Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Harder Than You'd Think: Wedding Photography

So the other day, someone wrote to me. They said:

"In comparison to your personal work on flickr, wedding photography seems so plain. Are you worried people will expect the crazy photos and effects they see on your photostream, and be disappointed when they aren't there?"

I was going to write a reply straight on formspring, but after thinking a little while, I thought it deserved a blog post.

Until about a year ago, I was a "I won't ever do weddings, I'm above that" kind of photographer. And I'm utterly ashamed of myself for being like that. I thought weddings were ungrateful, repetitive, nothing special - too easy. I thought, the pictures you see online are just the same things over and over, just with different people. I thought, "there are only so many pictures you can take of a guy in a suit and a girl in a big white dress that people will want to look at." I thought any wedding work I did would be bypassed, as soon as they see the attire, someone would think "wedding" and skip right pass it.

I was narrow minded, ignorant and just plain wrong.
But where I was most wrong? I thought weddings would be easy.

So for anyone who is thinking about taking up wedding photography, or for anyone who has ever scoffed at the photographers who do weddings (like I did) - here's why it's hard. And here's why you NEED to be mentally and physically prepared for the day.

1) You're going to try and deliver hundreds and hundreds of awesome pictures that day, not just one.
On my flickr stream, each picture posted on there took at LEAST a few hours worth of planning, some took days, some even took weeks. After the planning, location, angle, lighting and composition were all taken into meticulous account, every detail was planned. After taking hundreds of photos, until I am exceptionally satisfied, I will then cull those hundreds down to 3 or 4 images. I'll then pick my favourite, and edit it for hours until I am totally utterly happy. For ONE picture.
At a wedding, you're hoping to give them HUNDREDS.
My last wedding, I gave them 880 final edited shots.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPic

2) You have hardly any say on lighting, angle or position.
When a "moment" happens, it's happening regardless of where you are, regardless of what lens you're using, regardless of what the lighting is like, regardless of your camera settings.
In my experience, these adorable little moments last a few seconds (if you're lucky) before tears get wiped away, people stop making that awesome face, and everything goes back to normal. And it sucks if the lighting isn't great, and it won't always be great, but you have to work with it afterwards in post.
But as a wedding photographer, people are not paying you for lucky shots - they need to KNOW you can deliver. Which means darting about EVERYWHERE, KNOWING your camera settings you need off the top of your head, KNOWING if your lighting is going to make people look awful from a certain position, PREPARING for your surroundings and what you'll be working with.

Case and point: The last church I shot at, there were railings at the front preventing me from getting anything else but this shot of the bride and groom:

and even this shot depended on whether Sue was smiling or not - this service was very very quick (around 30mins) and whether people smile and laugh or not depends on the service. Some are just more serious than others. Sue got a case of the giggles here! :P

One picture like this is fine - but all of their pictures like this, from this angle, would have been awful.

However, there was a door at the back I spotted when I came to look around, with an iron railing locking it through the wall. I got to the church early, whipped it off, and during a hymn I ran around the back of the church, and shot them through holes in the wall.

If I hadn't of pre-planned that, the only shots they would have got of their faces would have been IF they'd turned around at some point during their vows, which they didn't. And then IF i'd been in the right place to capture it. Too many IF's for my liking! ;)

3) People don't smile, and moments don't happen often
Yah I know - it's someone's wedding day! You'd think people wouldn't be able to wipe the smiles off their faces! But surprisingly, at least in the UK, smiles are few and far between until the alcohol gets involved. Think about it next time you are with friends - are you smiling? I've tried doing it with myself, and I'm a majorly smiley person, but even when I'm chatting with people, I noticed I spend a minute or so concentrating on what they're saying and if they happen to be saying something funny I'll smile, if not, I might not smile for minutes! And that's a long time to be pointing a lens at someone waiting for them to smile. Especially if it's during a serious service, or a stressful morning, or trying to deal with guests running lose.

On top of that, finding a "moment" - a man with the biggest laugh plastered on his face, the groom looking adoringly at his bride when she isn't looking, tears before they get wiped away, a fantastic expression - they're few and far between, and they only last a few seconds! And on top of that,

I always take three or four shots in a row,
1) because one might be blurry
2) because another SOMEONE will have their eyes shut
3) just in case
4) hopefully one will come out nice!

^ example of a pesky hand ^

A couple EXPECT to see their wedding album FULL of these moments. There's only so many "man watching your service" pictures they will want to see. And whose to know if they even know the dude?! My sister got loads of pictures of my +1 on her wedding, and she didn't even know the poor guy! :P

Let's recap -

A) I should hope people are not expecting 800 pictures like that on my flickr stream at my wedding because:

- wedding photography is documentary photography, unstaged, unposed, unlit. My flickr photos are all of those things.

- the shots I try to get are few and far between. I exhaust myself to get those shots, and the couple will never know (unless they read this blog! :D) so the shots I deliver, I am ecstatic with if they have people enjoying themselves and are full of "moments", because then I know I have done a great job.

4) People have to look good in the pics you give them.
You're lucky if you get a bride who doesn't care about double chins. Or a bridesmaid. Or every single guest at that wedding. If you get that wedding, the wedding where no one cares how they look - count yourself damn lucky because they are RARE. And make everything alot easier. In the real world, however, we care how we look. That picture might be awesome, she might be laughing so hard - but if she's conscious about her body and it ain't lookin' so hot, or it's more of a grimace than a smile - you have two options

fix it
throw it

this is where it gets tricky. so many people don't believe in retouching people without their permission, understandably. However, I have a couple of rules:
1) ask the couple (most will not mind)
2) do it to the guests anyway (as long as you are not changing their key features - which means no nose jobs, no eye colour changes or boob jobs) to me it's perfectly okay to clear up a spot or smooth out a double chin. If it looks natural, I say it's okay. I'll give the couple a heads up on this prior to shooting a wedding, but most people will not have a problem with this.

Okay, so how are we doing?
Lighting is to be desired, you've taken hundreds of pictures, alot of people have their eyes closed, some are blurry, some are over/under exposed (after all, every direction you turn in will require different settings), you've got a few smilers and a few moments ... now what? get more. I take at the very very least 3000 pics at a wedding, you need to have variation and you need to satisfy your client. Capturing the emotion and atmosphere of the day is hard when you've only focused on one couple from one angle for 30mins. You need to constantly stay on your feet, dart around, do whatever it takes to get THAT shot without intruding on the ceremony/proceedings.

The wedding day is drawing to a close.
You've filled up your memory cards, your battery is blinking, you are SHATTERED.
But you DO NOT complain, you bask in your shatteredness and use up every drop of energy you have to be NICE to people and make them feel at ease. Compliment people on their outfits, mingle and chat whilst still taking shots.

As Jasmine Star said - "People are 50% inclined to like or dislike their wedding photos before they even see them". If you are stressed, grumpy or rude, people will automatically dislike you. I walk around with a CONSTANT smile on my face at weddings. CONSTANT! Funnily enough a guest snapped this pic of me without my knowledge - even I don't realize I'm smiling anymore, it's second nature! :P

Not only that, but I'm grateful to do all of the above with good, varied equipment with money I have earned and bought. My advice to anyone who does not have a variation of equipment, would be to rent some. Not because your lenses/eye isn't good enough, but because I know the stress you will be under, and it makes things a whole lot easier.

(to see what lenses I use, go here)

...And then comes the editing.

Reason #4824793420 why my wedding photos do not receive as much post processing as my flickr work.

Each flickr pic I upload, I spend between 1-5hrs editing it.

Sure, I could edit butterflies fluttering round the church, I could give the bride four arms and put different wallpaper on the walls of the church, I could change the colour of someone's eyes or skin, or give the priest a halo.
However, this is not their wedding day. This is not what they will remember, because this would not have been real. On someone's wedding day, I want them to remember it how their day WAS. I'll make the colours pretty, I'll nip and tuck the occasional double chin, take out the fire exit sign, clear up skin and make the lighting as nice as possible, but that's as far as I will go unless requested (or for the bride and groom portraiture).

Also, imagine editing 800 wedding pics like that. I'd have to charge £200k a wedding and it'd take me two years to get it done.

So here you go anonymous asker, I hope this answers your question. And I hope this blog post distills fear into the hearts of any hopeful wedding photographer. Not really, but it serves as a nice warning :P

And I do solemnly swear, that I will never EVER EVER underestimate another wedding photographer, till death do we part.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPic

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Family Portrait Session with Nathan & Chloe!

Today I shot portraits of Nathan and Chloe, two fantastic kids from Dove Holes. Mum Melissa told me she "didn't wan't anything normal" and that she really wanted big, natural smiles from the kids.

Today's soundtrack...

Big, natural smiles (especially the big part) happen to be my specialty! The great thing about shooting kids in their homes is that they feel at ease. Instead of shooting at a new, unfamiliar studio building, they're somewhere they love and relate to, and have LOADS of toys!

I shot 90% of these shots with my 50mm 1.4 - my cheapest lens, funnily enough!

First off, here's a before/after of the shot I posted to my flickr - Down to Earth.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

As you can see the way I achieved his position was pretty simple - with a really strong Mum! The harder parts were editing away her hands and body, and also her feet around his face. I did this simply by taking sections of grass/wellies/trousers and reconstructing the areas that had Mel's hands etc on them.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Of course, a shoot isn't a shoot without a few tears :) Chloe took a battle-wound (from Nathan! :P) but was back smiling within seconds. Brave gal :D

More to come!

I'll also be covering this technique on some of my tutorial videos I'm making soon. If anyone has any other requests, let me know :D

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Dave and Rhiane get MARRIED! :D

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of photographing Dave and Rhiane's wedding in glorious LEEDS!

They'd found me through an old school friend, Jenna, who reccomended my photo services. They booked me for a half-day package (ceremony through to formals) with FANTASTIC results! :D Dave and Rhiane did not (and I mean they DID NOT) wipe their smiles off their faces the ENTIRE day!!

They met through Leeds Uni (and held their reception in one of the beautiful buildings!) after both taking Geography. Upon learning this fact, I came fully equip with a map to their ceremony for the pictures later! :P

Here are 100 of my favourites from Dave and Rhiane's wedding... just 1/5 of the final cut! They are such a fantastic, fun loving and life loving couple, and I hope these pictures do them justice!

Some background music... and away we go!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Monday, 13 September 2010

Making of: Spines to rest your spine

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

A little bit of background...

So, I had the best weekend of my life. Not only did I get to photograph Maroon 5 at legendary Abbey Road Studios on Saturday (photos to come later! :D) but on Friday, I had the most fun-filled day, with the most interesting, fascinating, colourful person I have ever met. And he's what inspired this picture.


Okay, so the shot itself:

First off, it was raining. Heavily! Don't let it put you off!
I put my coat over my camera on tripod, and took about 10-15books with me into the woods.

I took around 30 images of books in 2s, 3s and 4s, each of them getting higher and higher in an arc like shape to be blended together later.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

apologies for the next photo, it's not as weird as it looks. what i'm doing here is placing a book under each section of my body that is going to be resting on a book later on. this way the shadows and folds on the material/my face/hair are as natural as possible and will blend in well and look realistic. I'm pulling a strange face because you never know which face pic you'll end up using... it wasn't this one :P

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Then I got some shots balancing on a branch of my feet and legs above ground. Because I was on my own and it was wet and cold there's no oppurtunity to do any real "levitiation" methods, because no one was about to hold me up and the branch was all I had to work with. So instead, I pieced my body together little by little (as you'll see later). Here's a foot shot

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

This next shot is the face shot I ended up using. I used different hair and cut off everything from the next down, but I find it so important to think in elements when I'm taking a shot

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

and here's how levitation is usually done - by propping yourself up somehow/getting someone to hold you in various positions and blending them together. unfortunately this position didn't work for this shot so it was rendered useless to me, however i am posting it regardless because i look mega strong

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Finally, here are some photos I took on my iPhone while I was editing all the shots together...

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

as you can see, every single limb is missing to start with. That's why it's so important never to delete a single shot because you never know what you might use it for - I constructed my tummy from part of an arm I think, because I didn't take any of my tummy in that position. I took a hand from a shot where i'm randomly holding up a book, which I would never usually have used but it worked really well.

Colour wise, I first deepened the yellows and brought up the reds, adding a little bit of green curve. I then desaturated the greens overall just a tad andf fixed the book colours to make it less noticeable that there were so many Harry Potters in there!!!

Just incase that shot didn't work (as you can tell by the outtakes, I wasn't hopeful), I took another simplified one:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

and did some quick headshots just for funsies because my hair was SO frizzy from the rain!!
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

the end!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Monday, 6 September 2010

A Wedding at The Ashes: Ross and Rachel

11 days ago I had the ultimate pleasure of photographing Ross and Rachel's wedding day in my little town of Buxton!

Now, aside from it being clear they are made for each other just by their names (Ross and Rachel? From Friends!!! It's meant to be!) these two were the most in tune, perfectly matched couple you could possibly imagine!
Case and point: during the formals, I asked both of them to write messages to each other and make sure they kept them secret, so they'd be able to see them when they got their wedding photos from me. They could write "anything in the world" I told them. And what did they write? The same bloody thing! Scroll down to find out ;)

A little background music to set the tone....

I had SUCH a blast shooting this wedding. Everyone was so friendly and up for fun, I really couldn't have asked for a better group of people to show up that day! Everyone's faces were filled with laughter from the get go, as you will see.

Ross and Rachel, could you BE any more awesome?!

Love you both so much! And everyone to else, enjoy their day! :D

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

A sly wink from the Best Man as Rachel entered the church!

( Literally couldn't believe I got this shot, I was going through them last week and it was only upon viewing full screen that I squealed "he's winking!!!!" when I realized)
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic