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.

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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

How to choose your wedding photographer – part 4

This is part 4 of 5. If you haven’t seen it yet, start here at part 1.

Now for the good stuff! Assuming you’re not a photographer yourself you might not know what to ask. You might think you won’t understand the answers anyway and you don’t want to look stupid. Drop that thought right now! Doesn’t even matter if you don’t understand anything technical – you can still judge for yourself how confidently a photographer answers your questions.

Ask them about the kind of cameras they use. The main two options these days are digital SLRs, which are larger black cameras with more knobs and buttons, slightly superior image quality and faster. Then there are the smaller mirrorless or CSC cameras. These are quieter, more discrete and have an image quality comparable to digital SLRs except perhaps in the darkest conditions. They cost just as much as each other. It’s mostly a matter of preference for a photographer. Personally I don’t mind the extra weight of the DSLR, I find them faster to use and I appreciate the best image quality I can get.

Good lenses are just as important and can cost more than the camera itself. We’re looking for professional lenses with a fast maximum aperture like f2.8. That means it can gather more light in dark conditions, involves a lot more heavy glass and costs a fortune. Zoom lenses or primes (which are fixed and don’t zoom, so you need a few of them to swap between) is another personal preference. I have both and while I sometimes like to use prime lenses for light weight and creative reasons, whenever a wedding is fast paced or it’s raining (don’t want to change lenses often in the rain because they get wet) I go for the zooms. Catching the moment is more important than being arty.

Using flash well is an important skill. Sometimes there’s not enough light so you need to use flash but keep it natural. Sometimes the light is coming from the wrong place or is too strong so you need to balance it with something. And sometimes the light is just boring and you can make it more interesting by bringing some of your own. Sticking a flash gun on top of the camera is a quick way to solve a problem, but beware of the deer-in-the-headlights look with the flash pointed straight at someone and a tell-tale hard shadow to one side on the wall. Ask a photographer if they ever do any “off camera flash” and if they have some cool examples to show you. Don’t insist on it – give a good photographer creative freedom to take whatever gorgeous shots they can for you. But it’s great if you can see they have the ability when it’s needed to use flash to make creative night time shots, light up the dance floor naturally or take group photos indoors if it rains.

Backups are an absolute must for a professional. Ask a photographer how they keep the files safe. Most professional cameras now shoot to two memory cards at once so one can be kept separate as backup. Once the photos are back in the office you want rotating off-site backups so the original and backups are never again in the same place at once.

One decision photographers face is whether to shoot JPGs or RAW files. Here’s all you need to know. JPGs are finished images ready for you to print, put on Facebook or do anything else with. RAW files are like negatives. They’re not finished yet. A lot of software decisions about processing them have been left until the editing stage. This lets a photographer choose some settings more carefully without being under the time pressure of the wedding. But it’s an extra step that takes a lot of time and RAW files are so much bigger and slower to work with. Now there’s nothing wrong with JPGs if you get all your settings right as you shoot. And in some kinds of shoots like fashion you can do that more easily. Weddings however are fast paced and it can be very helpful to put the white balance on auto and choose it later.

I have a strong preference for RAW because you can still get your settings right as you shoot and leave yourself less work to do in editing, but you’ve got the option for safety if you need it. The files are bulkier, but I can handle that with more hard drives and a decent mac.

Whilst looking at the portfolio (particularly in print not on screen) look for sharp photos. Occasionally we’ll get a stunning candid moment that’s only 90% sharp but is so beautiful we’ll include it anyway. But in the portfolio everything you see ought to be nice and sharp. Look for straight horizons, accurate colours and not too much grainy noise (blotchy looking stuff in the shadowy parts of images taken in the dark). Image quality is a chain that’s only as strong as the weakest link. Shooting, editing and printing. I don’t want to choose between artistry and technical quality. I want both!

The final part of this series will be about personality.

Bride and groom at night under festoon lights