This week I start with an apology - It's taken over 10 days to get this blog released whereas I normally write something at least once every week or so. I started writing it back on Sunday 10th June but with a busy work schedule, an ill daughter (nothing serious, but enough to drain both my wife and I of all our energy) and another wedding since, I've just not had the time to sit down and actually finish what I started, but, here it is...
Welcome to blog post 8! June is here already and wedding season is upon us at last so today's blog has a wedding theme to it.
I love this time of year. I live in an area surrounded by both small, local village churches and larger parish churches. They can all be found a stones-throw away from one another and from my house for that matter! You can often hear bells ringing either for bell practice or on the weekends to send newlyweds on their way. Just take a look at this map, this shows just a few hundred meters from my house how many churches there actually are:
The blue markers represent churches
I have just photographed my first wedding for June and I was really pleased with how it went. It was also the first wedding I photographed using my Canon EOS 7D and I was very impressed with how it handled the occasion, particularly low light situations in the church and at the reception, the noise levels are so, so low in the resulting images. Even at ISO levels 1600. If you've been reading my blog since it's inception you will know that the whole reason I purchased my 7D was because I contracted a severe case of camera envy after borrowing equipment from a photographer friend of mine to photograph a wedding. After using his 60D instead of my 500D - there was no turning back - I had to upgrade!
First Wedding for June
On Saturday 9th June Miss Shelley Maslen tied the knot with Mr Dean Allen in a beautiful ceremony at St. Michael’s Church in Tilehurst, Berkshire. Someone was clearly looking down on the happy couple as the weather had decided that just for one day the clouds would part to give Dean and Shelley beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine in what had been an otherwise very wet June, with even more severe weather predicted to the extent that flood warnings were put out in our area. (You may have seen the news in the UK?)
I had met Shelley once before when photographing a wedding back in December. The Groom at the time had mentioned that Shelley was getting married in 2012 and was looking for a photographer for her own wedding. This added a little more pressure to the wedding that day as It made me aware for the first time that not only was I trying my best to get shots to please the Bride and Groom who had hired me for their wedding, I was also auditioning for a potential client who was watching me work. In terms of the images I was taking there wasn't any additional pressure there - I always try to take the best images I can, particularly when someone is paying me to do so - but having someone there who could potentially hire me, and who would run a fine rule over the end product certainly made me try a little harder on that December wedding.
A few weeks later in January Shelley got in touch via Facebook and asked me for a quote, by mid-February it was all booked and I was confirmed to be the photographer for the Allen wedding.
Keeping In Touch & Meeting The Client
In the months leading up to the wedding Shelley was excitedly posting various updates on Facebook; "Dress is ordered", "Tried on Dress today!", "wedding invites sent" - as most brides do now-a-days I'm sure. I kept a keen eye out for wedding related updates on Shelley's wall, being sure to 'like' them and comment on them. I was able to follow how Shelley's planning was going, keeping track of her progress which was brillaint. I also like to think that me showing I was following the goings-on was putting Shelley at ease, knowing i was interested in what was happening with her wedding planning.
I do like to be involved!
Following Shelley on Facebook was also great because it gave us plenty to talk about when we met the week before the wedding to go through a few photography related things. I knew how her dress was going, I knew that the cake was ordered etc and was able to ask about all of those little details - of which Shelley was more than happy to talk about. Clearly a very excited woman! We only sat together for about 40 minutes or so but managed to discuss so much. Shelley clearly knew exactly what she wanted from her photographer. I always like to meet the couples at least once before their wedding. They get to meet me, they get to know what I look like. Some couples ask to know about the equipment I'm using, so I always take my gear and iPad along to show my latest work. It's good fun too. I think It puts them at ease if they've not met me before, or have only seen my work on the internet.
We used the iPad to look through some photo's I had taken at previous weddings so that Shelley could show me exactly what sort of images she liked most and equally, the shots that she wasn't keen on. There were some images that Shelly had seen from that December wedding that she actually wanted to try and replicate on her wedding day. One of them was this shot. No faces, just the flowers and enough to know that it's the bride holding them:
Click to Enlarge: A photo I've taken before and was asked to repeat
Telling The Story
Over time I have built up a methodical way of working that I can apply to most weddings. Firstly, when shooting weddings I think that there are always a few shots that you need to get regardless of what else the happy couple have asked for. I myself have a small list of shots that I try to 'tick off'. These include photographing the dress before it's on, the shoes, any jewellery. I like to photograph the bride having her hair and make up done. If the bride permits (and if applicable) I also quite like to photograph the dress being tied at the back:
Click to Enlarge: "A Job For Experienced Hands"Other shots that make my 'must have' list include the bride then coming down the stairs to show her family and friends and are seeing the 'finished article' for the first time (hair, makeup, dress all on). This is usually quite a nice shot to go for as the bride is usually smiling from one ear to the other with her family all clapping and smiling. That is of course if the house the bride is getting ready in has stairs, or if indeed the bride is getting ready at a house at all (can often be a hotel). I then quite like to have the bride to myself for a short while to photograph a few portrait shots, perhaps a few shots with father of the bride and her bridesmaids:
Click to Enlarge: "The Bridal Party"Following that, I make sure I have a few shots of the bride getting into the wedding car and then getting out of the car at church. That pretty much gives me a whole host of images before the ceremony has even begun.
What I like about my approach is that I think it helps to tell the story of how the day unfolded. The Groom doesn't get to see the bride before the ceremony - It's often quite nice for them to see what was happening in the morning - after all, the Groom hasn't got much to do before a wedding most of the time (unless they're one of those vain guys who like to groom for a few hours) so it's often quite intriguing to see their faces when they see the bride having their hair done and makeup applied. The transformation is shown in a series of pictures.
If time allows I do also like to get shots of the Groom and his guys getting ready too. Typically, the men spend the morning half-ready, only lacking waistcoat's, cravats or ties and finish those off before they head out. Again, this presents a great opportunity to be able to photograph the gentlemen as they get ready, telling more of the story. Dean wasn't actually keen on this idea and just wanted to get ready in peace, which I can totally respect and understand.
On Dean and Shelley's wedding day Shelley was getting ready at a friends house where most of the preparation was being done in a large east-facing conservatory which was completely covered with soft, off-white coloured blinds. This provided perfect, even light that allowed me to use almost any setting on the camera I wanted. I usually find that I am limited for space when photographing the bride getting ready at a house so I had decided to leave my tripod in the car, but with a nice fast shutter speed I had no need for it. Having such great light conditions really enabled me to get some nice shots:
Click To Enlarge: Perfect little models who took direction wonderfully!I was really pleased with the shot you can see above. The girls were simply fantastic. It was almost as if they had been in front of the camera many times before. They were taking direction perfectly - it's like they knew exactly what I was trying to achieve. With this particular image the tallest bridesmaid you can see decided to simply hold her bouquet down to one side. I immediatley asked her to hold it with two hands and up in front, but, after a little bit of 'chimping' and looking on the back of the camera it would seem that she actually knew what was best for the image..."Okay, put your bouquet back down, just as you had it before - Maybe you were right" I had to admit...
I was trying to make this fun for the girls, I didn't want them to get bored. I had them poking their tongues out, jumping, poking one another. Then I switched and asked them to try and look a little more serious. The tallest of the three has managed that best, but there is still a hint of a smile there. The middle bridesmaid was set to smiley by dafault, so asking her to not smile was something of a challenge for her. And the smallest, well...I think for her not to smile would have been a shame anyway, she was walking around the entire morning with that same wonderful smile. I think it actually makes her the focus of the image.
I genuinely don't think I would change how that image has turned out at all.
Something I sometimes find difficult with people is to get them to look directly into the lens. This was simply not the case with these girls however. I asked them to look right at the glass as if it were someones eyes - I think it worked as intended, you can see that the girls are all looking in exactly the same direction at the same point of focus.
I think this image does typify photography somewhat: you can be a great photographer all you want, have all the gear, the right conditions and have everything you need to make a good shot, but it's always going to be the subject that decides whether you end up with something poor, or something excellent. On this day, these girls turned what could have been a rather average shot into what I think is a brilliant one.
The Church Ceremony
I was pleased with the church ceremony, but it didn't go quite as I'd hoped. In other ceremonies I've been allowed to move around, to get to both sides of the church as the ceremony was taking place and get to different angles as long as I am discreet. However, on this day the vicar was rather strict and had provided me with a clear, robust set of instructions. I was to walk backward up the aisle as Shelley and her Father entered the church, photographing them on their way up to the alter. I was to then move to the left and sit on a pue pretty much in the corner. I was to stay there until 'beckoned' by the vicar when the marriage certificates were being signed. At the end I was then allowed to move from my corner, back to end of the aisle when the last hymn was being sung and photograph Shelley and Dean walking back down the aisle has Husband and Wife.
For Shelley and Dean I'm sure this was fine. It's their day and the ceremony was stunning. The vicar was jovial, the hymns were sung well and the whole thing was very well done. I was impressed. As ceremonies go it was one of the best.
However, for me as a photographer it really limited the variety of shots I was able to take. I was desperate to get one of them exchanging rings and kissing (as these are on my 'must-have' list), but from where I was standing I simply wasn't able to get these shots. I must admit I've never been given instructions by a vicar before, other than not to come too far forward, no flash photography and generally being asked to be as discreet as possible.
However, I think I managed to get a few nice shots, good enough for the wedding album:
Click to Enlarge: Husband & Wife, Mr & Mrs Allen
So, as with most weddings the order of the day would now be some group and family shots outside of the church before heading off to the reception. In some cases you may move onto the reception first and take some shots there instead. This would depend on whether there is an area suitable for photographing large groups of people and the weather conditions. For Dean and Shelley we remained at the church for a while afterwards and began to organise the 110+ people for group shots. I find this part both challenging and good fun. Due to the large number of people there are few things I do before the wedding to help organise this part of the day:
Firstly, when meeting the Bride and Groom at the client meeting I ask them if there are any special family members, or and specific combinations they would like me to photograph. For example: Bride, Groom, Best Man, Maid of Honour. Or, Bride, Groom, Parents etc. I write a list, with both the people's names and their relationship to the happy couple.
Then, I have a nominated 'runner', someone familiar with the family and frineds who can gather up family members for me as I call them. This means I can stay with the camera on the tripod (by now I have it positioned and don't want anyone knocking it over!) and the Bride and Groom to explain what shot from their list we are doing next and, it's normally much faster having someone who knows everyone do this part for me.
I usually have my camera on High Speed Continuous at this point and take around 15 or so of each group to make sure I at least get one good shot - there is always someone not smiling naturally (or not smiling at all!), or someone with their eyes closed. I usually shoot a few bursts of 3 or 4 at a time, asking them to say the names of the Bride and Groom, or, the classic 'Cheese'. Before this wedding I was having a quick look around a few websites to see how I could improve my group photography and found a few that gave some very basic suggestions that would (In my opinion) vastly improve the results. For example:
- Have everyone tilt their heads up slightly
- Have people on the ends of the group stand angled in towards the center of the group
- Ask people to squeeze in nice and tightly, touching shoulders with the person next to them
- Ensure that everyone can see the camera. A good quote: "If you can't see the camera It can't see you" (Source)
Another shot that I consider a must have is the confetti shot. I ask everyone to stand in a guard of honour formation - two rows of people. I usually suggest for the Groom's family one side and the Bride's family to stand opposite and have friends stand either side to make the numbers even. I then always give the same instructions (purely for photographic purposes): "Throw the confetti high up into the air above them, not at them!" If some people don't have confetti I just get them to cheer and applaud, or ask for some confetti from other people so that everyone has a little bit. I then get the Bride and Groom to walk and smile, looking at their friends and family and then occasionally at one another:
Clcik to Enlarge: "Throw the confetti high into the air, not AT them!"
Onto The Reception To Party The Night Away
So, Dean and Shelley were Husband and Wife and now people wanted to go celebrate. Onto the reception!
I was told by many that Shelley was a wonderful bride-to-be and had organised everything to military precision: The table layouts, colour schemes, DJ, everything. The one thing however that Dean wanted to have a say in was the centre pieces on the head table. Dean, being a fisherman, was adamant that there should be something fish-themed included somewhere. Shelley agreed. On their head table they had arranged to have two glass bowls each containing a pair mirror carp. (Although, not quite as big as the ones you see if you Google them). I must admit I was impressed - that was not something I had seen before. Unfortunately by now the light was dull and the flash lit up the bowl in a horrible way. You'll just have to take my word for it.
Dean and Shelley's wedding was long awaited by both their families as they had been together for 22 years! This didn't take any of the magic away from the day though; they both seemed like young, playful teenagers the entire day. And so they should - It was a fantastic ceremony and superb reception.
I'll leave you now with Shelley and Dean's first dance music, which was to the brilliant 'Be Mine' by David Grey. I have made my own 'montage' of the Allen's wedding photography using some of the shots from the day. I got a great response from everyone who saw it. Here it is:
If you're at work put your headphones in. If you're in a place where you can have music, turn the speakers up and enjoy:
I have photographed another wedding since and have some more photo's from that which I I intend to share and some stories to tell from the day. It was a very different wedding in every respect to that of Dean and Shelley's, I guess it goes to show that all weddings are unique.
Until next time!
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