From the archive... #17

Morning preps are one of the nicest parts to shoot of any wedding day. It's a gentle hour of detail and quiet shots which virtually nobody else sees.

This little scene is my vantage point through a connecting door to one the grand suites at The Renaissance Hotel, St Pancras. Hair is virtually done and the donning of the dress is minutes away - so I kept my distance to ensure the moment wasn't lost. 

I think of it as a 'doorman's eye view'...

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... 

Sarah & Scott, Wedding photography at the RSA London

When you shoot a wedding at a single location, it can sometimes present as many issues as it solves. Often, where venue staff turn around a room for multiple uses it can impact on timings, restrict guest movement and frankly can look a bit messy. 

But there is none of this at the 250-year-old Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, tucked away in John Adam Street, just off the Strand. How can you not adore an organisation founded in a coffee shop?

Early December saw my first shoot at the RSA and it has immediately become one of my favourites because it’s the exact opposite of the the issue outlined above - this venue offers significant variation. I love it.

My clients, Sarah & Scott, wanted a simple, stylish, people day. Their wedding ceremony took place in the vaults, three floors below street level, an atmospheric environment enhanced by candlelight. It was interesting, historic, romantic and thoroughly appropriate for December. 

Once married, it was up into the Great Room for drinks and ultimately the guests settled into the gorgeous, contemporary Benjamin Franklin Room for the wedding breakfast. This was one of those commissions that whizzed by, an absolute pleasure to shoot. 

I was so grateful to be welcomed in and generously treated by the family. Their calm, genuine ambience contributed to a very personal set of photographs, exactly what we all hoped to obtain.

As usual, here are just a few to give a flavour of the day. Click any thumbnail to enlarge...  

From the archive... #14

Only three weeks ago I shot this simple frame at Hampton Court, on a windswept day full of dawn-to-dusk rain showers.

Zoe pulled up in the car (looking amazing), glanced at the deluge, then simply got on with her day. A brilliant approach; the only thing on her mind was getting married.

Seemed an apt first post for 2014. Happy New Year everybody!

20 things I take away from 2013...


1) I don’t agree with all Edward Snowden has said and done, but I agree with this: privacy is a sacred thing. We’re gradually losing it and we’ll be very sorry when Hurricane Social Media passes.

2) You'd think the best espresso would be in Italy. Nah, it’s a dead-heat between Paphos airport and a little kiosk on Seaford sea front.  

3) I want to live like a chap called Benjamin Zidarich. And if you've never heard of him, that wouldn't bother him in the slightest. 

4) You won't hear a writer rave about creating better stories because of a new laptop. So why do photographers think a new camera will improve their work? It won't. The secret: obtain more talent.

5) People who obviously think they're exciting and important, are boring. But those who work away quietly in the background and achieve are impressive…

6) I love the Seagate Hotel in Appledore, Devon

7) Trieste is much nicer than Rome. 

8) I'm comfortable knowing JJ will do us Star Wars fans proud.

9) We now live in a world where even Ryanair admits Ryanair's service is poor. Better late than never.

10) Tech -  the right balance is: an iPad for daily news, a proper computer for work and then just purchase mags and books like you did before the previous two were invented.

11) Macs with solid state drives are laugh-out-loud fast. I can now crunch a gigabyte like it was a megabyte - warp-speed computing.

12) Sir Chris Hoy's handshake is vice-like. I took portraits of him in January, circulation returned in my right hand around mid-March.

13) Comfort-eating is dipping fresh carrot sticks in tartar sauce. Scrumpsh. 

14) I shall never, ever live in a house without a wood burning stove. We're the only household which looks forward to a severe winter.

15) Gather together most of the people you've ever met, and quite a few you don't speak to, then hold aloft a bluey/grey/yellow print of your cat. Sound absurd? I agree. But that's basically Instagram. Not everything needs to be photographed.

16) I fell asleep twice during 'The Hobbit: Desolation of whatever'. Each time I woke up the midgets where simply in another forrest. That book does not need nine hours of screen time.

17) I have never written an autobiography. This puts me five such books behind Katie Price.

18) If you photograph your child’s every move and bung it on Facebook, in 10 years time they will absolutely hate you. 

19) I’m not ashamed to admit I have rediscovered my love of Lego. Calming and satisfying. It’s wasted on children.

20) Flexibility continues to be the key to freelancing. 

… Happy New Year! 

Lauren & Tom, Wedding photography at Layer Marney Tower

One of the great things about shooting weddings is meeting people. This was never more evident than during Lauren and Tom's small, very family-orientated wedding earlier in the year.

So the saying goes, "it's all about the bride". However, in this case I think of the groom first whenever I come across their selection in the library. This is because Tom is a proud Paratrooper, a breed apart, quietly getting married hot on the heels of a recent tour of duty.

We're talking about a very, very impressive young man. One of those fellas us everyday chaps thoroughly respect, as he does a job very few could handle. I know for sure I couldn't. Therefore, I greatly looked forward to their day at the atmospheric Layer Marney Tower, near Colchester.

Everything had been made easy for me, mainly due to Lauren being possibly the planet's most considerate girl. Timings, the essential names, the 'must get' shots - all were listed and prepped with (dare I say) military precision. 

Being involved in a relaxed, very laid-back day is always a lovely flip-side from some of the bigger, more imposing venues at which I often work. This certainly comes across in what I see as a 'people set' . An extremely rewarding day - what a wedding is all about.

Below are a few of my favourites from the wider selection. Click any thumbnail to enlarge... 




From the archive... #11

Walk into this room - wow - you're rocked back on your heels by the opulence. 

I had been asked to shoot a catwalk show in the ballroom of The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Knightsbridge, organised by the market-leading magazine Brides. The client was Mirror Mirror Bridal, with whom I'm developing a terrific working relationship. The London Atelier would be showing some of their stunning couture designs.

On display were the best couture dresses from the country's leading designers - the cream of the cream. It was a terrific opportunity to really nail some atmosphere and record the wider scene. 

I've picked this example from the set because it not only shows a gorgeous gown, but also the style of the room. And, I feel, you can really sense the anticipation of the audience as some truly beautiful dresses were unveiled.

A brilliant night. Perk of the job...