Sometimes, when other wedding photographers, videographers, parents, friends, and relatives learn that we don’t direct anything at our weddings, they give us a look of disbelief. The questions that often follow this revelation are “Why not?” or, “How can you be sure your photos will be any good?” or, “Aren’t you afraid your photos will be boring?” or, “Why not guide the bride and groom to make sure you get the best photos?”
Here are my answers to those questions of why we don’t direct our clients at Ray Anthony Photography….
• Because it’s a wedding, not a fashion shoot – it’s not a staged editorial dictated by an Art Director or a Hollywood script. We are commissioned to capture the unfolding moments of the most important day of a couple’s lives, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second.
• Because it’s about the couple and their wedding story, not about us, or what we think their wedding story should look like. Sometimes, that means capturing moments that may not include the couple. A wedding is one of those rare times that close family and friends gather in one place – sometimes from all around the world. Some haven’t seen each other for years. There are magical moments and heartfelt greetings going on all throughout the day. Some of those “other” moments are just as precious to our clients as the moment in which they say their wedding vows. If it’s important to our clients, it’s important to us.
• Because our couples are not interested in fantasy. They commission us to document their day, exactly as it happens – reality – even with all its flaws. Our clients tend to prioritize family and friends. They are relational people who have deep connections to the people in their lives. They see the world through that lens and they want their wedding photography to forever preserve the reality of those connections.
• Because we want our photos to remind our clients of how they felt during those real moments, versus how they felt when the photographer asked them to button up their dress, or redo their bow tie multiple times over in the cleanest background or best light.
• Because we want to become invisible. We want our clients to forget about us. Our couples want to be free to celebrate – to be in the present and in the moment. They can’t do that if we are in the way. The best way to make sure we become invisible is to avoid directing them, to wait for the real moments to happen, to move to the optimal angle, and to keep our mouths shut. If we’re forcing a moment to happen, we’re potentially missing other opportunities and moments that may be happening all around us.
• Because we want to give the couple photos that are one-of-a-kind. Directing the day is a guaranteed way to produce wedding photos that look like everyone else’s wedding photos. It’s a guaranteed way, as a photographer, to blend into the milieu of wedding photographers, rather than standing out and being truly unique. Documentary photography takes practice. It means taking chances, taking lots of photos, moving around, and finding optimal angles, anticipating moments. It’s hard work and it takes a lot of concentration. This is what makes Ray Anthony Photography unique. We refuse to take the easy way and photograph a wedding like its rinse and repeat. Our photos never look like the photos from every other wedding or a duplicate from another “popular” photographer.
• Because it allows us to unleash our creativity – not to be handcuffed to a shot list or a Pinterest photo. Following the same formula and a shot list at each and every wedding is the easy way – and that’s not why our clients commission us. Their decision was based on seeing something in us that they didn’t see in others. We have the talent, creative ability, and experience that convinces them to choose us over dozens of other photographers. It is our obligation to stay inspired and to deliver one-of-a-kind photos that don’t mirror every other wedding we’ve photographed.
• Because we respect other wedding vendors, and we stay out of their way so they can also be at their best. We allow the hair and makeup artists to do their jobs wherever and however they need to do it. We don’t tell them where to set up, and we don’t ask them to repeat some application like spraying the bride’s hair several times to get the perfect backlit photo (besides, doesn’t every photographer do this same shot these days?). Chances are the vendors have other weddings to attend, a schedule to keep, and we don’t want to cause them any added stress. By photographing in a truly documentary style, we are less likely to irritate the other vendors. Conversely, we have earned the respect and appreciation of many other wedding vendors that we can now call friends.
• Because it allows us to become our clients’ eyes and ears. Many times, our clients have been surprised to see photos of precious and important moments that they missed during their wedding day. On a day when our couples will be constantly distracted by family and friends, we are there to observe and pay attention to the 360 degrees of the room around them. Literally moments happening that they were unaware of. We commit ourselves to turning off our own personal world for an entire day so we can truly stay focused on the thousands of moments that will unfold all around the bride and groom. Committing to staying out of the way – blending in rather than taking over – frees our creative minds so we can become truly present. Great documentary photography demands that our intuition and awareness of everything around us be uninhibited to capture real moments – sometimes in a split-second.
• Because it makes us better people. Practicing the skills of letting go, training ourselves to pay attention to details, to other peoples’ lives, to their personalities, to what makes them unique and human, and putting our clients’ needs above ours, becomes ingrained in us on how we live our own lives at home and outside of a wedding environment. Life is filled with little moments, just like on a wedding day, and it’s the little moments that we find ourselves celebrating more and more. Too often, people focus on – and only get excited about – the “big” moments. They miss the small moments that can bring just as much joy. As documentary photographers, we become experts at living in the moment and celebrating in the small places of life. Moments that others might see as insignificant. As documentary photographers, we have the joy of waiting, finding, capturing, and celebrating these little moments in our own personal, daily lives with our own family and friends. We have the privilege of showing and teaching the world, through our photography, about slowing down and finding beauty in the little things they were too busy to see.