(An article originally written for Ultimate Wedding Magazine, now trading as https://ultimatewedding.digital)
It has been written that every girl dreams from an early age about her wedding day. She wants everything to be absolutely perfect; every last detail is carefully considered and matched to her own personal tastes. The fact about weddings is that although they are incredibly personal they also co-exist as one of the most shared and communal days we ever encounter. The bride and groom surround themselves with loving people that have played important roles in their lives so far and gather them together to witness the start of a new chapter. It is during this often intense, occasionally stressful and always time-consuming preparation that a bride and groom will make a connection with a photographer, someone they might not have needed at any other point in their lives. But the photographer’s role, despite being a stranger in this person’s life up until now, is a very important one. When the day she has dreamed up has come and gone, the memories the photographer has captured will become cherished mementos, and within these photographs the magic of that day will be remembered.
From behind the lens, my own preparations for a wedding day are similar to that of the brides in that they include becoming familiar with every last detail of the event as well as dreaming up and visualizing the perfect series of photographs to take. All these elements make me remember why I became passionate about photography in the first place. I have always loved photographing people, the most interesting of subjects by far and fascinating because almost everyone has the same feeling about being photographed, although when they drop their guard something beautiful emerges and you can catch a glimpse into a persons real character. The thing I always remember is this is not just another day, and not just another shoot – this is the most important day in a couples life, perhaps second only to the birth of a child and it’s a one off happening, a never to be repeated event filled with equally unique and distinctive moments.
The night before the big day I know what the bride will be feeling. That mix of emotions fuelled by excitement and perhaps a little anxiety about the day to follow are the same for the photographer; “Will it all go according to how I’ve planned” is something that runs through both our heads. My preparation work is solid and covers a lot of eventualities, which reassures me. I have everything written down, events are laid out in my head in running order, a list of important numbers are nearby, I’ve seen the venue and conducted light condition tests, a fully equipped back–up bag never strays too far from me – but all these things are forgotten about during the moment, when it is all about timing and light and composition. I see my ritualistic procedure of prepping my gear and double-checking my plans as equipping me with the best opportunity to capture the day how the bride and groom wanted it.
This is especially true when capturing an Asian wedding or ceremony, where you have a much more varied spectrum of events to remember and to make yourself familiar with and you need to be on your toes to not lose track of where you are in the proceedings. Having married into a large Gujarati family with numerous relations spread across the globe I have been fortunate enough to experience a lot of these large gatherings, where long time friends and family meet over days of ritualistic celebration. Within these family settings, I find myself in a wonderful privileged position of being an interested non-Asian observer as well as an involved family member. Whenever these occasions arise I try to sit myself next to the oldest and wisest member of the family and I persuade them to talk me through what is happening from moment to moment, I find the whole experience fascinating. This also means I am spoilt when it comes to my photography, as I get to shoot a diverse range of weddings or ceremonies that cross the boundaries of the two cultures, I am equally at home in the Asian setting as I am in a non-Asian one.
As the day, or series of days if it’s an Asian celebration, arrives and as I take my first pictures, which might include some establishing shots of the venue, or close-ups of important details (sari’s, shoes, jewellery, the bridal outfit etc), I start to get a feel for how the day will develop, this is the only time that I am permitted to set the pace. If I’ve had an opportunity to photograph the bride that morning I can often feel the anticipation that permeates the room, or the nervous excitement that is palpable around the wedding party. I love this last minute tension, as I know the feeling myself and I’m aware of the joy that’s about to follow. It also makes for some extraordinary photographs depicting concentrated focus and composure on behalf of all that orbit the bride.
So, the scene is set, the bride arrives (more than once in case of Asian weddings) and from this magical alignment of two people and a plethora of families comes forth an explosion of colour, tradition and heartfelt sentiment. The Asian wedding ceremony itself is a joy to photograph. It is such a lengthy and involved event, preceded by 3 or 4 days of celebration beforehand depending on certain cultural or spiritual beliefs – moment to moment is full of emotion, astounding colours and intricate outfit designs. Everything that goes before my camera dazzles my viewfinder, and as I hear the reassuring click of my shutter (if the dhol drum doesn’t drown it out!) I know I’ve captured the essence of that moment, or the magic of the unexpected.
My diverse services are multi-faceted and cater for couples that have different expectations in terms of what they want photographically speaking. The competing challenges of capturing the formal shots (portraits of the key wedding party), combined with preempting those natural and candid moments using a more photojournalist approach is the wonderful thing about wedding photography. It is these elements that keep me intrigued and enthusiastic throughout the event; the art of switching between being permitted to be creative and being alert enough to react to moments about to occur.
The day after their wedding, the couple disappears to celebrate the start of their lives together while they entrust me with organising the thousands of images into the several hundred shots that really illustrate each particular highlight or special moment. I always take great care with this post-production process ensuring every image is of a very high standard and is a unique and timeless document of their wedding. I collect certain shots for prints and others to create the couple’s chosen album (depending on their chosen package), creatively arranging the shots in a linear narrative to give the reader an idea of the sequence of events on that day. You should be able to follow each event as it occurred if your photographer was present to capture everything as planned. In days gone by a lot of clients love the idea of having a DVD with a selection of their images set to a soundtrack and I love the emotions that occur when I play these back – the music reminds them of the last time they heard it and I see the memory recognition register in their eyes. (Nowadays, a lot of clients prefer things delivered in a more digital, instant way via Dropbox, Google Drive etc in order for them to share the day themselves through their own social media channels – there’s no stopping progress, wedding photography has to keep moving with the times!)
When it comes to the client delivery of their photographic results, that feeling of nervous anxiety and high expectations returns and the excitement is again a tangible force. I love this part of my job, the end of the journey for me, giving back those moments that perhaps passed by too swiftly for them to really take in. It seems like a wonderful gift I provide them with but really all I did was record what it was they themselves created. I leave knowing that I have done what I set out to achieve, and the couple who graciously allowed me such exclusive access to their most special day will be able to look at those valuable photographs years from now and relive that moment in time, and all the powerful emotions that surrounded it.
All images © Copyright www.stockerweddingphotography.co.uk
Welcome to the new home of Daniel Stocker Photography. Actually more specifically, Stocker Wedding Photography – you guessed it, the wedding arm of my work.
So why the need for a separate online presence? I found that combining my wedding work with my film stills photography was creating a single website that became too convoluted and confusing. This way I can have a separate website devoted to my love of photographing weddings, as well as one geared specifically to my other passion.
(my other site can be found here: danielstocker.co.uk)
This site is all about weddings, your wedding. I’d love to be there to capture your special day. Connect with me here or on Twitter (either @dsp_weddings or @d_s_photography) and let’s stay in touch.