Today I ask a simple question.
What is wedding photography? It seems a simple enough question to answer at first.
In Wikipedia’s words: Wedding photography is the photography of activities relating to weddings. It encompasses photographs of the couple before marriage (for announcements, portrait displays, or thank you cards) as well as coverage of the wedding and reception (sometimes referred to as the wedding breakfast in non-US countries). It is a major commercial endeavor that supports the bulk of the efforts for many photography studios or independent photographers.
In my words: Wedding photography is my passion and my honor. It is an art that was gifted to me only to return to a family on their wedding day. A wedding day that we as photographers use as our canvas is a landmark of new beginnings in a couple’s life. A day that the bride has been dreaming of since pigtails. It is a day that parents hope will come but pray it never will. It is a day that we will see fathers cry and mothers clutch something familiar. It is a day that will never happen again. Our photographic images are how we remember.
Wikipedia’s answer focused on the business of wedding photography, not the art of it or even the emotional side of it. Many photographers share the same answer as wikipedia; a major commercial endeavor or a great way to make some fast cash with little or no experience. In this age of photographer soup it is very easy to buy a inexpensive digital camera, take a workshop, buy some photoshop actions, get a template website filled with images from that workshop and you are off and running. Isn’t this great that it is so easy to be a photographer now!? Don’t get me wrong here. I am all for change and the growth of technologies. The information that is out there now drives us all up the ladder, raising the bar ever higher. But we must use it responsibly and be honest with others and ourselves.
Enter Mr. Mudd: wedding photographer. Mr Mudd called me up a couple years back to order some of my photoshop actions. We talked for a bit and he told me that he was gearing up to shoot his first wedding in a few months. I asked who he assisted with. “What do you mean assisted with? I held a reflector at Jims workshop and was his right hand man for the whole 3 days. He kind of took me under his wing.”(true answer) “So are you shooting a friends wedding?” I asked. “No sir” he replied with his chest out proud. “A bride saw my pictures on my website and fell in love with my style.” Now, in retrospect I should have gotten out the stick right then and there, but I didn’t want to hurt his pride or make waves. We continued a short conversation with my head in my hands and the call finally ended.
To me this was grounds for a good stick thrashing. I mean, come on! You sold your website images to that poor girl as your own creativity and talent. Boo to you Mr. Mudd. Boo to you. Ok, sorry for the rant, but it gets way better! Wanna hear the rest?
Super duper then. Here we go. Lets fast forward a few months to a beautiful but sad Saturday afternoon. Beautiful because it was and sad because I wasn’t photographing a wedding. I was in my studio probably cleaning, which I need to do again soon, when the phone rings.
me: “Hello” I answer, only to hear heavy panting on the other end with a faint F bomb lingering on the callers lips. “Hello, this Is Parker J.”
caller: “Oh thank god! Parker, this is Mr. Mudd. I talked with you a few months back.”
me: “Ah yes, Mr. Mudd, Hows it going?”
caller: “I am at a wedding and my camera won’t work.”
me: “Well, lets see if I can help. What do you mean it won’t work?”
caller: “It says error 99 on the lcd.”
me: “Ok, try pulling out the battery and replacing it.”
me: “ok, lets try taking the lens off and putting it back on. Sometimes they don’t seat all the way.”
caller: “nothin… shit”
me: “Now don’t worry. We will get through this. If all else fails we can maybe reset the custom functions, replace the card, whatever it takes to figure this out for you.”
caller: “nothin is working!!”
me: “OK, what part of the wedding day are you in?”
caller: “The dad is getting ready to walk down the aisle with the bride any second!”
me: “DUDE! Just grab your other camera and shoot it. Don’t worry about this right now!”
caller: ” I only have one camera.”
me: “Wow! Really? Ok, then you need to borrow a camera off a guest or something because this only happens once.”
caller: “I’ll see what I can do. I don’t think its a big deal to her.”
me: Just sitting here with my mouth open.
caller: “Ok, thanks anyway Parker.” click
I was furious. How could this happen? The truth is it is happening every weekend out there. This wasn’t the last one of these types of calls. It was the worst but not the last. This was such a disservice to that family. Depriving them of having that magical moment when a father walks that long walk to give his daughter away forever. That moment when they don’t know weather to laugh or cry. That moment when a sideward glance is all the father can muster. That heartfelt moment. This goes way beyond the bride asking about back up equipment, doesn’t it?
I love wedding photography. I love the moments, unexpected.
These are just a few of those moments that Mr. Mudd thinks are no big deal.
The events you have just read are true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Your lucky I’m being nice today Mr. Mudd.
Keep on clickin”