The best DC destination wedding photographer needs to excel at more than just taking pictures of you getting married. Mastery of light and shadow, advanced photographic techniques and camera angles? That is the easy part! The tip of the iceberg, if you will. With enough time, you could learn to do these things at least 90 percent as well as your professional wedding photographer. We are not suggesting that you ditch your present career to start photographing weddings, but you get our point, right?
What sets a great destination Washington DC wedding photographer apart, at least in our opinions, is not their skills with camera. Instead, it is their ability to tell stories with their pictures. A beautiful image that does not relate some portion of an important story is just that — a beautiful image. It is nice to look at, but it has no heart and no emotional core. You see it, appreciate its beauty and then move on. It does not stay with you. It is empty calories, rather than a hearty meal.
A stunning documentary photograph that tells a great story, by contrast, stirs your soul. It helps you understand the subjects and what they are feeling at that moment. Ideally, it even makes you experience some of the emotions they are showing. This is even more important when you yourself are the subject of the image. The wedding photos you will value the most 30 years from now will not be the most beautiful ones. They will be those that allow you to relive the most meaningful moments from your wedding day. Those that reawaken treasured memories that were sleeping in the corners of your mind. Those that make you feel like you did when you committed yourself to your soulmate.
Mastering the art of storytelling thus requires becoming an expert in human emotions. As documentary wedding photographers, we have had to learn how to interpret how our subjects are feeling with just a glance at their faces. More importantly, we have had to learn how to anticipate how they are going to feel. We have become adept at predicting the emotional reactions of the people we photograph. We have trained ourselves to read the rooms in DC wedding venues and to see what is likely to happen. We also learned to recognize important nonverbal cues — the little muscle twitches that indicate how someone is about to react to something. That gives us the ability to be ready with our cameras when your friends explode with joy at the sight of you in your wedding dress. It means we are already snapping off pictures when your best man embarrasses you with a story in his speech. It ensures that you will get unforgettable photos of your dad struggling to contain his tears as he walks you down the aisle.
Our job gets a lot easier, of course, during the portions of your wedding day that are predictably rich with emotions. There are certain events during your marriage celebrations that are pretty much guaranteed to bring out feelings. You do not need to be master of reading emotions to know that a first look with your dad is going to reveal a complex mix of sentiments. For him, there will probably be awe at how beautiful you are. There will undoubtedly be pride written on his face when he realizes how much you have grown up. There will be joy in his heart because of how happy you are. There will even be a twinge of sadness in his eyes when he thinks about how it seems like only yesterday that you were a little girl.
For you, there will be a tiny bit of nervousness as you await his reaction to how you look. That will immediately give way to elation as his face confirms that you are every bit as beautiful as you hoped. Your heart will probably fill with gratitude and love when you think about everything he has done for you. And you might experience that same little drop of sadness as him when you think about the past you share.
Moments like this are very easy to photograph, because we know going in that there are going to be memorable reactions. We cannot know ahead of time what they will be. But we do know they will be there and will be ready to capture them on film.
That is why you will perhaps see us taking extra time to get properly positioned for the moment the bride enters her wedding ceremony. We know that that moment is going to have an impact on her future spouse. There WILL be a reaction. What it is exactly, we cannot say beforehand. It could be a subtle smile or it could be tears streaming down cheeks. The magnitude will depend on personalities, the relationship and whether the two have already seen each other that day. But again, there will be a meaningful moment, and we will preserve it on film forever.
To say that the entrance of this groom’s wife-to-be was a moment probably undersells it. As you can see in this image, the sight of his bride rocked him to the core. He collapsed into tears the instant he saw. The magnitude of his reaction was largely due to him being overwhelmed by her beauty, naturally. But part of it was also a result of the layout of their destination wedding venue. They got married at the gorgeous Now Larimar Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The portion of that lovely location set aside for their vows sat at the end of a long walkway along a series of fountains. That meant that the bride first appeared at a considerable distance from the altar. The groom’s view of her was then partially obscured by the water spouts as she crossed behind them. He then had a long time to soak in the sight of her as she made her way up the aisle. So what started as tears running down his cheek eventually evolved into heaving sobs. Naturally, we snapped off dozens of pictures of him reacting to her entrance. Including this one of him wiping away his tears with his colorful handkerchief.
Telling a great story with a picture is not as simple as your DC wedding photographers just capturing an emotional reaction, though. There needs to be something more for the viewer to really get caught up in it. There needs to be context. And a great way to provide that is to include another person’s reaction to the main subject’s reaction. It gives the frame (and the story) an additional layer and extra depth.
In this case, there is more to the story than just the groom crying. That is the first thing you notice, obviously. But then, as your eyes scan the image looking for context, they come to the other prominent part of the scene: the little boy. The ring bearer appears slightly bemused, as though he is unsure of why the groom shedding tears at that moment. Perhaps he is too young to understand the significance of what is going on. Or maybe he does grasp it, and he is imagining how he will feel on his wedding day. There is no way to know for sure. But either way, this mystery makes the picture much more interesting and the story it tells more compelling.
That element of this photo almost certainly stirs something in anyone who views the image. We do not know for sure, but we suspect it was what caught the attention of the jury of a photo contest sponsored by This is Reportage. That prestigious professional association celebrates something that is very close to our heart: documentary wedding photography. Their awards recognize the very best in this particular field. So you can imagine how much it meant to us that they bestowed that honor on this image.
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