Shaking my head... still

Started Nov 22, 2011 | Discussions thread
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Michael Thomas Mitchell
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Shaking my head... still
Nov 22, 2011

We've had our share of bemoaning the state of wedding photography around here. And this is just yet another anecdote. So, if it bothers you, don't read any further. Just getting this head-shaking experience off my chest...

I attended a wedding last weekend. Didn't know the couple, but rather was going with someone who did. It was a well-attended affair, with lots of attendants and guests. And it was certainly not inexpensive, with a full dinner served at a downtown reception afterwards.

Naturally, I was interested in how the photography would be handled since I don't often get to observe weddings uninvolved. These days, I don't expect much, and there was no surprise here. The photographer was a girl in her mid-20s. She carried with her the entire evening (that I observed) only a Canon Rebel with a 50mm 1.8 lens. Every photo I saw taken used that combo, from the processional of the attendants and bride, to the ceremony, and from the post-ceremony portraits to the reception. It was was of those dark cinder-block churches with theatrical lighting throughout, so plenty of raccoon eyes with no flash of any sort for the portraits. (Naturally, the post-ceremony portrait session involved a LOT of dragged-out meandering and wondering what shot to do next. And posing consisted of lining up all the subjects in a simple horizontal row, no matter the size of the group. Thankfully, the nearly all of the women were fairly slender, so the unflattering straight-on shoulders "police lineup" stance probably wasn't as bad as would have been had the ladies been heavy.)

During the ceremony, the young photographer was constantly stooping with her nifty-fifty, even though the the action was taking place on an elevated alter platform. Every single shot, from the processional to the recessional and everything in between was taken while stooped so as make the camera just two feet from the floor.

The reception was held in an extremely dark downtown event hall. (Imagine the videographer's light being the most noticeable illumination in the entire room.) When the couple arrived for their first dance, she stood in one place and shot about 5 images, all with the pop-up flash. The cake garnered a single shot from a straight-on perspective, again with just the pop-up flash. Meanwhile, white ceiling and walls offered incredible opportunities for more pleasing light.

The young girl carried a bag on her shoulder, but since it obviously didn't even have a basic hotshoe flash inside of it, I can't imagine what she WAS carrying around in it! Frankly, she could have just used a standard point-and-shoot, as none of the photos, from where I could see, benefited from the otherwise versatility of the Rebel. (Indeed, at least with a simple point-and-shoot she could have at least zoomed the focal length for a little variation!) I can say, however, that she never appeared nervous, nor did she hesitate. There may have been absolutely no creativity to her approach, but she at least she did not at least appear to know what she was doing to the untrained observer.

I tried desperately to concede that maybe my criticisms were due solely to a difference in style to the way I work, but I realized I was just trying to hard to be generous. I was upset because 1) the pictures were going to be awful, 2) the bride was gorgeous and deserved to be photographed beautifully, 3) this was absolutely typical of the kind of wedding I used to be booked for 35 times a year, and 4) bookings these day absolutely suck.

As I watched, I wondered how this young girl came to be photographing the wedding in the first place. I discreetly asked and no, she was not a friend or a family member, and yes, she was a "professional". I resigned myself with the sad truth that half of the bridesmaids would probably call on this same girl when it became time for them to get married. This girl was one of the new generation of wedding photographers, for better or worse. Part of the facebook generation, where instant sharing takes precedence over quality. Like it or not, that's the way it is now.

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