Thursday, 17 October 2013

Advice to the Bride & Groom: Getting the Best Wedding Photos

Advice to the Bride & Groom: Getting the Best Wedding Photos

As many of you know, I do a whole lot of wedding photography during the summer months. For many photographers, it's the bread and butter to their art, a lovely consistent income which helps them sleep at night. For many brides and grooms, it's the source of a lot of frustration when things don't come together, but also happiness when their wedding photography works out great!  

I wanted to write this post as 
1) an aid for photographers to send their clients 
2) a helpful post for the brides and grooms of this world, which explains what they can do to help their photographer get the best wedding photos possible.

I hear a lot of complaining from the photographers I meet about clients who don't "understand" photography or themselves, and a lot of grumbling from clients about incompetent photographers who don't deliver their vision. In some cases, both parties can be in the wrong, but a lot of these issues can be resolved with a simple explanation BEFORE the big day!! So, listen up, take note. These simple things will give any photographer a great advantage, and get YOU better pictures.

1) Lighting.

Lighting is always a factor, always! Photography is the "drawing of light" after all :) Here are a few key points to remember if you can't afford movie-style light set ups...

Small & dim light sources (especially fairy lights etc) are not particularly strong, and especially in darkness/at night when there are no other light sources available. Dark rooms = dark shots. 
To combat the darkness (as most photographers will assume you do not want a set of black photos) the photographer will have to use a low aperture, such as 1.4. This will make your pictures very creamy, blurry, with only one or maybe two people in focus given that they are "on the same level". Do not expect everyone in the room, or even on a table, to be sharp. Personally, I like using a low aperture! 
Another method of brightening a photo is using a high ISO. This will make the pictures grainy. If you do not like grainy pictures, it may be worth considering hiring a photographer who is skilled with flash. Again, some people don't mind/kind of like grain on photos. Always check with your photographer.
If you don't want flashed-out pictures but want to keep the cute, fairy light esque light set up, you can either grow to like creamy, grainy pictures, or ask for lights to be turned up at key points (e.g speeches, first dance). Alternatively, you can always rent some continuous lighting and aim it at the top table etc. 

This tent had other lighting as well as fairy lights! = happy rosie

Colour lighting - popular at discos. Purple/pink very popular. Looks awesome in person, terrible on pictures! For many photographers, this is a nightmare situation, especially if you do not like using flash. 
It turns your entire skin tone one colour, again blue/pink/purple seem to be very popular, which makes your face just blend into one big blob and very hard to rectify in post-processing. So unless you like the smurf look, it's best to have an alternative light set up to hand.
Again, bring the lights up for key moments or ask for them to be on a "natural" or "white" setting (if the can be changed). 

Pink lighting, this one was backlit so not as hard to combat. Entire rooms with this is a different story :P

Really bright sunshine, everywhere!
If there are no shaded "pretty locations" that the photographer can suggest moving you/guests to, or you are determined to have a photo in a certain location in said lighting, you can expect squinty eyes, hard shadows and not a very flattering picture. Unless of course the sun is setting, when it can look quite nice.
Many people cannot control this, but try to plan the times you are outside/in situations which may have bright sunshine to be later on in the day. Formal photos at 2pm are a recipe for disaster if you don't have shade. The photographer can position you with the sun behind you or slightly off to you, however if the backdrop then turns into the car park when you wanted it to be the church then it's not going to work! So chat to your photographer about possible locations you can use in this situation.

(the beauty of shade!!)

2) Space

Space is something I rarely hear ANYONE talk about! But it is very very important. I love shooting with my 50mm 1.4 lens, however during the speeches I often find the tables/chairs so close together that I cannot get far back enough to get both the bride and the groom in the shot. I then have to switch to a not-as-pretty lens to achieve this :(

Small room/no space for photographer to manoeuvre to either get different angles or limited amount of people in the frame. 
As I mentioned above, your photographer will have to use other lenses in order to get more than one person in the frame if there is very little room. A popular lens used by photographers for this is a 24-70mm lens, which will allow for more people but lacks the aperture to combat low light and subsequently your pictures will be more grainy. 
Make space if you can :D If you can't, consider asking the speaker of the speeches to stand somewhere else. This helps not only by allowing the photographer to move around the room more easily, but also stops them from blocking the guests view of the bride and groom, as the guests are now facing the speaker.

loads of space, yay!

Big old centrepieces 
During the speeches, a lot of photographers STAY LOW. We sit while we shoot, because if we were to stand in front of the top table and take our pictures the guests wouldn't be able to see you! We'd ruin the video and generally look pretty rude. So sometimes, big old centrepieces can obscure important things (like a bride) and prevent awesome shots. 
Move the centrepiece from the top table during speeches to somewhere on the table where it is less likely to obscure someone

A lovely, small centrepiece :D

First dance on a small dancefloor/guests who really want to get close to the action ;)
Again, due to low light situations (and fast movement) for the first dance, popular lens choices would be 85mm 1.2, 50mm 1.2/1.4, 35mm 1.4/2f
This means that if your guests are cramming the dance floor, your photographer is not going to be able to back up enough to get your whole body in the shot. 
Get the DJ to ask everyone to back up/ create a circle using a reference point/setting some chairs out for elderly folk as a barrier!

loads of room to use my 50mm 1.4... lovely

3) Surprises!

SITUATION Surprise! We broke out into a dance/song/important moment which the photographer had no idea about
The photographer to run round flailing his/her arms whilst trying to locate the correct lens for the situation, thus missing important surprise or capturing things like arms & feet because they had a 70-200mm lens on (aka paparazzi lens!) 
LET US KNOW :D We won't tell!!! promise!!!!!

These guys pre-warned me about their AMAZING SINGING WAITER/CHEF! This gave me good time to get my lens selection out and camera ready!

4) Running out of time

Something has happened at the wedding and the schedule is behind. We don't have as much time for portraits/formals etc. 
A stressed out couple, a grumpy time-keeper (dinner starting at 4 is more important than getting pictures, every single time :( sadly) and a panicked photographer trying to rush things. Cue Uncle Bob being in the toilet JUST when you need him!
As a photographer, I ALWAYS have a back-up way of doing formals when these situations arise. Lists are not provided or get lost, not enough time to do everyone... so, I do this. Very simple.

Bride & Groom : Bride's Immediate Family
Bride & Groom: Bride's Parents
Bride & Groom: Groom's Immediate Family
Bride & Groom: Groom's parents,

That's the important stuff. Next up, Bride on her own with parents ETC ETC. But as long as those main ones are done, the rest can be done later on, after dinner etc. 

Quick, simple portraits!

5) The unplugged wedding ceremony.

This is not necessarily a problem, but it is becoming a preference for photographers. Particularly as the bride walks in, and bride & groom exit, there always seems to be an "Uncle Bob" who steps out into the aisle and completely ruins the shot for the photographer. 
Uncle Bob. Everywhere.
Get your officiant to ask your guests to put their cameras away for the ceremony, or compromise and ask them to stay out of the aisle at the very least. Explain that the photographer wants to see happiness on people's faces during these important moments, not iPhones/cameras/dinner trays iPads covering their beautiful faces!

This is a good time to take shots :D

This is a great time to stand, clap and cheer :D Imagine if someone had stepped into this shot!

6) Post getting-your-picture blues.

You got your pictures back. You either 1) hate them 2) want more 3) have issues with the style 4) have any issues at all
A very upset photographer. Regardless of whether they are pro or beginner, we ALL want you to LOVE your pictures. Which is why I am writing this blog post. We ALL have worked HARD on your pictures. This does not mean you should not raise these issues, but please tread carefully.

Steps to raising an issue:
1) Re-read your contract first. If you signed a document stating that you are only to recieve 10 pictures, I wouldn't go in all-guns-blazing when you only get 10 pictures.
2) Be NICE. I once re-edited an entire wedding for a couple because the bride was SO lovely in her approach about some colours I had edited. I didn't have to, I could have just referred her to the contract and said it was "my style" which she booked. But she was so lovely, I wanted her to love them even more. Being nasty never made anyone go "here, let me throw my schedule out of the window to help you"
3) Be specific and offer a resolution. Remember - you booked your photographer, it was your responsibility to research their portfolio and ask questions beforehand/explain what you wanted. If there are minor tweaks/adjustments that you would like, be nice and ask if they would do them. Saying things like "they are so bad" "we had to get our friends to edit them" will NOT go down well if the contract has been upheld, and it is purely a difference of taste.

Be nice, be fair and be considerate. You are the customer, but they are also human beings. Wedding photography is such a personalised service, it isn't like ringing E.on to complain about your bill or buying something from e-bay and giving an invisible person an earful. This is someone who shared your wedding day, and was part of it. If you leave things on a bad note, you might feel like you can't look through your wedding photos without feeling angry. And no one wants that!

I hope this blog has explained some things that normal non-photo folk might not have understood properly before hand, and also given some good tips on what helps US during your day. We're on your side, and we're here to help YOU and get great photos for ourselves, too. The best thing you can do is communicate with your photographer. Send visuals, mood boards, explain concerns and worries with them. You aren't just hiring a wedding photographer, you are hiring a team mate and a friend. :)

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Am I Good Enough?

Okay, so I have an urge to write about this.

Here's some music to accompany.

Am I good enough?

It's the eternal question we all ask ourselves, photographer or not, have we met the expectations needed to run a business? To charge people money? To give advice? To consider a change? 

I remember when I first started offering workshops, someone wrote online
"What makes you think you are qualified to teach workshops?"

When I first read it, my heart sank and I thought, they have a point. I'm not qualified. I don't have a degree, I don't know much except what I know, and maybe my work isn't that good after all. Maybe I'm not good enough?

I went on and taught the workshop. Looking back, it maybe wasn't the best workshop ever - but I learned SO much. I learned that if people want to come, they will come. The workshop was full. I also learned to cap how many people I have on a workshop, haha. I learned that people don't care for what I don't know - they wanted to know how I made the images I made. And because I made them, I could explain.

At the end, I asked for advice on how to improve. And everyone was kind and constructive. And I learned.

If you ask yourself, am I good enough? Let me answer for you. You Are Good Enough. As long as you are still willing to learn.

Today, I got a rather sad message to my Facebook photography group. 

(name has been blurred for her privacy)

And I felt so sad. 
It seems everyone I meet is trying SO hard to be good enough, they are working for cheap (this lady worked for less than £1 per image she delivered to her clients) and yet this doubt is creeping over all of us. In my opinion, it is the client's responsibility to check out your work - check it out as deeply as they would like. Ask to see 10 images, or ask to see an entire wedding, or 10. I don't mind. But don't complain if you don't look at any of my wedding photography and then say you are upset because I didn't photoshop butterflies in your hair and have you levitating down the aisle.

We are good enough.
"Every great photographer was once an amateur."

Ok so fair, I wouldn't recommend charging £2k for a wedding when you haven't shot one before. I wouldn't recommend promising photos in the style of Jonas Peterson when you are more traditionally minded and own a point and shoot, because that won't turn out well. But don't you dare stop aspiring to be as good as Jonas. 

So, I'm going to ask that everyone today who wonders if they are good enough, stop for a sec. 
You are great.
And there is nothing stopping you from being the best, except telling yourself that you aren't or can't be.

Here's where I started.

These are two sample of the awesome skill I had when I first started taking pictures. I can sense your awe and amazement across the computer waves, please stop, you're making me blush.

But really. 

If I had let every negative comment, or doubt, or insult, or hate campaign stop me (and there are days where I gave up, and days where I believed they were right, and days where I truly and utterly believed there was no place for me) then I wouldn't have made it to where I am now.

And I KNOW that I am only going to get better, I am only going to be exploring and learning and always improving. And I will probably look back, and think you know what, I was pretty rubbish, but I was good enough.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Your Life Is How You See It

So. The other day, I was sat in my flat watching the sunset from the colours hitting the windows of the flats opposite me - unfortunately, I don't get a sunset view, so I have to use my imagination a little ;)

The skies were lovely and blue, if you didn't notice the cold it could have been summer. It's been a while since things felt special like that, even though I always used to tell myself to make an effort to make it feel special anyway. 

I got up, got in my car, wound down the windows and put the heat on full steam to trick myself into thinking it was baking hot outside, so hot I had to have my air con on full blast! ;) I slid a nice song on, this was my choice for the day:

In my mind, and in my memories, I will remember that day as the day I had a winter's summer day. It reminded me of a lesson I've learned throughout this sometimes-fun sometimes-not little adventure called life.

Your life is the way you see it. 

When I'm older, I will not live in a mansion in New York, I will not have a series of flashy cars. I know exactly how my future will be - purely because I truly believe that our lives tend to swing towards what we imagine for ourselves. If we let ourselves feel like we are failures, we will end up as them. 

When I picture my life in the future, I see myself living in the countryside with open fields, having kids running round with the sunlight in my face, not in a reflection of my neighbours window. I will have this as my future. This is what I am working towards, this is for me. Not having this is not an option. And I will work so hard for it.

What do you see your future as? Where can you see yourself living? Who do you want to be? Are you happy?

Failure is only an option if you make it one. You make your life - if you want to achieve the things that inspire you to get up in the morning, then make a plan and go and do them!!! I want to take photos which get recognised - I want to photograph famous people, I want people to find something unique in my imagery and I want people to say that those photographs inspire them. I don't have too much of a care for being famous myself, but I hope that in being a successful photographer I can achieve my house in a field of sunshine. I hope I can help change some lives, inspire some paths and make people re-consider where they want their life to go.

I will do all the things I want to do - purely because I will. My life will be the way I see it. 
Similarly, money is great to have and takes away stress, but money is not the only thing I would like to have in my life. You can have plenty of money and life can still be dull, full of muted colours and crappy music. Roll down those windows and let that sunlight in. Got no car? Legs still work.

Sometimes in my life when I feel sad, it is because I have not let myself enjoy the world for whatever reason. We all get so caught up in what is happening currently - even though we're all fully aware that life is short, circumstances are temporary and we can all get through it. Nonetheless, we are all so busy stressing and thinking, sorting and planning, doing and running, that we forget to look down at our fingers on the keyboard and realise how pretty the light looks on them today. We forget to notice how young our hands are, and it's only when we see the wrinkles and the veins that we wish we'd appreciated it.

Your life is how you see it. I am not going to look back and wish I had appreciated everything that is going on around me - my youth, the feeling of the world, the fashions, the weather, my parent's laughter and the feeling of hope for what lies ahead.

Someday this will all be over. Everyone always talks about making every day count, living in the moment and all the quotes we hear over and over again, agree with - but somehow the days pass and it's tomorrow that will be better.

When I am old, I will be lying in my bed at home preparing to take my last breaths. I will be thinking about all the bizarre things that I swore I'd never think about, wondering which bizarre thought would be my last. I just lost The Game, dammit! But I will feel like I have finished my life with the peace that I have appreciated so much, forgotten so much, lived so little and yet have lived so much. Life is what you see. Your life can be whatever you like, a winter's summer day or a life where you only see the sunset reflected on your neighbour's window. I know which one I'm going to have.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A New Year and Things I Wish I'd Known

A New Year and Things I Wish I'd Known

I think the one thing I have always wanted to do when it comes to the internet, is be as honest as possible and open about myself that I can. I think it stems from a weird fear of being misunderstood and making the wrong impression, but either way, I feel like as long as I'm open, honest and logical about the way I try and do things, it can't turn out too bad.

And then of course, there is Facebook. It's so tempting to gloss your life over for everyone to see - untag the bad photos (yes I do this) and post all the wonderful news you get, whilst keeping quiet about the bad. On Facebook, online, my life looks pretty exciting. From the amount of inquiries I get about having someone come on work experience with me for a week, you'd think I had shoots almost every day and exciting edits to be doing.

In reality, I am sat here in a comfy green jumper and leggings, I haven't brushed my hair yet, I've ordered takeaway lunch (a baguette, because it used to be dominos pizza every day) and I won't be leaving the house today. Instead of having an exciting shoot, I'm planning workshops, responding to emails about internships (I don't think that people realise that if they came to do work experience with me for a week, it would be a week of responding to emails about doing work experience) and other inquiries - a lot of which will lead to nowhere, but you HAVE to do it. And I am very thankful that this is my job, because I have my own hours to do it, and it involves as much or as little effort as I want to put in. I'll be burning discs later, writing addresses on labels, if I'm lucky I'll get some time to browse some awesome photography work. Sometimes I'll get an email come in from a client from last year wanting more of their photos edited, and my otherwise free/busy day's schedule will be changed and put back a day. This is not a problem, but more a nice realistic insight.

I have learned a lot, looking back. Here are some things I wish someone had sat me down and told me though, when I was 15 or so.

1) Your life is totally down to you. There is nothing stopping you from doing what you want, except yourself - school isn't everything, but motivation and ambition is. That is, if you want to be motivated and ambitious - some are happy to be middle-of-the-line, and that's okay.
I wish someone had said to me, that you don't need to be academic, that you don't need to be able to memorise certain facts about a pre-determined set of subjects in order to be successful, and it isn't about following the herd to university and getting a degree, then a masters, then a PHD. It's about your mind and seeing the world in a way that is special to you, it is about being happy and being able to make happiness from very little. You should never have to feel like you cannot change yourself or your life - if you feel unhealthy, overweight, ugly - you can change that, and you should change that and you should keep changing until you feel brilliant. Don't just accept and settle. Embrace and change.

2) Some people are just pricks. It doesn't matter if they stay that way or blossom into the nicest people you will ever know - it doesn't matter if you are nice to them, everyone learns life's lessons at different times at different stages to everyone else. You might have everything sussed out at 18 years old, or you might suss it all out at 50, or never. The only time you know you have it right is when you are happy - so happy, to a point that you want everyone else to feel that way too, and you can help them by being good to them. Not seeing it as "they're wrong unless they think like me" - but just doing something nice for the sake of doing something nice.

3) Finances are very stressful. Again, if you can appreciate and get joy from cheap, smaller things, this won't affect you as much. If you can stay in a small dingy house and think that it makes the sunlight coming in through the window even more beautiful because it makes the damp on the walls look like oil paints, then you'll have fewer struggles with money. If that's not for you, I suggest you aim to be motivated and ambitious ;) If you can be appreciative of the little things too, even better.

Money weighs me down. I've lost sleepless nights dreading being low in my bank fund, felt awful for spending so much, worried about how I will afford a house, a car, insurance, my children's futures. The thing I want to avoid most of all is stress and worry, so by having comfortable finances, this eliminates a lot of that.
Having a lot of money doesn't stop you from feeling sad, and it won't stop you from falling out with your partner over falling asleep on the sofa. Money just gives you more options. Sometimes, it gives you really bad options. Just look at all the celebrities who have battled drug addictions and been dragged down by their own success.
If you aim to make a lot of money, aim to be successful with it and use it for good. Use it to take away your worries, to be able to feel safe and enjoy your life. Don't be too attached to it, after you're gone it ain't going with you. And don't stop appreciating the small things.

4) Always understand the other person. Put yourself in their position and understand why they do the things they did. Once you can understand people, your life will open up so much. When you let go of The Rules, and look at thing for their circumstances and for the intention with those circumstances, people seem a lot nicer, they seem a lot more human and a lot more worthy of being loved and liked.

My New Years Resolutions

Eat less junk (because I want to be the best person I can be)
Save more money (because I want to feel safe and secure in my financial future)
Earn more money/work harder (because I want to be safe and secure in my financial future)
Be nicer and more understanding (because I want to be the best person I can be)
Do not place too much importance on money (because I want to be the best person I can be)

I think my overall goal is to feel good in myself, to feel like I have done well and tried hard in all aspects of life - relationships, self esteem, business and encounters with people/strangers.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A Box Of Darkness

I took my vulnerability, placed it in a box
Gift wrapped, with a black ribbon
I pulled it from my chest, unlaced it from my lungs
Deep beneath my molars, down underneath
My fingernails
Scraped it from the freckles which lay, sleepily
Scattered down my neck
Those that you had kissed that night
Those that I had let you kiss
I pulled on that dark thread somewhere inside my mind,
Unravelled myself, just a little
Just enough
To hold it all together
Just enough
To let myself unravel
I held it out with hopeful eyes, dropped soft into your hands
You looked at it, at parts of me
And now I can't finish this poem