Wedding Photography is “Shooting Happiness”

Wedding photographers seem to have a really bad image with photo journalists, and I don’t know why, really. (Disclosure: I shoot both weddings and news.) Some colleagues say, it’s because the subject per se appears to be utterly boring and always the same. A wedding. A bride. A groom. A church. A priest. A party. Guests. Gifts. Wedding cake. Rings. Roses. Just to name a few. Other colleagues say, it is because wedding photographers often capture some artificial uber-kitsch that has nothing to do with reality at all. The groom carries the bride across the doorstep. They kiss passionately. They pose in front of a sunset (if they’re lucky). They go to church. They dance a Waltz.

Whenever this topic comes up, I explain to everyone, that I actually love to shoot weddings. The wedding represents an important part in the life of any couple. They (believe to) have found each other and want to stay together for a long time, like until the end. It’s their day, and they deserve a couple of decent photos to remember this day. To remember what? Their emotions. Their excitement. And, most importantly, their joy and happiness.

Happy bride
Samra, 10 minutes before getting married
Mark Zanzig

Beautiful shots like these do not only excite the bride & groom when they get the set, they also satisfy me as photographer. I try to find the happiness the couple feels and conserve it for eternity. So in a way I’m trying to “shoot real happiness”. I agree that the setup may be “artificial”, but then again the ritual is part of human society. And the emotions it provokes are pure and genuine. That’s why I am always proud to be allowed to celebrate the wedding with the couple, even if I’m just the photographer.

Natascha and Matthias during the formals
Natascha & Matthias have fun during the formals
Mark Zanzig

And believe it or not: each and every wedding is different. Some weddings will even challenge seasoned photographers. The overall theme may be the same, but it’s the details that are different. Different locations, different weather, and different people. You have to use all your knowledge on photography to get this right. And more often than not, you need excellent people skills to not mess around with this very important day in their lives.

So, the next time you encounter a pj complaining about wedding photography “being lame”, please make him think twice, or at least argue with him thoroughly. Because it can be great to shoot happiness!

2 Responses to “Wedding Photography is “Shooting Happiness””

  1. Dietmar says:

    True, true. I recently was asked to shoot at the wedding of my mother in law (sounds funny but is true) and for the first time I was somewhat “under preasure” to shoot nice photos – timing wise etc.

    I actually came back and realized so much new aspects and things I need to learn. So I can recommend this as well to folks who want to explore this more fascinating side of photography. Not everbody boldly goes for the pj job like Mark did. But a wedding is always easy to find in your family if you really want to go for it (and you can always ask Mark to join you – just in case:)

    – Dietmar

  2. Scott M says:

    Hello Mark -

    I couldnt agree more – two weddings are NEVER the same! However I am surprised to hear about this supposed ‘rift’ between PJs and WPJs. I mean, I shot the FBI searching a US Senator’s home in Alaska last summer…even an AP shot I took of a helicopter water rescue…cool, but boring! I mean its cool to see your stuff on the cover of the morning papers (you’ll never get that with weddings) but I think wedding photography is more exciting.

    My two cents.