Pre-wedding / Family Shoot - Stacey & Shaun

Got really lucky with the weather for this pre-wedding shoot (which doubled as a family shoot) - since it tanked down with rain minutes after the shoot.

Here's a teaser of images from the shoot (best viewed in HD).

Mr & Mrs Dowse

Had an great time being part of Liz and John-Paul's wedding day at The Grand Hotel in Tynemouth (stunning venue with an amazing staircase); always nice to shoot at a new venue (gets the creative juices flowing, and all that jazz).

 

Hot, 14 hour day, but so glad they decided to take a wander to the beach after their wedding breakfast, light was amazing and the haze (which would normally be a hinderance) made for a really unique look at sunset.

Here's a teaser video of images from their special day, please feel free to share with friends and family (best viewed in HD).

 

Looking for a cheap wedding photographer???

Firstly, this post isn't a rant or a moan (really, it's not), it’s just an airing of my honest and open opinion towards the expectations some couples have when it comes to weddings - specifically the pricing that hard working vendors such as florists, cake makers, photographers, make-up artists, etc. place on their trade.

 I see it all too often:

  •  "looking for a cheap photographer"
  • "I'm on a tight budget, anyone recommend a good florist?"
  • "I need a make-up artist who doesn't ramp the price up when I mention the word wedding"
  • "in need of a basic cake maker"

Now, I do realise everyone has a budget to work within when arranging their wedding, but it should also be noted that getting married is relatively inexpensive (at its most basic it's registrar / church fees), yet having a wedding is quite another thing and can be as grand or low-key as you want it to be.

For starters, a wedding is often described as the most important day in a couples life (i.e. The Big Day), so why, why, why would you start your supplier search for this all important day with a mission to seek the cheapest out there? Surely you should be prioritising what's important to you and looking for the suppliers who provide the best value, identifying those areas you are willing to pay a little extra for and those where you can save some valuable wedding budget.

Admittedly, paying a lot of money isn't going to guarantee a high quality end product or service; however, the thing you have to consider is that all too often, when it comes to weddings the odds are you get what you pay for.

An example specific to photography: if having good quality images / memories of your wedding day is important to you, then before setting a budget, see what local photographers are offering, what price scales they span and how the quality and final product differ, then decide what value and budget you want to allocate to the photography element of your Special Day.

There’s no point setting a budget of £300 for wedding photography and expecting all day coverage, an album and a disc of licenced images – because if someone is offering that then the odds are that the quality of images they produce will be nowhere near someone charging £1000+. Think about it - if the quality was the same as the other £1000+ photographers, then surely they’d be charging £1000+ (why wouldn't they???).

Personally, when I see a posting from someone looking for a cheap photographer for their "Special Day" I tend not to pursue the lead, because in my experience the couples wanting to pay the least are the same ones that will demand the most and take up the most of my time. I'd rather have likeminded couples who like my work enough to pay what I’m asking and place nearly as much interest in their wedding photos as I do, not someone who just wants the cheapest out there for the minimum coverage - there's photographers out there that accommodate that, so I'm happy to let those opportunities pass.

In fact, when I've had couples haggle over pricing or asking me to price match (or out do) a competing photographer, from day one I’ve adopted a policy to refuse to lower my price because all that does is devalue my workand eat into my profit (I run a business at the end of the day, not a charity) as well as highlight to me what's important to the couple - they either like my work and are willing to pay my fee or they don't, it's as simple as that. However, on such occasions, what I do tend to offer couples is discounted extras such as parents’ albums, copyright release, additional coverage, etc as a kind of olive branch (rather than flat out refuse their request).

Looking specifically at my own photography pricing, I set my prices based on my experience, the quality of images I produce, the service I provide and the output I deliver (albums, DVDs, guest signing mounts, etc); additionally there is the cost I place on the time not only to take the photos but to edit them as well (which is time spent away from my family).

Furthermore, once photography reaches a certain price point above the market average, factors outside the hourly rate for taking and editing photos come into play; it enters the realm of artwork and at this point it boils down to what price a couple are will to pay for that photographers work.

Finally, why do photographers, florists, make-up artists charge so much when it comes to weddings? The simple answer is that expectation is so high on a wedding day, this most important day in a couple’s life, that extra effort, skill and pressure are placed upon suppliers to deliver (if not exceed) such expectations to make the couples day special and memorable for all the right reasons.

Florists charge more because it’s a wedding bouquet, not just a bunch of flowers; cake makers charge more because it’s often the wedding reception centrepiece that everyone will look over and remember, not just a sponge cake with some icing; and photographers charge what they do for a wedding because we’re not just getting a few lucky snaps (like Uncle Bob with his £300 “proper camera”), we’re expected to deliver 500-700 images of a consistent quality and look that document the whole day (often with no second chances and done in only one take).

 

Afterword: If any phrases, analogies or comments in this blog are similar to others posted elsewhere it's purely incidental and most likely from blog posts I've read over the years which have resonated with myself and are not meant to be acts of plagiarism

The wedding of Jessica & Lee: All creatures great and small

A couple of weeks ago I had the great responsibility of capturing the wedding day memories of Jessica and Lee. They booked me around 18 months ago to cover their wedding photography needs, and around 4 months ago we met to do the pre-wedding meet-up and photoshoot; in all honestly, the time has flown by (as I'm sure it has for Jessica and Lee).

Their wedding took place at Rushpool Hall {link} in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, a lovely venue I've shot at many times; however, rather annoyingly, I've never had much luck with the weather at this venue to fully do it justice, regardless of the time of year I've been booked for.

I know...a good photographer isn't affected by the weather, and I feel I’ve done a good job in the past at Rushpool Hall when the heavens have opened and the gale force winds have hit, but I've always known the potential this venue has, and just wanted to do have the opportunity to shoot it in favourable conditions.

So, in typical fashion, weather warnings were posted by the Met Office for severe rain and Supercell storm for the night before and the morning of the wedding - which pretty much is what happened, with thunder rumbling at 4:30am the day of the wedding.

However, the wedding fairies showed mercy and the temperature climbed throughout the morning, drying away any wetness on the ground and at around noon the sun made an appearance – it was at this point that I knew it was going to be a good day.

It was a relatively late kick-off for Jessica and Lee’s wedding (3pm), so I arrived just before 1pm to start the pre-bridal preparations in the bridal suite; always my favourite part of the day because it’s so unstructured and the bridal party are usually full of nervous energy. Jessica had the dresses already hanging from the 4-poster bed, which saved me the indignity of trying to hang them up for photos (since I’m vertically challenged somewhat).

The bride’s horse (Lemon is his name) also made an appearance and took some of the limelight from the groom, but was a great prop for some really good photos. There was also a dove release, something I’d not experienced at any weddings previously and relished the challenge of capturing the release. Even the peacocks tried to gate-crash the wedding meal by getting into the conservatory – which gave me a chance to get some close-ups of the elusive creature.

Jessica and Lee have a little girl, Harriet, who was very co-operative on the day and even allowed me to take her off for some stunning portraits which will be a nice surprise for the couple when I show them their final suite of images.

As well as being a special day for Jessica and Lee it was also a special day for Jessica’s parents and grandparents who also share the same wedding anniversary date – 4th July.

While it was warm, there was an occasional breeze, which I’m sure everyone appreciated; although I’ve never drank so much ice-water at a wedding before, it really was that hot.

All in all, it was as close to a perfect day as you can expect (given all the elements at play on a wedding day) and I cannot wait to show them the moments I’ve captured from their special day.

Disc-only Packages

To keep things simple (often the best way) I’ve chosen to provide only one wedding photography package to couples, with a variety of optional extras (such as pre-bridal coverage, additional coverage, licence to print their own images, parents albums, etc.) which can be added, allowing couples to tailor coverage to their specific needs and budget.

This base package includes what I feel is the minimum amount of coverage sufficient for me to capture a suite of images from their Special Day, as well as an album of wedding memories telling the story of their day in one volume; in essence, this base package is complete enough that some couples choose it and don’t feel the need to add anything to it.

Recently I’ve been getting wedding enquiries about disc only packages – something I’ve steered away from in the past.

This is primarily because despite their best intentions, I know most people would get the disc of 500-800 images, print a few off for display in their home or as gifts for family, as well as upload some to Facebook…..…the disc will then get put in a draw…….day-to-day life will inevitably get in the way, and they’ll most likely never put aside the time and effort required to go through the hundreds of wedding photos and design an album.

That being said, I’ve listened to what couples are wanting and I am now offering a disc-only package. The disc-only package includes the same 6 hrs coverage (with the option for additional coverage if required), pre-wedding shoot, DVD slideshow of all your wedding photos in presentation case, guest signing mount, and a 26 page proofing album to help sort reprints; in addition, couples would also receive the professional service and digital edits all my clients expect. Basically, it’s the same as my photobook package, but instead of getting a premium 66 page story book album you’re getting a licence to print all the hi-res images and make your own album.

I’ll even point couples towards the best value suppliers for canvases, prints, photobooks, etc. and if you decided at a later date you did want an album, it’s no problem for me to design and produce an album for you.

If you’re looking for a wedding photographer and interested in my disc-only package please get in touch for pricing and availability.

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Are you Jamie Oliver???

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution campaign as all about getting children to eat right by campaigning to put food practical food education on the school curriculum. And today is Food Revolution Day 2015.

As part of this, school children around the country are taking part in a practical online lesson to make a "Squash It Sandwich", and today I was at Roseberry Primary School to cover a couple of their sessions.

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I'm not sure how many of the pupils at Roseberry know who Jamie Oliver is, but upon arrival I did get asked by one of the Key Stage 2 children if I was Jamie Oliver...if you've seen me I'm clearly not, but I'll take it as a complement.

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There was a lot of fun had by the children and their parents and as you can imagine it got a bit chaotic at times with around 60+ people trying to follow instruction on how to make a healthy sandwich (although I did get asked by one child where the butter was lol).

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Everyone managed to make their squash it sandwich, and I think they most enjoyed the squashing part with the rolling pin - despite a few fingers becoming tenderised in the process...ouch.

#FoodRevolution

 

Rant Warning: "Photoshopping" Images

Disclaimer: Ok, before I start, I’ll get the small print out of the way: this blog relates only to professional photographers, not selfie obsessed self-promoters who canvas social media with what’s going on in their lives, posting burry photos only Big Foot hunters would be proud of (that’s a blog for a whole other day). Also, I totally understand everyone has their own style and post-production workflow, and good on them – I’m all for that, in fact, the variety in styles and client needs is what keeps so many of us professional photographers in business.

Now that’s out of the way. In my opinion, there’s only one thing worse than a bad photo…a poorly edited image which has been butchered in Photoshop. I’m sure you’ve seen what I’m referring to:

- images where the colours are way over the top – skins more orange than a fruit;
- teeth or eyes which glow unnaturally;
- over sharpening or increasing the contrast way too high;
- overly heavy vignettes / darkening around the edge of the frame;
- using the latest Photoshop gimmick such as putting a dinosaur in the background, using selective colour in black & white images or superimposing the couple into the bouquet;
- destroying the beauty of a black & white image with blue or orange tones;
- or (my pet hate) they’ve applied the digital equivalent of “smearing Vaseline over the lens” to soften the image and smooth the skin to add “beauty” to the bride!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of these purists who only believe the minimal amount of editing should be applied to an image, with the intent being to produce a true-to life portrait of the subject (warts and all).

In fact, I believe the post-processing of an image is just as important as the taking of the image itself; for me the real work starts when I’ve got home and uploaded the images to Lightroom for my post-shoot workflow.

When I digitally edit an image I’m making it the best it can be, while maintaining the integrity of the original image I captured; this includes cropping, straightening, correcting white balance, removing blemishes (while leaving permanent features alone), adding / removing light and shadow where appropriate. Sometimes I'll remove distracting objects from the foreground or background that I either didn't notice while taking the shot or couldn't avoid.

Most of this is done in Lightroom, with a custom set of actions ready to be ran in Photoshop once I’ve got the image how I like it. It’s nothing over the top, slight vignette to frame the image to better focus the eye, delicate warming of the scene and a reduction of any image noise.

I’m not going to name any photographers who overwork Photoshop, that wouldn’t be right, but I can show my approach to processing an image by showing you a before and after screenshot.

The other month, Jared Polin over at FroKnowsPhoto (check it out if you’re into photography in any way) posted a raw image file from one of his studio portrait sessions for people to download, giving them the challenge of processing it in their style. The image he uploaded was hi res, well lit and a classically composed studio headshot.

Below on the left is the raw unedited out-of-camera image file and to the right is my edit to that image. I’ve removed blemishes, balanced the colour, increased the contrast a little to make the image “pop”, applied a very slight crop to tighten the image and added a vignette to better focus the eye. Nothing I wouldn’t normally do to a client image, or my own home photos for that matter, and it only took 5 minutes.

As I stated earlier – my intention is to make the subject in the image appear the best they can be, while maintaining a natural look.

Preston Hall Wedding Fair

Had a really good day at Preston Hall Wedding Fair today, meet lots of lovely couples - some who were well into their wedding day plans, and others who are only weeks into being engaged.

I also got to meet some other wedding professionals - most notably Tilly the Traditional Ice Cream Tricycle (very unique & original idea - delicious ice cream as well), Alex at Cake Temptations (stunning designs, and even better tasting cakes) and A Touch of Elegance, who provide wedding day extras - most notably the truly striking thrones (pictured below).

A big thanks to Tees Valley Weddings, and looking forward to the next wedding fair!



Wedding Fair!!!!!!!!

 

Very excited! This Sunday (the 1st March) I’ll be exhibiting at my first wedding fair…in all honesty I’m a little nervous, most through not being sure what to expect; however I am looking forward to meeting and chatting to lots of lovely couples looking to get married.

I’ve got everything ready: new series of portfolio albums, new complete sample albums, promotional leaflets, business cards, 2m high roller banner, display easels, iPad slideshow…I’ve even got some free chocolates for couples to help themselves to while they check out my portfolio of images.

The fair takes place between 12pm and 3pm at Preston Hall in Eaglescliffe and is organised by Tees Valley Weddings (www.teesvalleyweddings.co.uk), so there’ll be plenty of other suppliers on show.

Preston Hall is a place which has special meaning to me since it’s where I married my lovely wife all those years ago; despite it being a wet and cold November afternoon, everyone had a good time – which was the idea really. 

Having a stall at a wedding fair gives me a chance to press-the-flesh (so to speak) with couples looking to get married; not only will it allow them to see the physical output from my wedding photography, more importantly it will let them have a chance to meet me and get a feel for whether I’m the photographer for them.

So if you’re looking into your wedding photographer (or a supplier for any other element of the wedding day) pop along and see what’s on offer. 

 

Better to be safe than sorry

As a professional wedding photographer I regularly deal with thousands of image files from any one day’s shooting – often covering events that are unique, without the possibly of a re-shoot. Therefore, it cannot be stressed enough the importance I place on the storage of the images I’m entrusted with...I shudder just thinking about having to ever go to a couple and inform them I’ve lost all the visual memories from their Special Day.

Why bring this up you might ask?

Just last week one of my hard drives had a catastrophic meltdown – a drive which stores ALL my client and personal images! Thankfully, because I adopted a hard drive mirroring facility (where the data on one drive is duplicated on another in real-time) the only inconvenience I had was that of money (for the cost of replacement drives) and time (waiting for the replacement drives to arrive and installation). However, had I not foresaw (and invested) in such a safety mechanism, this would be a very much different blog post.

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It’s not just the short and long term storage of images which I take into consideration. It starts with the actual capturing of the images on the Big Day. I have more than one camera body, multiple lenses covering a variety of focal lengths, investment in pro-level camera bodies and lenses and I don’t store all the photos on one high capacity memory card; I split them over a number of 8GB & 16GB cards – so that if one card is lost or fails I only lose the images on that card and no the whole days shoot

Next is the post-shoot workflow processes for images storage. As soon as I arrive home after a day’s shooting (after demolishing some fast food) I import all photos from the memory cards onto my PC with one copy going onto my mirrored drive and another on an external network drive. Copies are also archived on a physical backup (DVDs), which is stored at a separate location the next day; I won’t format the memory cards until all backups have been stored and checked.

Once I’ve processed the wedding photos and delivered them to the client I’ll purge my main drive leaving only the hi-res final images, album design and accompanying files; with a copy of the complete final output being stored again on DVD and a network / cloud drive (along with the original raw backup). Also, for those couples who have purchased a licence to print the images I give them two copies – one to put in a safe place and another for taking to friends and family or printing.

This all may seem a bit over the top (and it is, until you need it), but in this day and age people rarely print images (even I’m guilty of this) and keep images in digital format on their phones, tablets or laptop – not giving much thought to what would happen if those devices were lost or damaged. For the typical person, if they had encountered a disk failure there would probably been no recovery of those images, which could have resulted years’ worth of irreplaceable memories being lost. So my advice to anyone is to regularly backup your photos, and print them – or do something with them; in terms of entrusting someone with your wedding photography – ask what safeguarding procedures they have in place for wedding photos, and what long-term storage policies they have.

Pre-wedding shoot: Sarah & Kal

The weather was near perfect my meeting today with Sarah & Kal - just the right amount of cloud in the sky and a slight breeze (much better than rain, high winds or a clear high contrast sky).

We had a quick chat about how the wedding plans were coming along, discussing the schedule for their Big Day next April, before going for a quick 30-40 minute pre-wedding shoot around the Tees Barrage and the Infinity Bridge.

The main aims of a pre-wedding shoot are to give the couple a taste for how the wedding portraits will go, as well as giving me a feel for how easy it will be to get the "safe" couple shots and how much I'll be able to "direct" them into the more creative shots...not that I haven't shot weddings without a pre-wedding shoot, it's just that they are few and far between - usually attributed to a short-notice booking where it just isn't feasible to schedule one in.

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It also helps build the photographer-client relationship; rather than booking me 18 months before the wedding and not seeing or hearing from me again until the wedding day itself.

By taking a few hours out of their busy lives, it shows the couples commitment towards their wedding photos, and as a thank you I provide a disc of all the photos from the pre-wedding shoot for them to do with as they wish; an image from the shoot is also mounted for guests to sign on the Big Day (acting a little like a guest book).

Sarah & Kal started the shoot (as all couples do) feeling a little nervous about being photographed, but quickly got into the spirit of the shoot and I managed to catch some really natural shots of them - find the overall shoot effortless, which I hope they did too.

Their little boy, Coen, also tagged along and managed to get a mini shoot of his own.




Autumn Location Photoshoots

As a photographer Autumn offers so many opportunities for location shoots - with rich reds and browns and such soft light, it makes photographing families almost effortless.

If you want quality photos you'll cherish for years to come get in touch to arrange a location photoshoot this Autumn.

This year I'm doing my photoshoots in Hardwick Country Park in Sedgefield and Ropner Park, Stockton on selected Saturday/Sunday's in October.

Booking is essential and if you're interested in booking a family photoshoot (or just a photoshoot for the kids) get in touch for further details, dates and prices. Or if you'd prefer a different location or in-home family shoot get in touch for details and availability.