Issue 40

The Secret Life Of A Wedding Photographer

By Jo Cush

I love weddings. We've all heard the saying always a bridesmaid, never a bride. In my case the saying goes, always a wedding photographer, never a guest. I have been to countless weddings, but only a handful have I gone as a guest to enjoy the celebration, eat, drink, mingle and dance the night away. Being a wedding photographer, my diary is full months, sometimes years in advance, so unless I have extremely organised friends and family, or they get married in the dead of winter, chances are, when they are saying I do, I will be attending someone’s else’s wedding, as a photographer.

Instead of waking up excited, thinking about which dress to wear and how to do my hair, taste buds tingling for the champagne, and blister plasters packed in my purse to enable me to dance the night away in stilettoes that will inevitably give way to bare feet, I wake up with my mind going a million miles a minute over a check list in my head. “Camera, batteries, charger, cards, tripod, flash... check. GPS, check, full petrol tank, I forgot to fill up, that means I have to leave ten minutes early, oh, what's the name of the bride's brother again?”

Being a wedding photographer is a challenging job with a lot of responsibility that demands a lot of preparation. But with that responsibility comes the amazing satisfaction of capturing some of the greatest moments in a couples’ life. There is no other job that sucks you deep into the heart of a family, into someone’s home to view their relationships and interactions with each other as a complete stranger. It is a surreal feeling to be a fly on the wall in someone’s life on a day that is filled with such intensity and emotion. As a documentary photographer, I simply stand back, observe and capture. There is no control over capturing the moment. I take them as they come.

Photographing weddings is like people watching, only on steroids. There is a lot going on on a wedding day, a lot of interactions, a lot of different bonds, subtle gestures, some tense moments, nerves, happiness, sometimes sadness and as a photographer you become a keen observer. Only instead of people watching while sitting at a café and watching the world go by, you get to actually photograph these moments, moments that will be gone in a split second but are such keystones in someone’s life. You have to be on your game, be aware of everyone around you, know who is who, who is where, and tune into a sixth sense of “what will happen next” and how you want to capture it, who is the focus of your shot and how can I best tell the story of what is happening at this very moment, and the next moment and the next. On a wedding day the mind of wedding a photographer never stops. For eight, ten, twelve hours straight, my mind is on sensory overload and my body is running on empty, stuffing a cereal bar down to keep me going.

Thankfully the days of losing sleep before a wedding filled with anxiety of “what if I mess up” are long behind me. But the creative drive in me always gets my heart rate up to nail the shot, capture the moment in the most perfectly timed way and to know where to be at the exact moment to get the shot, without interfering in any way. All while the guests are kicking back and having a great and stress-free Saturday out with their friends. Yes, sometimes I get a little envious and think, I would love to be a guest at this wedding, but I am fortunate that the majority of my clients are people that I would genuinely consider as my kind of people. People who I gel with and have a laugh with, and so while I am there to work, I always have a good time doing it. I have been whisked onto the dance floor by the father of the bride and have joined in on some wedding beach games, but only for a moment or two before it's back to business.

Every one experiences a “wedding hangover”. But for me I am not nursing my head. Photographing for nine hours, sometimes up to fourteen hours, straight, with very little food and in a constant state of dehydration – and let’s face it, we can’t risk missing a moment to go to the bathroom – is physically demanding on your body. I roll out of bed on a Sunday morning, quads aching from the weird and wonderful squat positions I get myself into on the wedding day, feet swollen, hand in a constant “claw” shape (arthritis is inevitable), shoulders burning from the aftermath of carrying my bags and having one camera on each shoulder all day. And then you remember you are getting up to do it all over again. But just like the hair of the dog, once you take your first few photos, you forget all the pain and are ready to start again.







Jo Cush is a Melbourne-based photographer who loves to travel outside her comfort zone with camera in hand, and document any story ready to be told.
















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