When the Photo is Sacred

Elegant Manhattan Elopement from Amber Marlow

I had a couple ask me a great question in our initial meeting last week. They went to a wedding where the photographer was on the dance floor during the reception, clapping his hands loudly and asking for attention to get the photos he wanted.

“It was obnoxious!” they said. “You don’t do that, do you?”

No. Absolutely not. 

There are two kinds of wedding photographers: One says, “I don’t interfere at all.” the other says “I get the photos I want, whenever I want, even if I have to direct to do it."

I fall in the middle by deciding, minute by minute, which is more sacred: the photo, or the moment. (I am not a person of faith, so please take my use of the word "sacred" with a grain of salt!)

The first kiss, the father-daughter dance... These moments are sacred, and my job as a photographer is to use my gear + artistic vision to get the best photo possible. I capture these as they unfold, while remaining almost invisible. I would never interfere with that kind of moment to "get my shot". 

However, picture this: you’re a bride on the morning of your wedding. You’ve been bustling around the hotel room, and now all you have to do is put on your necklace and head out the door. Your mom grabs it and goes to clasp it on for you. This could take fifteen seconds, sure, but it is here, this moment, that this photographer knows the photo is more sacred than the moment. This is the moment where you're thinking about the exciting day ahead of you, but I’m thinking of you fifty years from now, far away from the giddy chaos of bridesmaids getting ready and the rush to go get into the limo. This is the moment I know I'm about to create an heirloom.

Intimate Manhattan Wedding from Amber Marlow

“Wait,” I’ll say. 

I’ll direct you and your mother, or your sister, or your best friend, to stand in the flattering light of the window. As you’re moving into place, I’m signaling a bridesmaid to move the tampon box off the dresser behind you, because awkward.

“Go slowly,” I’ll ask as your mom lays the necklace across your décolletage, “and don’t forget to smile.” (I almost never say “Smile!” during the course of the day, but in this specific moment when people are concentrating on opening those super tiny necklace clasps, they tend to screw up their faces in concentration and look angry! So everyone is thankful for the reminder.) I’ll focus on your mother’s hands, the expressions on your faces, and the final completed moment.

Indian Wedding in NYC by Amber Marlow

It's such a small thing, and then it’s over, a tiny moment on the wedding day full of really big ones, but a cherished photo fifty years from now. I love creating these for my clients. It's directed, sure, but it's also authentic.

Manhattan Elopement from Amber Marlow

So no, I won't clap my hands on the dance floor, or get in the way as you're coming down the aisle as newlyweds. But when I can gently nudge an otherwise rushed moment into something spectacular I will, and this is my great joy.