xmlns:fb='http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml' Welcome to the blog of international award winning wedding photojournalist Ian MacMichael: "So, wedding photojournalism..what exactly are you on about?!" Part 1....

wedding photojournalist

Monday, 17 December 2012

"So, wedding photojournalism..what exactly are you on about?!" Part 1....

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So, I've decided to stop stalling and put down my passion in words, about this subject, so here goes. I'll apologise now for my waffling and if I go off topic on the way........

When we got married, 19 years ago this year, our photographer was great. He got on well with everyone, was really easy to engage with and really felt part of the day. All this was great. However, what we got after the wedding was an album of 26 posed photographs in a nice album and a handful of proofs. Now, don't get me wrong, the photos are lovely and well printed and presented, but really don't convey the feel and atmosphere of the day as I remember it. It would be great now to have a collection of images that told the story of the day and not merely a collection of posed group shots.

As wedding photography began to develop and became a little more adventurous, along with the advent of widely available, high quality DSLR cameras, so a "new" style of wedding photography started to become more mainstream. In fact, it wasn't new at all, just suddenly trendy. It was termed "reportage", and it sounded cool, sexy and exclusive.

Now it seems to me that today, everyone is a photographer. There are countless cameras available now, and even mobile phones that can produce truly stunning results. You only have to walk around any city centre to see lots of people with cameras, and not only tourists, but just about everyone! The rise and rise of the image through media like Instagram means that almost everyone is "image aware".

So when we come to meet with clients to discuss our style of photography, our philosophy and approach, there is sometimes a little explanation needed.

We have heard lots of times things like "oh, our uncle has a nice camera, he is going to take our photographs" or "my brother is really into photography and has just got a new camera, so he is doing our photos" or "we're on a really tight budget so don't want to spend that much".

You then you find out they are using a really exclusive and expensive venue, spending more than £700 on cars, over £1000 on flowers, £2000+ for a dress and hundreds on hiring suits!

A wedding will be one of the most significant and memorable days of a lifetime. Not only that, it will be one of the single largest financial investments, after a house, that many people will make.  Money will be prioritised in all the areas that need to be paid for and, sadly, for a lot of people, photography comes fairly low down the list.

It's amazing to say but we have shot weddings where the couple have spent more on their flowers than on their photography! While I totally understand budget constraints, it seems completely bizarre that folks will spend so much time, often a year or more, planning a wedding, then they will spend several thousands of pounds on a venue, a dress, suits, food, table decorations, favours, disco or band and flowers, yet will want to spend least on the only thing that they will have left for the rest of their lives to remember the day by.

In any other area of life, we would never dream of asking a  friend or family member to undertake responsibility for something with lifelong implications, yet many are prepared to do exactly that with their wedding photography!

Now that so many people imagine themselves as photographers because of their camera, they are willing to take someone's wedding photographs for a very small charge or even for free.

Imagine for a moment if someone said to a bride "I've just got this really amazing sewing machine, it has lots of controls but, do you know what, it works just great on auto. It's the latest model! Tell you what, how about I make your wedding dress for you? I'll just charge you for the material. I'll be working on it in an evening, after I get home from work, so it may take a while. it probably wont be as good as a professionally made one, it will almost fit but that's OK isn't it? I mean, it's good enough and it'll cost you less!"

I wonder how many brides would agree and say "oh yes, that's great, thanks a lot"? Not many!!

Note: (Sorry about the change of direction there, I am getting to the point, honest! I have just changed the title of this blog to part one as I have realised there is a lot to say so I'll spread it over 2 or 3 posts.)

There are many terms for the style of wedding photography we are passionate about and specialise in. It is sometimes called candid, reportage, documentary or photojournalism. These terms have been taken on by amateur or hobby photographers to make themselves appear more appealing and "sexy" to potential brides and grooms.

Sadly, the images that end up being presented to couples by these "photographers" are flat, predictable and lacking any emotional impact. They seem to suggest that reportage photography is standing in a corner with a zoom lens and snapping away at people across the room without any thought for lighting, composition, emotion or story. Unfortunately, this is what we see over and over again being passed off as "reportage" photography. It isn't.

From my experience, it would seem that as long as the subject is looking away from the camera they can just change it to black and white and that constitutes documentary wedding photography.

The terms documentary/ photojournalistic/ reportage wedding photography should be back with highly skilled, both technically and artistically, photographic story tellers. Photographers that consistently produce images that tell the story of a wedding, that are full of emotion and are free from post production gimmicks.

Potential clients also need to be made aware of the marketing ploys and Photoshop tricks that are used to gloss over photography purporting to be documentary.

I love the film Swordfish, with John Travolta. In it, he explains the use of "mis-direction". Do something here that everyone looks at while something else is done over there, that no one notices.

By drawing your attention with lots of talk, buzz-words, sexy leaflets, sample albums, using terms like documentary, reportage, amazing prices, great deals on included album packages and if you book now, you'll get a special 10% early booking discount!

This mis-direction prevents the couple focusing on the quality and emotional impact of the photography. They can end up in a deal they can't get out of. Or worse still, they receive bland and disappointing images to remember their special day with, a real tragedy!

In part 2, I will try, with the help of some images, to explain what I'm going on about........but that will probably be after Christmas, so you have to hang on for the next exciting installment of........

"wedding photojournalism".......(said like opening of "pigs in space" from the Muppets)...!!