wedding photography – those key moments

wedding photography – looking for those key moments

Wedding photography has become more modern in style over the past decade or so. Instead of overly posed images, the general trend is now more of a story-telling (or photo-journalistic) style. It’s now as important to capture the day’s events as it unfolds, as it is to get beautiful portraits of the couple and families.  As photographers we’re now much more focused on the moments and the gestures that tell the story.

With this intent, I really try and observe the day as closely as I can, capturing what I hope are the key moments. With experience, this anticipation and timing becomes second nature. (And as an aside, you can’t do this if you are constantly checking your camera’s preview.)

What we can’t always foresee, is the specific value that some photographs might hold …


For a while now, this specific image is one that I’ve been wanting to share:

As Sofie and Michael walked down the aisle at the end of their wedding ceremony, Michael leaned over to touch his grandmother’s hand as she congratulated them. (He then leaned in for a kiss.) I was waiting for any kind of response by the couple , since the ceremony is one of those times where every gesture has meaning …. and there is the photograph.

A month after the wedding, I received an email from Sofie, regarding their grandmother … and explaining why this specific photograph had such meaning for them:

Grandma’s wish was to see all 11 grand-children to marry before she died. Michael was the 11th, the last one to get married. (May 7th, 2011). Every time she was in the hospital she always said she’s not going anywhere until Michael is married. After she witnessed all 11 grandkids getting married she was at peace – unfortunately she passed exactly 1 month after our wedding day. She was like the “god father (mother)” of the family. Everyone even called her the BOSS. Her goal was to keep her huge family together! Her number one priority in life was Family. She will be missed by her enormous and still growing family. RIP grandma Licini.

This letter for me illustrated again the importance and value of wedding photography.

I didn’t know at the time the relationship or the story of the grandmother, but I do know that weddings are based on relationships. To truly be successful, to truly have value to our work, we need to understand this fact and always be ready to properly cover the moments – some of them as fleeting as this tender moment between a grandmother and her 11th grandchild.

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12 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1 says

    Thank you Neil for capturing so many beautiful moments of my cousin’s wedding. Grandma was sick during her last few years, but we knew there was no way she would pass before Michael got married. This moment you captured was one of many that we all cherish. It happened so quick and many of us did not see it, but you did. On behalf the 11 grandchildren and 27 grandchildren – thank you!

  2. 2 says

    Thanks for sharing this story and the photograph, I too make it a conscious effort to get all the key family members in the photos as the day unfolds and some of the best images are the ones that are natural when people don’t know they are being photographed or when they are showing true feelings towards their loved ones. It is always in the back of my mind that a photograph taken could be the very last one ever shot of a person, I experienced being that photographer about 20 years ago. I will never forget how important that image was to the family afterwards, it was a defining moment for me as a photographer.

  3. 3 says

    It’s a beautiful story and great capture. Do u have any others of this poignant moment, where her arm and bouquet are not in the air? I am just wondering why she is holding the bouquet as she is.

  4. 4 says

    Jennifer … Sofie, the bride had her hand up triumphantly, and Michael slightly held back to greet his grandmother – hence the arm up-high gesture. This photo caught everything mid-movement.

  5. 5Ups says

    Hi Neil,
    Goodness, how can you nail the skin tone every time? Her skin tone is the same as mine but it looks like she has pink under tone. In this picture,
    1. did you meter and get the correct exposure off of her dress, correct?
    2. When you do the test shot, did you zoom in to fill (nearly fill) the frame when you meter the ambient light?
    3. Did you use flash at all?

    I know their are a lot of questions, but I hope you don’t mind. I’ve been volunteering taking pictures, and I want to do my best.

    Thank you in advance.

  6. 7Mary-Claire says

    I love moments like this in wedding photos. My favorite photos from my own wedding 18 years ago are the ones taken by my siblings and friends, because they capture the feelings experienced at the time. Our professional photographer did all the standard traditional shots (AKA boring).

  7. 8Anthony says

    Great post Neil,

    this is exactly how i like to photograph people, in the moment, where people are unaware that there is even a photographer there. it really does tell the storey better than just the (as the previous comment said) boring traditional shots.

    The boring traditional shots still have their place for sure but i love capturing real life not just fairy tale images.

    Keep up the great work and hope to see the post about your pending Australian workshops soon.

    best regards


  8. 10Vernon smith says

    I knew the point you were making before you said it. I had a similar situation where I candidly captured a fathers 3 sons together that hadnt been seen in years. This later brought him to tears. I keep the same chain of thought when I capture weddings. I don’t know anyone, or what significance they are to one another, and to capture as many of them I can has always been a smart decisions as well as a blessing to my clients.

  9. 11Dustin says

    This story is very inspirational, emotional, and memorable all in one. I love the spotting those moments, they provide great memories for all involved.

    Neil I have followed your blog for sometime now and just wanted to thank you for all the great posts.

  10. 12Jessy Plames says

    Love the picture and the story behind it. When I got married almost a decade ago, I thought our wedding photographer was kind of expensive. The results were great though. Years later as I got serious about photography myself, I go back to the wedding album regularly to appreciate all the skill involved in getting the shots that he did. I learn new things from it just by analyzing them, where he must have been standing, where the light was coming from, etc. It was worth more than we paid. Needless to say I have a tremendous respect for the profession.

    On a similar note, I remember another wedding I went where the couple had a friend shoot their wedding. She certainly had a nice 5D mark II with a 50mm f/1.2. The only other camera she had was a polaroid, which was a cute idea. The big problem (one of many) is that with those focal lengths she was like a bull in a China shop. Always jamming way too close to every moment, you ALWAYS knew where she was. She looked exhausted all the time, even at the start. I really felt bad for her that she was pressed into that situation. Well, I don’t know who asked who. She could have been the one who talked them into it. One day I’ll ask about it when there is enough distance.

    On the other hand, I barely knew where my wedding photographer was. The only time I saw him was when he set up the formal shots. If I knew they were going with a friend, I would have gladly chipped in for a pro.

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