Lightroom (which I use for about 80% of my editing) to import the images. Automatically, GoPro's Importer opened also. I clicked on 'cancel', then felt the blood drain from my face as that software deleted every single image from the memory card. You can barely imagine how I felt at that stage. It was around 2am and I felt like crying. An internet search came up with a life saving (yet awkward) little piece of software that enables idiots like me to recover deleted files from cards. It still took me a couple days of attempts, but finally I had every single image that was on that little camera. Praise be to software geeks. I never want to have that feeling happen again!
Both of my main cameras (Canon's 1Diii and 5Diii) have dual slots for two memory cards. Generally I set them so they will fill one card before recording to the next. However, for something as important as a wedding, I set them to record to both cards simultaneously. This way, if I ever encounter a card failure, I am secure in the knowledge there are two cards with the same information on them. GoPros don't have this feature, but the end result was a happy (relieved) photographer.
This wedding has truly been one of the greatest Morzine has witnessed and will be in so many people's memories for years and years to come. As always, I am truly honoured to have been able to share such a momentous and incredible day with a fantastic couple. I got to meet some really cool family members and friends and had such a blast doing my job. So thank you Sarah and Ross for allowing me to spend such an awesome day with you two!
Here's the slideshow I gave to Sarah & Ross:
And finally, here's the new and improved presentation box I gave to them once they returned from their honeymoon:
Thanks again for reading this far! I'd love to hear any feedback from you and even hear some of your own tales!
Till next blog!