Weddings

Don and Kayan's Glamourous Westminster Pre-Wedding Shoot

Most brides wouldn't dream of letting their groom see them in their wedding dress before the big day, but in Asia, pre-wedding photography is hugely popular. 

Pre-wedding shoots see brides and grooms pose together in their wedding finery before walking down the aisle, to get perfect pictures, tailored to the couple's exact taste, which there may not be time for on the wedding day itself. 

Now couples in search of something extra special for their shoot are flocking to the UK to pose alongside famous landmarks or in renowned luxury hotels such as The Ritz.

Don and Kayan, like many Chinese couples, have fond memories of working and studying here in London, and while their call came last minute, and while time was short, we had some fun whizzing around a few favourite places, including a romantic and dramatic start in Green Park, and a quirky long-exposure shoot at Paddington Station.   Along the way, we took in the ubiquitous and inevitable red phone booth, black taxi and, of course Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Big Ben and Westminster Bridge.

 

CATRIONA & TOBY'S KENT ENGAGEMENT SCOTNEY CASTLE

Or... How You Should Never Say Never Work with Children and Animals.

It's been quite a year for National Trust engagement shoots, which for me, being a Londoner, is quite a treat to get out and about in the countryside.  Catriona and Toby are both avid walkers and even more avid dog-lovers, and this was my first shoot incorporating dogs AND romance.  Despite the "never work with children and animals" maxim, I thought, what fun, what could possibly go wrong.  Of course things might have gone wrong, but in fact on the day, their two spaniels were so lovely and well-behaved I only wish I'd tried some more experimental shots.  As it is, a sweet afternoon of walking and relaxing was had by all at Scotney Castle. 

As a bit of a warm up - although to be honest an engagement shoot is in itself a warm-up - Mum took the dogs for a little walk while I took Catriona and Toby down to the Folly to get used to the camera.  Not everyone likes to indulge in endless selfies and not everyone is comfortable with the idea of a photographer.  But they know they'll need to be when their wedding day comes.  So of course an engagement shoot is a great way to not only get to know each other and what works best, but also to learn to relax a bit in front of the lens. 

And so, enter the pups, and what a cute pair they were.

I know spaniels are pretty easy going, but these two, they were just so cute and laid back.

Despite the glorious sunshine that marked the start of this lovely Kentish autumn day, by the time we had actually arrived at Scotney Castle, the clouds were massing overhead.  Sometimes when this happens, it's hard to resist going a little gothic.

The house which was built to replace the Old Castle in the first half of the 19th Century is known as Scotney New Castle, and is a wonderful example of Tudor Revivalist style.  So not really gothic at all, except perhaps when the dark lowering clouds mass overhead and the photographer's imagination runs a little too far away with itself...

For those wondering if the poor dogs had been left to go feral, I probably should add here the best piece of advice I can offer anyone considering an engagement shoot with their dogs;  bring a friend or a family member along who is happy to take the dogs for a break so the two of you can also relax and pose a little for the camera.  Taking advantage of a small break, we took a quick tour of the gardens. 

We were treated to the most amazing array of autumn colours.  The gardens at Scotney Castle were designed by Capability Brown with rhododendron and azalea competing with Wisteria and old English rose.   Autumn is beautiful, but Spring is an absolute symphony of colour.

We retrieved the little retrievers and took them for a last photo tour of the gardens.  

With the sun determined not to come back out again, and with the gates soon to close on the castle, we took a last tour of the old castle, which dates back to the fourteenth century.  And to lift things a little, I brought out some handy lights, at first as a portrait key light to lift Cat and Toby out of the November gloom.

And then more dramatically - and this is one of my favourite cheats with using a flashgun with radio trigger - I created some fake sunlight behind them.  While in reality we were halfway to darkness, see how the remote flashgun light highlights them and wraps round them, as if it were the dying rays of the sun through the bushes behind and picks out the golden autumn colours in the leaves.  Much prettier than a flat near-dark grey early evening. 

Because every lover's kiss deserves a bit of sun-dappled romance, even if it is courtesy of the hard-working photographer.  Thanks for a great day Toby and Cat, looking forward to the big day next year!

SAMMY & CRAIG'S SPRING ENGAGEMENT, VIRGINIA WATER

I met Sammy and Craig in a teeming bar in London's Paddington Basin development.  Despite the terrible January weather, or maybe because of it, the bar was jammed full of people to the rafters. Amidst the yelling and laughing and the loud music and the swell of human bodies, this beautiful young couple seemed to be able to separate themselves from the craziness and the hubbub, as if they existed in their own little world of peace and affection.  

It's important to meet a couple  before you take on shooting their wedding.  Wedding photography is a very personal and often intimate relationship.  If you don't get on, if there is no chemistry, then you can be sure that will be reflected in the day, and in the final pictures.   I have yet to meet a couple and not hit it off with them, and Sammy and Craig were no exception to this, their warmth and easy relaxed manner being something I knew would be reflected in their e-shoot. 

Part of any shoot is about posing.  You can't just say to a couple: "sit there and be yourselves, stand there and snog".  But there are times, as with Sammy and Craig, when a couple has that easy, relaxed way about them, when the natural affection just comes across, and then it is best to let them be themselves and to just gently, subtly place them in the right settings.

With, sure, just a little direction, here and there. 

We chose to shoot the engagement in Virginia Water, a lovely little town which takes it's name from the lake in Windsor Park nearby.   Nestled between Windsor, Ascot and Sunninghill in leafy Surrey, it is best known for the park, woodlands and waterfall that enfold the lake and is Crown Estate property. 

As well as the famous totem pole, which we didn't have time to get to, there are also historic Roman Ruins - originally the remains of a three-thousand-year-old Phoenician city known as Lepcis Magna which were given to George IVth as a gift.   While once, they would have made an amazing, atmospheric backdrop to any shoot, they are now fenced off, making them a nice enough background, but not quite the photographic wow factor we were looking for. 

Still, the sun was shining.  We had been gifted that rare and beautiful thing, a perfect English spring afternoon.  So we grabbed a few natural shots at the ruins, and made our way to the waterfall. 

A magnet for tourists, not just from the UK, but all over Europe, the waterfall at Virginia Water gave us that fantastic glittery light, with some gentle shady spots where Sammy and Craig could relax in each other's arms while I coped with vertigo and tourists.  

Many might think that a crowded tourist attraction is the worst place to shoot in, particularly as these shots were taken on the little bridge directly in front of the waterfall, and on a path deeply trodden by almost anyone who comes here.  In fact, it's probably the best way a couple and their photographer could warm up for the public marathon appearance that is their wedding day.  If you can relax with your photographer, and be at ease in front of the camera in public, then that bodes very well for your big day, when you may well be appearing in front of hundreds of people. 

As you can see Sammy and Craig had little trouble relaxing in front of the camera, and this may be in part down to the choice of lenses.  Unlike a lot of photographers, I carry a 70-200 portrait zoom, which means I can work at a slighter greater distance from my couples when necessary, which helps them feel the session is more discrete, more relaxed, and gives them space to laugh and love.   Also, I am a firm believer that every shoot should be fun.  Whether it's a couple shoot, a wedding shoot, or a high-end corporate or commercial shoot, there should be fun and laughter. 

So there you have it, a simple mix of two people in love, of black and white and colour, of horsing around, and just walking had in hand.   No forced poses, no awkward, constrained set-ups, no crazy complicated lighting, and absolutely no stress.  What every shoot should be - an easy mix of joy, fun, love and laughter.  Thanks Sammy and Craig for a great afternoon, can't wait for the wedding day at the Royal Berkshire Hotel.  Gonna be amazing!