Definitive Moments. Part VII. The Jewish Wedding Veil

“If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

Every photographer worth their salt will be familiar with these words by Robert Capa. There has been a lot of discussion about what Capa meant by this phrase. Was he referring to physical distance or being close to the subject on an emotional level? Either way, this phrase is paramount to a wedding photographer.

For the last post in this series featuring the wedding veil, we have a trio of images based around the concept of being physically near to the subject. The veil is an important part of a Jewish wedding and witnessing it being put on can lead to some great pictures. The closeness, in this case, was a consequence of being in a small dressing room with the bride. The resulting intimacy and the use of a wide-angle lens have led to some interesting pictures. Even in a small room, it is essential we capture images with great composition, light and storytelling. Of course, we don’t suggest you stand on top of your subject if you have space, but working close to someone can make you think outside of the box and help you to produce better pictures.

Jewish wedding photo of bride with veiljewish wedding photo showing a bride and veil

jewish wedding photo showing a hand detail



The Wedding Veil. Part VI. Staged sophistication at a Fyvie Castle wedding.

We are known for our documentary wedding photographs, but there is a requirement at most weddings for some staged ‘formal’ pictures. These images are a traditional part of the wedding day and are important to many couples. We are always happy to take them when asked and usually work within a 15-minute window during the drinks reception.

This is a staged picture, taken at Fyvie Castle in Scotland, which has the feel of a journalistic image. Taken during the bridal portrait session, it is a staged/unstaged moment which shows the type of venue the couple chose for their wedding and the amazing veil. The use of the ultra-wide angle lens adds gives a surreal feel to the picture.

When looking for this type of picture, the first thing we seek out is a location which has good light and a strong geometric structure. Old castle doorways usually have both. The success of this image is down to the attention to detail; the bride’s head and torso positioned so that they aren’t against a bright part of the picture; the shape of the veil mimicking the ceiling beyond the doors; the deliberate imperfections in the way her veil and dress had been positioned so that it doesn’t look too contrived. The idea is to believe that, in the absence of witnessing the picture being taken, the bride is naturally exiting the building.

wedding photo of a bride in a doorway at fyvie castle


The Wedding Veil. Part V. A Thornton Manor wedding.

The simplest of wedding photographs can often be the most effective.  There is something really special about soft light when combined with the beautiful elegance of a simple veil.

This image was taken during the drinks reception at a Thornton Manor wedding as the bride was talking to her friends. An incredibly simple image but one which required some careful consideration before pressing the shutter.

Summer sunshine is normally too harsh to hold intricate detail in a veil and blown-out highlights are not a good look. By shooting in the shade of the building, the light was softer and easier to manage. A long telephoto lens with a wide aperture helped to isolate the veil and avoid a messy background. The Saul Leiter influence with the upright composition and the heavy crop, give it an almost abstract quality. It is one of those pictures that only works in black-and-white.

A brides veil at a Thornton Manor wedding


The Wedding Veil. Part IV. No two weddings are the same.

As documentary wedding photographers, we always start a wedding without any preconception as to what might happen during the day. Each event is different and it is important for us to show this by observing what happens in front of the camera.

Take these two images of the veil being attached. They show the same part of the wedding ritual and are taken at similar points during the day, but they are very different pictures. Each one is authentic and unique to that particular wedding.

The first image is of a bride standing in a dark hotel corridor attaching her veil. Initially, the bridesmaid in the foreground blocked the scene and the overhead light wasn’t very kind to the bride. After deciding to stay with the scene, there was a very brief moment when the bride tilted her head back into the overhead light and the bridesmaid moved just enough to get a vertical composition. There was just one shot. This one. Purely instinctive.

The second image is completely different. Here there is a large bedroom with plenty of light and an unrestricted view of the scene. The composition was set in the camera and the two figures were left to interact within the frame. The decisive moment, that moment when everything came together, happened when the bridesmaid lifted the veil across her face.

wedding photo of bride attaching veilwedding photo of a bride in oxford university



The Wedding Veil. Part III. The wedding ceremony.

The lifting of the veil is a significant moment in any traditional wedding ceremony. In our experience, there aren’t any set rules as to who helps the bride with her veil. We’ve seen everyone from the vicar to a member of the congregation lend a hand.  It was left to a bridesmaid to lift the veil during this wedding ceremony in Lancashire.

For the wedding photographer, this can be a tricky moment to capture. If the camera position is behind the vicar and shooting down the aisle, there can be a lot of people in the way of a clear shot. From the back of the church and looking up towards the aisle, it is rare for the bride to turn her face towards the camera. All we can do is anticipate the moment as Sarah has done here.

Colour is an important part of our wedding photography because shot correctly, it can add great depth to the coverage. Here, the bride is bathed in a wonderful palette of warm tones. The warmth also contrasts with the cold, wet weather conditions that greeted the arrivals at church. The light is from the internal spotlights and a telephoto lens was used to isolate the bride from the background.

wedding photo of a bride inside church