Regular visitors to TDM will know that I am a great big girlie wuss when it comes to wedding photography. I am completely in awe of the skilful wedding photographer, who is possibly the third-most watched person at any wedding (after the bride and groom, of course).
So when my friend Tony offered me the chance to go along as his assistant at the evening event of a wedding he was covering, I immediately closed the curtains, hid behind the sofa and pretended to have moved away. However, a couple of days later after much thinking about the future (and no small amount of bullying from my wife!) I decided (read “my wife decided”) it was too good an opportunity to miss.
Knowing only too well the kinds of thing that lead to my self-imposed state of nervousness, I made sure to ask several important questions; where, when, what do I bring, what do I wear? I turned up to the gig on time, with plenty of fully-charged batteries and a collection of empty memory cards, this being my idea of the absolute minimum requirement.
Tony is probably the most relaxed person I have ever met (I mean this as a good thing) and he made a point of telling me that there was no expectation on his part; he would take all the pictures he needed as if I was not there, leaving me to get on with my own stuff and learn what I could from the experience. Any panicky questions about what to do or what to use were pretty much answered with “whatever you think is the right thing at the time”. That might not sound helpful written down here like this, but it really put me at my ease. I didn’t have to do anything, therefore everything I did was a useful experience.
My nerves remained for some time, although I quickly developed a rapport with the guests, even the one guest who spotted the new face behind a camera and came over to check me out! It wasn’t long before I was retreating to where we stowed our gear to make a quick assessment of images taken so far. To my surprise I had few images I was really happy with. Even those I did not like were acceptable, even if only from a technically competent point of view.
This is the point where I started to offer myself some feedback instead of being overly self-critical. As a result, I changed to a slightly long lens and went back in. Now I was in a whole different place. I could get the shots I wanted without getting right in people’s faces and without lots of “excuse me… can I just push past…” and so on. Now I don’t know if the images I took were suitable for the purpose (I’ll update when I get Tony’s feedback) but I took lost of pictures which made me happy. I know wedding photography is not about making the photographer happy, but at least I came away not going on about how I can’t do this and that feels like a very big step for me.
I know I still have a long way to go before I could even consider being a wedding photographer, but even taking this first step feels momentous to me.