Photographing the ceremony recessional

July 8, 2019

The walk of love

Capturing the couple coming out of the church after the ceremony is one of the most challenging parts of photographing a wedding.

It happens quickly. And all sorts of things can happen that make shooting the moment successfully quite a mission.

Picture the scene …

The vows have been made, the rings have been awkwardly fitted onto hot swollen hands and the register has been signed. The vicar lets out a silent sigh of relief, feeling satisfied that the marriage is legal and legit. The guests are singing the last line of ‘Jerusalem’. And the bridal party is jostling to get into the right place for the exit.

It’s a brief respite for me. But I can’t let my guard down. After a calmly paced ceremony, things are about to move quickly.

I’m standing (lopsided from the weight of all my camera kit slung across me) in prime position at the end of the aisle, ready to take photos of the newly-weds leaving the church. I’ve got a clear view of the couple and a clear route to the door so I can make a quick exit ahead of them.

I’m standing casually, trying to look cool, calm and collected. I’ve got this. Really, I have. I’ve done it hundreds of times.

But despite that, I’m holding my camera a little tighter than normal, I’m deep breathing to stay focused (my yoga teacher would be proud) and I’m curling my toes into the floor for reassurance. I’m feeling the weight of responsibility as much as the weight of my kit.

I’ve got a plan in mind (a flowing one, as usual!) based on how long the aisle is.

My ideal aisle is a long one, because it gives me plenty of time to create a variety of shots. But if the aisle is short, I’ll play it safe to make sure I nail it. It’s easy for an excited couple to run down the aisle like a shot (pun not intended!). Which means I’m lucky to even get one flattering photo sometimes!

I spot the vicar making a hand signal to the organist to say “ready” and lift my camera to my eye at the words “Would you all please stand”.

Cue the organist.

For a seemingly short and simple stroll, I’m about to witness and capture a myriad of moments

… The couple glancing at each other and silently saying “Woohoo! We did it!”, one of the pair high fiving the friend who set them up on their first date or stopping to greet a grandparent. That’s 24k gold right there.

And there will also be many moments which hit the cutting room floor …

… Like the couple looking down as they negotiate the step from the altar into the nave. The bride looking down as she steps on her dress. The groom looking down to check the dress is fine. One of them blinking. Then, the other one of them blinking. Next, someone says something and I catch their mouth in an awkward shape…

With all this going on, I end up with more dud expressions than winning ones and I don’t want to miss that nano-second when everything comes together.

No-one will hear my camera shutter over everyone cheering and clapping, so I just keep shooting and hope that somewhere in there will be a flattering picture of the couple walking down the aisle looking like they’re having the time of their lives.

Without anyone photo-bombing.

Oh, wait.

Just as they’re both looking good at the same time …

… a guest sticks their iPad into the aisle to take a photo, whilst the person behind them leans into the aisle to see around them, causing the person behind them to actually step into the aisle to see past both of them.

*big frowny face*

To be fair, taking photos is all part of the fun for wedding guests and they probably don’t realise I’m behind them #sniperskills

I can only hope that they move back into the pews quickly because there’s no time to go up to them and ask them to move.

At least the videographer has some spatial awareness ;)

But then, the Verger dashes in front of me to open the door at just the wrong moment!

Arghh!

All I can do is turn it into a game of wedding photographer bingo and smile to myself as I tick ‘em off! That’s all part of it.

I’m pushing my luck now

I can’t leave it any longer to stop shooting the recessional and head outside to capture the couple as they come of church.

So I dash to the door, managing not to trip but probably definitely not pulling off looking graceful. Making a best guess as to what my camera exposure needs to be outside, I alter my settings on the fly.

I must remember to change my ISO. Must remember to change my ISO. Must not forget…

Feeling victorious, I remember to change my ISO *.

The hard edges of the camera equipment protruding through my camera bag make me wince as it bashes against my leg. I’ll be black and blue tomorrow. Note to self: buy a new (more padded) camera bag. #accessoryaddict

I run as far down the church path as I dare

I need plenty of distance to get the whole church door in my shot, but there are only seconds between me and the couple. “Here should do it.” I say to myself.

Then, as I spin around and lift my camera, right there in my viewfinder is a pair of triumphant newly-weds with wonderfully goofy grins walking through a beautiful old door.

There’s no time for a test shot. I just grab the photo. Relying on instinct and experience to frame it well.

Gotcha!

I feel like the winner of Crystal Maze! #fistpump

I keep taking photos as the couple come further out into the open

There’s often a lovely series of images to be captured so I’m ready for one of the two to punch the air with a bouquet or steal a kiss. And as I’m shooting, I remember what an honour it is to be the only person to witness this moment.

Then, praying that I predicted the exposure correctly, I glance down as the last image pops up on the back of my camera. And I feel my shoulders drop with relief as I see it’s turned out okay.

There’s no time to dwell though. The guests are hot on the couple’s heels …

*Brief explanation: the ISO controls how bright the photo is. Inside the church, where it’s darker, I turn it up high to make the photo lighter. Outside, where it’s brighter, I have to turn it down to prevent overexposure.

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