One of my work colleagues asked me about my photography recently – what I do, how long I’ve been doing it, what subjects I like (or don’t like) and so on. The answers run something like this: mostly I photograph people, I’ve been doing it for almost 30 years and I love it all. Except wedding photography.
Actually, that’s a lie. I am fascinated, intrigued and almost obsessed by the subject. So, why in 30 years have I photographed precisely zero weddings? Because even the mere thought of it terrifies me, that’s why. I have been asked to do it a number of times and have always run a mile. Originally the issue was a mixture of my lack of confidence with ordering groups of strangers about, combined with the fear of processing the film to find I didn’t have the shots.
But these days I am older and have had to take control of many people in front of my camera and surely digital has completely removed the question of not getting the shot? I know I can take good portraits of people on a one-to-one basis – I’m paid to do it on a regular basis. What makes the wedding scenario different? Well, for one thing, with the obvious exception of the bride, the photographer may just be the most closely watched person attending. For another, the wedding day is unrepeatable; screw up and there is no second chance.
Mainly, I think my issue is with expectation. When I’m shooting portraits I’m trying to capture the subject the way they (or the person paying the bill) sees themselves. With a wedding the expectation is much higher. The bride doesn’t want photos where she looks the way her friends and family sees her, she wants to look like she has never looked before. You are capturing the fairy tale and failure is inconceivable.
Does this mean I have doubts about my abilities? Maybe I do.
Perhaps it is time to face the demons and take up this final challenge. Or maybe I need therapy to deal with my issues!