by Dennis Orchard Published 01/10/2011
"I'll be showing a lot of my work from weddings in the UK, Europe and America," he says, "and I'll be discussing the specific qualities and skills needed to take good PJ images rather than random snaps.
"I'll be coming from the standpoint of someone who doesn't consider himself to be a pure wedding photojournalist. I approach my weddings from the point of view of telling the story of the day and I'll do this not by just providing the couple with a series of posed B&G shots but by supporting these shots with PJ, candid, group and posed images. I think it's important for any photographer who considers themselves to be professional to have a good understanding and appreciation of all of these photographic skills. My understanding of good PJ comes from judging PJ internationally in America, Europe, Asia and the UK.
"PJ is one of the most difficult things for the wedding photographer to do well. It's like letting go of the handlebars while riding your bicycle! You may have one hundred things going around in your head such as the shots that need to be taken, the timings you have to keep to and the groups you have to arrange, but all those things have to be put to one side and you'll need to 'let go' during the wedding and just stand back and observe. This kind of approach is extremely difficult to master and some photographers are so wrapped up in 'staging' the wedding that they never see the beauty of the images that unfold naturally before them at all weddings. So yes, PJ is difficult to do well."
From Dennis' point of view, another virtue of being on top of your photojournalist style is that it helps to set you apart from the 'Uncle Bobs' of this world. "Uncle Bob takes PJ all the time," he says. "He never communicates with the bride and groom, he snatches a picture without posing, but unless he is very good at observing (and his camera focuses and fires without hesitation), he will nearly always miss the shot.
"What differentiates a pro PJ shooter from Bob is the ability to capture the emotion of the moment. This requires observation, anticipation and knowing how to remove all those delays that prevent the shutter firing immediately when you depress the shutter. I can best explain this with the image with which I gained the SWPP wedding photographer of the year title in 2006. My bride was late for the church and although I normally shoot a few posed images by the car, she didn't want to delay. In the end I just said 'Run Brenda' and she hotfooted to the front of the church with me running backwards with a 70-200mm IS lens. This is the kind of PJ that differentiates you from the crowd.
"Bad PJ has no story, and is confused by having no one point of interest or is simply a set up picture created by photographer intervention. I'm not averse to setting up situations in my work and making them look 'natural' but this is not PJ and these images should never be entered into PJ competitions.
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