Finding Beauty

As an artist I feel a drive to capture, express and share beauty. But also a tension at being unable to capture all of it. Beauty is all around us. A person in the right frame of mind can be totally captivated by the simplest of things. I once sat on a bench and stared for many minutes at the movements of pigeons moving around a town square. I resolved to learn everything there was to know about pigeons when I got home. Of course I forgot. That right state of mind is everything.

Like a tree falling silently in a forest because no one’s there to hear it, beauty is something that happens inside the mind. Without an observer it’s just a load of stuff. You can only be in one place, and you’re not usually paying attention. Even if you try you can’t always pay attention to beauty. You’ve got to get on with life! If you look at the fabric of your clothes through a magnifying glass the pattern and complexity of the weave is beautiful. But you wear clothes all day long and don’t usually care.

As a wedding photographer my job is not just to take a record of what things looked like on the day, but to add insight and perception by noticing opportunities to make the photos more meaningful. Choosing one half second over another, or moving an inch to the left to include different objects in the frame can make all the difference. This is what’s most tiring about my job. It’s not carrying bags or standing all day. It’s constantly thinking and looking with purpose.

I’m always distressed by the thought of moments I could have seen but didn’t, or worse the ones I anticipated but couldn’t capture. Maybe because I was on the other side of the room. This doesn’t make me a bad photographer – it’s literally impossible to capture everything you see. Your eyes are faster than even a professional’s camera. That’s one reason I feel incredibly privileged to do my job and be there up at the front at someone’s wedding, lowering my eyes and trying not to draw any attention from the sacred moment in front of us. I’m often aware of everything coming together at once and experiencing a truly beautiful moment I know I will always remember, even if I’m only able to capture a portion of it in photographs.

It’s an odd relationship between the couple and myself. Most customers are not artists. They’ve hired a photographer because they’re aware they ought to capture something of the day. They can certainly appreciate beauty because we all can. But they find it hard to quantify and put a price on it. Anyway their photos don’t exist yet. They can only look at other people’s weddings in my portfolio. So they tend to revert to talking about tangible things like how many photos they get and how long we stay for. How many photos you get is so completely irrelevant to how beautiful they are! It might even be inversely proportional. I’d rather hire a photographer who could guarantee me forty stunning images than four hundred of any old snaps.

There’s a thing that happens when photographers look at each other’s work. They convince themselves everyone else is better than them. But that’s because they’re comparing the other photographer’s portfolio – a mere handful of all time greatest hits – with their own last shoot including every single shot good and bad and even accidental. We say the good is the enemy of the best. One way to make yourself look better is to show less work. Leave out even very good photos for the sake of the truly exceptional. And everyone will assume truly exceptional is your average standard. (Hint: that’s why I tell you to look at real wedding galleries and complete albums)

Now digital cameras, whopping great hard drives and fibre broadband mean I can supply you with hundreds of photos so I’m going to. I’m not going to deprive you of the shot of your school friend talking to your brother with the slightly different expression than the previous shot of the exact same thing. Sometimes you’ll look through the whole set, sure. But the artist in me begs you please, choose a small number of absolute favourites. Say twenty. I’ll even help you – this is something I love doing. And present them in some way that lets you savour the beauty of each one slowly. This is why art galleries are laid out like they are. They’re meant to slow you down and give space and time to consider each piece for a while. These days photos are fast and cheap. Mine aren’t really cheap, but I hope they will sometimes stop you in your tracks.

bride and groom

This photo from the homepage works because by moving into the grass, we increase the feeling of privacy and an intimate moment between the bride and groom. At the time, being hidden away a bit and not giving them any posing instructions increased the feeling of intimacy between them.

first dance

I love this photo from just a few weeks ago because after the first dance is over, the second dance is a lot more relaxed. There are other people on the dance floor doing all kinds of things, and the couple once again have a moment together. The weird vantage point between the DJ and the pillar just gives a little fly-on-the-wall perspective.

Michael & Jessica’s wedding at the ashes barns

I’ve been aware of the Ashes Barns near Leek in the peak district since Kate and I tied the knot nearby. It’s a gorgeous venue so I was really excited that Jessica and Michael asked me to photograph their wedding there this July.

Wedding photography is a mixed bag you know. Sometimes there are weather or time issues, people getting lost, not being interested in getting group photos done, kids not happy, things taking a bit too long to get ready. None of that today. This wedding was just a joy. Could not have gone better. It was a treat.

Jessica got ready upstairs with her girls and came down the aisle to a very lucky groom who was playing it cool in an awesome suit. They both work in fashion, see.

After dinner we strolled down to the fields and talked about the nature of true love. It’s rare you meet young people as wise and thoughtful as them. Then back up to their first dance in the evening played by the amazing Ashmore brothers, who are just such great guys as well as entertaining musicians. If you’re in the market, give them a call and say hi for me.

Can’t wait to go back to the Ashes Barns asap, so if you’re planning a wedding there, please do get in touch!

looking at the cakeBride and her bridesmaidsbride putting on her shoeswalking down stairsa wedding at the ashes barns, leekbride's fatherfirst kissunder the archconfetti shotbig group photosbride and groom at the ashes barnsbeautiful bridesuper in lovehandsome groomsweet bride and groomlavenderhand on his backentering the receptiongroom's speechwalking through fieldsbride and groom in the fieldskisshanging out of the barnthe ashmore brothers first danceromantic outdoor first dance

Matt & Gemma’s Wedding at Shustoke Barn

Matt and Gemma are special. They’re one of those deeply in love couples that you just know will be holding hands when they’re 80. As Kate would say, they’ve got The Joy. I was proud to photograph their beautiful wedding at Shustoke Barn last summer. The rooms were full of romantic, personal and clever touches and decoration. And the venue was full of lovely people that cared very much for this sweet couple.

After the ceremony a surprise choir got up and sang, and we toasted the couple with confetti and champagne. A wedding at Shustoke Barn is particularly special when you can get into the field next door for some photos in the golden light of the evening, and hang out under the festoon lights in the grounds.

Matt and Gemma’s wedding was also one of our first wedding highlights videos. Head over to the video page to see it.

0 days to I dobride hugs flower girlsbride gets readybride coming down stairswedding detailsgroom and groomsmen at shustoke barncool groombridesmaidswalking up the aislea wedding at shustoke barnsurprise choir singsselfies at the marriage registerconfettibig wedding party at shustoke barnromantic couple in lovebride and groom wedding reception layout at shustoke barntable settingsbride and groom enter receptionbest men speechgroom carries bride through cornfieldblack and white romancesunset walkromantic wedding festoon lightsbeautiful evening wedding reception

How to choose your wedding photographer – part 5

This is the last of five parts. If you missed the beginning, start here.

Personality is the X-factor when choosing your wedding photographer. You know what X-factor means? It means that while there are prerequisites – a photographer has to have skill, experience and professionalism – there’s also something else. Something outside all that which sets them apart and makes them the right choice for you.

Why is personality especially important in this job? Because a photographer will be around or near you for a lot of the most important day of your life. You want someone who can make you laugh, feel secure and comfortable. But also someone who can take control when needed and make the things that you wanted happen. Someone who won’t get on your nerves. And it’s not just because you’ll enjoy it more that way – the photos will be so much better too if you both trust your photographer and enjoy their company.

When you go to a wedding as a guest you know you’ll be just one of maybe 100 people and you won’t get to chat to the bride ALL day long. I’m well aware that my position at a wedding is unique and privileged. Probably only a bridesmaid or parent will have as much contact with the couple as I do. Certainly of all the suppliers you’ve hired for your wedding, none of them spends as much time with you as your photographer. I’ve photographed weddings with only a handful of guests including the couple. So I know I need to hang back and keep out of the way part of the time, but step in and make things happen at other times. You won’t be happy if you don’t get all your photographs because your photographer didn’t want to speak up!

And it’s not just you the photographer will work with but all your guests too. I don’t want the guests to tense up and freeze when they see me. I want them to quickly get the idea that they should just be themselves and enjoy the day. Those are the photos we want to get. Your photographer also needs to work professionally with your other suppliers to make sure you’re sat down in time for your dinner, to find out which side of the church the rolls pulls up at, where the DJ is setting up and so on, to help everything go smoothly and to get great photos.

The personality you like is entirely up to you of course. Whether you want someone as loud as you, as quiet as you, as crazy as you, or possibly WAY more responsible than you. But also remember you want them to be reliable as well as fun. How you discover someone’s personality is intuitive and I don’t need to tell you how to do that. Except to say that of course you want to meet them in person, or at the very least (if you’re in another country) talk on the phone. Also add them on facebook and see what they’re like. And when you talk about their experience with past clients, just see if they talk about them as though they’re friends. It’d be pretty weird to share the beautiful experience of someone’s wedding day with them without feeling like friends afterwards. That’s one of the great joys of my job.

I hope I’ve helped a bit with choosing your wedding photographer. Please do ask if there’s anything I can add – I’d like to make these posts as helpful as possible for everyone. And once you’ve booked your photographer, enjoy the process of getting your photos and make good use of their expertise. Tell them what you want, and let them show you how they can get gorgeous photos you will love, and others you hadn’t even thought to ask for.

wedding selfie

Can’t wait to show you photos from Michael and Jessica’s wedding. But I will.

Dan & Abi’s Wedding and Lickey Hills

Back in April it was a pleasure and an honour to be with Dan and Abi for their wedding in Catshill Baptist church and their reception at the ark in Alvechurch. Abi and I share the common goal of getting kids to stop going on about minecraft and fortnite for five minutes and do something outdoors. By which I mean, she’s a scout leader. After usually only ever seeing her in a beige uniform the transformation into a beautiful bride was amazing.

It’s such a treat to see a lovely couple get married in a church they really belong to. You can tell in a second – everyone knows each other and everyone knows the words to the songs and sings good and loud. Dan is a great guy I like very much. He even led a song as drummer accompanied by his new wife on cow-bell. So. Much. Fun.

Between the wedding and the reception Mr. & Mrs. S. had the crazy wonderful idea of going to the Lickey Hills, one of their favourite spots to walk for some photos. As I like to be prepared (scout leader) and flexible I can go anywhere a bride and groom can, so I’m totally up for a little adventure like this. We took some dramatic photos on the monument, and some fun group shots in the trees with the groomsmen and bridesmaids.

And then on to the Ark, which is a stylish modern building attached to a different church in Alvechurch for a fun, personal and customised afternoon tea and celebration with a lot of folks who clearly love this sweet couple very much.

Llongyfarchiadau dyn a gwraig!

bride walks up the aislebride and groom ceremonybride and groom playing drumsjust marriedbride and groom at lickey hillswedding photos at lickey hillscouple in veilthe monument at lickey hillskissafternoon teawedding speecheslistening to the speechescutting the cakewedding fish and chip vanfirst dancedancing at wedding reception