Today’s ‘Best Of’ image blog is titled in perhaps a rather confusing way – so I’ll do my best to explain. 

This image, photographed at a recent wedding in Dorset, was taken during the bridal preparations at the bride’s parents house in Briantspuddle, prior to the wedding ceremony at Kingston Maurward House near Dorchester. As with many bridal prep sessions at home, there’s inevitably a feeling of organised chaos in play – after all, domestic houses aren’t designed for so many people getting ready in a short space of time. This beautiful period thatched cottage in Briantspuddle was no exception. 

As a documentary wedding photographer, I have no problem whatsoever with the mess and chaos of bridal prep – it tells its own story (and I just need to be careful where I step!). However, even amongst what can seem like chaos, it’s vital to keep an eye out for meaningful context. That’s why this particular image speaks so much to me.

In this photograph, we join the bridal prep at the very end. The bridesmaid in the foreground is having final touches to her hair. I not only love the look of concentration on both their faces, but also the way she’s holding her dress up.

But here is where the image gets really interesting for me. In the background to the right of the image, on the table sits the wedding party bouquets. Just behind the bouquets on the dresser, sits a framed portrait of the bride’s mother. I love the repetition of the flowers on the wallpaper which echo the bridal bouquets. There is so much context to the shot that tells me more about the story and the place we’re in, far more than just a shot of a bridesmaid having her hair done. 

But that’s not all. On the left of the frame, the photograph leads down a hallway, where at the end, the bride’s sister is about to knock on the door of the room the bride is getting dressed in. This gives the image not only much more visual depth, but additional context for the owner of the photograph; the bride. She’ll look on this image and see what was happening outside the room as she completed her makeup and remember the moment that her sister knocked on her door to ask if she was ready to start dressing. It’s a unique moment in time that has so much more to say than to the casual viewer. 

So you might be asking yourself, why is all that important? Surely, I should look at this image and everything in it should be immediately obvious to me? Well, not necessarily. Remember that wedding images are shot to be meaningful to the bride, groom and their families, not to unknown observers. That’s why context in a shot like this is everything; not just context in terms of what’s included in the image, but context in the moment.  A great wedding photograph is a transportation device for those in it and connected to it, to reconnect them strongly with feelings, experiences and emotions felt at that point in time.

Oh, so you thought a photograph was just a photograph? Then think again 🙂