I cry at almost every wedding I shoot.
I cry again almost every time I edit.
Being a wedding photographer (and a photographer in general) is a strangely beautiful job. People trust us with their most precious moments. We promise to capture memories that they will cherish for a lifetime.
I am lucky enough to have a relatively photographic memory (trust me, it is fading the older I get). So the memories and moments I have in my life are so engrained in my memory that I will be walking down a hallway and a vivid memory from high school will pop into my head and play like a movie.
But I get that for most people, that doesn't happen as easily, or as frequently.
The pictures we create as photographers are lasting memories for couples and families and friends. They are the images that string together to create that movie-life memory of a day. Pictures help conjure a memory from the back of our minds and bring it to our face by way of a smile, a tear.
Looking back on my early work, I was always fascinated that people loved the pictures so much. I was new, I was rough, and the quality was nowhere near where I am now.
That wasn't the point, though.
The emotion. The love. The giggles. The smiles.
That was the point of the picture.
Regardless of how perfect I got the lighting or the white balance, the people didn't care. They only saw the emotion.
These past few weeks, as I understand that more deeply, I find myself taking small moments at weddings, when my feet are tired and my shoulder is aching from holding the camera all day, to look around. I practice a pause, which I do in real life, to stop and just be in the moment, and take it all in.
I spend over 40 nights a year with total strangers who welcome me into their lives for a day and trust me with their memories.
Over the course of the year or so that I am talking to couples, I get to know them. I learn what they value and reassure them that as long as they get married, their wedding day is a success.
However, their wedding day means so much more to me; I battle through my aging body to get that shot from the floor (and hope no one hears the knees creaking when I stand up); I make dumb jokes to make everyone laugh (even though I feel like an idiot sometimes).
But then there are the tears.
I am not what I would consider an overly emotional person. I don't cry at movies (unless a dog dies, good lord will I sob like a baby then). I will grit my teeth through pain before I let myself cry. The last guy to break up with me, there were no tears.
It isn't that I have a cold, black heart like I always joke. Quite the opposite. I feel so deeply it hurts, especially for the people I care the most about. I choose to remain stoic because that is just the way life has made me decide to be.
So, when you see me with tears in my eyes as your daddy sees you for the first time, it is because I am right there with you, feeling those feels.
When I get misty as your partner sees you come down the aisle, about to become their forever, it is because my heart is filled with so much joy, it is starting to leak out of my eyes.
As I sit at home, often late at night, going through your memories on a computer screen, the tears tumble out because I am so happy about your love.
To my beautiful couples: I cry when you cry because I am so honored to be a part of your day, and to bear witness to your love. I am blessed beyond measure to experience all those feels with you and I am so freaking excited that you picked me to do it.
Cheers to you and yours <3