Anyone who knows me well knows that I will talk about the creative process any chance I get (I once had a four hour debate with my husband about the definition of art). It’s what I’m passionate about, and I think it’s important for any creative professional to have their own opinions on the subject.
When you choose a wedding photographer, you’re probably very focused on the photographs they’ve created. It makes sense. Of course, those images are a result of their creative process. Your photographer’s style–whether more traditional, documentary, or experimental–will affect how they work with you and capture your wedding day. So it’s important that you feel a connection with not only the images they create, but how they create them.
Because I shoot in a more candid way, a big part of my method is what I like to think of as planned spontaneity. I think this idea became important to me when I started studying acting in college. This was the time when I began to understand that creativity was more about hard work and less about a magic spark of inspiration. Although those sparks have their place as well, they are more of a reward that comes from all the hard work you’re putting in, and less of something to be consistently relied on.
This idea applied to my photography and art classes, but my acting courses were the most obvious example. Because unless you’re talking about straight improv, acting actually involves very little spontaneity. Or at least, the spontaneity comes from the preparation. Those little unplanned moments that are sometimes the best part of an actor’s performance are often a result of everything else falling into place during rehearsals. Only after a solid performance is built can these spontaneous moments happen.
How does this relate to wedding photography? Just like an actor studies and rehearses in order to appear natural on stage, I direct and plan so that you will appear natural in your photographs. While I love capturing completely undirected moments as well, sometimes you need a little guidance.
Of course, I’m not going to be directing you for your whole wedding day. During your ceremony and reception I mostly just capture moments as they happen. Since you have other things on your mind at this point, it’s easier to get candids without you being aware of the camera. But when it’s just the two of you, like during a first-look or portrait session, and you are very aware that you’re being photographed, the natural moments require a little more work on my part.
So what is a planned-spontaneous portrait shoot like?
I might ask you to walk a little ways down a path, and then photograph what naturally unfolds. Or I may ask you to fix your dress, loosen your tie, or touch up your hair. I might ask you to do something kind of weird, and you better do it! Just kidding. Kind of.
I think it’s important to let you relax into the moment and make it your own, so sometimes I’ll direct for a few moments and then capture what happens when I stop. After a little while you’ll become much more comfortable in front of the camera. This is when I can capture the best images–between the shots, when you let your guard down. Those moments when you are coming out of a pose are often the best ones, which is why I rarely ever put my camera down.
It might sound odd, but in a lot of ways your photography is sort of pre-determined even before your wedding day. The time your photographer spends shooting, practicing, reading, gathering inspiration and absorbing ideas is a major contributor to your final wedding images.
So talk to your photographer about their process. How do they approach a photo session? What is a typical shoot like with them? How important is the editing and post-production process to them? Most likely they will be excited to talk about it, and you’ll get an idea of what it might be like to work with them. And you might find someone who you can have a four hour debate with.
PS. There is a very interesting interview with Thom Yorke about his creative process, if you have interest and/or are a Radiohead fan. You can find it here.
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