It’s been quite an exciting summer as yet another set of friends prepare to tie the knot this year and I have the pleasure of being their photographer. I have known Liz and Jack for a number of years now, but since they’ve been a couple, with Jack being at University in Canterbury, Liz in Chichester and their time together precious, I haven’t had the chance to really hang with them as a couple and get to know what makes them tick together. The engagement shoot in preparation for their wedding was a great opportunity.
To start off we visited a place close to Liz’s home called Brandy Hole Copse in Chichester. As we were trekking through brambles, warding off wasps and kicking playing toddlers off picturesque benches, Liz and Jack shared with me why this Copse was so special to them. It was where they had their first date, first kiss, where Jack asked Liz to officially be his girlfriend and then later asked her to be his wife! I mean, seriously! How romantic can you get?! To top it all off, Jack had even drawn Liz a picture at random (pre-dating) of the same clearing with a pond, trees and a couple hanging out before he had visited! Meant to be or what?!
I loved the light flares created by the dappled woodland when shooting into the light, and natural framing of the shots emphasised by the surrounding foliage. I could have spent far longer exploring, but the couple of hours at Brandy Hole Copse doing a photo-op recce was definitely rewarding as we plan to return on their wedding day and really come full circle in their dating journey. We detoured via Liz’s house to grab some much needed lunch in preparation for the next stage….Boxgrove Priory & Ruins.
I came to realise during our time together that Liz and Jack are an incredibly tactile couple. I decided to use this to my advantage as it made for some really romantic shots. The ruins are a wonderful backdrop for romance. As they are having their wedding reception at Boxgrove Village Hall it will be perfect to return here with all their wedding day finery and attire to capture some more portraits.
I’m hoping too, to be able to inject some youthful spirit into the wedding day photos as we are planning to bring the bridal party – consisting of their best friends, here for some fun shots!
The last part of Liz and Jack’s engagement shoot consisted of an impromptu trip to Bognor to visit the sea. Jack and Liz really got to know each other in Bognor at Opengate Church that we all attend, so they have spent much time at the beach or walking the prom together. As they will both be moving to Canterbury after their wedding, Liz really wanted to get some photos of them together at the beach, capturing those precious memories.
Again, I had great fun playing with light flares and rebelling against the photographers’ golden rule of not shooting into the sun….especially during the Golden Hour!! One of my favourite moments from this part was the moment Jack lost his footing on the moving stones as a wave rushed in whilst he was paddling and holding a shrieking Liz! They soon made up….as you can see!!
The beach in Bognor, along Aldwick Bay, was a lovely, quiet spot to finish the day. It was lovely to hang out with Liz and Jack and really get to know them better, as well as priming them for a whole day of being papped by two of us on their wedding day. I can’t wait!! Roll on September 6th!!
Having known CJ and her family for many years, to say I’m excited to be shooting her wedding next month is an understatement!! I’ve been really blessed to have developed a great friendship with CJ and her fiancé Jon over this last year. Also, knowing the family, I have often had inside information and exciting tidbits about developments within their relationship that are yet to happen!The biggest secret so far has been “The Proposal”
Jon is an avid mountaineer and decided to combine his passion for CJ with that of scaling great heights. Last year, Jon went on a trek to climb Ama Dablam, a mountain in the Himalaya range in Eastern Nepal. Asides from doing the climb to raise money for charity and because he enjoys it, there was another mission. To carry and keep safe an engagement ring with which to propose to CJ. At the summit of Ama Dablam, Jon took a picture of the ring flanked by snow capped mountains. Upon his return, this ring picture was printed into a canvas and hidden from CJ for a WHOLE MONTH before presenting it to her, gift wrapped on Christmas Day. Needless to say, she said yes!! How cool is that!!
So, when we discussed what kind of Engagement Shoot they wanted we decided to combine both of their loves. The Trundle near Chichester, West Sussex was chosen as although not a mountain, it is high (for me). An Iron Age Hill Fort that boasts spectacular views of West Sussex and Hampshire. Jon, being from Bristol, hadn’t been to The Trundle. We also decided to go to the beach in Bognor Regis as it is a place that CJ is often to be found, relaxing, walking, paddling & hanging out with friends and family. The beach is a place close to her heart so it seemed the perfect place to capture her with the man who heart she holds.
The Trundle was a great place to take pictures. With fabulous views for miles and scenery awash with different shades of green it felt incredibly peaceful. It was also pretty low on human traffic. That gave us a great chance to slowly meander our way around pausing here and there to take pictures, look at the flora and fauna and have a general natter about the forthcoming wedding.
After we’d exhausted The Trundle and tried to locate our homes in the views we set off back down to Bognor Regis and the beach. Rather than diving straight in, we had a coffee and ice-cream break. This gave us time to plan the finer details of the wedding day that will be happening at Opengate Church in Bognor Regis and Southend Barns in Donnington. It also gave the tide the chance to retreat some more!
The great thing about the beach is there are a plethora of backdrops and natural props to use. Fishermen leave their boats up on the stones, families lovingly decorate their beach huts and nature has blessed us with sand, sea, pebbles and giant rocks!! We unanimously decided we’d have a shorter session on the beach as the air had developed a windy chill and our tummies grumbled louder for food. We couldn’t resist, however, pausing to take pictures with this fabulous beach hut that gave a cheerful end to a lovely day of photos and wedding talk.
For those that know me, May the 4th is usually spent enjoying my birthday… *ahem* 24 *ahem*!! This year however I found myself hotfooting up to the City of London with my trusted 2nd Lee to shoot the wedding of Maria and Stuart.
What a fabulous day it was. We started the day finding Maria and Stuart at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Tower Hill getting ready in their respective rooms,of course, Maria had the bigger of the two….what bride wouldn’t!! While Lee was busy with the boys and their struggles to tie ties and attach cufflinks with one hand, I was on hand with Maria, her mother, and her bridesmaid Lauren. Aside from the make-up and hair, and the fabulous something blue (a gorgeous pair of blue Manolo Blahnik stilettos) my favourite capture of the day must have been the look on Maria’s face as she opened her gift from her husband-to-be…a gorgeous diamond bracelet. Of course, this became a new accessory for her bridal outfit!
As Stuart and the boys were finishing up their drinks and preparing to head to the venue, Maria was putting the finishing touches to her outfit and hair. It was a real privilege to be there to capture those precious and intimate moments of emotion between mother and daughter, and awe from the flower girl arriving and getting her first look at the beautiful bride.
A short taxi drive later and we arrive at Devonshire Terrace in Central London. Being in the centre of the financial district, it is usually closed on weekends, except for weddings, so it was really nice to have an urban oasis in the middle of the city that was relatively tourist free. The building Devonshire Terrace is situated in is impressive. Imagine (with lego, my visual brain says) building the deep, outer walls of a rectangular block 6 storeys high leaving the central space free of building, instead turning it into a usable courtyard space protected from the elements by a glass roof.
The ceremony was fantastic. As the groom, Stuart, nervously waited for his bride, Maria was busy having some photos with her bridal party under the large brick arches that connect the courtyard to the outside world. Then she arrives, a beautiful vision in an ivory bejewelled gown with stunning satin corsetry and a fashionable tulle fishtail skirt.
Maria surprised her new husband by hiring vocalists and musicians who popped up out of the congregation as the ceremony finished, performing ‘All You Need Is Love’, inspired by the film Notting Hill. They also sang the new Mr & Mrs Jennings back down the aisle to a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’
I had planned to take Maria and Stuart out into the London streets to capture some urban portraits of them both. Immediately out through the arches provided some fantastic backdrops with which to compose them. They were a great couple to work with who were very happy to be papped on their special day. We went for a series of candid and artistic poses as well as some more traditional shots. One of my favourites was the an edgy edit I did where the (now filthy) underskirts of Maria’s dress were exposed. This appealed to my alternative creative side.
While Maria, Stuart and their guests sat down to enjoy their meal Lee and I took a well earned break to devour the amazing tapas style food that was on offer and do what all good photographers do…..talk gear & shots and drink coffee!
The rest of the evening continued in good cheer and celebration. Speeches were delivered, toasts made, champagne drunk and dances danced. First up on the dance floor were the page boys and flower girls who well and truly rocked out before Maria and Stuart took to the floor for their well choreographed first dance.
Maria had thoughtfully provided some comedy props which came in incredibly handy, especially when coaxing the shyest of the party to be photographed. This is certainly something I would recommend doing, especially if a studio photo booth isn’t feasible.
As the night for us came to an end and all our gear was re-packed and loaded into the car, we began the journey back to the South Coast with our eyes on lookout for a coffee stop! The wedding of Mr & Mrs Jennings was a fabulous day. A lot of fun and a wonderful experience. It was a pleasure to be able to play a part in their day. Congratulations Maria & Stuart, wishing you a lifetime of blessings and happiness.
After many conversations over the years I have put together a guide on how to choose your wedding photographer. I hope it helps you.
Step 1: Ask A Friend.
It is so easy to tap into Google “your location”+ “Wedding Photographer” and have a zillion hits in under a nano-second, but where do you go from there? Clicking on a few will certainly give you a great starting point, often though, you may find that just doing a shout out amongst your friends will give you a list of personally recommended local photographers that won’t have made it on Google until at least page 5!! As these photographers may have shot their weddings/christenings/family portraits etc, your friends will be able to tell you if they had good, bad or amazing experiences…you may even have walked past and complemented some of these images as you’ve sat in their lounge having a cuppa!
Step 2: Stalk Your List (Research)
You’re armed with a handful of potential photographers, your computer and a large coffee (or glass of red!!)…start stalking them. Check out their websites, online portfolios and prices. Is there a style you are seeing that you really like or don’t like? Have you a budget in mind for your wedding photography/videography? Set up a board on Pinterest and start to catalogue the type of things you have liked the look of. Are there a few photographers you’ve come across that you would like to find out more about? create a shortlist of ones to meet.
Step 3: Define Your Details
Style: As you have been researching, you may have found a particular photography style that stands out to you, be it formal; black & white; digital vs film; light and airy; quirky etc. Many photographers will display an array of styles in their portfolios as they will be adaptable to the clients needs, but checking out their bio may give you some insight into what their main shooting style is. Again, a portable list of examples like a scrap book, or Pinterest is a great tool to use when you meet potential photographers, but be aware every picture is unique to a set of circumstances: location; people; lighting; time of day; equipment used etc etc so it is very unlikely that a photographer will be recreating those images on your wedding day, rather, they will be using your inspiration to inspire them creatively.
Price: A wedding is made up of so many factors that all come with a price. Some items are administrative (registering your intent to marry) and others are product or labour based (the catering, for example). Some are short term (the flowers & the canapés) and some are long term (the wedding rings and the photographs). It is really important to look at your overall budget and decide how you want to divide it. It wouldn’t necessarily be the wisest choice to blow 50% of your budget on a harpist while you sign the register while leaving 5% for your wedding photographer.
You may find the price of a wedding photographer frighteningly high or shockingly low…myself and a number of photographers I know generally agree that there are 3 main brackets for wedding photography prices: Low; Medium & High.
Low: A photographer who is in the low bracket will usually charge under £500 to shoot your wedding. In my experience, they are usually someone who is just starting out or working to get more experience in their chosen field. They may also be lower in price as they don’t offer the same post production service & finished products than those in a medium-high bracket will.The risk with choosing a photographer from a low price bracket is the potential lack of experience and the use of equipment that isn’t of a professional grade.They may not have the experience of what to do in situations when things go wrong, and may also not have sufficient back up gear. On the other hand, they may be incredibly talented photographers who just need a break and the experience to put their skills to the test. Due to their lack of experience, they may try harder and go above and beyond their duty to really make an impact….and they may be great in a crisis!
Medium: A medium priced photographer should be around the £1000-£2500 price range. This may sound like a lot, but what you are paying for is more than someone for a day. Generally photographers in this bracket are experienced in their field and will have a host of digital and actual portfolios to share with you. The gear they use will be of a high professional grade and they will also be carrying spares! An assistant will usually be on board and this will be part of the cost, and the photographer will spend a considerable amount of time on post production (editing). For me a wedding from planning to finished product usually uses between 50-80 hours of work. You should expect a photographer in this bracket to be fully insured, offer planning and preparation as part of your package and offer a number of options as to how you would like your finished product. E.g: usb stick/online gallery; wedding albums; wall art; canvasses; prints etc. You may also find these photographers are very aware of the current economic climate , so will be able to guide you in how to cut corners and shave your budget and offer you options that suit your budget. They may also offer budget-tipping extras like: videography; pop-up-studio; engagement/trash the dress shoot; hand made albums etc. Many will also have started their journey to be aligned with a professional photographic association (BIPP/MPA/SWPP etc). If you’re lucky, they’ll be winning awards too and recognised in their field!
High: Those in the high bracket start their fees in excess of £3-5000. A photographer in this field will usually be exceptionally experienced with a standard of finished images and products that lend itself to the high price range. Their equipment will be of an ultra-high level pro grade and assistants on the shoot will come as standard. These photographers will often have developed a style that is unique to them and highly sought after by clients, rather than the med-low brackets who may be more flexible to the clients style needs. They may also have a celebrity following, think Hello / OK magazine wedding photography here!
When: Have you set a date yet for your wedding? It may seem silly, but getting your heart set on a photographer before setting your date could be dangerous! Also, have you through about how long you would like your day captured professionally for? From getting ready? Just the ceremony? First Dance? Finest party moves? You may find the length of coverage is a negotiation between your budget and dream photographer!
Step 4: Meet Your Shortlisted Photographers
This is not just an ideal opportunity for you to meet with a potential photographer, but for them to meet you too. It can be an incredibly emotional time on your wedding day, so it is important to feel comfortable with the person who is likely to be there, taking those intimate photos and walking that emotional journey in close contact with you. Aside from all the practical stuff, you are likely to feel a vibe, or have a gut feeling about the photographer. If your gut says an emphatic “NO” chances are that connection isn’t there. Strike them off your list.
Practically it is important to meet face-to-face, or if that isn’t possible at first, schedule a telephone conversation. Ideally meet with the photographer as a couple, if not, bring someone you trust with you, a family member, friend etc. Check out their portfolios, find out who they are and how they are likely to conduct themselves on your wedding day. Discuss your needs, show examples of what you like and don’t like and see if this is something the photographer gets.
Are they feeling your day….do they have ideas that could capture the vibe of who you are as a couple? Tell the photographer your dreams. Us photographers love to be creative, you may find we have something up our sleeves that isn’t advertised. Don’t be afraid to talk budgets! It is a real part of the deal that shouldn’t be embarrassing or awkward to bring up. If you’ve done your research you’ll know whether you’ve scheduled a meet with a photographer whose prices start at £1750, when your allotted budget is £750. Do be honest as to what you can and cannot afford, but don’t forget, you wouldn’t pop to TopShop and expect to pay half the ticket price just because it’s not in your budget.
Get a quote. You may get this in person at the meeting, but also get it in writing with details so you can compare and refer back to it when making your decisions. This will likely be emailed or posted to you after the meet. Ask questions. Do they need a deposit? When is completed payment due? How long do the images take? How long does an album take? What is the deal with copyright? What if my Mum wants an image? Who else will be there on the day? Hidden costs? Insured? etc etc. Take notes!! Remember, you should feel at ease with your chosen photographer, if you don’t, it may reflect in the images.
Step 5: Choosing Your Photographer
You’ve done the research, made your budget, set the date, booked your venue and met a bunch of photographers…..so, how do you choose? My first instinct would be to go with your gut, but that isn’t always practical or financially viable.
Break your shortlist down. Get rid of any you didn’t feel any sort of personal connection with, then look at your budget. Are there any on your shortlist that are wildly out of your budget? Unless you can shuffle your finances, maybe they also need to come off your shortlist. You may be left with one or two strong contenders at this point.
There is no hard or fast rule with how to make this final decision. For some, the image “wow factor” may be the deciding vote. For some, the personality of the photographer. For others, it may even be down to the £50 difference on the quote. If it is a small difference in the quotes it may be worth a quick call to your favourite choice to see if £50-£100 can be shaved off somewhere. If you still can’t make your mind up, other than meeting up a second time, you may just need to chat with your fiancé, sleep on it and just go with your gut!!