Get on your feet! | 345:157

Today, a piece about photographing in church – seeking different angles to tell that well visited story. As Gloria Estefan sang in 1990, “Get on your feet!” Is it really 28 years since that song was a chart success? It seems like only yesterday! When I were a lad my Dad would have talked about Bing Crosby and Frankie Laine songs as being like only yesterday and I’d scoff at the thought and jokingly ask if the world was still in black and white back then; a time when television was in absolute infancy, when flying to Australia took almost a week and Spurs football players queued outside my Grandfather’s tobacco shop in North London to pick up their Players Navy Cut prior to a match. I digress completely. Get on your feet was really supposed to be a rousing call to move more during wedding photography when you can. It’s all too easy as a photographer to find your safe position in church, or the one that’s been dealt by a priest or rules bound verger. But there are times I think you can throw a little caution to the wind as long as you don’t go and spoil the view for ‘paying customers.’ The proclamation is one such moment you can move and, as with this picture, I’ve travelled the aisle and knelt on the floor. I’m no longer distracting those behind me, and the lower angle presents a sense of energy when you look at the context of the photograph.

Shot data: focal length 70mm, f2.8, 1/160, ISO 1600

A colour photo of the bride and groom as they are announced husband and wife

Shameless, frankly shameless | 365:156

Two pictures today as the 365. Yesterday’s piece was called, ‘An admission.’ And perhaps to an extent, this could have been the admission, part two. I’ve worked with and photographed a humble number of faces that are recognisable. Perhaps it says something about the maturity of my vocation that in the most, these notable aspects are fathers and mothers of the bride or groom and not the key players in this love story. But still, it’s been a lesson. For O level English, elevator to a past educational period, I studied ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ For those who have read this you’ll be familiar with act 3 scene 1; ‘If you prick us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?’ and so on. I know I know, there is a far wider context to this piece, but I do think of fathers of the bride when I think of this lesson. Whether you’re the former national squad manager with a legacy of one of England’s most loved and greatest strikers, a national broadcasting treasure or a Dad who teachers first graders their initial strides into a playground of opportunity, we’re all the same. We’re wired for emotion. You can hold it in, try to hide it. Deny it even as part of your primal impulse. But actually if you embrace your feelings, you’re a millionaire every time.

A colour picture of a father with his daughter on her wedding day

An admission | 365:155

Close up wedding photography. Last Sunday I was shooting a Jewish wedding in London. It was meal break time. I sat with the toastmaster. We talked weddings. As you might expect I suppose. And then he flattered me with the suggestion I was a relaxed style of photographer who made people feel at ease #yaddahyaddah. The point of telling you this is not one of boastful statement or marketing spiel. It’s more to do with the fact he felt wedding photographers, more-so documentary style wedding photographers are often far too intimate; practically in peoples’ faces to achieve the shots they require. Not one for bursting bubbles, I agreed that being too intimate is indeed a problem. I shuffled uncomfortably in my seat. He’ll not read this I’m sure, but still I feel the need to admit, that I too like close up photography, let’s call it close up magic. Because in reality that’s what using wider angle glass is. The magic though is making people feel comfortable as you’re doing so. Intimate wedding photography that makes you feel as if you’re part of the action is like conjuring. It’s slight of hand. It’s having folk feel happy you can share their space without them feeling a sense of personal invasion. And then you retreat. So for photographers, embrace your 24mm. For brides and grooms, when searching for a wedding photographer, seek a reaction from viewing their portfolio. If you feel like you’re part of a day through pictures, that’s magic.

Shot data: focal length 24mm, f2.8, 1/1000, ISO 100

A colour wedding photograph using the 24mm lens getting very close

Mummy Daddy, why were you laughing? | 365:154

Questions in pictures. I don’t think every photograph should necessarily tell a long deep meaningful narrative. Actually in terms of wedding photography, the simple record images form a staple of the overall collection. But here and there and in good measure if you search well and opportunity presents, stand out moments can result in the viewer asking a question. I think this is one. Why are they laughing? If I could gather both the laughers and the protagonist in the same frame, I’d be thrilled. The fact is I couldn’t or can’t, so the reaction is all I can gather for now. Why are they laughing? Look at the picture and you can complete the virtual speech bubble. Though I will say. Below the picture.

A colour photo of a couple laughing because a horse is making a noise during the reading

The reason. It’s mid ceremony. Directly opposite the couple a reader is delivering his lines, eloquently I’m sure. Except. Except for the fact that as he talks, a horse, the other side of the wall you can view, is neighing. Loudly. Very loudly. And only as the reader reads. If the reader stops, so does the horse. It’s contagious laugh. The kind of laugh that hopefully one day will raise the question; Mummy Daddy, why were you laughing?

The wedding dress. One word; context | 365:153

Wedding dress pictures. Straight off the bat, I’d like it known that though I may not feature a lot of detail pictures across the galleries of this website, I do appreciate that detail of the day is still precious. The trinkets that conspire to showcase this as a wedding are important. I choose to display photographs that sing about the feelings of a day and pictures of rings or cologne don’t really do that, well not as loudly anyway. But, and to contradict myself to a degree, detail is still part of the story. If you can frame that detail within the composition though, that’s a perfect result. The picture can then speak the language of a wedding without it being too contrived.

Shot data: focal length 35mm, f2, 1/160, ISO 200

Colour photograph of a bride having make up applied with her dress in the foreground

Just a dash of light | 365:152

So here’s some photographic thoughts, but for brides reading this, some thoughts as to how light works for you during the process of make up application. Window light can provide a superb quality and quantity of light. Windows equally shape light well. In this example a narrow window positioned slightly to the right of the bride’s face is bearing a soft quality of light that falls gradually off as it shapes around her face from left to right. Photographically I hear angels singing! In terms of light quantity, she’s not flooded, so photographically this presents a super opportunity to record a softer tonal range of colours or shades. Note how the background is several stops lower in terms of light striking any walls or features. This means that the bride’s face is isolated within the composition. Not always the effect you may be seeking, but here I think it works well. Now, I’m not a make up artist, so I’m not sure how this form of soft shaped light either helps or hinders the application of powders, creams and potions. But I will say this, positioning yourself close to a good soft light source is far better than finding a dark corner of a room with just a standard lamp as radiant friend. It may seem obvious, but look for the light when you enter the room you’ll be making up in.

Shot data: focal length 85mm, f1.2, 1/5000, ISO 1600, under-exposed by two thirds of a stop

A black and white picture to demonstrate the power of window light

Beyond the action | 365:151

I often enthuse during my consultations with prospective brides and grooms that whilst they are clearly the number one couple in my life that day, it’s what goes on beyond in the background that can often be priced as higher photographic currency than what fills the foreground. As a couple, you live your day, but you don’t see your day, well not in quite the same way as a hired pair of eyes will. And that’s my role; to be the couples’ eyes. The way your friends look on as you exchange rings during the ceremony, the reaction your friends display during a surprising story amid the speeches, the backstage reveals in a hustling kitchen, or floral construction with hours to go until the I dos. This is the bread of wedding photography. Beyond the action, there’s a whole plethora of storytelling to be done.

Shot data: focal length 85mm, f2.5, 1/125, ISO 2000, under-exposed by two thirds of a stop

A colour photo of mum and dad watching on as the bride and groom have their first dance

How low can you go? | 365:150

Challenging camera angles. Going low gives me a chance to meld in with guests, particularly during the pivotal documentary opportunity provided by wedding speeches. I’m often asked by videographers in particular where I may be standing during this time. For film makers, the idea of planting one’s tripod like a flag claiming territory is not simply a statement of intent, it’s a technical requirement to avoid camera shake. The joy of employing a stills approach means I can answer that question with a knowing shrug and suggestion that I’ll simply go where the best compositions present themselves. I’ll certainly not be standing in front of a video’s camera angle on sticks, as I want to keep moving, keep searching, keep seeking angles that reveal the day often from the kind of aspect that’s seemingly a guest’s viewpoint.

Shot data: focal length 50mm, f1.8, 1/160, ISO 2500, under-exposed by one third of a stop

Colour photograph of photography during the wedding speeches from a low camera angle

Dragging the shutter | 365:149

Dragging the shutter. Photographic term. I’ve heard the technique described as rather passive. But I think it’s the opposite. I think it describes energy and draws you, voice this in proper northern timbre; right in to action. My own settings wander somewhat according to the available light, but as a rule of thumb the following applies. Shutter speed 1/15 or lower, but only a smidge. ISO set to what I consider is appropriate for the ambient conditions, but usually somewhere in the range of 2000. Again, maybe a smidge lower. Aperture is F10, 11… something that gifts me a deeper depth of field. And that’s because I zone focus, say a metre to infinity. I shoot wide angle and distort the edges for effect. Flash settings equally important. Rear curtain sync and aimed directly to the action. Manually powered, I experiment on the evening with the power output, rule of thumb somewhere between 1/32 and 1/64. Get close to the action and press that shutter button whilst sitting on a beat!

Shot data: focal length 16mm, f10, 1/10, ISO 1000

Colour photograph, example of dragging the shutter using flash

The Hugathon | 365:148

I’ve talked before about this so called ‘hugathon.’ It’s the time following a ceremony where you sit back and allow guests to come to the bride and groom. Although, as a documentary wedding photographer I have adopted a ‘half hour break’ where I embrace the concept of more structured portraiture, the moments immediately after a ceremony is a time to let the wedding breathe. If you immediately descend upon the unsuspecting brethren and organise formals, you miss the kind of photographs below you can make. There’s an age old phrase I’m sure my late parents must have used; “Leave well alone.”

Shot data: focal length 35mm, f3.5, 1/200, ISO 100, under-exposed by a third of a stop

A black and white picture of guests hugging a bride following a ceremony

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