Why Wedding Photography is Boring
I was browsing recently in an online forum for wedding photographers when I saw a video: “Why Wedding Photography is Boring.” I was intrigued - was this a photographer from another type of photography throwing shade on wedding photographers? Some do, you know, saying it isn’t true photography because it isn’t done artfully.
Oh, please . . .
No, actually the photographer who made the video is a British wedding photographer who talked about the “usual” shots you see at weddings . . . and those there are those that aren’t technically grand pictures but capture the human element so beautifully.
I get that. I love the unscripted moments when gesture and emotion trump everything else. It is not an image that will be printed in a 30x40 canvas and hang over the fireplace . . . but it will be cherished.
But the reason why I am writing about this video is not so much about the video but about some of the comments made on it by other photographers:
But maybe, wedding photos are boring because (most) weddings are boring?
I've been doing wedding photography professionally for a few years and to be honest: most weddings are kind of boring. It is a very codified event with lots of rituals. Most of the time, there is very little room for the couple to do something else and show their true self.
Sure, even the most well planned wedding will have some glimpses of unexpected and this is where you should shine as a wedding photographer. But otherwise, photos are boring because the event is kind of boring.
I don’t understand how it is even fun to get married in this context, you repeat the exact same setup everyone is doing (yet you want it to be so “special”) and it is so stressful because it has to be exactly perfect.
People are so dead on about making sure the day is perfect they don't take any risk. No speeches, no improvisation, no unexpected, no nothing. Just a checklist of wedding milestones surrounded by pinterest-board sourced decoration.
When you do the same things as everyone else, the small details are how you stand out from everyone else. That’s why people agonize over table settings, napkin colors, chair style, and all the other meaningless choices.
Make it your own as much as possible. Have fun. Leave room for the unexpected.
By "making it your own", I mean: try to challenge all of those codified moments and see if it is important for you or if it can be replace by something more true to you.
I realized weddings were a real bore pretty early on. From DJ’s that sound like they’re calling strippers on the stage to the lame rituals everyone seems to find necessary. Very little about a wedding is organic. The best I ever attended was a young couple from modest means. Their wedding was in a backyard. Friends and relatives provided the food. The families decorated. It was relaxed, human, and dare I say fun.
Everything about most weddings ruins them. Fancy invitations, large halls, the same old food, the music, and even the dresses. It looks staged and unreal. So how can we expect the photos to tell a different story to what is actually happening. It’s time young people getting married stop with tradition. Most of that tradition was borne from a profit motive. Ditch the damn diamonds. That’s a product of marketing. Expensive, formal invitations are unnecessary. A wedding is supposed to be a celebration. Make it one.
Now, the fellow in the video does say that there will always be a set of standard shots that a wedding photographer will get, and certain images are expected, such as the kiss or well lit family photos. These photographs are important.
But I do think that too many couples follow a “checklist” mentality. I feel sorry for them because they are getting pressure from websites like The Knot, Pinterest, their Mom, what their best friend did at her wedding, and others about “must haves” and “but it’s tradition!” So the day is spent running through the different scenarios.
Which scenarios? Well, I have seen:
Bride’s reveal to her bridesmaids
Bride’s reveal to her father
Bride and bridesmaids in the matching “getting ready” robes assembled for a picture
Groom and groomsmen doing a toast
Bride giving her bridesmaids gifts
Groom giving his groomsmen gifts
Now, that is just the list for BEFORE the ceremony. Am I saying these are dumb ideas? No, not at all. But I have seen a couple - actually, it is usually a bride - trying to make all of that happen in the space of the last two hours before the wedding. How meaningful do these “traditions” become if you are only able to dedicate five minutes to each? Maybe some of these things can happen at a wedding shower or at the rehearsal dinner so that your wedding day is a relaxed one.
It is perfectly fine to skip certain things. I notice in this age of more women with successful careers, they are not throwing the bouquet and certainly not having a garter toss. Some couples are not cutting the cake because, well, they don’t like cake. That does not mean their receptions are not fun - instead, I have seen special choreographed dances, games, dance offs, Soul Trains, singalongs (come on, everyone can sing “Don’t Stop Believing”), even one cousin who was a standup comedian do his routine.
What is really about the two of you? This is the first party you are hosting together as spouses - how would you ensure that both you and your guests are having a good time? If cutting a wedding cake is something you want to do, do it. If you’d rather skip that and learn how to use a sword to open a bottle of champagne and do that for a toast, go for it.
By the way, I am still waiting to see a couple ride off on a wild honeymoon stallion tamed just for them