In Lieu of Some Wedding Photography: Thoughts on Privacy, and on Locations

Oh, the pain of the photographer who works at a wonderful venue for a couple who asks that their images not be used online! That is the way of the world these days, though, and privacy requests must be respected. Congratulations to the wonderful couple, and thank you so much for having me work with you twice at an amazing location: The Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. In addition to this location being a labyrinth of eye-candy nooks and crannies and little passage ways and wonderful backdrops, it also is home to a world-class restaurant, Rats, who served me a vendor meal so good I had to go home and try to cook it myself. I came close.

So instead of sharing with you some images from this excellent couple, I’m just going to show some other images I have taken at The Grounds on other occasions, and I’ll ruminate on why location both is and isn’t important to wedding photography, and what you should consider when considering the privacy of your images.

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We photographers love rich settings, places that are textural and have interesting lines and vivid colors and something that is new. But there is a danger in these locations as well: the photography can become about the textures and the lines and the colors, rather than about the wedding and the couple. The Grounds for Sculpture is a wonderful place to work, because there is so much going on visually. But at the same time, I found myself having to kind of ignore everything that was great to look at, because that is not what the pictures were supposed to be. I was photographing a couple, not a venue. Environmental portraiture wants to take both into account, of course, and the best photography gives a sense of time and place as well as personality. I got some really wonderful shots while there, but at the same time, one of my favorite images from this year was taken on a sidewalk in a run-down neighborhood of Philadelphia, against the wall of an industrial building. The setting there wasn’t great, and the image instead had to rely solely on gesture on relationship. It’s a good image.

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I love a good backdrop just as much as the next photographer, but it does need to be remembered that an exotic location is not always the best backdrop, and where you have your location portraits done will say something about you…it might be a location of great personal importance, or maybe it’s just a great place, or maybe just a red wall in a not-so-great place. Everything brings something to your images. I just try not to be seduced by the beauty of a place when  am trying to take great pictures of people.

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And privacy: I have written about this before. We in the digital world constantly walk the fine line between appropriate sharing and sharing too much. I have even run into people who have the belief that, if it is not posted, it didn’t happen. While this might be true in a documentary, public sense, we know that it is not true in a personal, private sense. The whole point of hiring a professional photographer for a wedding is so that someone who is technically and artistically competent, as a minimum standard, and interestingly expressive as a basic, reasonable expectation, can create an evocative historical document of a key life event. Your wedding photography is the first heirloom of your new family, and it is important that it is done well. Who that is shared with is an intensely personal decision.

As a photographer, and as a business person, I have a direct and urgent need to use my current work on blogs, social media, and portfolio sites to show couples how I go about documenting and presenting their visual memoirs. But that marketing need does not supersede, ever, the wishes of the couple to be more or less private in their affairs. Many couples welcome the sharing of their photos because, you know what?, they look great in them and they want to share images of themselves in their great, fresh happiness with a widely cast net of friends current and past, co-workers, professional networks, and the like. Others might want that sharing to be limited to the much more intimate experience of sitting next to someone on a couch and leafing through a wedding book. Or to receiving a letter (yes! an actual, on-paper, hand-written letter!) with a print enclosed. All are valid ways of sharing. I think sometimes we forget this.


All images Mamiya C330, Tri-X