From The Archive... #29

Some fun and a little expectation. Even though this is a simple, quiet shot, there is a lot going on here...

The increasing popularity of the wedding reception photo booth creates many zany and oddball opportunities for shots. When such a facility is present I tend to skulk quietly in the shadows, recording some of the fun and games. By this time of the evening people think of me as part of the day's furniture and I'm thankfully ignored - which is perfect.

I really like the expectation the pointed finger creates as the lady in question urges the last photo to appear. Her gesticulation suggests the final shot is maybe a sight to see and possibly the one in which they 'went for it' ... we'll never know.

Behind the scenes: Mirror Mirror Couture studio shoot...

Blame Star Wars. I was 7-years-old when I saw the movie. Try as I might, I couldn't get my own head around the fact that this fantastic sci-fi world came out of one guy's mind. And I don't mean George Lucas. I mean his conceptual artist, Ralph McQuarrie.

From then on I only ever wanted to do something creative for a living. Photography ran in the family and so it was decided. The problem is that professional photography - in whatever area you work - is wildly different to what you might expect. Nearly every job becomes an (enjoyable) battle against time and logistics. As anyone who works in the creative industries will tell you: there’s a lot of frustration along the way.

So when you get a day in a studio when there's latitude to get things just right, via the help of a great team of people, you grab it and try your very best to end the day with absolute creative satisfaction. This was the case when I shot the new Couture range for Mirror Mirror Bridal at the stunning Renaissance Hotel, St Pancras.

The brief was to produce a simple, clean, stylish set of images which were all about the dresses, but it's surprising just how much work and tweaks are involved to create an end result which looks like, well, as if there was not much work and not that many tweaks required.

The designers, make-up artists, hairdressers, my assistant and an organiser overseeing the running of the schedule, all listed below, made my life incredibly easy on the day and I think the results really hit the mark. Less is most definitely more. The dresses are sublime but their aesthetic appeal was absolutely heightened by terrific models Tabitha Hall, Tijana Tambric and Emily Steer - all of whom were a joy to shoot.

Designers: Maria Yiannikaris & Jane Freshwater at Mirror Mirror Bridal. Wardrobe: Natasha Yiannikaris at Mirror Mirror Bridal. Hair: Anna Acerbi & Michele Antiga at Hair Supreme. Make-up: Andrea Flynn, Pamela Skantzos at Pamela & Andrea + Andrea Elsby Jones at Mirror Mirror Bridal. Stylist: Penny Cullen at Love Scarlett. Studio assistant: Alexandra Nicolaides. Hotel coordination: Clare Legg at The Renaissance, St Pancras.

Click any image to enlarge, or enjoy the 'behind the scenes' video produced by the terrific Kissing Gate Films

Through the lens... Farm Street Church, London

Two weeks ago saw my latest commission at the epic Farm Street Church in London's Mayfair. It's always been one of my favourite places to work since my first job there some years ago.

The inspiring internal space got me thinking about that magical 30-45 mins just before a the wedding ceremony starts, as the atmosphere builds, family and friends arrive and anticipation fills the air.

The church is tucked away in Mount Street, just off Berkeley Square and there is something quite Narnia about it. A relatively modest doorway opens up into a cavernous space - a room that has witnessed over 150 years of activity. It's like the wardrobe into another world. In a matter of steps you exit fashionable town and emerge deep into history.

I have always enjoyed this chunk of a wedding day, the point when I am able to search out quiet scenes and detail. These photographs provide context within the wider selection and, once edited into the reportage material of the main players, they really set the scene and complete my pictorial overview of the day. 

Of course a wedding is primarily about the couple. But they have chosen their location(s) with care and they often have family significance. So it's vital to tie in these 'detail' images with the people shots and priceless moments which make their day unique.

Click on any photograph to enlarge....

The spectacular aisle leading to the high altar... (85mm lens, 90th/F2, 1250asa)

One of many dramatic depictions tucked away in the side chapel... (50mm lens, 250th/F2, 1600asa)

The Priest addresses the congregation ahead of the bride's arrival... (85mm lens, 60th/F4, 2500asa)

Last few guests sneak in before the service... (28mm lens, 125th/F2.8, 800asa)

Ushers seemingly not ushering... (200mm lens, 30th/F2.8, 1600asa)

Everywhere you turn the church offers scenes straight from a film set... (28mm lens, 30th/F2.8, 2000asa)

Anticipation builds as friends and family arrive... 

From the archive... #12

Certain shots simply fall into place right in front of you. You only have to press the button...

This shot was several years ago at a private residence; a gorgeous house near Liverpool. The shoot sticks in my mind because the original booking was to have been in Marbella - but we ended up on Merseyside - a long story.

Here you can see the Toastmaster, let's say 'urging' the little flower girl back to the reception after she had wandered away, no doubt looking for mischief. The shot really benefits from the walkway - a makeshift white tunnel which linked a chill-out lounge to the dining room. 

The crisp simplicity of the surroundings and body language of the people in-frame tell you what's happening. I really like the playful feel to the shot and the way the vivid uplighting pulls the eye into the centre of the photograph. 

More proof that the best photography is simple and without fuss...

Going live...

Wedding photography is all about creating a set of memories, which I try to construct brick-by-brick over the course of the day and spend hours painstakingly editing. Press photography is different. It is about getting the message out, reporting, being fast. It's about quick delivery. Luckily, I've done both which meant last week's eleventh hour request to release a picture of the happy couple to the world's media whilst simultaneously covering the day, was, if a little stressful, ultimately pretty straightforward. 

The commission was to shoot the beautiful wedding of Olympic cycling star, Mark Cavendish, and his bride, model Peta Todd. Due to the high-profile nature of the couple, unwanted press intrusion was a real concern. Especially as the venue for the wedding was One Mayfair, in the heart of London.

So a plan was hatched: we would keep the media animal fed with one great shot and hopefully - with the help of a security contingent - head-off any gate-crashing Paps. I decided I would send a fairly simple shot during the early part of the evening. The timing had to catch the first editions of the Sunday papers (around 19.00), but also had to fit-in with my extensive list of wedding day 'must-gets'. My overriding brief for wedding clients is always to create photography which will last, something memorable. But I also needed to click into deadline mode and get something out. 


On the technical side, I decided to take two MacBooks. One to download/back-up the rolling coverage as the day progressed, the other purely for the transmission of the picture. Around 17.45 I asked Peta & Mark to just spend a moment with me so I could grab the shot I thought would be appropriate. That done, they could relax and enjoy their wedding breakfast. Meanwhile, I raced off to the crew room and started to download... the clock was ticking.

Wedding planner, Lisa Walker, of Just Bespoke, had every element of the wedding covered to perfection and ensured I had a desk, wifi and the relevant contact from Mark's management to sign-off the shot for distribution.

I initially chose two pictures. A simple portrait and then something a little more creative, a wide shot from the actual ceremony. It was decided we'd send out the portrait. The picture duly signed off, the file was then slipped into a press release and immediately sent to PA, who, in turn made it accessible by all major news organisations. Phew. Box ticked. 

And as the press quickly clicked into gear reporting on the Cavendish nuptials, it was time for me to get back to creativity and shoot the speeches and evening atmosphere.  



From the archive... #10

This caption should read "a slightly nervous groom".

The location is Somerset House and our man in question is Nabeel, who just went with the flow, like so many of us guys on their wedding day.

I particularly like the loose composition of the shot. While the picture is all about the facial expression, it's not too tight as to deny the viewer of the proximity of the best man, and the fact they're clearly seconds away form the bride's arrival. 

A simple moment caught forever. One of many on a lovely summer's day in town... 

Lights, camera... couture!

It took a nanosecond to email back after Maria Yiannikaris at Mirror Mirror Bridal asked if I was available to come and shoot some catwalk couture material. Alongside some the biggest names in bridal fashion, Mirror Mirror was showing its latest collection and needed to document the evening for press and PR use. 

The event was a lavish affair in conjunction with Brides magazine. Combine a runway full of models and freedom to shoot whatever against the spectacular backdrop of the ballroom at The Mandarin Oriental in London's Knightsbridge - it was a pretty good gig for a weeknight!

It also shows that wedding photography isn't all about actually being at weddings. There are so many areas within the industry to explore photographically. From specialist supplier shoots through to portraiture of company bosses, it's a varied world offering rich detail and flamboyant personalities.

I have always loved working in an environment with strong lighting. There are endless opportunities to use the light in front and behind your subject to create something with great contrast and visual punch. Add to this the buzz of excitement in the room as the girls strutted their stuff and you have a dramatic canvass on which to paint with the camera.  

Here are just a few from the event. Click any thumbnail to enlarge or navigate with the arrows...

From the archive... #8

This is probably best filed under 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em'.  They say photography is all about capturing the moment - and this was about capturing somebody else's.

Smartphones. I couldn't live without mine, and they just get people shooting more pics, which makes them brilliant in my book. To the many photographers who moan about wedding guests whipping them out at every opportunity, I say: get over it.

I really think this shots sums up the fun side of a wedding reception. When a few friends get together and smile for somebody else, it's a shot. But this example came at the end of the day and my work was almost done after a terrific shoot at The Renaissance Hotel, St Pancras. With this in mind it was just nice to get into the huddle and create something a little different..