A while back as I was going around the reception during a wedding somewhere in West Cork, there was a young lad, probably about eight or nine, looking really dapper in his cool suit and dickie bow. He seemed to be a bit of a character, and each time I passed him he’d stop what he was doing and would put on this forced smile, he stopped the fun stuff and put his focus on the photographer, actually this seemed to be par for the course for the duration of the day. Clearly this is what he was told to do at the wedding, and I suppose this is something that happens quite a bit. Stare at the camera and put on a cheesy forced smile, which I wish would just not be the case, and let’s face it, they really do not want to do this but have been told to do so.
As I always stress as a documentary wedding photographer, there should be no special treatment for the bloke with the camera paid to take pictures. Just allowing the young ones to be themselves is always quite fun and can make for some terrific images. When instructed to “look at the cameraman (yuck!) and smile” I get nothing but the same face over and over and they become conscious of this, they forget their train of thought and lose that quizzical expression which to me is sheer magic, even if they look bored they just look bored, which to me is wonderful, and quite often a parent will go “that’s my son / daughter!”. It reveals so much more than the cheesy smile, they get a kick out of it, the image becomes timeless, the expression in it priceless.
Even if I inform the parent (which I hate having to do and should not have to do) that it is not necessary for them to encourage their child to stare at the photographer, I often find I’m talking to myself for some reason. Yet there’s always a way to find the image and scene that works best and not just for me but for the couple themselves as I think they’d much prefer a quirky picture of their niece or nephew or son or daughter etc for example doing stuff that they feel sums them up and that is what I want to capture too, and it always makes for a more interesting picture. Most of all it fits seamlessly with my way of photographing the wedding, but best of all allowing the kids to have the freedom to be who they are gives the big kids, the adults, something to smile about too.