I was inspired to write this by reading an article on another site about a wedding photographer who has changed from DSLR to Mirrorless. This article is not about that and I'm not even going to link to it, but for me it was typical of the way wedding photography gets written about on the photographic internet and the following explains why I think that, as with many other things, it's simply wrong.
Because in most of the articles about one of the most iconic ways of making a living as a photographer the assumptions made at the start of any article about it are usually incorrect. Because they are about the photographer. And wedding photography isn't about the photographer, its about the bride, the groom (or two grooms or two brides) and their families and friends. It's about recording social history, one of the most important events in peoples lives. When two people get married, the history of the world is being changed, families are extending, things will be different. Who knows, any wedding could eventually lead to the first human being to set foot on Mars, the person who finds a cure for cancer. It is an age old ritual that has survived history and deserves to be treated as more than some kind of camera test.
I always felt it appropriate to put aside any personal preferences when I photographed weddings. My primary objective was to do the best job possible and leave out any ideas of coming up with my 'personal vision'. I tried as much as possible to approach every wedding with an open mind. I had probably met the bride and groom and visited the places I would be shooting in, but everything else was a variable. I couldn't predict the weather, I had no idea what the guests, the minister / registrar was like, how the church / hotel / venue worked and how it's staff carried out their duties were all unknown to me. So I made sure that I was flexible and reactive rather than attempt to impose any of my own ideas on what should happen. Because as I made it clear to my 'customers' this was their day and I would go along with what they wanted. I wouldn't attempt to force them to do anything they wanted to do and I wouldn't impose any conditions on what I was prepared to do. If they wanted formal groups, then fine. If they wanted me to organise things, then as far as I could I would. If they wanted me to blend into the background then I would do that as well.
Too often photographers write about their ideas of what should be photographed and how it should be done. And this misses the point. Because photographing a wedding isn't about enhancing the photographers reputation and proving how good they are, it's about creating a collection of images that show what happened and presenting the participants in the best possible way. (Even when on occasions they can prove somewhat 'difficult' to deal with) And this requires confidence. Confidence in your ability to come up with the goods no matter what gets thrown at you. And in terms of what gear I used, I also made my choices on what was the best equipment that I could afford that would do the best job. And my personal comfort and preferences were were secondary to that. I believed that the people who were paying me what after all is a fair chunk of cash, deserved the best I could come up with. They deserved sharp, well exposed and composed images, that would provide a record of the day that could be looked at in years to come and allow the participants to relive the day. And I chose, in the main, DSLR's to do that with.
My choice was influenced by battery life, speed of use and reliability. And yes walking around for several hours with two DSLR's, one over each shoulder wasn't something I particularly relished, but that was what I believed were my best tools for achieving my objectives. I always felt that it was more important to leave my own preferences at home and get on with the business at hand. And it's important to realise what you're being hired to do. Sure, clients will select who they think best represents what they want and who they can afford. But they will also expect individual treatment. They won't expect to be organised into the same cheesy setups that the photographer has in their portfolio, they won't expect to be told "No I'm not doing it that way I'm doing it this way.' Because they have the right to expect individual attention. They are paying for a service. And a very special service as well. Because they are expecting an artistic interpretation of their day as well as the mere functionality of getting all the 'shots on the list.'
Some photographers use flash, some don't. I took along my flash gun and used it when I needed to. Apart from anything else there are far less people who actually like grainy, noisy images than most photographers might imagine. Again the key was, be flexible. Think of the client first and foremost and check your ego at the door. Sure you can use different gear. Brett of Mayfair has been shooting high-end weddings with Leica rangefinders for years, but he knows how to do that. And that is also important, use gear you are comfortable with and actually don't have to think about. Because if you are concerned about how your camera works or making sure that your battery doesn't run out then you aren't concentrating on doing the important bit. Getting the pictures.
So I view most 'I shot my latest wedding with a GoPro and a Barbie camera' articles with a sense of frustration (and suspicion). Firstly most of it is BS and secondly it misses the point of what being a professional photographer is all about. Doing a good job. And as usual on the 'fauxtographer' dominated photographic internet, it's all about the gear. Sure WE all know that what cameras and lenses we use have little bearing on the quality of photographs we take, but somebody should tell the vast majority of leisure photographers that, since it seems the message hasn't got through yet.