Don't be in such a hurry to see your pictures
We live in a world which demands instant gratification. Our society is impatient. We don't like to wait for a moment and photography is not immune to this.
Over the past decade, I have seen wedding photographers go from promising to show client's images within 6 weeks, to having galleries online in just a matter of hours. Friends who work in news and photojournalism continue to compete with citizen journalists and their iPhones, sending images on lead stories within seconds of them breaking. Sports photographers are getting pictures of goals, red cards, tries, drop goals, penalties, to the media within seconds of them happening. Cameras come with built-in wifi to allow faster distribution of images. Everything is faster. Faster. FASTER.
Is this a good thing? For our impatient, convenience obsessed society and media, yes. For commercial assignments with deadlines. Absolutely. For the integrity of wedding photography as an art form, or as a source of great, thoughtful, image making - I'm not so sure.
I wonder how many great shots have been missed while photographers were checking the back of the camera?
At the time of his death, the legendary street photographer, Garry Winogrand, left behind thousands of rolls of unexposed and unprinted films. Some estimate that Winogrand didn't see a quarter-of-a-million of his own images. He was well known for waiting many months before looking at his work, and while this may appear to be an antiquated concept for those brought up on the instant gratification of digital capture, there was a logic to his approach which is still valid today. I'll try to explain.
When I started to work with digital cameras in 2004, I kept hearing the term 'chimping'. Originating from the chimpanzee-like "ooh, ooh, ooh" noises that early digital photographers made while looking at their camera LCD, the term is generally used today for the act of looking at the back of the camera to check the images after taking. For someone from a film background, the concept of looking at the camera to see a photograph is still a strange one.
A camera is a tool for us to use. It shouldn't be telling us how good we are as a photographer.
Undoubtedly, the LCD screen is a wonderful tool for checking exposure and camera function, but it can often feel like having a needy child who always wants your attention. I wonder how many great shots have been missed while photographers were checking the back of the camera? The worst thing about the LCD screen is that it encourages the photographer to make judgements about their pictures right after capture. This isn't a good thing. If THE SHOT isn't appearing, where does that leave us mentally? Do we try harder or give up? Does our opinion of the session change? It shouldn't. A camera is a tool for us to use. It shouldn't be telling us how good we are as a photographer.
By the time I was ready to look at the wedding, I was in the right frame of mind to view the pictures objectively.
Totally at odds with today's digital world, Winogrand purposely left a lot of time between taking and viewing his images. He felt that any emotional attachment to a session would affect his choices when selecting images. By separating the editing process from the act of pressing the shutter as much as possible, he saw his images objectively. From my own experiences, I can attest to the power of this concept.
Wedding photography is a field I know very well. With film, it would take at least a week for my negatives to come back from the lab. The emotional detachment had already started. The films would be checked and left for another week. By the time I was ready to look at the wedding, I was in the right frame of mind to view the pictures objectively. The pictures were selected based on story, content, flow, design, and artistry. They weren't chosen on how I was feeling when pressing the shutter. I take the same approach with digital. I switch off the camera screen so that I'm concentrating on what I'm shooting and not what I have shot. When I get back to the office, the images are downloaded and backed up. I then leave them for two weeks before looking at them. Just as I did with film. It helps me to piece the story of the day together objectively and creatively. I can guarantee that if I started the editing process the day after the wedding, the final selection of images would be weaker and less coherent. My mood would affect the choices, as would my recent feelings towards a particular part of the day.
I still don't understand why some wedding photographers are in such a hurry to edit and present their pictures to their clients. I'm sure the client will have enough pictures from their guests immediately after the wedding, so why add to the noise? Take some time, put together a really nice, compact, edit and take the clients back to their day.