Weddings, the camera, and me

I am a full time wedding photographer. Based near Salisbury I am happy to (and do) travel all over the south of England, particularly around Reading, Berkshire where I lived for 40 years. The variety of shooting at different venues is very appealing. I frequently find myself working around Andover, Bath, Basingstoke, Bournemouth  Reading, Salisbury, and Southampton; although I have been known to shoot weddings in Chelmsford, Chester, Halifax, London, Leicester, and even Melbourne Australia!

I live with (the lovely) Marnie and our two cocker spaniels Isla & Max in a small village in the picturesque Wylye Valley. In my spare time I enjoy watching Reading FC, table tennis, cinema, music, travelling and eating out. I don't enjoy having my photograph taken, champagne, or rain.

In Marrakech

In Marrakech

Photography has always been an interest of mine, first learning skills with Zenit E & TTL cameras in the early 1980's. In 2007, during a year travelling (Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, & Europe) I realised that I couldn't return to my old job. The world was big, life was short. My eyes had been opened. This proved to be my real "What's it all about?" moment. Knowing that I wanted to do something I enjoyed, was workable, and meant something, I considered my options. Premiership footballer? That was never going to happen! Rock star. Don't be ridiculous! It was whilst photographing people in Cambodia that the obvious struck me. I could be a photographer!

In fact this had been a long held ambition, extinguished in my latter school days by my lack of a good grasp of science. But hey this was the 21st century, I was a grown up, everything was digital... and as they say "where there's a will there's a way". On my return to the UK I enrolled on two courses. I read everything I could get my hands on. Surfed the web (endlessly). Watched videos. Did online training. Watched more videos. Did a distance learning course. Went to trade shows. I was a sponge! Then I got my break. A neighbour (thanks John) introduced me to his daughter who was getting married. I am ever grateful to Ashlee and Stephen, who showed such trust in me (with no track record)! This was my big test. Could I do it? Did I really want to do it? Looking back I was extremely well prepared and thankfully everything went well. The revelation for me was yes I could do it, and not only did I like doing it... I loved it!

Things have evolved since then. My job isn't just about taking pictures. I have become somewhat of an expert in photo editing (NX2 and Photoshop). My website is all my own work, even down to learning how to rank well in a Google search. Then there's marketing, accounts, networking, & training. I love it all. I feel so lucky. 2015 has been my busiest year to date. I can't wait to see what 2016 brings, who I'll meet along the way, and where I'll be working.

Belonging to the Society of Wedding & Portrait Photographers, I keenly observes the ethical and professional standards expected of its members. 

My photo on a billboard in Salisbury!

My photo on a billboard in Salisbury!

The Bride & Groom Wedding Shoot. My philosophy.

Most people are not models or actors and tend to look better when they are acting naturally and being themselves. When it comes to photographs of the Bride and Groom this is always utmost in my mind. Rather than unfamiliar contrived poses I prefer to offer general direction followed by (if required) minor tweaks. The trick is not to micro manage people, this only leads to a forced looking image. The more instructions people have, the more conscious and wooden they become. By encouraging the Bride and Groom to do things they are comfortable with ensures that they will be at ease with the camera, and thus makes a pleasing picture much more likely.

Obviously we are all different. Some of us are models, or actors. Some of us are quirky or even extrovert. Some of us (like me) hate being photographed. Having met the couple beforehand helps me understand what they are like, what to them is "natural", and how much they can be posed. The trick is to never lose sight of what they are about, and always aim to capture the essence of people wherever possible. Really shy people shouldn't be asked to do cheesy poses, for example. It wouldn't be fair to that person... and is guaranteed to look wrong. Conversely, asking a jack-in-the-box character to subdue themselves for the camera is equally unfair, and is guaranteed to look equally wrong!

In summary, whoever you are, whatever you're like, I want my Brides and Grooms to be themselves, relax, enjoy each others company, smile, and look forward to the next part of the day, the next chapter of their life together... their happily ever after, and be able to look back on my pictures and proudly say "that was us"! 

All About Those Group Shots!

As a Wedding Photographer I see one wedding matter that continually baffles Brides and Grooms to be. And really it's hardly surprising, because in truth it's a subject that varies from couple to couple and depends on a number of factors that aren't always obvious. When to do them, how many to do, and who should be in them? I am, of course, talking about the formal Group Shots. Straight forward you might think, but a part of your special day that can easily trip you up.

What makes the Group Shots difficult for people is that there are no definitive rules about organising this part of the day. It's all about personal choice! Let's face it, most of you haven't been married before so you're bound to need a little help. If you've been a wedding guest you will know that the group photos are a feature of the day. Now you're in the hot seat where do you start? Well, a good wedding photographer will offer guidance, and you need to think about the following things.

 

WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR WEDDING DAY TO BE LIKE?

The first thing we have to remember is that your wedding day is just that, yours! Don't let other people (family, friends, or even a photographer) tell you how it must be. What YOU want YOUR wedding day to be like should dictate everything. When it comes to photography some couples love being in front of the camera, some don't. This alone can contribute to your Group Shot decisions! You will be in most, if not all of the pictures. So during the photography time you won't be chatting to guests, enjoying the party, or relaxing. And what of your guests? It's generally accepted that there will be photographs at weddings, but how quickly will they get bored? Won't they want to spend time with you? You have to decide.... what's it to be? Wedding or photo shoot, or something inbetween? 'Inbetween' is what most people go for. They want the formal pictures for their album, and they want their family and friends to have them too. There's no getting away from it, having some Group Shots is a necessity. However, I am often told "We don't want the photography to take over the day". Ultimately it's important to get the balance right. You will have to decide what works best for you.

 

HOW MUCH TIME DO WE HAVE?

A big factor is time. One thing is for certain, when the Group Shots can take place is fairly limited. Mostly they occur somewhere between the end of the ceremony and the start of the Wedding Breakfast (so this could be at the church/ceremony, or reception venue... or both). Usually this amounts to 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Sounds like plenty of time.... But before you rush off and compose a huge list be sure to deduct time for the following:

  • Guests congratulating you after the ceremony (Often underestimated - this will be 10 minutes+),

  • Confetti (There goes another 10 minutes),

  • Travelling (If applicable, ? minutes),

  • Mingling with the guests for drinks and canapés (It's your party, take part! Ask yourselves again WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR WEDDING DAY TO BE LIKE?)

  • Wedding Couple Portraits (Portraits of you in all your finery are a must, even if it's only for 15 minutes don't miss this opportunity! You do need to consider how much time you want to put aside for this and again your WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR WEDDING DAY TO BE LIKE thoughts will play a big part in this decision)

  • Receiving line (If applicable, on arrival at the venue or prior to the Wedding Breakfast easily 15/20 minutes)

  • Speeches (More and more now these occur before the Wedding Breakfast. If this is the case for you the speeches could eat into photography time as the venue will work to the time food needs to be delivered- typically 30mins).

  • Other requirements e.g. private time, detour drive in the wedding car, ice cream van arrival etc

Suddenly that 1 1/2 - 2 hour window doesn't look so big!!

My advice - as a couple spend 15/20 minutes with your photographer, do spend time with your guests, and then allocate some Group Shot time. But again, you will have to decide what works best for you.

 

HOW LONG DO GROUP SHOTS TAKE, AND HOW MANY SHOULD WE HAVE?

You need to allow 3-5 minutes per group. Straight away you can see that 10 Group Shots will take between 30 and 50 minutes! The exposure only takes a second, but getting people in front of the camera and properly ordered and posed takes the time. The bigger the group, the longer it will take. A group with the elderly, the infirm, and/or children is also likely to take longer.

I know many photographers who like to limit the formal groups to 6! And Hugo Bernard (Royal Wedding Photographer) only ever does 3 (the Bride & Groom, the Bride & Groom plus both immediate families, and everyone)!!! However, I don't think either approach is realistic. Our families and friendships are often complicated networks which deserve individual attention. Think about what you'd want in an album and who would want a print on their mantelpiece. The three areas to concentrate on are: Family (immediate & extended), Wedding Party (Bridesmaids & Groomsmen), and Friends. Try to avoid breaking groups down too much e.g. 1)Bride + Sister, 2) Bride + Brother, when there's nothing wrong with combining the two.

For all of you now begging for a comprehensive list of every conceivable group, I apologise. I am not going to oblige. Such a list simply will not help! There are no rules as to who should be in your Group Shots or how many you should have. It is a personal choice and only you know what and who matters!

Just remember, always have half an eye on WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR WEDDING DAY TO BE LIKE and HOW MUCH TIME DO WE HAVE. From my experience, it really should be possible to cover all bases in 10 - 15 formal Group Shots. But yet again, you will have to decide what works best for you.

 

HOW WILL IT WORK ON THE DAY?

For this part of the day, more than any other, your photographer has to be organised. The old cliché of "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail" is never truer. Expect your photographer to request a list of the Group Shots that you want. Each photographer will have their own system, and I like to know exactly who is involved in each picture. So a sample group on one of my lists looks something like  Bride & Groom + Brides Parents: Katie & Ryan + Jane & Colin. This way there is no confusion and (in a big group) nobody gets left out!

Having one of your Wedding Party rounding up people for each formal group is also crucial. The trick is to have someone who is happy to raise their voice (they don't need to know everyone). They use your list and get the next group together, ready to go. It's also nice to have a member of your Wedding Party involved as they are rightly regarded as one of your trusted assistants on the day. There is something more personal about using one of your friends or family in this way that guests relate to. Being told what to do by a hired hand (photographer) is always less appealing!

 

CONCLUSION

I know all this is somewhat tedious, and dare I say it, difficult and sometimes even controversial (particularly with family). Your best plan of action is to deal with it head on and at least a couple of weeks before the big day. As you've seen the Group Shots aren't just about photography. Your decisions will effect a large part of your wedding day. Don't leave it to chance or expect it to work out. If you don't carefully think about what you want your day to be like, or you don't allocated enough time, you may well regret it. Finally, do liaise with your photographer, they're the experts and will be as keen as you to make sure everything runs smoothly! Good luck with everything, and above all enjoy your day!!!

Those Frequently Asked Questions...

When I meet prespective clients they usually haven't been married before. They are full of enthusiasm and probably have plenty of ideas from weddings they may have attended. So, it's easy to forget that in actual fact they have never organised a wedding before. Here are a few subjects/issues that come up time and again from the photography point of view.

" What if a wasp wants to join the photo shoot?"

"What if a wasp wants to join the photo shoot?"

Q - "Do we need to practice for the photos?"

A - My initial response is, well everyone is different. I for one hate having my photo taken (Why do you think I'm behind the camera! Unfortunately that's not an option for you on this occasion!). So I do have sympathy and am always mindful of how the Bride and Groom feel. Particularly as how they feel often shows through in the photograph, so you will understand that this is very important.

When I'm capturing your day I always try to keep things as natural as possible... so just being yourself (and relaxed!) is key. I find that the best moments come when couples are at ease. Obviously, I will help you on the day. But I am not bossy nor do I go for an over posed look. I'm most likely to ask for simple things like "can you move your left foot forward", "just place your right hand on his left shoulder", "Go on, kiss again!" etc. The more I interfere the less spontaneous things will look, which (for what I'm trying to achieve) is bad! Some people are more extrovert than others and that needs to come through in the pictures. It is important that the images are true of you. It would be wrong to expect a reserved character to "put on a show", and equally it would be wrong to stifle an extrovert. So I suppose the bottom line is be yourself!

As far as practicing goes, well yes go for it if you feel it will make you more confident or happier on the day. You will not be able replicate the wedding day atmosphere and how you feel, but you will be able tell yourself "there's a bloomin' great lens stuck in my face but who cares?". Couples use my Engagement Shoot option (see Additional Items) as a way of getting that practice.

Whatever you think, please don't worry! Regardless of how hesitant a Bride or Groom have been (and some have been really worried), every single one has come through having had a positive experience.

 

Q - "How many photos will we get?"

A - I normally expect to deliver 350 - 450 pictures. But of course it all depends on how long I'm working for and what happens at the wedding (some situations demand more coverage than others). And just so you know, you'll probably need to choose about 90 for an album (if you want one).

 

Q - "Do we get black and white images too?"

A - Yes. I provide a black and white (or monochrome) set too. I also can provide other requests such as sepia or vintage if you require.

 

Q - "How long will the group photos take?"

A - Well, this all depends on how many groups you want me to photograph. With the help of a Best Man/Usher/Bridesmaid/family member/loud person to round people up a group will take about 3 - 5 minutes. I suppose something in the region of 12 - 16 group is normal.

But let's rewind a bit here. There are some important consideration.... It is your day and your party. How much of it do you want to be in front of the camera? How quickly do you want to mingle and kick back with your guests? And how quickly do you want to start drinking (sorry, but a factor for some)? Also remember, you'll want some Bride and Groom couple shots and these are likely to take place at the same sort of time. I always suggest we put aside 20 minutes for that...... and then think about groups...

 

And who is in the groups? Now that's a subject for my next blog coming up soon!

Internet Advertising For Photographers. Does It Work? Just Ask!

After constantly being harangued by telesales for internet marketing my experience over the last few years had left me rather cold to the whole thing. Basically I'd found the results never worth the expenditure and I had pretty much given up on this form of advertising. But then a UK bridal directory tweaked my interest.......

The site is very organised and has a 'Photographer Quote' service available to registered Brides. And with 100's of 1000's of Brides impressively registered to date, this I thought had potential! The cost to me would be £100's, but if it works...?

But hold on! Past experience.. surely that counts for something? But there again I didn't want to miss a trick here....

So, it was obvious. Why not ask those who are using the site, those paying photographers. After drafting up a brief questionnaire I e-mailed 12 paying photographers using this UK bridal directory. They all worked a different area to me, so no conflict of interest there. 8 replied. And here's what they said:

Many of the photographers were new to the site. (Where were all the renewing photographers?). Several responders noticed that their competitors had not renewed.

The "quote" service does appear to drive traffic to websites but very rarely materialises in a booking. Most photographers are doing 4 or 5 quotes a day without having achieved any bookings!

Approaching potential clients from 'Lists of Brides' provided by the site gave no positive results when it came to bookings.

One responder received a booking just by being listed (lucky sod!).

One responder recorded only 4 website clicks via the directory website in one year.

General consensus was that internet advertising (i.e. paying) is largely a waste of time and money. Several had tried everything out there and with no reward whatsoever! It appeared that this sites professional look, organised sales pitch and constant telesales (and claims of Bride numbers) hooked photographers.

There was also a theme that ran through most replies to do with cost. Interest from the Brides seemed to be concentrated at the lower end of the wedding photography market, with most Brides looking for all day attendance at +/- £500. Remembering of course that the site encourages the photographer to offer a free engagement shoot too! My conclusion is that a majority of the Brides registered are not of the (spending) quality required by a professional photographer. Let's face it, a photographer charging £500 for a wedding and all it involves (before, during, after, insurance, equipment, marketing etc) does not have a sustainable business.

I concluded that this site is excellent......... for the part time photographer, although question whether they would actually want to pay the annual subscriptions required. Infact, the site is positively helping the non professional and encouraging the Brides to believe a cheap alternative service is out there. Of course, in life, there is always a reason why cheap is cheap and it's always up to the purchaser to decide what is best for them. However, what worries me as much as anything is that the site must know that they are really ripping off a lot of genuine hard working full time photographers.

So my suspicions have been confirmed! If/when you get that marketing call please don't do it. Or at the very least, BEWARE!

Another "Unforgettable" Baby

Congratulations to Ashlee and Stephen who are now proud parents to a beautiful baby girl. I was the photographer for their wedding three years ago and so was delighted when they approached me to do a pregnancy shoot. It is such a privilege to share in peoples special times, so thank you again!

Due to our recent inclement weather the shoot had to be put back several times and there was the possibility of a missed opportunity! But just in the nick of time (the weekend before the birth) we met up for a couple of hours, and these are some of the results. Ashlee was determined to get that ring in as many shots as possible (well done). Let's hope she got it off afterwards!! 

I have no doubt they will be excellent parents, a role I know they are very much looking forward to. Good luck!!!!

preg.jpg

On Your Marks. Get Set...

As you might expect the life of a wedding photographer is pretty seasonal. Basically the winter is time for marketing (sigh), websites (grumble), accounting (yawn), meeting clients (yes!) and the odd wedding (Yeh!). It's also an opportunity to do portraits and some off the wall assignments. But above all it's a bit of a breather before the summer madness.

So it's been a busy start to my year with plenty of enquiries to deal with and meetings to attend. This year I'm looking forward to many weddings further a field, but locally at Aldermaston Mill, Basingstoke, Bearwood College, Burghfield, Caversham, Henley, Herons Barn, Maidenhead, Monkey Island, Newbury, Overton, Reading, Sonning, Trunkwell Mansion, Winnersh, Wokefield Park, Wokingham and Woodley. There are so many couples out there busily planning/putting off/delegating their wedding plans. Good luck to them all! It WILL all come together, and you WILL have a brilliant time! Me? Well I can't wait. I've got some exciting, some fun, and some beautiful weddings to shoot!

If you want to save on your wedding expenses don't forget to tell your guests about the gift vouchers I offer. They can spend what they like and it's so easy to do, just click vouchers.

Reading wedding

The Loyal Royal way to get married!

Bridport couple Dan and Christie (childhood sweethearts originally from Woodley, Reading) knew I was the photographer for them when during our first meeting I let slip my allegiance to Reading Football Club. By chance Dan is a 'Royals' nut despite their move to Dorset.

They had a lovely ceremony at Burton Bradstock church, and we dropped in at the beach there and West Bay for photos. The reception was held at the Bull Hotel in Bridport where we were wonderfully entertained by a ukulele band. A big surprise for me was to be introduced to one of the evening guests (associated with the Bride). It was no other than Reading goalscoring legend "(Oh Trevor, Trevor. Trevor, Trevor, Trevor) Trevor Se-nior" who is currently Manager of Bridport FC. Trevor kindly agreed to pose with the happy couple (below right). In starstruck fashion I mentioned that I had seen him play many times at Elm Park, to which his reply was that he had unfortunately got no quicker with age!

I know Dan & Christie, and all their guests, had a super time. I'm sure they will be very happy together. They are (excuse the terrible pun) a great match. Check out the Groom's tie!

Reading wedding photography

Italian wedding

This was my first Italian wedding. I'm proud to be British, but boy they know how to do things. Their churches are glorious, gold and red everywhere. Their wedding breakfasts are huge... no wonder seeing as eating and socialising is so part of their way of life. I'm sure I was Italian in a past life (maybe that's my stomach talking) or so I wish! This particular wedding was between Neil (an ex Burghfield footballing colleague) and Orsola (and there's the Italian connection!). The Church was in Farringdon and the reception at Hampton Court.... House (Don't scoff! OK so it wasn't The Palace, but The Hous opposite was mighty fine all the same).  It was a great day, for a great couple. My very best wishes go to the Bride and Groom!! Bellissimo!

ee the Italian wedding pictures here.

Burghfield wedding photographer

The Barn at the Grange


AS FAR AS I KNOW THIS VENUE NO LONGER OPERATES.

PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT ME REGARDING THIS, I KNOW NOTHING MORE.


We all like a bit of good weather, and Saturday 26th May was a scorcher! And what better time for my first wedding at the stunning Barn at the Grange in the pretty Wiltshire village of Winterbourne Dauntsey. What a lovely venue, and the super hosts (and owners) Mr & Mrs Rebdi were a delight to deal with. So well done to Charlotte and Nick for finding this gem, and for using Bird & Carter catering (thanks for the excellent dinner!). A great start to wedded life... best wishes to you both!

grangeDW.jpg

Google + or minus?

Does anybody (who's not actually a techie) understand Googles fb competitor Google Plus? We keep getting told they're recruiting members left, right and centre- which I'm sure is true. But are those reruits using it in numbers, I don't think so judging by a few simple on site searches. It strikes me as being all a bit complicated. Or is it simpler than the fb way of doing things and I'm just too used to that??

Anyway, I've gone and set mine up. "Why?" you might ask. Well to be honest fb is more than enough for me (and not that I really use it). However.. I have no doubt Google+ will be huge, and I'm even more sure that my (business) involvement will sooner or later enhance my websites Google page ranking. So there we are, I suppose I'm a hostage to a corporate yet again! Happy days.....

In a vain attempt to cheer me up here are pics of our dogs, Isla & Max.....

Transient