Wedding photography can be challenging as it’s hard to create space when you’re on a time crunch, rain starts falling during portraits, or the best man suddenly disappears. Plans can change at the drop of a hat…now more than ever. While the technical aspect of taking amazing wedding photos is always my top priority, the trick to capturing the essence of your day lies in my mindset.
Wide Open Spaces: Practicing Wedding Photography Mindfulness
To pass the time in the car, my family and I would listen to motivational stories as we drove from my hometown of Santiago to the capital city in Panama. The trip itself was four hours, but always felt more like a journey. One story was about Monty Roberts, who is a horse trainer. I’m hazy on the details, but there was one part where he talked about wide open spaces.
For some reason, that saying stuck with my family throughout the years.
On the way from city to city, we’d pass a vast horse farm that stretched to the horizon. Like a chorus, we’d say ‘wide open spaces,’ in unison as we drove by the rolling fields. It became our mantra; a reminder that there is so much space to dream, to create, to be, and to breathe! When someone in our family is getting overwhelmed or anxious, we’ll remind each other: Wide open spaces. It will instantly make us take a breath and a pause.
When you’re a wedding photographer, it’s hard to create space when you’re on a time crunch, rain starts falling during portraits, or the best man suddenly disappears.
When you do wedding photography during a pandemic…breathing through a mask and getting the shot through foggy lenses can feel impossible.
And I’ll be honest: There will always be parts of a wedding day that no one can control. Things happen, and plans can change at the drop of a hat…now more than ever. It comes with the wedding photography job. While the technical aspect of taking amazing wedding photos is always my top priority, the trick to capturing the essence of your day lies in my mindset.
I’m so proud of this shot from Kristin and Neil’s wedding day. Gazing at each other like there’s no one else there!
My 2020 couples have been cornered into making decisions no one could have predicted, all of which are completely out of their control. It can feel so claustrophobic…suffocating even. I can’t control every wedding day dilemma, but here’s what I can control: My reaction to it. And in turn…influence yours.
I never want to rush my couples, or transmit any bad energy if there’s no control over a situation. Those are the moments when I apply the wide open spaces mantra. It’s my reminder that I’m there to serve them, and to capture their story as they want it. I can navigate each situation with a calm mood, which translates into clients who are relaxed, which in turn creates beautiful images!
Like Kristin and Neil, who got married last August surrounded by 16 of their nearest and dearest in Highland Park. I had only connected with them four weeks before.
“This is a strange year, to say the least, but we are excited to get married,” Kristin said in one of her first emails to me. Her awareness of reality, and excitement to honor their love story anyway, left an impression on me.
She shared that they were getting married in a ‘simple and sweet’ ceremony, and we discussed a timeline–yes, you always need a timeline, even for tiny weddings!–and planned for a location to meet and take some portraits in the park.
Kristin and Neil opted for a self uniting ceremony under a tree in Highland Park, no officiant needed! It was so heartfelt, and very intimate.
This was my first wedding in many months, and I started my preparation ritual the day before. I sat down to clean all my gear, and got all the memory cards and batteries ready. It felt so good to have that routine again!
When I woke up on Kristin and Neil’s wedding day, I was so happy! Even though this was only a few hours of wedding photography (the big weddings typically take up 8-10 hours of shooting), I treated it just the same: I did my routine of eating a good breakfast, making sure my styling stuff and equipment was packed up and ready, and filled up my gas tank.
Driving to our meeting spot at Highland Park felt amazing. I cannot really describe the excitement of stepping into a day of happiness in the middle of all the uncertainty. I saw Kristin at our spot in the park, and she smiled so big! We started chatting right away and it felt like we knew each other from before.
This was the first photo of Kristin from the day. She was easy to spot from my car in that amazing dress!
The entire day felt so personal, and so intentional. Kristin wore a breathtaking golden gown, accessorizing it with a friend’s statement earrings. The couple packed a canvas tote for each guest filled with local goodies, plus a burrito for dinner, and cookies for dessert.
Look at these totes! They were full of everything guests needed for a picnic. All of their vendors were local, which I loved.
Neil was in charge of the flowers, and designed wild, effortless arrangements with Gold Dust Floral. The best man noted how Kristin and Neil managed to bring happiness to everyone by making them part of their day. And that even in a world of chaos, they still had so much love.
After eight months without shooting a wedding, this day brought the magic back to my camera.
After their vows, we all went to the park pavilion to enjoy the picnic reception. While people were mingling, I noticed Neil was standing off to the side, just soaking in the scene. Kristin saw him too, and she made her way toward him.
I couldn’t hear what they spoke about…I was too far away, but grabbed my camera, adjusting the settings in an instant and fumbled to get them in focus quickly, ignoring the trash can in frame. It wasn’t the most perfect image from a technical perspective, but if I waited any longer, I’d miss it.
Wide Open Spaces
They hugged. My finger hit the shutter. This fleeting moment lasted all of one second, but is frozen for them in an image.
For me, creating images for my clients lies in those little imperfect and unplanned moments of your day; I’m holding that feeling of love between and around you for years to come. When you look back at your wedding photos, all of the sounds, smells, and emotions will come back, and even though you can’t see me, I’m part of that memory. I always want it to be a happy one.
This is when Levana made us laugh so hard! I’m tweaking my camera settings.
Remember when Levana had me dip you a few times? I’m getting her angle just right.
This is the moment I forgot anyone existed except for us. I got the shot.
I can’t create a perfectly controlled wedding environment but I can create those wide, open spaces for you to feel taken care of, relaxed, and above all: Loved.
Wedding Day Team
Location: Highland Park / Dress: Rosetta Getty / Neil’s ring: Studebaker Metals Kristin ring: from her grandma, adjusted by Skelton Jewelry (Sam) / Cake: Butterwood Bakery / Caterer: B52 Cafe / Totes: Garbella / Florals: Gold Dust Florals / Photography: Levana Melamed