I started my first actual day wedding photography as a groomsman - Here are three things I learned
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Most professional wedding photographers in Singapore probably did their first actual day wedding shoot as a paid job.
Many years back, I was one of the groomsmen for a friend’s wedding. There were about five of us. I was the only one with a DSLR camera that non-photog folks would consider a “professional enough” tool.
There was, of course, a pro photographer around, but you know how it is with many Singapore weddings. You pay good money for the real McCoy. And you rope in a friend who would be happy to shoot your big day - bonus points, if that person comes from your entourage of brothers or sisters, and owns a good camera.
Well, I was that person.
Being the groomsman who is also a shutterbug earns you a sort of ‘exclusive access’ to the bustle of a wedding day. But I soon realised that oftentimes than not, I ended up impeding the work of the pro photographer.
Nevertheless, here are three positive things I learned as a groomsman-photographer:
1. There is a way a wedding unfolds.
A wedding is like a religious ritual and there is always a familiar protocol for how the day should proceed (albeit protocols may differ slightly from wedding to wedding).
With each wedding, you discern an emerging pattern of instances: what time the son of the family needs to go to the carpark to receive the groom; the pecking order of family members and relatives who would partake in the tea ceremony; and just how long the third cry of the customary “yam seng” at the wedding dinner should last.
Although we tend to take these routines for granted, these are developments that the photographer has to be aware of. In a matter of seconds, anything can happen: a teardrop or a collective burst of laughter might be all that’s needed to make the photo.
Hence, a seasoned wedding photographer is constantly kept on his toes on what comes next. Also, he does not anticipate merely for the big things but the minor moments that together bestow meaningfulness upon the wedding.
2. A wedding is more than its key highlights but the little details that matter.
A finely-paced wedding march is nothing short of elegance, and the natural connection of a kiss between the now-husband and now-wife usually draws the most cheers from the guests.
Yet, a wedding is more than all the grandeur that evokes the oohs and aahs.
Be a groomsman for a day and you get behind the scenes. As you survey the subtle shifts of emotions emanating among the couple, family members and close friends, you witness a heartwarming display of humanity even before the holy matrimony.
An act as simple as a hug is almost everything we need to know the relations that bind. And dad and mum beaming with pride for their bride-daughter convey a delight for her happiest day.
These expressions may be common in our normal lives. But, without them, a wedding is nothing more than a glitzy showcase.
Keeping that in mind, the good photographer knows the jubilation of the moment is the true substance of a wedding - nearly everything else is the icing on the cake.
3. As a groomsman, you see a wedding in a more unique perspective than a guest.
If you are made a brother of the groom’s entourage, you are tied to the whole day, from dawn to dusk.
This also makes you fly on the wall on the entire event - you go from place to place, ensuring you are not out of sync with the coming activities.
Whether you are helping the groom prepare himself in the hotel room or doing push-ups in the void deck for the gatecrash challenge, you are afforded a dynamic perspective of how things transpire.
You are not just a participant; you are an observer. There are as many vantage points as you can enjoy at the wedding, and the wedding photographer in you takes in these views subconsciously.
Indeed, the experience is the education and what you see may one day prove practical in application.
So, I would like to believe that’s how it begins - a love for photography dovetailing with a fascination with the clockwork scramble of the wedding day.
I’m attracted to the inclination to dive into the rush of the day’s events and producing pics of the moments that count for those 10 hours or so.
A good wedding photographer is well-equipped when he learns his theoretical lessons right and is familiar with the full capabilities of his equipment.
But why not get yourself a wedding photographer who truly understands what it’s like to be very much involved - as a groomsman or a bridesmaid - in the celebration of the couple’s union?
By tapping into his/her experiences, a wedding photographer could reinterpret in images of how a wedding should be perceived uniquely, distinct from his/her first-hand encounter of a similar, past event.
Surely, to create good storytelling through wedding photography, it serves us best that we were once supporting characters in how a wedding happened.
Thus, authentic experiences translate to authentic wedding photography for the real moments.