How I Got The Shot – Emotion And Depth

Weddings are full of emotions. Happiness at the joy surrounding the day, sadness that certain family members are no longer around to share in the occasion. Anything can happen and you need to be ready for it. This year I’ve been studying street photography in more detail in an attempt to diversify my wedding photography and also to challenge myself, I always want to improve. Since I want to be known as London’s best wedding photographer, I make sure to focus on things that actually matter.

The two key things I have taken away from my studies?

‘The moment trumps everything’ and ‘tell a story with layers’. Layers create depth, draw the eye across the frame and can add much needed context to a shot, showing the event that someone is laughing at is much more powerful than a close up of someone simply laughing. Context and depth give an image character.

The brain loves depth as it also creates a relationship between the objects in the frame. It creates a size comparison – which can be used to dictate importance – it can also create symmetry and harmony depending on the situation.

two people crying at a wedding

I took about eight frames of this moment as it was unfolding in front of me. I noticed the groom turn away from me to cry and he was embraced by his groomsmen. Sometimes you are unlucky and the moment happens somewhere you physically can’t get to, other times luck just isn’t on your side.

I stayed with it, hoping that something would occur. Typically I like to get very close to people to make them big in the frame and emphasise the importance of what’s going on. On this occasion something about their body language made me think it was too tense to intrude upon, so I instead decided to step back and use the people nearest me as a frame. That’s when my luck changed.

As I moved back I realised that this guest had also started to cry, which could have been a god photograph in itself. My focus however, was still locked on the groom. He turned back towards me, didn’t notice I was still there and this is the result.

As I mentioned I took eight frames of the moment and there are a few other good ones, but this is my favourite. The symmetry in emotion draws me in and I like how the women on the left helps complete the visual size comparison between the three people going largest to smallest left to right and then the eye lands on the groom. The rule of odds is also at play but I can’t claim that I was thinking of that at the time. In the other few frames the girls expression is less sympathetic, and whilst it’s great to capture multiple emotions in one frame, it almost looked like she was laughing at him (she wasn’t, but that’s what it looked like), which isn’t cool, there’s no need to make people feel bad about displaying their emotions, so I didn’t deliver it.

These things happen in less than a few seconds, which is why you can’t underestimate the importance of practice. Not having to consider the exposure, the focal length, the composition etc. consciously means that you can hone in on the moments unfolding around you and pay much more attention to whats going on in the room. The camera settings you can set automatically – it’s like being in the zone, you don’t even notice you’re doing it – then bang! Moment caught, shoot and move.

I chose to make this image black and white because, well…I’m just not a huge fan of colour in all honesty. There’s something about black and white which removes the photograph from the present narrative and immediately places it in the past.

I think that’s born out of the visual language with which I grew up where every photograph of an old person or old event was in black and white, all modern images were in colour and black and white was an artistic choice rather than a necessity. I find i’m charmed by the simplicity of black and white, it removes distractions and helps focus in on the real intention of the picture, of course colour has it’s place, for now, mono wins.

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