It’s all gotten so much easier since digital came along, hasn’t it?
“How many hundreds of shots have you taken already?”…”What do you do for the rest of the week?” These are just a few of the questions that I regularly get asked when I’m shooting weddings…
It’s true, photography has come a long way in the last fifteen years or so, since I graduated from Art School. At the point at which I completed my degree we were on the cusp of the digital revolution. If we wanted to do any digital trickery as students, the best quality could be got by shooting on film, making a print, and then scanning that into the computer. But now that the digital revolution has well and truly taken over, I ask myself, has photography really got any easier? In some respects it’s got a whole lot more complicated! As I began to forge a career for myself in photography I started to explore all kinds of processes. When budgets allowed, we were able to do high resolution scans direct from the negative, and I experimented with some of the earliest digital compacts, digital backs and even shot an entire project on one of the first camera phones to hit the market. Whole new creative possibilities opened up, and photographers became image makers, rather than sticking to what all of a sudden seemed like a rather outdated documentary concept of photography. Digital cameras have certainly made it a lot easier, and more affordable for everyone to achieve good results, but something has also been lost. A simplicity, perhaps even a kind of naivety that we had when shooting on film, and which deserves to be celebrated.
That’s why last year, I took the plunge and bought myself a very old 4×5 large format camera on e-bay (for the non-professionals who may be reading this, that’s the kind of camera that in both size and looks resembles an accordion and where the photographer has to hide under a black cloak in order to see the image on the back of the camera.) I’m still shooting the rest of the wedding digitally, but for a few willing couples, able to hold a pose for long enough, we shot some of their wedding photography on film. These two shots of Laura and Mike were taken at one of my favourite venues, Northbrook Park in Surrey.
One of the most interesting things about shooting wedding photography on film with the large format camera, that I hadn’t predicted, was the level of surprise on the couples’ faces when they saw the camera for the first time. This was certainly the case when I grabbed Clare and Nick during their drinks reception at Micklefield Hall before the beautiful Autumn sun finally set behind the trees. It can sometimes be quite a task to calm couples down for their portraits, given all the excitement of the day, but the slow process of shooting with the 4×5 camera had a noticeable calming effect on my couples as they waited patiently for their picture to be taken.
A couple’s portrait session on their wedding day can sometimes turn into a bit of a race against time, brought on by the ever changing British weather, or the need to have everyone seated in time for the wedding breakfast. I feel bad dragging the bride and groom away from their guests, but I felt a real stillness and honesty coming through in these pictures, which is something I want to explore further with more wedding photography on film this year. Fairly simple uncomplicated poses seem to speak more directly and fit rather well with my documentary coverage of the rest of the wedding. Even a bit of light rain at Loseley Park wasn’t going to stop Anna and Ben from posing in the walled garden for some magazine worthy pictures!