Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Family Time

My niece is getting married on March 15. Shortly after they set the date, she called me and asked me to be her photographer. I was flattered, intrigued by the challenge, and a little nervous. And I said yes.

I don't do portrait photography. I don't generally photograph people. The largest body of my work is animals, landscapes and a little bit of abstract thrown in for good measure. But my niece asked me because she knew I liked photography, thought I would enjoy it, and saw a few advantages in having a family member shoot the wedding.

The first thing I did was join a few photography forums on Yahoo and start scouring the internet for tips and information. I posted my questions to the forums and downloaded information and shot lists from the web sites. I received a variety of information telling me I would enjoy it, I would hate it, it shouldn't be a problem, I didn't need any fancy equipment, it's too much work, and one who told me to do myself a favor and hire a professional for them as a wedding gift. While this last was a good thought, it was out of my price range.

Once I had gathered this mass of data, life got in the way - as it often will - and I had to put it aside for a while. This weekend I bought a book on posing techniques (my real weak spot in portrait photography) and started reading it. As I got into the book, I started gaining confidence that I would be able to actually pull this off. Mind you, posing is one of those talents that takes a short time to learn and a long time to master - I had no illusions about that - but with my current level of photographic knowledge, I could probably do a right fair job of it.

Then I started looking at the shot lists. Some were simple, others were detailed. I began work on combining them all into my own list with the basics (i.e. the kiss, bride and mother, groom and father, etc.) and the cool-but-not-on-everyone's-list shots (i.e. bride looking out window). As I got to the ceremony shots, I realized something quite profound. Two somethings, really. First, there are a LOT of pictures that get taken at a wedding - this was going to be real work. Second, in order to get some of the shots, I would either have to be two places at once, moving around a lot (a potential distraction), relying on the good graces of one of my photographically inclined friends to assist me, or having to decide between one shot or the other. That's when I decided to call my niece.

You see, I realized that if I were going to do the photography portion of the wedding any justice at all, I was going to have to recuse myself from being an attendee. That meant that I would be missing out on time with my family, meeting the groom's family, actually enjoying the ceremony itself, and quite possibly wedding cake (which concerned me most). So this evening I called my niece and discussed the situation with her. It turns out, she had been talking with her dad, my brother, about the situation and had come to some of the same conclusions as well as a realization I now shared - If I'm taking all of the pictures, I'm not going to be IN any of the pictures.

With that, we agreed that it would be better for me to attend the wedding rather than work the wedding. Given that the ceremony is exactly two months away, I intend to keep studying technique (if for nothing else so that I can understand what the photographer is doing and take some mental notes) and I told my niece that if it was too short notice for her to find a photographer or something else went completely pear shaped, I would still be ready and willing.

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