Weddings are always interesting to photograph. Whether you find yourself doing them on a weekly basis and as a regular source, if not only source, of income. Or whether, like me, you do them an occasional job in-between other commitments or as a favour to friends. To date, the weddings I've shot have been either Christian or non-denomination. This was my first Jewish wedding and was definitely the most chaotic wedding I've shot to date.
To start with, there is a pre-ceremony where the groom is led to a house/room where his bride is presented to him and the two mothers lift the bride's veil to prove that the woman that the groom will be marrying is indeed the person he is expecting to wed (in the old testament readers will remember the story of Rachel).
From there the wedding party moves abruptly to the ceremony site itself. Of course this can all be made easier if the various rites are all within the same area. Of course, my friends Alon and Cath had their various rites in completely different locations. So the race was on to constantly try and be at the right place at the right time. This is where having either a partner or assistant photographer is essential. My very capable wife joins me for these occasions allowing us to be in two places at once, thank goodness.
The wedding ceremony itself is difficult from a photographic point of view! A central element of the Jewish wedding is the chuppah, a canopy held above the wedding couple that signifies the house they are making together. The chuppa is surrounded by the groomsmen...all 6 of them. The groomsmen are meant to protect the wedding couple from any potential danger, so essentially shield the two from anything outside the chuppa. As the chuppa is not exactly big, this means that the wedding couple are all but screened from the view of the onlookers, and of course the photographers.
There's a lot of action that takes place inside the chuppa so it becomes important to try and elbow in to try and get some of the important aspects of the ceremony (the bride circling the groom, drinking from the chalice, exchanging of vows and rings, breaking the glass and of course the all-important kiss). Always remember to speak to the rabbi or priest bere the ceremony about what you are wanting to do. Some religious leaders don't like flashes going off for instance. Be polite. It's a wedding. You are not the papparazzi!
Then there's the party! Like all good religions coming historically from the Mediterranean and surrounds the party is big! I found the Jewish festivities akin (this is a layman talking of course) to the Greek weddings that I've attended. Lots of dancing and lots of noise. Here the trick is not to use camera settings that freeze the action. Dragging the shutter works particularly well as the photographer needs to convey an impression of speed, movement and dance. Direct flash also has the potential to kill and flatten any soft coloured light, rendering the image cold and sterile. Pan with the action while dragging the shutter and bounce the flash off anything and the results will look great!