In the years that we have spent photographing weddings in Northern Germany and the Washington, DC, metro area, we have (unsurprisingly) learned some important lessons about how to best document a wedding celebration on film. Obviously, a lot of the knowledge we have accumulated has been related to the technical aspects of taking pictures — the proper settings for our cameras in different scenarios, the best way to compose an image for maximum effect, certain techniques for creating dazzling visual effects, etc. But perhaps the most significant skill we have developed from taking photographs of marriage celebrations is how to use our cameras to tell the beautiful story that is a wedding day.
A future bride and groom want their wedding photography to be more than just a bunch of pictures, and documenting their nuptials photographically requires so much more than that. The best wedding photographers use their craft to create a narrative that walks the viewer, whether the bride and groom themselves, the parents of the happy couple or any of the assembled wedding guests, through the event and allows him or her to experience the emotions they felt that day all over again. Ideally, a person who was not at the marriage celebration and who has never met the bride and groom should even be able to look at a collection of photos from the wedding and understand what it was like to have witnessed the exchange of vows in person.
Succeeding in this task sounds easy but, in fact, it requires a very skillful approach to wedding photography. Even with two photographers covering a particular matrimonial event, we cannot be everywhere at once. Moreover, our cameras cannot take 360-degree perspectives of every scene. What this means in practical terms is that we have to find ways to tell the story behind many significant moments based on a single image taken from a single angle. That is not impossible, of course. It just takes some artistry.
One of the best ways to do this is to use the reactions of the bride, groom or other wedding participants to explain the emotional impact of whatever it is that is taking place during the marriage celebration at that moment. This particular image is a great example of that. It was taken during a wedding reception speech at the Schlossküche Herrenhausen, an upscale restaurant attached to Hannover’s world-famous Herrenhäuser Gärten. Just before dinner, the bride, groom, maid of honor, best man and father of the bride gave lovely and moving toasts. As with most such speeches, the words evoked laughter and tears from the newlyweds and their wedding guests, and reflected just how much the bride’s and groom’s loved ones cared about them.
The highlight of the toasts, though, was a great slideshow that the wedding guests had put together for the lovely couple that narrated the course of their lives and the story of how they ended up at the altar exchanging their wedding vows. That is when we were able to capture this fantastic picture of the bride and her maid of honor roaring with laughter at the sight of a particularly funny photo.
The reason our image is so effective is that it communicates very clearly and unambiguously what it was like emotionally to be there in the room at that wedding reception in Hannover. You can see that it is a reception and that the bride is witnessing something heartfelt and funny that a loved one had prepared for her. In a single shot and without words, an entire story is told, which is something we always strive to create as wedding photographers.