We were delighted to win our 5th ‘This Is Reportage award’ recently. We captured this moment at Diana and Robert’s Victoria Hall wedding in Yorkshire, back in 2019. It was a moment we definitely were not prepared for. A ‘tiny hands high five’ is certainly not what any wedding photographer is expecting! Below, our photographer Patrick explains how he captured the moment. He also discusses how the image changed in the edit to the point of winning a much coveted This Is Reportage Award.
A unique wedding day
Every celebration we photograph is different and Diana and Rob’s wedding was truly unique. During the ceremony there were magic tricks, an appearance from a cut-out of the actor Terry Crewes and then out of nowhere there was the tiny hands high fives! The day was fun, relaxed and above all, very funny; every part of the wedding an extension of Diana and Rob’s infectious personalities.
A tiny hands high five
The tiny hand high fives just happened during the ceremony. I had no advance warning and no time to think about how to shoot it best; another second and I would have missed it. It was a case of quickly taking a central position and pressing the shutter. Click and the moment was gone. I shot it with a wide lens to cover everything within the moment as it passed. Also, the wide lens captured the context of the wedding party, with the couple in the centre. A wedding photographer would say this image was captured ‘safely’. Nothing is missed: the moment is captured for the couple and their guests. However, the safety-first approach tends not to highlight the action or provide the most creative of compositions. The original image, with the original crop, is below.
Re framing the image
I was more than happy with the original image and the above version is how it was delivered to Diana and Rob. It’s a great image for the couple – smiling, happy faces showing a complete scene. However, sometimes when one returns to old work you see it anew and with fresh eyes. When I revisited this image recently, I found my eye darting around the frame, not settling on what really makes the image different: the high five with the additional tiny, plastic hands. So what to do? In instances like this look carefully at what is in the frame, and home in on the essentials. I cropped – and then cropped some more – into close up and cut away the background. I even cut away most of the bride and groom figures. Then I moved the focal point off centre, trying it on one side, then to the other, until I settled. The dark of Rob’s suit is now a large, abstract shape filling almost a third of the frame, enlivened by the row of buttons on the sleeve. Diana is now out of shot except for her arm and hand. With this I am really pushing the boundaries, inwards. There is just enough in the image to say: ‘bride and groom’. What I wanted though was just essential action: two tiny hands meeting in an allegory of joy and love: “we’ve done it!” In all, I crop the photograph to leave four hands. Diana’s, Rob’s and two tiny hands – this is the complete image.
Colour or black and white
Our eyes communicate so much information – they are trained to see colour. And sometimes, of course, colour is the right choice for an image. But sometimes removing all colour to reveal monochrome just works better. There’s no rule: it is an aesthetic judgement. With every image, I think: ‘does the colour help or hinder in this case?’ Colour can be another layer of visual ‘information’ and can at times distract from a composition. Its removal can allow the viewer to solely concentrate on the compositional devices and structure rather than colours. Cropping so tightly took away the flashes of blue from the original image. So in this instance I decided on black and white, feeling this really enhanced the composition and relayed the moment in the most powerful way. We are left with an entirely different image compared with the one that I shot, edited and initially presented to Diana and Rob.
Going back to re edit old photographs
Is it OK for a documentary photographer to work like this? Is it ok to recrop and reframe images? I think so. Many of my favourite artists and photographers have gone back over old work. Francis Bacon (painting), Ansel Adams (photography) and Rembrandt (etching) went back to their favourite work, to create a new take on it. Now, I’m not comparing myself to great artists like Bacon or Adams, let alone Rembrandt. Though to be honest, I’m not sure you’d want them as your wedding image-maker. Bacon’s take on a ‘Cutting the Cake’ moment makes the mind boggle; Adams would take all day to take one image and Rembrandt a lifetime. However, I think it is important to take on board the notion that work can always be looked at from a different angle. Adams reprinted many of his most iconic images in his later years. Burning in the skies (to complete black in some areas), upping the contrast, creating whole new works from the same 120mm negatives. I like going back to past work, considering new ways to look at how to best exhibit moments I’ve captured. It’s not the moments that are changed, just the way they are presented.
The photographic equipment used when making the image
I shot the image with a Nikon D850 camera and Nikon 28mm 1.4 lens. This is my favourite camera (and I own quite a few Nikons to choose from) and my favourite lens. I love the 28mm focal length for its versatility. It’s wide enough to be truly considered a ‘wide’ lens – the 35mm I find too restrictive. But, unlike the 24mm, it does not significantly distort images. So, the 28mm lens is my lens of choice for reportage moments. However, of course, in the end I’ve cropped this particular image to the extent that it is no longer a 28mm shot. It’s now a telephoto. But the camera with my 28mm on will 90% of the time be the camera I turn to for reportage moments as it enables the recording of the context that surrounds the moment. Sometimes though, by removing the context, the image becomes all the stronger. I have since sent the newly cropped image to Diana and Rob and I am happy to say they love it. I think it really brings out the humour of the moment and I’m so pleased it seemed to strike a chord with the TiR awards judges. You can see the new, award winning cropped image (right) compared to the original (left) below.
Why a ‘This Is Reportage’ award means so much
‘This Is Reportage’ (TiR) is an online community – started by the wedding photographer Alan Law – and holds bi-monthly awards. Over ten thousand images are entered in every round of awards and only a small number win. They are, along with awards from ‘Fearless Photographers‘, among the most prestigious awards a wedding photographer can win, which is why they are so prized. For us at M and G Wedding Photography a TiR award is a vindication of our core values as documentary photographers, our commitment to skill and aesthetic expression and our love for working with people. Quite simply, we treasure them.
Thank you to the judges
A huge thank you to ‘This Is Reportage’ award judges for picking this image for an award: Simon Leclercq, Geeshan Bandara, Laura Ranftler, Erum Rizvi and Gareth Lima Conlon.
Award winning wedding photography
Booking M and G Wedding Photography for your big day
We book up quickly every year and are now completely full for 2021. If you are getting married in 2022 onwards though, we would love to hear from you. We photograph weddings all over the UK and abroad. So wherever you are planning your wedding celebrations – and however big or small – it would be great to hear more about your plans. Get in touch here to check our availability for your day.