Copyright © Johann Kwan

Weddings on film


It used to be that I would book a wedding as often as I could, working them, stressing out over getting the perfect shots. Stressful as it may have been, it was good fun, weddings are swanky parties you get invited to take photos of. Now that I’m in my late twenties, though, it seems I book far fewer weddings than I’m actually attending as a guest (or a member of the wedding party itself), now that more of my friends and family are getting married.

This, of course, is an excuse for me to put away the digital gear, put on a nice suit, and shoot off some rolls of film.


The formula doesn’t change much. I have a list of shots in my head from shooting weddings professionally that I’d like to capture, but there are two caveats. Firstly, don’t get in the way of the photographer who’s actually paid to be there. That’s just simply professional courtesy. No one wants to be that guy.

Secondly, I resign myself to not getting any photos of the ceremony. This is for a couple reasons. Firstly, I’m there as a guest, I should be there to enjoy the ceremony and partake in it. Secondly, camera operation noises are some of the most annoying things in existence. In the middle of a ceremony, the last thing anyone needs is the whirr-click of a winding mechanism, the slap of a mirror and shutter in operation, or worst of all, the electronic beeping of the autofocus confirmation. Multiply those noises by the number of guests, and you have a beep-whirr-click orchestra of your very own.


Even while indulging in professional curiosity, it’s good to maintain a respectful distance from their work space.

Not shooting the ceremony basically means that I am free to enjoy myself and shoot a lot of candids. I get to mingle, involve myself with other guests, dance a bit, drink a bit, see sides of weddings I’m not really able to see when I’m at one professionally. Then shoot photos of them. Hoisting a simple film camera from decades past, dancing, drinking (this is important), with no professional detachment; it’s an entirely different experience. People open up a lot more, get a little sillier. The alcohol helps.


It’s important to note that I’m not there to replace the pro on site. Far from it. I like to think that any photos I take this way are complimentary, like a behind-the-scenes special. The photos are a bit more personal, far less polished, and perhaps tell a bit more of a tale of an incredibly fun night (for me personally as well as everyone else) than a testament to a great romance. It’s also just really fun.

Enjoy the rest of the photos. I’ll be back with more tales in a couple weeks when I get back from Hong Kong.



I love the way arms wrap around people from behind. It’s the side you’re not supposed to see, but it’s an intimate one.

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Photos in this post are either from Olga and Richie’s wedding in Schenectady, or Kissy and Howin’s in Hong Kong.

All photos © Johann Kwan