Murder your darlings


The best man helps the Groom get ready.

Funny title for a blog post about wedding photography. Bear with me…

In his 1914 lecture “on Style” Arthur Quiller Couch, the writer and literary critic better known as Q,  said;

‘If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings’.

His intention was to illustrate that a writer must include only that which makes the story stronger and that often a writer is too attached to things which dilute the story or cause it to run awry, extraneous plotlines, pointless prose, weak characterisation and so on. Murder your darlings, remove the purple prose and strengthen the whole.

As a documentary wedding photographer I’m also attempting to tell a story. I have no set number of chapters, though there’s such a thing as too many or too few and I can have a cast of hundreds without worrying too much, from the heroes of the day to the bit parts, they can all feature, they’re all important. But sometimes I run across an image which becomes ‘a darling’ and I can lose sight of whether the image has intrinsic value, whether it will mean something to someone else other than myself. This is one of those images.

When this happens I have to spend time with the picture. I put it up on screen, full screen and leave it. I repeat that sometimes for days. I need to see whether my feelings change about it over time. I will try and identify for myself the things that speak to me about the image. This image has sat on screen for several days now and it still speaks to me. It’s simple and graphical, the black and white treatment enhances this. It’s imperfect, I like that. In those imperfections it reflects the moment it was made and the people shown, it’s real life. The imperfections lends it a ‘feel’ that is absent often from digital photography (I’m old enough to have shot weddings on film). There’s an element of mystery though it’s not a mysterious image but rather I think it causes the viewer to stop and look for a moment and question gently what they’re looking at. Of course the people in the picture, Andrew and his best man Tom will recognise the moment and I think that will mean something for them when they see it as part of a collection of pictures telling the story of the day, and it fits well into this section of the collection as well. Lastly I like the light and sometimes for me that’s enough on its own.

What do you think? A win, or fit for the bin? Let me know, drop me a line or hit me up on the social media , leave a comment on the page – probably where you see this picture would be best.

If this is a winner for you and you’re looking for a wedding photographer get in touch, I can make pictures like this for you too.

Michael Riley Photography


I am a a multi award winning UK and destination wedding photographer. Based in Devon, I offer wedding coverage throughout the UK and anywhere else in the world for couples who like my work and approach to a wedding.


My wedding photography is entirely unposed, natural & candid. My style is documentary wedding photography or reportage wedding photography which means that I don't intervene in the day for the sake of a shot. I don't pose, interfere or otherwise fuss and faff. Everything is relaxed, laid back and fun allowing for those natural moments to come through and be recorded as memories. You get all the moments observed not orchestrated. If you like the sound of this get in touch via my contact page.

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