Monday, January 27, 2020

On Wedding Photography

Here, hold my flowers while we kiss!
Cathedral of Christ the King Catholic Church, Atlanta
Canon 5D Classic, Canon EF 702-200 f4L lens

Taking a brief break from talking about the philosophy of photography, let's talk about one of the practical uses of the art -- wedding photography.

Okay, I 'fess up. I photograph (or in the popular vernacular, "shoot") weddings. I use the present tense, because I have one coming up in March.

I've spent most of my working life as a small-market commercial photographer. So when I call my blog A Life in Photography, I'm not exaggerating. I photographed my first wedding in 1971 or '72. I forget which, but I do remember that I used a Rolleicord Va twin-lens reflex camera (because that was what I had at the time), two or three rolls of 120 Kodak color negative film, and M3 blue flashbulbs. Exposures were by the guide number system. (Remind me, and I'll explain it to you sometime. We had to figure things out for ourselves in the days before cameras became do-everything-for-you electronic gadgets.)

Since that was my first wedding, there were lots of questions I didn't know to ask in advance: such as, were there any divorces or any people I shouldn't place next to each other. It turned out that the bride's parents were divorced, both had remarried, and they were all still unhappy with each other. So I had to do all the parents groups twice -- once with her mother and her husband, and again with her father and his wife. Did I mention that people handling is one of the most important skills for a wedding photographer?

Because of the limitations of film, flashbulbs, and the patience of my subjects, I only took one shot of each grouping. Believe it or not, there were no closed eyes! Nowadays I take four or five shots of each large group and still someone in every shot has closed eyes.

Most commercial photographers in those days refused to do weddings and looked down upon photographers who did. But I never minded. I've always enjoyed being around happy people, and my camera gave me a brief but special entree into the lives of some very nice people.

The Happy Couple
Georgian Terrace Hotel, Atlanta
Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 28-105 f3.5-4.5 lens

I never pushed wedding photography in my business, but if someone asked me if I were available, I was usually glad to say yes. Most years I did five or six, but after 2000, when I closed my studio, I began doing more and have done several hundred in my career. I quit booking weddings on my own around 2008, but got back into it in 2013 as what is known as a "second shooter" for an Atlanta photographer. She is now transitioning into another career, so we aren't doing many weddings these days, but as I said, we do have one coming up in March.

It will be a kick to be one of the few (only?) 82-year-old wedding photographers around. Why do I do it? My philosophy is that if I like doing something, if I'm able to do it, and if there's no reason not to do it, then why not do it?

Think young. Thinking old will kill you.

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