Where are your clients?

Bromley Registry Office London Wedding Photography

Earlier today I met fellow photographer Matt Jerram, who runs Salt Photography and ably assisted me in photographing Lindsey and Dan’s wedding in May last year. Not only did we share a few beers and munch on ribeye steak (God bless you Mr Jerram), we also discussed all things photography including marketing techniques.

Matt recounted the tale of Joshua Bell who, back in 2007, treated unsuspecting commuters to a virtuoso performance on the Washington Metro system. For those who don’t know, Joshua is an American Grammy award-winning violinist, so you’d think that (a) commuters in their hundreds would stop to listen to Joshua’s playing, and (b) Bell would make an absolute fortune from his busking exploits.

Of course, as you’ve probably guessed, it didn’t quite work out that way.

This started me thinking about us photographers, and our marketing efforts (or lack of, in most cases). As creatives, I’m sure we’ve all been guilty at some point or another of the, “If I build it they will come” syndrome, in which we’re sure that our beautiful photography will automagically generate clients out of thin air, with little or no effort on our part.

Or, we spend hour upon hour updating our websites, in the knowledge that clients will definitely book us because our photography is fantastic.

You know what? I’m sure your photography is fantastic. I’m sure it could make a burly Canadian lumberjack weep openly in public at thirty paces. The problem is, the quality of your photography has no impact on your success as a photographer.

That’s a bitter little pill to swallow isn’t it? But it’s true.

So, to recap. If our fantastic photography has no bearing on our success, and nobody seems to care even though we’re virtuoso performers in our chosen field, then what’s the point? The point is, it’s all about where we market ourselves. To take an extreme example, as a photographer you wouldn’t dream of advertising in Gardener’s Weekly, would you? (Unless you’re interested in photographing someone’s prize begonias, and if you are , then good luck to you). If you’re Joshua Bell, then you’re unlikely to choose busking as a viable method of attracting new clients (yes, I know he’s won a Grammy and is famous, but even if he wasn’t, I’m sure he’d be more savvy than to rely solely on busking as a way of generating interest).

As photographers, we need to ascertain who our clients are, and where they’re hanging out. And then stop busking to them and start marketing to them instead.

Why is Wedding Photography Important?

True Value of Wedding Photography

This is probably the most personal post I’ve ever written, and was inspired by Kathleen Trenske’s excellent article, “The Case Against Good Enough“, in which she extols the virtues of owning physical copies of your wedding photography, instead of allowing them to languish on a disc tucked away in a dusty draw. I recently saw the fantastic Jerry Ghionis at the SWPP convention back in January, and he echoed those sentiments by saying, “If your house was on fire, would you rush back in screaming, ‘Oh my God, we need to save our wedding jpegs!’ Of course you wouldn’t – whereas your wedding album would be one of the first items you’d rescue.”

And he’s right. Of course, some couples request a disc-only package  because they intend to print out the photographs themselves, either individually or as an album. Or they may come back in a year or so and ask me to design an album of their images for them, which is great. As wonderful as it is to be able to view your photos on a computer, laptop, iPad or smartphone, you simply can’t beat holding and connecting with an actual printed photograph.

Which brings me neatly to the crux of this article. My parents Pat and Alan celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year, which is an absolutely incredible achievement. They also have physical copies of their photographs, taken by a Colchester wedding photographer (whose name I can’t recall but will find out) and they’re kept in a small card box. They still look as if they were printed yesterday, such is the love they’ve been afforded over the years.

Looking at them now, the true value of them shines through. There are photos of family members that are sadly no longer with us – most notably, my mother’s parents Bob and Violet, her sister Maureen, my father’s parents Albert and Hilda and my Dad’s brother Mick. In other words, everyone in that main photo except my parents.

It seems strange looking at this photograph now, knowing they’re no longer here. However, this image will always be a reminder of them, and as a result they’ll always be with us in our hearts.

10 Amazing Wedding Venues

Kings Chapel Amersham Buckinghamshire Wedding Photography

(That I’d Like to Photograph!)

Today I’d like to blog about fantasies (not those kind, you saucy lot…!) but wedding venue fantasies. Amazing locations, sweeping vistas, breathtaking spaces…basically, any location where getting married would be an absolute dream come true. A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to photograph a wedding at the amazing Leez Priory, but with all due respect to that venue, these following locations are a league apart. So let us begin…

Natural History Museum, London

As a child, my folks used to take my brother and I on day trips to London. We’d do all the touristy things – visit Buckingham Palace, Madame Taussauds and the London Dungeon…however, there was one venue that was always a real treat to explore, and that place was the Natural History Museum. When I visit now I feel very excited about the amazing architecture and venue as a whole (take a look at one of my favourite architectural photographs to see how magnificent the Central Hall is), but as a kid it was all about the dinosaurs. Or rather the unbelievably massive “Dippy” the Diplodocus skeleton. How cool would it be to have your wedding reception overseen by one of the largest mammals ever to walk the earth? Yes, very.

San Francisco City Hall

I confess I’ve never been to San Francisco, but judging by the grandeur of these interior photographs of the City Hall, I think that I’d rather like to…

St Paul’s Cathedral

What an amazing venue, and the cathedral where Charles and Diana were married. if you’d like to get married there, you need to (and I quote from the St Paul’s Cathedral website) -“be a members of the Order of St Michael and St George, the Order of the British Empire, holders of the British Empire Medal,  members of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor and their children (but not grandchildren).”

That clears that up then, eh?

Santorini, Greece

A few years ago I visited Santorini, and it’s absolutely breathtaking. Most adverts and TV programmes that depict  the white buildings with the coloured roofs are all filmed in Santorini. If you get married or spend your honeymoon there, be sure to visit Oia to witness the sunset. Beautiful.

Claridges, London

It’s one of the most prestigious hotels in London, if not the world, so who wouldn’t want to get married there? (well, anyone whose budget is less than the GDP of a small country, but we can all dream…!)

Scrub Island, British Virgin Islands

You know the rubbish, miserable and downright depressing weather we’re having in the UK at the moment? How about forgetting all your cares, maxing out your credit card* and getting married on the British Virgin Islands?

*(I assume no responsibility for any dubious financial advice administered on this site…!)

Historical Gothic Palace, Venice, Italy

I went to Venice a few years ago with my girlfriend. At first it’s completely overwhelming – so much staggeringly gorgeous architecture, all tightly-packed within a small area, that it literally befuddles your head. So much beauty, so little time. However, after a cappucino / Peroni or two and a few deep breaths, you can begin to digest just how spectacular this place is. Within 30 minutes we’d visited the chapel where Vivaldi first performed The Four Seasons, a hotel where Tchaikovsky used to stay, as well as being charged around £12 for a pint of beer (be VERY careful where you go to eat and drink!)

We didn’t get to see the Historical Gothic Palace, but just look at it. Makes my eyes water, in a good way.

Chateau de Challain, France

Ah, France. The country of romance, exquisite cuisine, and Zinedine Zidane, one of the finest footballers ever to grace the planet. They also have some absolutely spectacular wedding venues, if the Chateau de Challain is anything to go by…

Painted Hall, Greenwich, London

Words fail me. Simply look at the stunning painting and architecture (designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, fact fans), and imagine walking down the aisle here….sigh.

Dulwich College Great Hall, London

I thought I’d end with a venue that’s literally just down the road from me; if anyone out there is getting married there (or would like to get married there), then hire me as you’ll save on my transport costs! (I’m kidding…) I’ve walked past Dulwich College on a number of occasions, and it’s spectacular on the outside (and even more spectacular on the inside, judging by the photo above…)

Kids + Weddings = Fun!

East Dulwich Tavern London Wedding Photography

To coin a somewhat well-worn cliché, kids do the funniest things, and at weddings, they do the even-funnier things! As a photographer, it’s relatively easy to direct the bride and guests, asking them to pose and to guide them, all in the name of capturing beautiful images.

But with kids? Forget it.

Best to just let them get on with it, make sure the eyes in the back of your head are working, and never take those eyes and your camera off them for a second!

Here are some of my favourite images of kids being little tinkers at weddings I’ve photographed. I hope you enjoy them!

Shooting Winter Weddings Workshop

Shooting Winter Weddings Workshop

We all need to keep learning, right? No matter how good we think we are, there’s always room for improvement, and when a chance to learn from two of the best in the wedding photography business looms on the horizon, we’d be fools not to grab it with both hands.

Speaking of which, yesterday I had the pleasure to attend the Shooting Winter Weddings Workshop in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire with renowned wedding photographers Damien and Julie Lovegrove. Together they’ve photographed over 350 weddings, as well as releasing a book and a number of DVDs, so it’s safe to assume they have a pretty good idea what they’re talking about..!

The basic premise of the workshop was to demonstrate how to take (hopefully) fantastic photographs throughout the course of a wedding, often with very little light to work with. To quote from the official blurb, “This workshop is designed to give wedding photographers the confidence and skills to take beautiful images that the client will love. Simple, repeatable techniques are taught to provide you with all the necessary skills to take your wedding photography further.”

The day was divided up into three sections – the bride and groom getting ready, pre-ceremony portraits of the bride and groom, and finally shots of the ceremony and the couple together immediately after the ceremony. As a bonus, the day ended with Damien talking about lighting solutions for weddings, and Julie covered the psychology of a wedding shoot, from meeting the couple, arranging the flow of the day with them and so on.

What struck me most of all during the workshop was how possible it was to capture fabulous images in extremely low-light conditions using very low shutter speeds! For example, two scenarios spring to mind; the first was a shot of the bride Sarah in one of the corridors of the hotel against some beautiful wood panelling, where there was seemingly no usable light except for a splash coming through from a window opposite. Previously I’d have disregarded the location, and would have deemed it too dark to capture a usable image. How wrong I was…using a monopod, high ISOs, low shutter speeds (sometimes as low as 1/15 and occasionally 1/10…shudder…) and overexposing by +1EV on this occasion, it was entirely possible.

The other seemingly unusable location was under some trees just by the church. By this time the heavens had opened and the sky was bleak and angry, so the group looked at each other when Damien led us all under some trees where there was even less light. Again, using a monopod, a slow shutter speed, high ISO and overexposure, we all managed to capture an image that the couple would adore.

I’ve read numerous wedding photography / processing articles where the author warns against blowing the highlights and retaining all the detail in the bride’s dress. Julie was happy to dispel this myth, if it meant capturing some wonderful images. Damien emphasised this point by stating that all the shots should look like they were shot on a sunny day. After all, the couple hardly want to look back at their wedding photos and remember that it was tipping it down on their special day!

As you’ve probably guessed, I’d thoroughly recommend the workshop. It’s set in a beautiful location, Damien and Julie were extremely friendly, approachable and happy to help and assist along the way, the couple Alex and Sarah were extremely professional, and I came away with a renewed sense of optimism, enthusiasm and most of all, inspiration.

Photographing Your First Wedding

Bromley Garden Room London Wedding Photography

A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to photograph the wedding of Nigel and Carmen Smith, and thanks to both of them for a wonderful (if extremely challenging) day!

I thought I’d detail my experiences here, for anyone thinking of shooting their first wedding – hopefully this will outline some of the things to look out and prepare  for, as well as any pitfalls that may arise during the day.

Prepare, prepare and prepare some more

I really can’t emphasise this enough. Two people have entrusted you to capture their special day – it doesn’t matter whether they’re paying you a small fortune to do so, or whether it’s a favour to help them out at the last minute. Either way, their expectations will be high, and they’ll be counting on you to capture some wonderful images of the day.

I met with Nigel and Carmen a month before the big day. Ideally I’d have met them a few months before that, but time being of the essence meant that I had around four to five weeks to prepare, which was just about enough time. We discussed timings, including:

  • What time was Carmen arriving?
  • When would Nigel arrive?
  • What time was the service?
  • What time was the reception commencing?
  • Was flash photography allowed during the service?
  • What group photographs would they like?
  • What photos would they consider “essential” (picture of the dress / shoes / cake etc)

And lots of other questions to boot – the more info you can garner at this stage the better.

Learn how to use your equipment

A bit of a no-brainer this one, but the last thing you want to happen while the bride is walking down the aisle is trying to figure out how to change the aperture or ISO.

For example, I bought a Nissin flash unit to help out with the shots during the speeches, and had relatively little experience regarding how to use it. I’d taken some shots using studio lighting, but a small flash unit is a different kettle of fish. For example, would I shoot using manual flash or E-TTL? How would I balance ambient light and flash to obtain a natural looking exposure? So I bought a copy of On-Camera Flash Techniques for Wedding and Portrait Photography and devoured the information within it, while taking various test shots over the next couple of weeks until I felt comfortable using it.

I also hired a Canon 5D Mkii and a couple of Canon lenses (24-70 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 IS, both wonderful and flipping heavy lenses…!) The 5D has a different menu system to my 400D, so I spent a couple of days using it, ensuring I knew exactly how to quickly change the aperture, ISO and shutter speed at a moments notice.

Scout the venue

This is something I didn’t have time to do unfortunately, but something that I thoroughly recommend. It’s incredibly helpful to know where everything is taking place, especially as a lot of wedding venues tend to be fairly dim places and lacking in natural light.

For example, Nigel and Carmen were married underneath one of the towers at Leez Priory, and although it was a beautiful location it was lacking in natural light (okay, not strictly true – there was plenty of natural light, but they were facing away from it). As it was, I had to make a snap decision to bump the ISO up to ensure a fast enough shutter speed. Not a massive decision the grand scheme of things, but something extra to think about when you’re under a lot of pressure.

Take food and drink

I was lucky enough to attend the wedding as a guest, although I have to admit I didn’t really feel like one due to the pressure of capturing the wedding. Saying that, I ate with everyone else during the reception, but foolishly didn’t take any water with me (a huge thanks to Steve and Kirstean for buying me a couple of orange juices during the day…lifesavers!) It was a hot day, I was on my feet for pretty much ten hours, and those two lenses were heavy. Take some liquids at least.

Overall, the experience was an amazing one, but I haven’t felt that knackered for a long time. Wedding photography is hard but ultimately rewarding, especially processing the images and discovering that a fair few of them were pretty good after all. If you’re thinking of shooting your first wedding, prepare all you can – meet the couple, look at the venue, know your equipment inside out and most of all stay calm during the day. I had a few moments of panic and there are things I’d do differently next time (try and relax a bit more would have been nice), but once the clients see the shots and are thrilled with them, it makes it all worthwhile.

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