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Category Archives: Thoughts and Rambles

 

When I started photographing weddings about eleven years ago we were very much on the cusp of the digital photography revolution. (Well that statement makes me feel like I started in the dark ages!) Up until that point I had only shot on film and did so right from the beginning when I used to process films as a teenager up until the first few weddings that I photographed professionally. Similarly, at that time, the guests at weddings generally had small point and shoot film cameras with maybe the odd larger SLR thrown in for good measure. Fast forward to today and, at the average wedding, most guests are armed with mobile phone cameras, ipads, and many more have large all singing and dancing digital SLRs. The change is immense! – so much so that there is a growing trend for having “unplugged” weddings and real concerns that people are experiencing the important events of life through the lens of their iphones rather than in actual reality.
However, I’m not sure that all of this amazing technology has necessarily improved the quality of photography in general. It has become hugely more accessable, cheaper and cameras have advanced beyond the imagination of photographers say 15 years ago but it still takes a number of other elements, apart from a great camera, to take a great picture.

Weddings are a great opportunity to take all sorts of different styles of images. From family photographs to landscapes and even a bit of still life most photographers and will enjoy having a camera with them when they attend a wedding. So, I thought it would be a good idea to offer a few hints and tips to how it might be possible to improve the quality of your photography and to get some shots you will be proud of!

1) Preparation

One of the main keys to a good day of photography is preparation. Ensure that your camera is fully functional, you have spare batteries and that you have ample film or memory cards for storage. It is also important that you know exactly where the wedding is taking place, what the timings of the day will be and where the bride and groom will be at any given time.

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2) Be proactive not reactive.

Plan where you want to be as the day unfolds, try not to be caught out by events by trying to anticipate what will happen next and where the next shot will be coming from.

3) Pre visualise

Try to imagine what you photographs will look like before you take them. What are you trying to achieve? What is each image trying to say? Try to pre visualise as much as possible.

4) Don’t over shoot.

The temptation with a digital camera is to shot, shoot and shoot some more! This will not only use up a huge amount of battery power and memory but will also greatly increase the amount of time you spend editing after the wedding. Slow down, make each push of the shutter count.

5) Look for the unusual.

Of course you may well want to capture the bide and groom kissing and confetti being thrown but what’s happening elsewhere? What other parts of the story of the day are there to be photographed.

6) Don’t forget the details.

It is often the flowers and the table decorations or the front of the order of services that are individual and give the wedding it’s particular character and flavour. Look out for these things and record them.

7) Look out for fantastic light.

Generally try to avoid light that comes directly from over head, look for side lighting or shoot into the light to see what happens.

8) Wherever possible switch the flash off.

It’s rarely needed and most photographs look a lot better without it. Outside make sure that it isn’t firing automatically and inside try using a wide aperture and a high ISO setting and photographing by the available light.

9) Be consistent.

Try to photograph for a little bit throughout each part of the day. Keep working and keep thinking about where the best images are going to be at any given time. Whatever is happening and wherever you are there are always interesting images to be made – its just a case of looking for and imagining them.

10) Use the photographs.

After the wedding do something with the digital files! Make a book to give to the bride and groom or a slideshow, put some of the photographs into a frame or make a website or blog of the photographs. Whatever happens don’t just leave them sitting on your hard drive or on a memory card somewhere.

 

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“How long do you normally stay for on the day?”

This is a question that I get asked a lot and it’s a really important one because, from a prospective bride and groom’s point of view, it gives them an idea of how much value they are getting for their hard earned cash!

It’s also a point where there’s some concern that, if the wedding runs late, there might be some scope for being charged an outrageous hourly rate for the photographer to stay on beyond the time that has been previously agreed. I know a number of photographers quote their prices in terms of the number of hours of coverage and, whilst this is a perfectly reasonable and sensible approach, I think it can cause a sense of unnecessary stress for the bride and groom.

All day means all day

Basically, on your wedding day, I don’t do anything else apart from photograph your wedding! I don’t have any other commitments, don’t set any expectations of what time I’m going to get home, or even do any preparation or planning for the day – I do all of that the day before. I find that this is a much less stressful experience for me as I can mentally concentrate exclusively on photographing your wedding (apart from the stress of transport and logistics, but that’s another blog post!). It also means that I’m free to arrive and photograph from whatever point in the day you would like (usually bridal preparations) up until when the dancing starts in the evening.

Having said that I have actually photographed the boys playing football early in the morning, early morning horse riding and, at the other end of the day, fireworks and departures by helicopter so I am really happy to fit in with you!

Bride’s reflection – doing make up.

Getting ready in the morning

I’m 46 – how long do you think I can work for?

Realistically, I can happily go for 8-10 hours or so and then start to flag a little! I’ve done longer weddings and am happy to do so but generally I will photograph an hour or so of bridal preparations before the ceremony up until just after the first dance. This seems to be what most people want and fits in rather nicely with my stamina rating! You will, no doubt, have a rough idea of timings towards the end of the day, things will almost certainly run late and, with the approach above this isn’t a problem!

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Bride getting ready on a wedding morning

Bride and grooms first dance

Pacing and racing

Eleven or twelve years ago when I first started photographing weddings I felt, in my inexperience, the need to be on the go all the time, to be constantly photographing and to work solidly from beginning to end. I had a rather funny conversation with a couple the other day about my feeling that I don’t “feel the need to run” any more at a wedding and it made me realise that years ago I did rush around, photographing away rather madly and completely tiring myself out! Now, I’m no slouch, despite my ever so slightly advancing years, but I do work much more slowly now; I take regular 5 minute breaks and everything is much more considered. I also take far fewer pictures over the course of a wedding than I did ten years ago but the standard and consistency of my images has increased tenfold! It’s important to me that I am as sharp and alert during your first dance at 9pm as I was at 11am when I was photographing you having your make up done!

Wedding guests dancing

Wedding guests dancing and taking a selfie

Do you really want a picture of Uncle Jim with food down his chin?

The only time I really take a break is when you are eating. This is a good opportunity for me to have a proper rest and also to have something to eat as well. I usually spend some time downloading and backing up images from the day as it’s great peace of mind for me to know that all of the images are safe before I leave. Having this break also means that I am refreshed and ready to get going when it’s time to photograph the speeches, first dance and evening celebrations as well.

So, there is a hopefully reasonably coherent answer to a sort of “how long is a piece of string” question!

If you would like to have a chat about the timings or photography for your wedding then just give me a shout.

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“I bet you a fiver you can’t get a picture of Auntie Joan smiling” – this was a direct quote from a groom joking with me during the planning meeting for his wedding. (I’ve obviously changed Auntie Joan’s name, just to be on the safe side!). It was a pretty fair bet to be honest because, when I met “Auntie Joan” a few days later at the wedding it was clear that she was, what my Dad would describe as, “a bit of an old boiler” and, to quote another charming Northern term had a face “like the inside of a slate hangers nail bag”!

Auntie Joan apart, wedding guests are great fun to photograph and I always think it’s really important to include as many in the final set of images as possible. Photographing individual people is relatively easy and, the larger the group becomes, the harder it is to find and connection and meaning in the image. I’m not hugely interested in just photographing people in isolation as it’s always the context and the moment in time of the image that I find fascinating.

Group of wedding guests. Longstowe Hall.

The picture above is a good example. It would have been relatively easy to photograph the people individually or maybe in pairs interacting and chatting but it is much harder to make a coherent whole out if several relatively disconnected elements. First of all the image reads rather pleasantly from left to right as your eye follows the aim of the photographer’s lens through. It has an almost preplanned curve and as you travel along it you become involved in three little stories as the woman in the big hat chats to the man in the chair, the next woman fiddles with her camera and the final pair are in more animated conversation.

These individual little stories are punctuated by a nicely static person leaning in the background and by the rather bored looking static man with the drink on the far right (I wish I had included more of him). It’s a rather subtle image but becomes all the more interesting once you take a bit of time to read it – it sort of hangs well compositionally and also in terms of it’s timing and storytelling as well and to me is much more interesting (and harder to photograph) than a static group or portrait of each guest.

There are always much more animated moments when guests are chatting and interacting as well and I am always on the look out for these as well. This is often where listening to what’s going on, anticipation and timing are vital. I have included a selection from the same wedding as the first picture below

….and…..just to make it crystal clear, Auntie Joan wasn’t at any of the wedding above and yes, I did win the bet fairly and squarely and presented the groom with SEVERAL smiling (ok, grimacing!) pictures of the afore mentioned old bag and sadly, I never did receive my £5!!

DON'T KNOW WHERE TO START WITH PLANNING YOUR WEDDING?
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Bridesmaid with bubbles

baby at Longstowe Hall Cambridge

Guest at a wedding at Longstowe Hall near Cambridge

Chatting wedding guests

Wedding guests in the sunshine

Speeches in Longstowe Hall marquee.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO NEXT?
Get in touch with me - let's have a chat about your ideas for your wedding and your photography.
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