I absolutely love photos from the beginning of the wedding day; the bride is getting ready, surrounded by bridesmaids and family, as they prepare for the magical day to come. Everything from the beauty, the fashion, and the eager joy and anticipation all blend together resulting in timeless photos full of emotion. I invited Junebug Member Photographer Buffy Dekmar to share her lovely getting ready photos and to speak about her process for capturing this significant time of the wedding day.
Tell me a bit about how you shoot this time of the wedding? Photographing the moments leading up to a wedding ceremony is a bit like reading a story to a group of children. There are elements that must be anticipated in order to fully dramatize them. There are characters which need to be drawn from pages and feelings that can only be conveyed through facial expressions. I always scan the next page visually before reading it aloud to make sure to tell it correctly. In the same way, I have come to anticipate beautiful photographs before I take them, especially during the part of the day where the bride is getting ready and those important moments leading up to the ceremony. I have learned that my demeanor is as important as my technique and that my mission should not be to merely take a set of pretty pictures, but to create personal imagery that means something to my clients. This often involves gently prompting an authentic story to unfold visually in front of my lens.
Can you describe your process both technically and emotionally? I allow more than enough time for the bride to get into her dress. My goal is to make the bride feel celebrated, which helps me to take photos which embody honest emotion and joyful reflection on the present (in contrast to the goal of hurrying to get dressed and go outside for portraits). At this moment, I am not only an art director, but also an experience director. While a bride is finishing her hair and makeup, I carefully choose an intimate setting with soft window light to compliment the memories that are about to unfold. (If a bedroom is not available, I will consider a foyer, church prayer room, sun room, or even a simple vignette in the corner of a ballroom.) I never ever tell a bride if we are running behind on time. This is her time, not mine.
Any tips to other photographers for capturing great photos during this time?
I’ve learned that in such a high energy setting, the mood I bring to the room is vital in achieving a graceful feel for the photos. A warm smile and a gentle, unshakable calmness will take me where I’d like to be. When the bride is ready to get into the gown, I will guide her (along with her mother or maid of honor) to a place (that I’ve already chosen) where she will feel safe, comfortable, and bathed in soft light. I’ve already metered the light in all directions in the room and loaded the appropriate roll(s) of film, so now I can assume a discreet position and work. The woman whom she’s chosen to stand beside her will help transform her into a bride and then, naturally, she’ll envelope her with love, pride, and sentimental elation. I carefully watch their hands, their eyes, the mirror if the room has one. If necessary, I will softly remind them to slow down, to pause and talk to each other. After that, they will hug, squeeze each others hands, or kiss on the cheek. That is important.
When that moment is captured, we’ll round a corner where the bridesmaids are waiting anxiously to see her (because I’ve already made a big deal about how exciting and fun it will be for them to see her as a bride and exactly when and where they will get to do that). I’ve metered the light there too; I’ve pre-envisioned my frame, and the emotion is real. My assistant is anticipating my last shot on that roll, waiting to hand me another camera or film insert that is loaded and ready to go. (The story is always a little bit different, but the process is tried and true.) The energy builds, and the bride feels genuinely loved. I carry this mood with me throughout a time of portraits, and then we continue the celebration of this bride through whichever means best suits the group: a collective prayer, a toast, or by simply inviting the bridesmaids to share their favorite things about the bride.
What do you enjoy about this time? This is not about my own portfolio or any accolade that I can ever achieve. I don’t shoot weddings to be recognized or to see my work published in magazines (as nice as any acknowledgement may be). This is about a couple’s one and only wedding day–the beginning of their family history together. When I print these photos and wrap them to send, I will genuinely remember the meaning behind the moments pictured. When the bride and groom share their wedding photos with friends and family now and in 50 years from now, I want them to say, “Look at how we’ve loved and been loved,” not “Do you remember how annoying that photographer was?”
This is not my story, but someone has trusted me to tell it. This is what I do.
Thanks for sharing, Buffy!