Magnum Contact Sheets has to be one of the most influential photography books I’ve ever read. It was the first time I saw how some of my favourite photographs were created, as each photographer shared the contact sheet from one of their iconic pictures, and gave a brief explanation about it.
It was a revelatory moment - it showed me for the first time that even Magnum photographers take shit pictures before capturing their iconic ones, and it also helped me to see see how they worked a scene, and when they recognised they had hit a moment with potential.
Creating a contact sheet blog post is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but, to be honest, been a bit hesitant about - photography can be about creating mystery, and by explaining the process behind an image, the illusion can be dispelled, much like a magician explaining his trick. Then again, I was always one for wanting to know how the trick was created so I could do it myself, and if you're reading this, I guess you do as well.
So let’s start with this image from Charlotte + Dan’s wedding at South Farm, which has won a couple of wedding industry awards, and has also managed to transcend the genre by being nominated for best photograph at the London Street Photography Festival. As you can see from the contact sheet, I really worked the scene; I just knew as soon as Charlotte started walking onto the bouncy castle that it would be a special image, with the white dress, white bouncy castle, and white clouds all combining together - I just hoped nobody else would walk onto it before I got the shot. I knew for it to work I would have to be dead-on with the bouncy castle, which I wasn’t to start off with, so I kept on shooting whilst I made myself more central. Once I had my frame, I just waited, hoping Charlotte would remain central whilst she walked on. For one very brief moment it all came together, before her friends came on to join in. I wish I could say I had this planned all along but it wasn't until I saw Charlotte walking onto the bouncy castle that I realised there was real potential in the scene - and then luck played a hand in combining it all together.
I just want to touch on a possible query: with so many pictures being taken, which ones do the Bride + Groom receive? If you saw the final gallery from this scene, you’d notice that only a fraction of these photos made it in. For me it's important to make the final gallery as strong as possible, and one that I know the couple would be proud of. As a result, it's crucial to not have tonnes of repetition - why give five photos of exactly the same moment, when the one that has that 'decisive moment' will do? It's a fine balancing act to ensure that the impact of the very strong pictures aren't diluted by a surplus of weaker ones.
I'd love to hear your feedback on whether this was useful or interesting, and if it was, if there's anything else you'd add or like to see in future. Many thanks!