It was last July when Stephanie, content manager from Fujilove, asked me to write a contribution for the fall edition of the magazine.
I’m shooting with Fujifilm gear since 2016 so I was happy and honored to join them. Fujilove collects a lot of resources for Fujifilm’s user, it’s a website, a magazine, an YouTube channel, etc. Fujilove Quarterly is the printed edition of the magazine.
When I’ve received my printed copy at home I was over the Moon! I’m so honored to see my photographs printed between such amazing photographers from all over the world!
This edition has been dedicated to ‘people’ and I wanted to share the human side of my work, beside the gear stuff.
I spent two nights thinking about the inner meaning of what I do and the role of wedding photography in people’s life.
These are my personal thoughts about it and why shooting with Fujifilm has changed the way I see the world.
To get closer.
“It’s so frightening to realize that your happiness depends on whether another person is alive.
It’s all about this. Vulnerability.”
When I think about human connection it always comes to my mind these words from a groom’s speech during a wedding I’ve recently shot. A few words that moved me so much.
Mary is crying with her make up and hair done, a few minutes before to put up her wedding dress. She’s holding a card written by her mom and a little box. Inside she found her grandma’s hearrings who passed away a few months ago. She didn’t know about this priceless gift since today.
Nick is writing his speech in the warm morning sun, it’s too early to dress up so he’s enjoying a little time alone. He starts to cry while he’s writing asking himself if he would be able to read it during the dinner.
I’ve always had issues in accepting that things come to an end in life. This is my weak point, time is my obsession. The fear of losing what I have and, more than everything, the ones that I love have always been part of my life. This is why I am a photographer. Photography is my only opportunity to stop time, to convert moments in memories to enjoy forever.
I believe that everyone has its own definite path, written in the stars. We walk through lines that sometimes cross each other and where they cross something happens, something always sprout. We can call it human connection, that indefinite power that suddenly rises and attract two souls one towards the other. It’s an higher force, difficult to explain in a few words.
I know that first of all love is vulnerability and willingness to put themselves into someone’s else hands. Shooting weddings means to have the opportunity to get in touch with one of the most emotional moment in two people’s life. It’s not usually only about bride and groom but it includes their dearest ones. Every single emotion is amplified and my purpose is to be a discrete presence and act with gentleness and respect for the situation during the day.
As Italian wedding photographer I shoot a lot of destination weddings in a year of couples that come from abroad to get married in this amazing country. During the wedding season it occurs to shoot a couple from Germany on Garda Lake and one from Australia in an ancient villa the next day and maybe an English wedding celebration among the Tuscany hills the upcoming week.
It’s a beautiful opportunity to get in touch with a lot of different cultures, with different rituals and traditions.
Since the beginning of my work as wedding photographer, I’ve soon understood that despite of different cultures love speaks the same language.
Shooting weddings means that you are steadily in contact with love and an its infinite shades. Love between a bride and a groom, love between family members, friendship and siblings. As photographer the biggest challenge for me is to collect moments of affections that will last forever. I’m constantly looking for this undefinite but real feeling, I always challenge myself to catch that unique sense of affection. Spontaneous and candid moments are my favorite.
To be focused on spontaneity is a big challenge if you consider that you are shooting photos of a bride and a groom that you only meet twice, usually during a Skype call.
Let’s try to imagine a typical situation during a newlyweds photosession: I’m shooting one of the most important day of two unknown people, pretending to catch their inner feelings while pointing a camera on them in less than half an hour. That’s pretty awkward!
So I’ve put a lot of energy in understanding how to break down the wall that separate myself from them.
According to my personal experience, communication is the first step. I’m not talking about communication between me and the couple that is really important too but it comes later, I mean the way I communicate myself and my work to the potential clients out there.
My website and social network profiles clearly reflect who I am. Building a portfolio that speaks about you and what you love is the first step because you are going to touch the souls of people that are particulary sensitive about the same beloved things and this is the first strong connection point.
Assuming that I’m going to work with a new couple, the second step is to ask as more information as possible about them and their day. Skype calls, wedding forms with a few but mirate questions, meeting by having a coffee when it’s possible are my favorite ways.
Taking photos of the couple alone is the biggest challenge. To show real connection between bride and groom is my first goal and in order to do that they must to trust me and my work. They must to show themself as they really are, vulnerable.
During the first moments I ask them to get closer, to stay together and don’t look at the camera. Ask to look at each other is the first and infallible trick to distract them from the lens.
In my experience I have understood that, at the beginning, to shoot in silence is not a good idea because if I don’t interact with them they immediately start to feel ridicolous and get nervous.
Talk to them, tell them that it’s ok the way they interact will make them feel comfortable and reassured. I usually repeat the same two or three sentences with gentle voice, as a kind of mantra, with the main to distract them from the camera. The goal is to create an intimate sphere between them where they feel safe and comfortable. Imagine it like a soap bubble that embrace them.
I sometimes work with couples that ask for specific indications in posing as they feel more reassured in being directed. I always give a few but specific directions before starting to shoot, like how to pose in the right way the hands, how to touch each other gently and then let them cuddle as they usually do everyday. To achieve a nice photo it’s important to respect every couple’s way to stay together without force them. Ask them to close their eyes is a good way to make them feel more relaxed.
When I switched to Fujifilm three years ago I immediately noticed that people was more inclined to feel comfortable in front of the cameras because they are more discreet and smaller. I usually turn on the live view mode; it allows them to see my face without the camera in front of it.
Once they start feeling comfortable in each other’s arms I stop to talk at them as they aren’t listen to me anymore. They are in their dimension now, made of whispered words and soft feelings.
This is the best moment to shoot and it’s easy to understand when this moment happens. They forget about the camera and act like they are in another dimension, their dimension.
It sometimes happens that a bride or a groom is particularly shy and it’s difficult to make them feel relaxed in such a short time. So what I do is basically get away from them and shoot from farway for some minutes, asking them to get closer and share a nice memory from the day they met.
How shooting Fujifilm has changed my approach to wedding photography?
First of all, the most important feature for me is the fact that you I’m going to see in the viewfinder a very close preview of the final shot. I’ve always shot in manual mode because I want to have the full control of the exposure so the electronic viewfinder allows me to concentrate only on the creative process, building the frame and looking for the perfect light without losing myself over technical stuff.
Switching to the Fuji system has improved my general approach to the wedding day in a physical way as well, thanks to the lightness of the equipment. I usually shot from 8 to 12 hours on a wedding day in the most strange situations (boats, countryside, lake, venues with a lot of stairs for example) so the lightness of the gear is a very important aspect to consider. But the first thing that convinced me was the incredible quality of the lenses. The first lens I fell in love with was the 56 1,2 that allows me to obtain my favorite dreamy look. I’m not a big fan of wide angles as my kind of photography is based on a natural feel and view so I feel more comfortable with normal lenses. The widest lens that I use is the 18mm. When I’m not busy with the wedding photography season I like to sperimentate with the aim of grow up and evolve myself professionaly, and in order to give my best to my clients. Personal projects allow me to study and show something different about myself.
Instead, my wedding photography approach is more influenced by what is happening that day than on my inner creative process as I prefer to focus myself on the things that bride and groom would love to remember for all their lives, of course with my personal view.
The light wind that gently moves the gown, an hug between mother and daughter, a caress on the cheek, a dance between bride and groom with the music that comes from far away.
The moments-in-between just before something is going to happen. This is what I’m looking for.