CAPTURING THE MOMENT AT A WEDDING Call Mary on 089 4717922
What makes a moment? Any wedding photojournalist will tell you that the very notion of ‘making’ a moment disqualifies it from actually being a moment. So perhaps the more pointed question is: What is not a moment?
“A moment is not two hands, two rings over the bouquet. The flowers, the wedding dress pictures – those are not moments,” says wedding photographer Mary O Connor. “Those are clichés that have traditionally been taken by photographers. They are details of the day.”
Mary O Connor, broadening the concept of what a moment is not: “Anything that is staged,” he states. She believes that when a photographer asks the bride, groom or guest to do anything at all, he becomes a part of the moment instead of the person capturing it. It can’t be a moment, she argues, when a photographer’s presence is known, and the subjects are acting for the camera. By this definition, a moment is “that time when the subject is so involved in what they’re doing, that they’re totally unaware that anyone is recording the moment.”
“A moment is when the brother in law jumps on the table and starts singing a song during the reception. That’s a moment,” Mary says. “If you can recreate something, then it’s not a moment. Good moments are fleeting. Good moments are one-of-a-kind. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
Which is why anticipating the moment is so crucial.
ANTICIPATION, DILIGENCE, AND PATIENCE
There are foreseeable moments during a wedding that every wedding photographer should learn to look for. Once you learn to predict, advises Mary, you can make sure you’re in the right place to get the best shot.
Like the first time the father sees the bride in the wedding dress & that has the potential of being a real moment; and you should be ready in case it does. Thus Mary puts herself in a place where she can capture the moment should it occur.
But a little trickier are the completely unexpected moments, which often make the best photographs of all.
“You can’t plan for it. You can try to anticipate when it might occur, but when a great picture happens, it’s great because you can’t expect what’s going to happen,” says Mary O Connor. “You have to be able to react in a millisecond. If you see something and then you pick up your camera, the moment is already gone.” Diligence and patience, she says, are two of the most important hallmarks of capturing these fleeting moments. But paramount to everything is the ability to think clearly and quickly. “More than having a decent piece of equipment or a fast lens, the most important tool for the photographer is her brain,” she explains. The camera has to be ready to fire instantly, sometimes from the hip, and you can’t be off letting your mind wander. “I like to think I can react almost instantly,” she says. ” My training as a Press photographer in Europe has helped a lot, if you hesitate at all the moment is gone”
To react is to anticipate and then respond with action. Like other good photojournalists, Mary depends on the shared human experience to help her navigate this nebulous territory. “We’re all made up of our experiences, and we all have universal moments that we share as human beings. I have that common ground with everyone,” Mary says. “I hear the sounds, and see the signs as a weatherman would. I observe the elements, the words spoken, and anticipate, and I predict that something will happen at a certain time. I have my cameras around my neck and shoulders and make split decisions on what lens is the one to use. I see how the subject is relating to the others in frame, while paying attention to the background. In an instant, the image is there and gone.”
And once the moment is gone, you don’t ask the bride, groom, or guests to do it again so you can capture it. That’s a set-up, not a moment. “If you want to be a real journalist,” Mary says, “you do not stage any pictures. If you stage something, it becomes a portrait.Naturally you need certain group photos and portraits but you shouldnt have to ask the bride and groom to redo the first kiss as a married couple”
A lot of photographers, she says, don’t have a problem with the coaxed moment. You get a picture out of it, but it’s not a real moment. And that’s acceptable, as long as you’r not passing it off as wedding photojournalism.
“Photojournalism has deep roots, representing reality in a truthful way. If you set up a photo at a newspaper, you get fired,” she says. Mary has a background in newspaper photojournalism, and fashion where one learned how to approach subjects with integrity.
“A photojournalist never directs. She’s reactionary, not proactive. It’s what separates true photojournalism from photography,” says Mary.
MORE MEANINGFUL PHOTOGRAPHS
“My pictures, my weddings are real moments. The bride isn’t always perfect, but the moment is real. It really happened,” says Mary. “When the bride looks at it, she’s not going to notice an imperfection; she’s going to remember that moment. There’s more of an emotional tie.”
Aside from your ethical obligation to the very definition of wedding photojournalism, anticipating and capturing a true moment yields photographs that are linked back to real memories for the bride and groom. If they were asked to pose, then that’s what they’ll remember when they look back at the photograph.