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How’d you do that??!

June 29th, 2011  |  Published in Featured, Shoot  |  1 Comment

first off, documentary/pj photographers do shoot portraits. they do. i promise.

however, i’m here to talk about how i let my couples know how i’ll approach the majority of their day–mainly, by not choreographing or staging moments.

most important to me is the real, the true, the emotional, the un-staged moments that happen at every event. i want to capture that storyline, that thread that connects everyone at that wedding, one to another. i believe the only true way to do this is through creating images that naturally unfold in front of me. sure i may coax the viewer’s eye to go where I want by the way i choose to frame the image and the lens i opt to use to snag that shot … but i am not asking anyone or anything to stop in order to make any image happen. i do not make things happen.

do i stand there sometimes, still as can be, wishing, hoping, begging the universe to ‘please please pretty please with cherries on top, please let that person move into that light right now!’? sure i do. but i would never say it out loud. no way josé. i’ll be patient as a grasshopper but will cut my losses before i ask anyone to step into that ‘perfect’ light.

and when i say this, i am talking about those fleeting slices of life, the ones you might catch out of the corner of your eye. those moments that sort of flash by yet write themselves on your heart forever. (yeeaaah, that may be sappy, but i am sappy. and proud of it) ;)

so, how do i get to walk, run, crawl, crouch, and sometimes climb, throughout my wedding days without a lot of folks turning to say ‘cheese’ to the camera or falsify a scene?

first, from the get go, everything i show – on my website, on my blog, in my marketing (except maybe a sprinkling of staged couple shots) are moments. secondly, i emphasize how i work from the first contact with potential couples, continuing through to the booking and even during our talks just before the wedding day. even on the day itself, i will walk in and say ‘hi, i’m stacey’ (they’ll introduce themselves and i’ll hope there isn’t a test at the end of the day – ’cause i remember faces, not names!). at that time, i really make sure to say ‘you all go about doing what you’re doing, don’t worry about me. i’m just going to shoot.’ or something like that.

it’s a way to hopefully convey how i work to the family & friends that are present at that moment.

ever notice if you start to get a few ‘grip-n-grin’ requests, all of a sudden it’s like a festival of cheese? you start to feel like a human photo booth? well, i believe that if you begin by showing those closest to the couple, how you go about working (‘just do your thang, don’t even look at me, hahaha’) others will follow suit.

i’m not going to say i don’t have the times when i am asked to take a quick grip & grin (it happens. i do it. it’s done. everyone is happy.) and i most certainly have those times when i am framing up an image, waiting it out, and someone in the scene will tap some one and make for them to turn and look at me, maybe they are feeling that is what i want. a photo of them all, paying attention to me. not the moment. what do i do in that instance?

i’ll take my camera away from my face, slightly shake my head back & forth, and give the gentlest slightest smile. if i’m close enough, i’ll make sure to say ‘no no, you do what you were doing, do not worry about me’.

there will be times, when people are standing around, when i want to use some as, say a frame or to block clutter in a room. some of those folks may feel the need to step aside, turning towards me, apologizing for being in ‘the way’, maybe even tapping the person near them telling them to ‘watch out’. i make sure to drop my camera a bit, stand up and say lightly ‘no one’s ever in my way. don’t worry about moving away from me, i’ll move around you. no biggie’. i mean i can’t say for certain what i say in every instance, but the gist i’m trying to convey is ‘i am not a concern. go about your business’.

i also feel it. i feel it to my core when i go into a room. do not worry about me. do not worry about me.

really. i think it, i feel it, i try best as i can to project that. and, for me, it works.

that’s one of the reasons i love the getting ready portion of the day or even better, the rehearsal party. i can ease into the way i work and people notice. they learn it, they see it, they get comfy with it, they embrace it.

they get it, they will. if you go in there thinking ‘they are not going to get this, they are so not getting this’!.
guess what? you’re gonna confuse the heck out of ‘em!

if your aim is to document wedding stories with as little involvement as possible, both on your part & the subject’s part, then do it.

i suggest showing only what you want to shoot. if a couple needs to see that you can create a formal portrait of themselves or families, you can show those to them when they ask. in your bio or about me section, write about how you’ll approach shooting their wedding day. let them know that while a wedding is one big choreographed event, the images do not have to be.

show the images you love to create in your albums, on your walls, on your Facebook pages, on your business cards – anywhere you let the world know that you shoot weddings, show them exactly what you want to shoot.

when the day comes around, don’t be afraid to gently explain to those ‘not so in the know’ how you work. tell them you don’t need to stage a thing; if it happens, you’ll be there & you’ll get it. and i mean it when i say gently. always look people in the eyes, smile and be genuine. they’ll understand. don’t let your feathers get ruffled if Aunt Sue says ‘hey, you know what would be a great picture [insert award winning idea here] … ?’.

for some people, that is what they know of the wedding photography world. you can be there to open their eyes to another way of seeing. now how great is that?! i think it’s pretty darn great.

happy shooting!

About Stacey Doyle

Stacey Doyle has written 20 post in this blog.

Stacey is a New England Photojournalist, documenting the story of you.



  1. Andree says:

    June 30th, 2011 at 8:30 am (#)

    Love this! This is what I do too. Sometimes I’ll tell the bridesmaids that if I want them out of the way, I’ll elbow them out of the way. wink wink. They all laugh. :)

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