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This is Storytelling: ‘Life vs Dr Who’ by David Scholes

It’s an absolute pleasure today to have David Scholes on the site, taking us behind the scenes of his recent Reportage Story Award. Just the top 4% of submissions were awarded by our Collection One judges; to obtain a Reportage Story Award means the photographer has captured lots of different moments to an incredibly high standard, representing the very best storytelling in the business (which is always a massive goal for wedding photographers).

David shares fantastic insights into focusing on moments and feelings rather than technical things, framing and composition tips, shooting close and low, anticipation and layering, his OCF set up for the evening, and much more. It’s fascinating to hear in-depth analysis about so much from a wedding – thanks so much, David!

When picking 20 images to submit for the story award, I chose Heather and Ben’s wedding for a few reasons. It had all the great ingredients for a great wedding:

Two great farming families both on the same level as each other. A popular couple with loads of really great friends – they literally know everyone, and everyone loves them! Stunning church in a stunning village, a sound vicar who tells jokes and compares life to Dr Who, great weather and a great marquee.

All those things though aren’t the wedding, they just helped me get more involved and worry less about the technical stuff and more on the feelings and moments during the day – what was going on.

Before the day itself Heather had told me about the sad loss of Ben’s younger sister recently. I had that in the back of my mind the whole day – despite it being one of the most fun, joyful weddings I’ve been to, it was good to be aware, and look for any moments I could capture that show she’s still in their thoughts. For me that love and the fun were the theme of this wedding so I tried to choose images that showed this the best while still fitting loosely into the ‘template’ of a wedding to help with the flow.

They told me their plans, gave me beers while we chatted, we had banter and a laugh – I knew it was going to be great. Only trouble was, everything they said was geared towards nice weather, and this is England…worse still, the north west of England…WORSE STILL, The Ribble valley (sometimes dubbed dribble valley)

As it happens the weather was amazing! I actually overheard Heather say it must have been Ben’s sister looking down as it was the only nice day sat in two weeks of rain.

Thoughts before and during the wedding… You can’t not love these two, I felt a great connection with them and their family & friends so I felt quite free to wander around, get involved, have fun, show fun, get close, and not feel restricted by the traditions of the day. (although still did family photos, set up confetti and couple shots – which were loads of fun but for another site).

So about some of the images…

The prep shots were quite difficult, not just due to racing down country lanes between farms that were 20 mins apart, but mainly because in my experience farm houses can be quite dark, and have lots of stuff in them. There was pockets of nice light, but of course, no one was in the good light and I didn’t want to be the guy who walks in and starts changing the scene and moving people around. When Heather had a last check in the mirror she was facing a window so whilst crouched behind her doing the Standard ‘fastening the dress’ shot I waited down there until there was a gap between her arm to catch her reflection. I shot loads until I caught a shot I was happy with which had the ‘frame within a frame’ that I like at the moment.

One of my favourite shots of the day was just after the church ceremony. I always find this a great time of day for capturing guest expressions and reactions. If I ever see grandparents here I always run in to try and capture a nice, real moment too. Without sounding morbid – you never know how long people are going to be around, and often older people don’t stay for the whole wedding and go after the ceremony, so when I saw Heather’s Gran coming I got into position, close and low. I got an initial shot of the kiss but then she went for a hug and I kept firing, then Ben went to give his mate a high five over the top so I dropped lower still to fit in frame and ran off hoping it was in focus!

I always want to show the fun that weddings are, and this one was seriously fun. I was about to go and see what was going on at the bar in the marquee – figured there might be some people I hadn’t captured but then I saw a game of rounders going on – I’m in. I love rounders, so went and got involved with that. It was such a great laugh, again just getting up close with the batting, in line with those running once they’ve hit the ball. First base was a bit of a danger zone, and whoever guarded that usually got run over by a beer fuelled bloke…and then a dog who was also after the ball. I always had an eye there trying to anticipate something. I tried to layer it with the reactions of the guy on second base when the crash happened in the 3rd image. I wish his feet hadn’t cut the line where the cars are but I couldn’t plan that.

Aware of the loss of Ben’s sister, I wanted to somehow capture her spirit shown through the love for her. I don’t want that to sound pretentious, but I knew there would be moments, especially during the speeches where she would be thought of and I wanted to capture it for them, through an expression or holding of hands or something, so I generally stuck close to the top table for the speeches, picking my moments carefully to move out for a wide shot.

There was one shot here of someone reaching around the back of Ben’s father to hold his mothers hand when she was mentioned in the FOB speech, and another when Heather squeezed and kissed Ben’s hand during the groom speech. I got a shot earlier in the day when the guys were getting ready of Ben practising his speech on a chair with Individual family photos on the wall behind and and I focused on Louise. Perhaps slightly obvious – I don’t think I delivered it, but it was my thought process through the day, attempting to somehow include her.

One of the things they did tell me about before the big day, was the first dance. Dirty dancing. And yes, they’re doing the lift. I had no idea where on the dance floor this would take place and didn’t want to give them extra to think about by suggesting anything, so I set up 4 ocf in all corners and figured Heather would probably get lifted so she was facing or parallel to the guests. Ben had had a few beers by this point which is why there are 3 other groomsmen lifting heras well. I could see them gathering which is how I knew the moment was coming as obviously I have never seen the film before…ever…;-) I wish I had got a bit closer for more impact and slightly lower to get more of the guys in.

There was a very brief slight dip in dance floor action so thought I’d take the lights out for a nighttime portrait. Just as I had it ready I heard screams followed by that Full Monty track. I ran in just in time to get Ben’s shirt being ripped open by Heather. Had to crank the ISO up for this one and tried to frame it so I could also see guest reactions.

So that’s it really. Hopefully it made sense, wasn’t too waffly, maybe even interesting. The main things I wanted to show were the story between two great families and their friends, the love and bonds, but in a fun way – as they were really fun!

Thanks so much, David, for sharing your insights with us! You can see more of David’s work on his website, or here on his This is Reportage profile.

If you found this post interesting, we have lots of other ‘This is How…’ articles by our TiR members over here.

Aga Tomaszek

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