The Royal Wedding

May 4, 2011 | By Chris Jackson | News

As I sat in my hotel room the night before the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton surrounded by newly opened pocket wizards, cameras, monopods and triggers I contemplated the words a wise photographer once told me – ‘never use new gear on a big job’. Was this a big job? Only the most historical wedding of the decade!

It all started early….very early. 3:30am to be precise. After a fitful few hours of sleep I did a final check on the gear I would need and packed up the car for the next 14 hours. I was prepared for every eventuality, rain, shine, sun, snow I even had my rations packed; water, Redbull and chocolate. With over five hours to wait before the big moment I would have to be prepared!

After managing to find a taxi willing to take me (and all my gear!) down the road to Westminster I was surprised to be let on the Crimea by the police with only a cursory glance at my pass. In the early morning light I looked out from my deserted position on the specially constructed stand across to the Abbey and contemplated the hours ahead.

My position on the Crimea memorial had been arranged weeks in advance and for weeks I had been coming down to the position with my cameras and lenses assessing the distance and trying to imagine the best lens and equipment to use. Getty Images had a large team of photographers covering the wedding, over 35 at last count and I was shooting a small but important aspect of proceedings, the full length image of the couple as they first emerge from Westminster Abbey as a married couple. Ethernet cables coupled to my laptop and travelling across the road would enable the pictures to reach our team of editors in the media room in record speed and be distributed to the world’s picture desks in seconds. It was certainly a slick operation and one I hoped I wouldn’t be the weak link in.

Despite my preparation being stuck in a position with six other photographers for five hours all doubting and discussing their choice of lens and exposure certainly had an effect on my stress levels. Photographers often downplay the importance of a job but for this one we all knew the stakes were high.

In between discussions on the benefits of Canon and Nikon doubt was setting in on what lens to use – what if the couple waved and I lost a hand out of the frame? What if they kissed at the top of the steps?…what if, what it, what if….In the end I opted for keeping it simple sticking with what I knew and not complicating things. This still meant three cameras in use at one time – it had to work.

Over the hours the gloom dispersed and the weather gradually brightened with the sun almost threatening to come through. I headed from my position to do some shots of the crowds. There really was a carnival atmosphere despite the lack of sunshine. People were really enjoying the day and occasionally a cheer broke from the crowd as an American news reporter prompted a cheer as they went live. Children poked periscopes out from the crowd and pictures of Princess Diana fluttered in the breeze.

Back on the Crimea time went quickly and it was good to begin shooting. As the guests arrived in rather un-regal minibuses, I tried to get the best pictures I could, some posed – the European Royals are particularly good at this. Minor British Royals slipped straight into the abbey without even a glance in our direction.

Eugenie and Beatrice arrived in some pretty outlandish headgear – the latter’s hat being described to me as a ‘demented lobster’ by a pundit recently. Prince William arrived looking smart, his red ceremonial uniform of the Irish Guards, a good choice over the drab RAF alternative. He waved confidently to the crowds and headed in.

Within minutes I saw my pictures begin to appear on the site before many of my fellow photographers had even started editing and sending. The pre-organisation of the Getty Images team was certainly beginning to pay off, pictures were popping up on the editorial site from every conceivable angle we had shot the arrivals from.

Catherine and Pippa looked incredible as they stepped out of the car  – unfortunately for me my view was obscured by the vehicle but I was able to see Mike Middleton drop his hat out of the car, almost forgetting it on the floor. As Pippa carried Catherine’s train up the steps I snapped away, not realising that the elegant shape of Pippa’s rear would become the talk of the tabs for the next few days!

A nervous hour passed as we listened to the service continue inside the Abbey and then we were there, only punctuated by Sky News texts announcing the couple was now married; A cheer went up….the glass doors were opened and I pointed my lens straight down the aisle. Choosing a sensitive film speed I shot them walking towards me. Flags waved and a rumble developed as the millions of members of public let out a roar.

As they emerged into the light I quickly switched to my pre-checked exposure for the light on the top step and carried on shooting as they stepped down. It was certainly an adrenaline-fuelled moment but it was all over just over a minute after it began. I frantically scrolled back on the images on the back of my camera, the fear of over or underexposing there. Fortunately it stood straight out – both looking straight down the camera, perfect exposure….it was over, I had the image I was looking for.

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  • Sheila

    These are lovely! I’m still looking, though, for photos perfectly exposed to show the exquisite detail on the wedding dress. So far, everything I find is too blown out to really appreciate this detail.

  • Kelly Fitzgerald

    I really enjoyed your post Chris. You did a fantastic job covering the Royal Wedding. You captured it beautifully! Cheers!

  • Stephen Barnes

    “…his red naval uniform a good choice over the drab RAF alternative.” He was wearing the red ceremonial uniform of the Irish Guards, an army regiment of which he is Colonel.

    Thanks for your story though – great to hear how you got your fabulous shot.

  • W Sallitt

    “Prince William arrived looking smart, his red naval uniform a good choice over the drab RAF alternative.” I agree that it was better than the RAF option but it was actually an army uniform, that of the Irish Guards. Other than that, good article.

  • admin

    thank you for the correction. It has been fixed in the blog post.

  • James

    Excellent shot! The timing was just nice and the light exposure was almost perfect as well. I saw that picture on quite a few magazine, but I never could guess that you were the one who took that picture at the wedding.