Unscripted Wedding Photography | PHOTO STORY #5

Unscripted Wedding Photography —The story behind this spontaneous beach wedding moment.

Storytelling is an amusing pleasure and challenging honor.

Taking a picture that tells a story is like a fun, creative game. And I say game because, like everything in life, if you do not manage to enjoy the process, it will probably become a routine activity. And worse still, an ordinary one. That is why I also consider it a true honor. I feel very fortunate to be a happy storyteller, and I thank the people who make my passion my profession.

However, along with the blessing comes the challenge. I genuinely believe each story is absolutely different, unique, and unrepeatable. The most authentic and real moments of life simply cannot be repeated or duplicated. No matter how hard you try, authenticity is neither rehearsed nor manufactured; it just happens.

So when you tell a story, there are no excuses.

You cannot hide yourself arguing that "the light is not adequate" or any other condition that you consider prohibitive, and evidently neither in the lack of inspiration. When you value the responsibility involved, you adjust to whatever life throws at you. Doing your best to tell the story in the most meaningful and honest way by making a visual statement.

When I think of a photograph that I have taken, it always comes to my mind all the details and happenings that took place so a particular photo could exist. We photographers are used to saying that if we need to "explain" an image, then we have failed in our purpose of telling a story. A picture is stated to say more than a thousand words. For this, the entire audience should be able to understand it immediately: the message must be direct and effective.

Imagine taking a picture of a child at the exact moment he sees a disgusting insect. The bug causes him something, a sincere, natural, and immediate reaction, a change in his emotional state. An emotion. Now imagine that instead of an insect, it is a hundred dollar bill, his response and excitement would be completely different, right? We can add information in the description of a photograph, talk about the date and place it was taken. We can write the most beautiful and captivating story, with all the hashtags and keywords you want. But ultimately, the image should always be revealing on its own. Allowing to understand in an instant what it is about (subject and context), and what was the photographer's purpose.

Wedding photography is an excellent example of this. The simple fact of photographing two people dressed in elegant wedding attire, no matter how handsome they look, doesn't really tell any story. It could well be two models posing to promote a wedding gown brand. It is the little details around that add context to the narrative.

A true story cannot be staged but witnessed.

At weddings, many moments pass before our eyes, and many of them happen at the same time. For example, during a ceremony: the bride and groom exchange a tender look, the parents whisper among themselves, and the cute nephew is distracted playing while someone else is crying. How to choose, then what is the most crucial moment to photograph? Should we take photos of everything and everyone? Or be selective, concentrating on what matters most? I believe that every situation is different, and we should always do what is necessary to tell the most accurate story as possible.

For instance, on the day of Rachel and Kevin's wedding, I had left their hotel to head to the beach where the ceremony was taking place. It was about 6pm. As soon I stepped on the beach, I thought: "Mamma Mia, how many people, how much confusion, this is chaos! Now many of my photos are going to come out with people in the background"... A few seconds passed, and I embraced the situation. I thought that what might seem instinctively a "problem" could actually be a possibility. Having different photos and telling the story of what was happening in that precise moment of the day, shortly before their wedding, on Medano beach -the most popular beach in Cabo San Lucas.

There is obviously a reason why the bride and groom decided to get married on that beach. With their feet on the sand and having a fantastic background of rocks and sea, right? Well, the tourists, locals, and vendors that pass by are part of the context and culture of the place, then one way or another, they should be included in the full history of the event. So, I stayed for a while to take a panoramic. An emblematic photo of the place of the ceremony. I wanted to capture the wooden arch with the flowers, the boats, the sea, the rocks, the blue sky, and obviously the people passing by. So I synchronized my finger with the shutter and waited until I got all these elements in a cleaner and more visual way. Seeking that the walking tourists were all at a proportionally calculated distance between them. The seller with hat, perfectly framed between the fabric and the wooden frame. And on the right side, the tourist who was dressing from behind. In other words, a very beachy image and, at the same time, wedding photography. With beautiful light and careful composition.

Medano Beach, Los Cabos

Then the ceremony started, and I used all my ninja tricks to clean up my shots. As much as we may want to include the context in our story, we must keep in mind that these are the lifetime memories of one of the couple's most remarkable days. So not all photographs can include strangers. As storytellers, we must develop criteria to choose the occasions in which each decision suits better, according to our personal styles, artistic philosophies, and creative visions.

It is also true that what passers-by will do is unpredictable, which makes it more fun and spontaneous.

After having witnessed hundreds of beach weddings literally, in different destinations and styles, I can say that the reactions of outsiders can be very varied. Some interact with the newlyweds shouting some congratulations. Some are curious -or even moved- and stand on the side, watching everything. Some are prudently respectful and wait until the ceremony is over. And of course, we also have the distracted onlookers that continue on their way but slow down to get a general reading of the event in question. Therefore, it is necessary to always be alert and ready to make the decision at the decisive moment. As happened to me that day, at the exact moment where the bride and groom were at the climax of their ceremony.

Imagine the scene!

The bride and groom were about to exchange their vows. I was kneeling on the sand in front of them. I had my composition ready with the camera in front of my face when suddenly I saw out of the corner of my right eye a couple of women approaching. I immediately realized that they showed no intention of stopping, accelerating, or slowing down. They were utterly absorbed in their walk and in their evident curiosity about the wedding they had just discovered. In a fraction of a second, many possible scenarios flashed through my mind. I wanted to include those tourists in a charming, real, and out of the ordinary way in the memories of the couple. So I took a deep breath and held the moment, waiting for my decisive moment: just as the two of them were passing the exact place that I had imagined in my head.


To understand what was on my mind at the time I shot, from left to right, this is what I was trying to capture: the sister of the bride, a little piece of sea, the wooden pole, another part of the sea, the bride, the minister, the groom, tourist # 1, wooden pole, tourist # 2, and the father of the groom. Everything in the same image, with clean and clear shapes. Ah, bene! It feels good when you manage to capture that precise instant of balance in your frame.

I really enjoy composing using layers, especially when the shapes or layers don't touch each other. Which isn't always perfect when working with spontaneous, unscripted moments, but it's still worth the effort.

The first panoramic and this photo of the ceremony, both were my two choices to include the tourists in their wedding story. Two different pictures but with the same purpose. As I explain in more detail in this link, every time the situation is lent, I try to include a street photography vision to my wedding storytelling. In my opinion, it is an extra element that helps to add context in the stories, peculiarly and spontaneously.

To finish, I share an abstract of an old article with the opinion of a great photographer who has always been a great inspiration for me. It suits this photo, its history, complexity, and the eternal search for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Good reading, indeed:

"My favorite pictures have always been complex ones, pictures which ask questions and pose problems but leave the answers and solutions to the viewers. These are images with a long and evolving life, in which the photograph may transcend the subject and become the subject. Central to the strength of these images is photography's most precious and unique quality, believability: that the moment preserved on paper is true and unaltered, that it really happened and will never happen again. In my search for photographs I have come to realize that the best pictures are surprises, images I subconsciously seek but do not recognize until they suddenly appear. These are thrilling moments in a kind of photography that can be frustrating and unpredictable, with the picture often spoiled by something so minor as the momentary glance of a subject at the camera. In approaching people I prefer to be the observer rather than the observed and value the human presence, even a human shadow, as the most important element in my pictures. The flow of people in a setting, their changing relationships to each other and their environment, and their constantly changing expressions and movements all provide the photographer with unlimited choices of when to push the button. By choosing a precise intersection between the subject and the moment, he may transform the ordinary into the extraordinary and the real into the surreal."

Constantine Manos.

I hope you enjoyed the story behind this photograph as much as I have enjoyed taking it and sharing it with you.
I wish you happy clicks!

Di Lusso.

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