Spring is upon us as is the desire for many couples to have a fairytale wedding while the flowers are in full bloom. Resource spoke with UK-based, wedding photographer, Andrew Billington about his work and the relationship between narrative and wedding photos.
How did you get involved with wedding photography?
“My background is in documentary photography. However, if you are seen to walk around with a camera at some point someone will ask you if you photograph weddings. This first happened to me about 5 years ago (I’d shot family wedding before then) and I said I did but only if I could photograph them in a documentary, narrative style, as traditional wedding photography didn’t really interest me.
Besides, the structure of a wedding day creates a really strong narrative. Pre-wedding preparations, the ceremony, congratulations, formal dinner and speeches then the evening with dancing – it’s the perfect story arc. That’s the backbone of the narrative photography. But what happens around those moments in the day and how people react to them is the ‘character’ of the day-what makes every wedding individual to the families involved.
I always meet with couples before the wedding to talk through with them about how they are structuring their day, what’s important to them and to learn a little about them as a couple. That will inform my photography on the day.
I try hard never to ‘pre-visualise’ what photographs I’m going to take but to be aware and observant on the day, to photograph what is actually happening around me and not what I expect to happen. I think if you imagine what photographs you are going to take beforehand then you’ll spend all your time looking for those and miss what is actually happening.
I’m lucky in that my style of photography seems to attract couples that are very laid back and want me to photograph their day as it unfolds – they often are not too comfortable in front of camera and are drawn to the candid, emotional photography I capture throughout a wedding day. But occasionally I do get a ‘shot list’ from brides with reams of things for me to photograph on the day – ‘shoes’, ‘my father looking lovingly at me’, ‘groom looking nervous’, ‘rings sitting on the bouquet’ – generally they’ve cut and pasted these from a blog or magazine and I just gently remind them that I will photograph the genuine emotions of the day and capture all the details and ‘texture’ too. No-one has ever come back to me and said, ‘You didn’t photograph my shoes hanging from a tree!’ Which means I’ve never had to reply, ‘Why would anyone hang their wedding shoes in a tree. It makes no sense!’
Do you have any favorite stories or hilarious mishaps?
There are a couple from last year. I was photographing at Keele Hall and the father of the bride had made a fantastic chocolate wedding cake, it was a hot day so to stop it melting the windows of the Breakfast room were thrown open. The next time the staff checked in on the room the cake was being eaten by a squirrel who had hopped in. Apparently the damage was smoothed over and served to the guests.
We had terrible weather through the summer last year and the first bright, sunny wedding day I had in June was at Trafalgar Park – great venue, fantastic day planned and a lovely couple. I pulled up at the bride’s house and was greeted with the words “Have you ever had Chicken Pox?” – the Bride was covered in them! Nothing we could do, she’d decided to go ahead with the day and that’s what I photographed (mainly in medium length). Although I did feel really sorry for her as she looked very itchy at times.
What advice would you give to a young photographer starting out in wedding photography?
The best piece of advice I can give is to develop your own style and shoot in a way that feels right to you. If you constantly try to emulate what is currently fashionable or ‘bankable’ in wedding photography you’ll always be behind the curve and end up with an inconsistent portfolio.
You can read more about Wedding Innovations in Resource Magazine Spring Edition 2013.
You can follow Tom Kray on twitter @tomkray
He also has a website www.the-fas.com