No one told me about ‘The Fear’ when one is the primary photographer.

The Fear that an essential piece of gear will be forgotten or break during the shoot. The Fear that you’ll be late.

The Fear that you’ll miss The Kiss. The Fear of managing all the group photos in too little time.

These fears that give you nightmares, because you only have one chance to get it right.

Some fears can be lessened through systems and planning. You know the drill: charge your batteries, clear your cards, pack your bags, figure out directions, arrive early, scope the scene. Other fears can be relieved by pre-visualizing the day. Read the schedule, close your eyes, and mentally walk through every part of the day.

My greatest fear, though, is the one closest to my purpose. How can I capture the depth of experience of a bride and groom without distracting from that experience?

A wedding can feel like a stage-managed production, but each one is a profound, unpredictable, and unique event. That’s why no formulaic shot list can ever guide you to the whole story.

So, how do you push beyond the shot list and capture the arc of the day, complete with the beautifully planned details and the equally beautiful yet unscripted moments? How do you tell the story with sensitivity to the complexity of the day?

I’m still figuring it out, but I’ll share with you two quotes that have guided me.

“The camera is an invitation to experience intimacy.” — Rachel LaCour

“If you’re pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” — Robert Capa

These ideas may seem simple, but until I was invited to document a small civil ceremony, I didn’t realize how important they were to creating resonant images with emotional depth. Everyone – including the bride and groom – was standing in a circle. The bride’s father had recently passed away, and a sense of loss hung in the air. The groom’s parents, far away in India, joined via Skype and iPhone. The ceremony speeches moved the bride, groom, and guests to tears.

I was faced with a choice – I could stand on the outside of the circle and look in, or I could step into the circle and join the bride and groom in their experience. I hesitated. I feared that my presence would be a distraction, but feared more that I would not be able to convey the truth of what this couple was feeling. I took a deep breath, recommitted to my purpose, and stepped into the circle.

Do you know what happened? The bride and groom kept crying. I kept quietly taking pictures. And no one spared me a glance.

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I used my fear of not achieving my purpose to propel me into the circle. It was the only way I was going to make the images that would enable my clients to re-experience what they felt on their wedding day. So now I fear ‘The Fear’ a little less, and appreciate it a little more.

Our clients invite us to make pictures of their momentous day, but are we accepting the invitation and stepping into their circle?

About Kelly Benvenuto

Kelly BenvenutoI grew up in the middle of nowhere NY, went to college in the middle of nowhere Maine, took my first job at a non-profit in DC, traveled all over the Middle East, and now call the Boston area home. I love: yoga, cooking, lazy days reading with a cup of tea, date nights with my husband, peanut butter, chocolate, fruit so ripe it stains your fingers and drips down your arms, pretty dresses, surprises, nerds and do-gooders, floating under blue skies, laughing til my stomach hurts, going to museums, listening to NPR, dinner with friends, time with family, getting the shot. I want: to document the intimate, joyful, silly and important moments that make up wedding days.

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