Confessions of an Amateur Wedding Photographer

Weddings are stressful. Stressful for the bride and groom; stressful for the family; stressful for the guests and stressful for the photographer. I spent most of yesterday chasing strangers around a small church, getting too close to them, interrupting their private conversations with the click of my single lens reflex camera and generally being a nuisance. Such is the price of art.

It was fun, but today my calves are killing me and I have over 1,200 photos to sort through. First, I need to weed out the ones that are too dark, too light, too blurry or poorly framed. The survivors need color correction; adjustments in contrast, exposure, and saturation. Filters will be applied to some — black and white, antique or sepia tones. All of them need to be cropped to print dimensions — 4x3s, 5x7s, 8x10s — and all of them need to somehow get to the couple. The wedding may be over, but the work is just beginning.

This is not the first wedding I’ve photographed, but it is the first where I had the sense to hire an assistant. Seriously, if you’re photographing an event, any event — even a wedding with less than 20 guests — you should at least have someone carry your reflector for you. Cedar kept me on track, found good angles, ran errands and divided the work load with me when circumstances demanded there be a camera in two places at once. We made a good team and having her certainly helped me sane.

I even had some time to notice the interesting position a photographer occupies within the strange alternate reality that is the wedding. The photographer gets to be a nonentity, a fly on the wall during intimate moments. When everyone else is participating in the ritual, the photographer alone is an outside observer. The world looks drastically different through a viewfinder.

Today, I’m exhausted, but looking back over these photos makes me happy. At least half are really good and there are probably a couple hundred stellar shots on my memory cards. All of the rushing around, trying to find the perfect frame for countless perfect moments was all worth it.

These are the photos that Nicole and Ken will look back on with fondness in 50 years. They’ll hang them up in their house and show their kids and their grandkids. So, even though it was just a single day, these photographs will stand the test of time as a frozen memories. Love and happiness are forever etched into red, blue and yellow pixels.

I was privileged to witness the birth of a beautiful union and was entrusted with preserving it for generations to come. If that isn’t staggeringly cool, then I don’t know what is.

— 30 —

Special thanks to Ken and Nicole for getting married. My further adventures as a writer, photographer and filmmaker are chronicled on my Twitter feed, which you can find here: @jonnyeberle.

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