They say that sometimes you need a change.
I think that time has arrived.
After photographing weddings for more years than I'd care to admit, I've decided that 2022 will be my last season as a wedding photographer. I have a few weddings booked in for this year but after those, I'll be hanging up my cameras in their role of full-time professional wedding work.
I've seen many changes over the years, not least in the way that weddings have been photographed. When I started it was in the days of film, and although 35mm was used by some photographers, the majority of wedding shooters used medium format cameras. The "standard" coverage in the market was 5 rolls of film, with 12 photos on each, to give you 60 photographs (if you were lucky and every shot came out as intended) to present to the Bride and Groom. Think of it - 60 photographs from the Bride and her Father leaving the house up to a set-up shot of the cutting of the cake and possibly a couple of shots of the First Dance. Today, with digital, I probably shoot more than 60 images with just the Bridal preparations and the details!
In the old days, the formal photos were very prescribed and formulaic, with no leeway to shoot images different to what everyone expected at that time. It was also more challenging. There was no safety net of checking the back of the camera to make sure that you had the right exposure, or to see if everyone had their eyes open. Manual focus. Manual exposure. A very limited range of film speeds to choose from. Using a tripod for most of the shots because of the unreliable British weather! Wedding photographers dropped their films into the labs on the Saturday night or Sunday morning, then waited until Friday to collect the proofs - nervously waiting to see if we'd got it right (and also crossing our fingers that the lab hadn't messed up the processing or scratched the negatives!).
Today, we quickly check our camera's screen to make sure that the exposures are correct and in that respect it's so much easier.
Heavy tripods, Hasselblad film cameras and their lenses have given way to digital DSLRs and now mirrorless systems. Lighter, faster, more adaptable. Capable of shooting in conditions we could never have hoped to photograph in when using film. The change to digital gave us the freedom to change the way that we shot, making it less about the formal images and instead giving us the freedom to document the wedding day as it happens. We're able to capture the emotions and the hidden moments of the day, in conditions from bright sunshine down to candle-light - something that we just couldn't do with film cameras.
Wedding photography isn't the simplest of jobs. As a photographer we're trusted with getting the images right every time that we shoot a wedding. We can't afford to have an "off-day" and take it easy, we have a responsibility to our clients and we have to get it right on the day - there's no chance to re-shoot the wedding on another day if something goes wrong. As well as the technical side of the work we have to be able to blend in as much as possible so that we're unobtrusive. We also need to have the inter-personal skills with which to deal with lots of different types of people and the range of emotions and behaviours that can appear on a wedding day.
When I look back through the archived images on the computer (or the negatives in the files) I can recall each wedding day, even after all these years. An image really is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes.
I'd like to thank all of my couples for allowing me the privilege of being a part of their special days - it's been a wonderful experience.