wedding photography


Thoughts on Photographing Weddings

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We’ve been musing a lot recently about one particular aspect of our work at Memory Factory Photography. It’s become a large part of our business although it’s not something we ever imagined ourselves getting involved in. The main thing that put us off was probably everyone’s preconceived notion of wedding photography, even the fact that there is such a term, as if it’s something separate from any other kind of photography.

Really what we’ve always been driven by was a fascination with photography, and, while the particular event being photographed matters, in the end the important thing is to see each event as simply an opportunity to make beautiful, moving, insightful pictures (with a bit of luck). So we would say we’re still not really interested in “wedding photography” – what we are interested in is making photographs at weddings.

The way in which couples have chosen to have their wedding day recorded for posterity has changed so much since photography firstbecame popular. My granny and grandad, married in 1925, spent their honeymoon in Moville and caught the steamer to Derry where their wedding photograph was taken in a local studio – just one beautiful picture of the bride and groom leaning on wooden table, a vase of flowers for a bit of decoration.


In 1950 my mother and father were married at St Aloysius Chapel, Garnethill in Glasgow and walked round the corner to a studio in Sauchiehall street to have two pictures taken, one of the bride and groom and one of the bridal party. The one of the bride and groom was carefully hand tinted and presented in a mirrored glass frame.


In 2013, almost a century later, Lindsay, my Grandmothers Great Grand-daughter was married in Cambridge. We took a few pictures . . quite a few pictures, actually.

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Low Winter Sun

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When Lorna & Johnny came up to see us to talk over the plan for their wedding photography, it would be fair to say that Johnny was not over excited about the idea of being put in front of a camera.It can be a little uncomfortable. After all, it’s not something most of us do an a daily basis. We often hear people asking “What do you want us to do?”


In most cases, when people feel a little ill at ease in front of a lens, we find that keeping our distance helps! In particular, when we’re doing pre-wedding shoots, the main purpose is to help break down that tension, and sticking a camera four feet from someones nose and telling them to smile isn’t going to cut it.


Wedding photography, we think, should be mostly about the relationship between the couple. While it is important that we try to help people to come across well, (and yes, looking towards the camera is sometimes appropriate!) our presence should never be intrusive. If we can help our clients relax, and while not exactly ignoring us entirely, at least shake off the idea that they are there to be made to do something they are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with, things generally go much better.

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Pre-wedding sessions can be a tremendous benefit for our couples and us. With the anxiety and nerves which can be so common on the day of a wedding, we need to know that we have built a relationship of trust with our couples beforehand.

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So, if all goes according to plan the couple have a few images to mark their engagement and we have a better understanding of how they, and we can work together on the day.


Faster Horses

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When we were asked to photograph Joanna and Michael’s wedding, it was at least partly on the basis of photographs we had already produced in other situations. From the outset though, Joanna and Michael made it clear that they weren’t looking for “Wedding” photographs produced to a formula. Aside from the fairly obvious family groupings – which took about 15 minutes! – they trusted us to simply photograph their wedding, their real wedding as it was, seen in our way.

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There is a quote often, and wrongly, attributed to Henry Ford (American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company). “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

This remark has often been cited to support the idea that consumers don’t really drive innovation by asking for more or better products, but that the drive comes from the producers. This could be an interesting point of view (if it were true) but it’s just patronising and ultimately wrong-headed.

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The implication was that Henry Ford thought he knew best, that his developments in terms of his products, better served his customers. It seemed that he saw little value in listening to customer responses and ideas, preferring to believe that “The public wants what the public gets”. While the Ford Motor company was and remains a significant presence in the car industry it seems fairly apparent that customer expectations and desires play a more significant role in the direction of development than Mr Ford might have acknowledged.

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Congratulations, by the way, if you’re still reading, no doubt wondering when if indeed ever, we’re going to get to the photography bit. Well, here it is. Wedding photography is often a bit like the whole “faster horses” idea. Our clients book us on the basis of what we have previously produced. The pictures they’ve already seen. Our job is to understand that. From the outset, there is an expectation that things will look a certain way and perform the same functions. That’s the horses bit. Meet the expectations that people have, which they have made based on past evidence, first.

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So, that’s the job then? Produce “Wedding Photography” on demand, on tap? Give people what they’ve already seen? No, the real job is to deliver what the client did not expect or imagine. Remember their expectations are based on past – and as importantly – detached experience of other people’s weddings.  The tricky thing is, that we can’t control the situations we are working in. We don’t get to choose the time, the date, the venue, the people, the weather or indeed, anything else.

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We have to deal with each situation as it unfolds in front of us. No rehearsal, and no second-take. The pictures we’ve made in the past only existed in that moment, that specific and unrepeatable combination of light, time, composition, point-of-view, lens selection and a dozen other factors.

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Maybe that’s why so much wedding photography looks so similar. The pressure to do what has already been done leads to formulaic and predictable cliches. It’s safer to fall back on repetition. No surprises, everyone gets pretty much what they expected. In that respect, Henry Ford did have a point, but only up to a point. The Ford Motor Company undoubtedly revolutionised mass transportation.  The ‘Model T’ went far beyond customer expectations, yes, it was much more than a faster horse. Innovation usually comes from the supply side.

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But times change. Customers and consumers routinely expect more of us. Sometimes that ‘more’ is hard to define or articulate, but we have to acknowledge and respond to the demand nonetheless. Ford responded slowly and late to consumer demands, (You might think of his other, accurately attributed remark that the Model T was “available in any colour you like, so long as it’s black”) and in doing so, saw Ford’s market share in the U.S. fall from around 65% in 1921 to around 15% in 1927.

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Absolutes don’t always work. Expertise and professional experience have a part to play in the development of most businesses. Clients may not entirely understand exactly what it is that they do want. We’re in this business because we enjoy being creative. That means we attract clients who trust our creativity and want to give us the space to come up with something new and unexpected (not just faster horses) at each and every event (be it a wedding, christening, anniversary, festival, reunion or whatever)

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Joanna & Michael never asked us for a faster horse. Instead they trusted us to bring our experience and ideas to their wedding and to make the particular and specific photographs that reflected their wedding.

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Responsiveness, trust and a willingness to listen, on both sides, is part of the process.


Cathedral : Dragon : Castle

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Jamie & Danielles’ wedding at Solis, Lough Eske Castle.

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We’ve mentioned previously some of the logistical challenges couples can face when organising their wedding from a distance. Jamie & Danielle went further, literally, than many people would feel comfortable with.

Not only did they organise their wedding from Canada, they had to work out how pretty much everyone and everything involved in the wedding was going to get here from Canada, the UK and elsewhere.

You can probably guess, from Jamie’s choice of Formal Wear that his family roots lie in Scotland. What was surprising was to find that he, like Martha and I, had studied at The Glasgow School of Art.

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Danielle also told us that Jamie is a keen photographer himself. As it turns out, so were more than a few of their friends and relations. No pressure there then!

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Here’s one of the boys going to work with a lovely little Yashica Twin Lens Reflex. At one time, cameras like this were the workhorses of the social photography & wedding photography world.

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St Eugene’s Cathedral in Letterkenny is a spectacular setting for a wedding. The scale, the atmosphere and the architecture all combine to create a truly memorable scene.

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Ceremony over, now it’s off through the wild landscape of County Donegal to Lough Eske nestled beneath the Blue Stack Mountains, and home to a dragon or two.

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One Fine Day

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I’m sure almost everyone’s familiar with the adage, “Well, tomorrow’s another day” Usually a response to a day that we might have hoped had gone better! For the superstitious among us, maybe it’s particularly apt on Friday the 13th. For Leona & Barry though, tomorrow really will be another day. A very particular day. Come rain or shine, ever after, Saturday the 14th of June 2014 will be the most life-changing day. The day they got married.

Needless to say, we’d prefer it to shine rather than rain!

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