Becky + Ryan were an easy couple to photograph. On the day they got married, they were vulnerable with me. Invited me in to so many emotional stories. But like most wedding days, it was still filled with people fussing over them and loving them. I caught word that they would be heading into the basement right after the ceremony. Naturally I was ready to follow.
When it actually came time to do so, I stealthily slipped behind them through the door guarded by a bridesmaid. As I slipped through that door, a family member behind me was stopped with the phrase, “they want a minute COMPLETELY alone. Nobody else can be in there.”
It’s a delicate balance, of creating images that couples will look back on and get to have an incredible memory of, while still respecting the decisions they make about being alone.
In half a second I had to decide: get out of the basement, or stick to my decision to be there?
So I found a strange middle ground. I immediately slipped into an adjoining room and took images through a curtain in the doorway. Put the camera in silent-as-can-be mode and played a level 10 creep for approximately 60 seconds to get the story.
Then after a few frames, I quietly slipped back up the basement stairs to give them the space they needed. (They followed shortly behind me.)
Was it probably okay that I was there? I mean, it’s likely. But me being hidden behind the basement curtain became a part of the story. Maybe they knew I was there, maybe they thought my bag was back there, maybe I was so stealthy they never noticed me in the basement until I left. (I could ask, but maybe that would ruin the mystery).
But if there’s anything I learned from this image, it’s this: you truly can create a powerful image from anywhere.
You can take whatever restraints a wedding throws at you, whatever rules you have to follow, whatever space you can or can’t be in, and you can still create an image that retells that story. In this case, maybe even tells the story better, since now the photos makes it look like nobody is in there with them.
It only made sense to start with an image that I had very little control over. I’m excited to dive into this How I Shot It series, but I wanted this to be your reminder: you won’t always have control. You don’t get to write every rendition of an image. Weddings are wild, and if you’ve been to even a handful you know this. You’re going to have to learn to work with what the universe and these families are willing to give to you.
So photographer, this is your takeaway: allow your restraints and rules to fuel you. Let those boundaries be the thing that helps you to create images that reflect what really happened that day. And it may just work out even better than you thought.
So much love,
Hey! I'm Makayla, a wedding photojournalist based in Duluth, MN and Saint Paul, MN.
I believe that stories are best told untouched, undirected, and with intentionality and meaning.
This blog is a space to share advice for couples about weddings, advice for photographers about witnessing events with intention, and steps to create decisions based on your values and what matters most to you.
Grab your favorite beverage, pull up a chair, and let's get to know each other.
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