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Flying solo – The wrap up

Getting into wedding photography has a steep learning curve. And with every step I take I expect to come down, hard.

To avoid that I try to be one step ahead. How? I find a personal safe zone. Owkay, lazy term, let me explain: as a novice photographer you just have more nerves than when you’re a weathered expert. And the last thing you need to have or you need to cause is more stress on the wedding day.

I guess it’s personal for everyone , for me, I like to know I’ve done everything I could before I go into the wedding: a meeting with the couple, a last minute briefing wit the couple to flip through the schedule, check some notes in my idea-book, do some tag surfing, check my gear & get a good night sleep.

But what helps most (and yes I’ve said this before) is that I can relate to the couple on a personal level, and vice-versa. Not being “the photographer” means that I can be at ease (I can be me, and yes I’ve warned them about being me) around the couple but the couple is more relaxed around you as a photographer as well.

Here is the story of my first day flying solo.

Preparation
Peter & Karolien would be preparing separately in the same house. Dividing your attention is the key, spend some alone time with the groom & spend some time with the bride. Everything in between gives you room for the detail shots.

Unfortunately the weather lady had nothing but rain for us that day and that didn’t help my “safe zone”. No couple wants drury weather pictures in their album, but If you can’t beat your enemy, join him. Try to use it creatively or capture it so it becomes a fun shot.

The first look
There wouldn’t be a classic first look, we discussed the how&where beforehand. That was important for me to position accordingly. Karolien chose for me to focus on Peter’s expression because he hadn’t seen her dress yet. I stayed behind her on the first look and stepped out of the scene a second after.

While I used to avoid distracting elements in my pictures I now am quite happy to use them to my advantage.

On the way to city hall
I’m a softy … I felt so sorry for the couple they had rain that I suggested to do a post-wedding-session a couple of days later. This gave me two things : awesome pictures & some more margin to play with. But the couple also appreciated this and got more relaxed, there is no point in being upset about the weather. On the way to city hall I got to ride in the #1 car, camera at the ready to snap this or this. (okay I cheated on that last shot but I felt we needed to do something productive while standing before the red lights)

City Hall
This is the only part of the day where the rain really annoyed me. Friends & family were all waiting on the stairs taking shelter under a little rooftop waiting so we could enter the grand hall. But the place was so cramped there was not much room to maneuver around. I’m not sure what I should/could have done differently.

Seeing the grand hall for the first time I saw the perfect picture form in my mind, a tele shot with the long blue (WTF?) carpet leading up to the couple standing in front of the mayor’s desk. But while I was still waiting for the family to sit down, the couple was already signing the documents. I had to hurry over there but managed to snap both the couple & the witnesses whilst signing. It was over in a matter of minutes.

After that the couple went to a smaller room in the back where the city-official would say a word before the magic ring moment would take place. City hall is one of the places where it helps having an extra camera and 2nd shooter. While one can focus on the safe shots the other has more time to experiment around a bit. I still need to find a better balance when I’m doing this solo but I find it at least as important to get the expected shots. (kiss, ring, family, ..)

When the couple stepped outside they were leaded by a lady in what looked like a German star-trek/channel uniform. (get out of my shot woman!) I’m not sure what happened next, maybe she got pushed aside but coming around the corner I managed to snap this & that.

Family Pictures
Back at the family house it was time for family pictures. Going outside was not an option so I decided to do a little redecorating … The 3 seater sofa was repositioned to face the largest window in the living room (now acting as a big softbox). A little “on camera” ceiling bounced fill flash was used as well.

It was lots of fun doing these especially because the family was so kind to go along with my very alternative-plan but it made the official pictures more fun for everyone and I’m sure they won’t forget soon…

Wedding shoot
When meeting with the couple I always ask them to shop around for a backup and dry location, just in case.

Our journey brought us to the MIAT, the couple was granted permission weeks in advance but all of the sudden we had to pay an entrance fee. I played my bogus “experience card” and kindly explained the lady that this was the first time a museum ever asked me for an entrance fee for a wedding shoot. To my surprise, it worked!

The MIAT provided us with some interesting props & settings.

Kudos for seeing that Adam & Eve tree to Nathalie because to me it just looked like graffiti. (Maybe I should check out the bible , but I doubt it has pictures in it anyways.)

For some reason I wasn’t really at ease shooting indoors there, a couple of elements had a thin line between creative & kitsch and I wasn’t sure they would work. I had one light stand at the ready but decided to I’d prefer the amazing light coming from the huge windows.

The important lesson learned (after reviewing the pictures) is that I need to drop an idea faster if it doesn’t work out, and while I’m not really a “wide-shooter” I do need to use that wide-angle lens a bit more. Shooting both wide & tele just gives you more options.

Post-wedding shoot
A couple of days later on a very lovely sunny evening we did the outdoor reshoot, or should I say, the bonus shoot.
Again Peter & Karolien totally rocked it and I was thrilled with the golden sunlight.

Peter & Karolien

Eager readers of this blog will have seen these already but here they are : links to the wedding & post wedding set here & here.

Conclusion
Coming into my first year as a wedding photographer I knew not everything would always be that easy.
Looking back at these pictures they still make me smile, and I’m proud. And I’m really curious how you feel about them.

4 Comments so far  
by s.goovy 05.28.09 11:53 am

You’re a natural, Tom! Awesome work!

by brenda 05.26.09 2:31 am

these are gorgeous! great idea to move the couch in front of the window. they look so happy—i love her outfit and shoes. and the last one? wow, the light is beautiful, i love it.

by Jasper Van Tilburgh 05.25.09 11:59 pm

What I like so much in your vision of photography is your style. Very special, individual and unique.
Great post processing also! Like the colours a lot.

by lieven(.be) 05.21.09 8:59 am

I fully agree with your conclusion. I’d be smiling too if these were the result of my first wedding shoot.

I’m sure the couple loved the results!