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CRAIG AND SAMMY'S FIREWORKS NIGHT NOVEMBER WEDDING

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CRAIG AND SAMMY'S FIREWORKS NIGHT NOVEMBER WEDDING

I first met Craig and Sammy in a crowded bar in Paddington Basin in London after a day's work, and it was one of those wonderful encounters where you know pretty much from the outset that this will be a great wedding, that the couple are truly, madly, deeply in love,  that you will hit it off immediately with them, and that it will be a big day of laughs. 

Having shot their engagement in Virginia Water, and having already during that shoot, popped in at the Royal Berkshire Hotel in Sunninghill, I was familiar with the grounds and with the venue.  What I hadn't expected was the incredible blaze of autumn colour that awaited us. 

Originally built for the family of Winston Churchill, this lavish country hotel is housed in an 18th-century mansion just a stone's throw from Ascot Racecourse.  And as you can see, you can also play a game of draughts with any nearby giants that happen to be wandering the Surrey countryside.
 

The rooms are large, generous and comfortable, and Sammy's suite had plenty of room for all the bridesmaids to relax and prep.

and that, of course, included Mum!

and the dress, of course...

Now it may surprise some of you to hear this, but girls take a little bit longer than guys to get ready.  On this Saturday, I rocked up, bright and breezy at 10 am to find Sammy and her girl crew already in curlers and prepping.  Four hours later, at 2pm, when the ceremony was due to start, they were still adding the final touches.   The boys on the other hand...

The boys took a record fifteen minutes.  No word of exaggeration.  I've never in my life seen a swifter transformation from jeans and trainers to mourning suit and cravat. 

Shooting a wedding is always an adrenaline buzz, there is always chaos and rush.  But, boys, seriously, fifteen minutes?

and that goes for you dads too!

I guess there was a bit of a rush to get to the bar, so much of a rush that one or two of the chaps appear to still be empty-handed...

And then that moment when Dad goes in to make sure his daughter is okay, and it's a kind of a farewell moment, and always so touching

While the boys, well, they don't seem too worried do they?

Nah, nope, nothing to worry about...

and everything to be thankful for, with such a beautiful bride-to-be walking down the aisle

and these next two moments I love so much.  There is nothing but love, youth and enthusiasm in Sammy and Craig's faces.  So much hope and excitement for the future they will share together.

Despite the November cold, Sammy and Craig were game to do a little walkaround and grab a few shots.  The window for couples portraits is always a nice opportunity too for a newly-married couple to gather themselves together and get away from the bustle - kind of like quiet time, except I'm there, and I'm not that quiet.

Just look at those autumn colours! And with the last rays of the sun, the light has that golden glow to it

A quick walk around the fountain and, even with Craig lending Sammy his jacket, frostbite looked to be close at hand, so we grabbed just a last few snatched portrait shots and headed indoors

For the speeches

and, inevitably, the tears...

...looks like Craig's Dad was working hard to keep those tears back as well

and last but not least, to round off the evening, what else, on November the 5th, but sparklers and fireworks.

Congratulations Sammy and Craig and wishing you both a wonderful, happy, long life together!

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LEE AND CHARLEY'S AMAZING MOVIE-THEMED COSPLAY WEDDING, HOCKLEY

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LEE AND CHARLEY'S AMAZING MOVIE-THEMED COSPLAY WEDDING, HOCKLEY

Or how I survived flu, helicopters, a disgruntled Batman, English rain and the Predator to shoot one of the most epic weddings of 2016.

"There's going to be movie character special guests, and we've hired a marquee,  the wedding will take place under a draped parachute, and we're both flying in in helicopters." 

Well - to say I was excited about this wedding is an understatement to say the least.   When a costume and set designer marries a helicopter pilot, you know you're in for one amazing day.   Sure, we had rain and mud, and sure there was the occasional hitch, what with this incredible duo having created and organised the whole thing themselves.  But Charley and Lee pulled it off, running the whole thing in a marquee and field in Hockley in Essex, and they did it with incredible spirit and style.  Read on to see just what a crazy adventure the day was.

The day started with a couple of fairy bridesmaids, doing their hair, as fairy bridesmaids do.

Despite Charley's house being only a literal stone's throw from Southend Airport in Essex, her bridesmaid's Atlanta and Mimi had no idea of the aerial surprise awaiting them. 

As a costume designer and art director, Charley;s yard was littered with the beginnings and endings of semi-human projects.  But I, her supposedly clued-up photographer, still didn't really have a handle on the proceedings that were to take place. 

For Charley, prep was not something she really wanted shot, but was very keen for us to capture the moment when her Dad saw her in her amazing Gainsborough dress and purple hair.  Comprising a design of ruched pink with silver bows, and designed by Ian Stuart, Charley's fabulous dress was a real crowdstopper

And so, in blustering wind and rain, we made our way to the secret location, where the first surprise awaited Dad and the bridesmaids

October may not bring the best weather for helicopters, but this Autumn Wedding had been a year in the planning and our intrepid couple were not about to let a little thing like rain stop  play.

I just love the look on Mimi's face here!  I'm pretty sure we all pull that face when we're in for an unexpected helicopter ride.  In her hand you can see she's holding a go pro.  As there wasn't room for me in the helicopter, with Dad getting the ultimate treat of riding shotgun next to the pilot, I loaned Mimi my Go pro and Atlanta my little Fuji x100T.

Dad's looking pretty thrilled too, right?  If a little apprehensive. 

And if you have never felt the rush of taking off in a helicopter, take if from me, the next best thing is the rush of being right underneath it as the rotor blades chop the air and send wild gusts of wind barrelling over you. 

So glad I had spare cameras to lend the girls so that we could still get footage for both the album and the film we were also shooting.  We'll all have to imagine for now the thrill of flying over Southend Pier, but watch this space and the film should be posted up in a few weeks' time.

Meanwhile, my crew and I were rushing across essex to try and beat the helicopters, knowing they wouldn't be up in the air all that long.  Sometimes being a wedding photographer is like being a paparazzi, all car chases and last-minute, snatched shots.   When we arrived at the venue, the surprise guest movie characters had also just got there. 

War Machine - from the Hollywood movie Iron man - looking suitably unimpressed by the English Weather.  You can almost imagine him thinking "It's not like this in Los Angeles".  Nonetheless, despite the rain, it was a warm day, which gave rise to the best quote of the day, when I was setting up the styled portraits and asked "Where's War Machine?" only to get the answer; "He's feeling a bit hot and tired so he's gone for a lie-down".   Not what you expect from War Machine now is it? Lol.

Safely landed, with classic chivalry, Charley's debonair helicopter pilot helps her down.

and the girls, wings adjusted now they are on dry land, get our glamourous bride ready for her walk to the aisle across the fields. 

And how beautiful does Charley look as her Dad walks her down the aisle, beneath a canopy of real parachute silk.

To be married by Gandalf, no less.   Well this was a fantasy movie-themed wedding, so honestly, who else?

Led by Gandalf, Charley and Lee made their way across the mud to the marquee to sign the register...

While Pyramid Head from Silent Hill and Indiana Jones, ominously, quietly watch over proceedings.  What could possibly go wrong?  Gulp. 

Then it was back to the parachute awning for the final vows.

To rapturous applause and smiles all round.  Which is what weddings should be about.

.... unless you're Batman.  Batman didn't look too happy.  Predator looked happy enough, but Batman looks like he's been waiting too long for his glass of Prosecco. 

Happily, Catwoman seemed to be having a pretty Grrrr....eat day!

and fresh from his recuperative lie-down, War Machine came to join the  proceedings.  I mean, you can't have family group photos without War Machine, right?

So our 'Everybody' group shot included those extra special surprise guests.

One of the big challenges to this wedding, was trying to combine the movie and fantasy style elements with the more traditional.  As you can see below, and with some other staged photos, I have deliberately gone for a very stylised look, desaturated and high contrast, to capture a bit of  the Marvel Comic poster look. 

And then, boom, a dramatic turnaround in style, with warm flattering colours, and soft high-exposure skin tones for the straightforward group shots.

It helped a little that the sun came out, though of course, as you'll know, we photographers become like vampires in the bright midday sun and tend to run for cover to get that lovely glowing skin tone in our group portraits. 

Loving all the purple.  You can see how Charley being such a talented art director paid off on the day.

And then things got a little strange, with Predator deciding to strangle the groom.  Lucky we had our very own rock and roll bride to come to the rescue.

For a moment it looked like he was going to chicken out and run away, stealing the helicopter

But we still needed it for some nice couple shots, so Kick-ass bride Charley saw him off.

and once more, the contrast from the day came through, from this lovely, romantic sunny walk from the helicopter... to a Comic Con, Marvel portrait set up with Charley and Lee's special guests.

Here's a still frame from the film which we were shooting at the same time - my videographer very kindly displaying my bald patch to the world, and also how I skimp on assistants and press-gang groomsmen into holding flash guns for me

Having been together four years, Charley and Lee clearly are relaxed together and were on totally the same page when it came to their photographs, easily posing with their Comic Con pals Batman, Catwoman and War Machine.  Me, I still can't decide whether I prefer the colour or the black and white.  What do you think?

And then it was onto the reception, watched over by a host of characters, not least, Charley's fantastic Alien.

and Spiderman...

and Star Wars Storm Troopers...

 ... and the Terminator and....

....and...and... oh my God!!  Is that Arnie Schwartzenegger?!   No, okay, it isn't, but a hell of a good replica Terminator, no?

And then, just as the meal was getting underway, and it looked like we could all take a little breather, along comes that rare miracle of nature, a DOUBLE RAINBOW!

Well if you care even a jot about the pictures you take, then you can't possibly let that go.  So even though I was dying on my feet from flu and in need of a rest and some paracetamol and wedding barbecue food, I grabbed my awesome couple, who were totally game, and we made it outside in the light returning rain, to get this shot.  It may be an imperfect shot, but that isnt the point is it.  A lot of photographers would have passed on this moment in order to grab a bite and take a well-earned rest.  But some of us, the hardcore ones, we go the extra mile.  And I'm so so glad we did. 

Post wedding breakfast and onto the speeches.  And pretty soon there was that classic moment when the father of the bride delivers his speech, and the bride reaches for the nearest handy machine pistol and puts it to her head... because we all keep a few guns on the table at a wedding, right?   

What I loved so much about this wedding was that it was totally bonkers and yet at the same time, was completely organised and made total sense.... also, thankful the guns were not loaded...

and to top it all, it was someone's birthday!  

For most couples, when it comes to cutting the cake, they reach for the lovely silver cake knife left out for them. 

Occasionally, some couples it seems, prefer something a little less delicate.  Like - oh I dunno - like say a HUGE TERMINATOR-STYLE MACHINE GUN!?!

... or a Star Wars Light Sabre perhaps?  Hard to know which would work best, given you have an Empire Strikes Back/Star Wars cake and a Jaws movie cake...

At weddings of course, a lot of people bring their kids, and Alien was no exception.  He managed to mingle quite well really, making a whole bunch of new friends without, for once killing anyone.

And so to the first dance, and, naturally, it was out with the light sabres, like you do. 

Although it didn't take long for love and romance to win the day over battling it out to save the Universe

As the party progressed, Superman kept a watchful eye over the guests...

Though it didn't stop one lady from stealing the limelight as she danced with an inflatable stormtrooper.... like you do....

But with all the craziness, and all the hard work, and all the amazing art direction, still the abiding memory for everyone from Lee and Charley's wedding will be the simple, warm feeling of togetherness, the abundance of love, and most of all, the sheer romanticism of the day. 

Congratulations Lee and Charley and wishing you both a fantastic (literally) future together x

PS, if that has left you hungry to see more, here's the film we shot that day too - complete with bridesmaid go pro footage, some awesome first dance music and, in case we hadnt mentioned it too much before, some Helicopter action!

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NEIL AND EMMA'S ROCK AND ROLL WEDDING IN GOODWOOD

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NEIL AND EMMA'S ROCK AND ROLL WEDDING IN GOODWOOD

I first met Neil and Emma in the early spring of March 2016 for their engagement shoot at Pooh Corner in Sussex.  A relaxed, loving, and very together couple, it very quickly became clear that they had what all successful couples have, very real shared interests.  In their case, this included a love of Rock and Roll, a love of the countryside, and a love of aeroplanes and cars.  So what better venue could there be than Goodwood, just a little down the road in Sussex, home of the aerodrome, the race track and the beautiful sprawling Chichester countryside and grounds of Goodwood House. 

The Goodwood Hotel , set in the heart of the glorious 12 000 acre Goodwood estate is the perfect mix of high class modern comfort and style and classic rural English charm. 

And what became very quickly apparent on arrival was that Emma and Neil had two other traits in common.   Firstly, exceedingly good taste...

... and secondly a love of the colour blue.

There was blue...

More blue...

....and a bit more blue on top of that!

Joking aside, what Emma and Neil had created was a brilliant, styled rock and roll event, which didn't even for a minute go over the top.  I confess my jaw dropped a little at how impeccably they had paid attention to detail and good taste, whilst still incorporating the rock and roll into each corner of the venue and the day. 

But it wasn't ALL rock n roll....

This was after all, a wedding, first and foremost, and a chance for the beautiful bride to be made even more beautiful.

Meanwhile, down the other end of the hotel, the blue theme was being continued as Neil the groom and his best man got themselves ready.

With a little help from Mum.

Meanwhile, back at the bridal suite, excitement was mounting as Emma's family and entourage came to gee her on.

Because time waits for no bride... well it does a little bit, but you know what I mean...

With literally a couple of minutes to spare, we grabbed a moment to snatch a couple of hasty portraits.  Much as it may sound like the last thing you want to do when the clock is ticking, a moment to look out of the window and gather your thoughts, your breath, your earings, is something every bride needs.

That, and a sixpence in the shoe...

... and the last minute check that everything is perfect

and relax, ladies, relax.  Breathe in.  You're all beautiful.  It's going to be wonderful.

Meanwhile, not so relaxed, Neil was waiting dutifully, expectantly for his gorgeous lady to appear

...preceded by the most adorable flower girl sprinkling a trail of blue petals.  We mentioned the blue theme, right?

and then the bride was there, on time, resplendent in white, escorted by dapper Dad

There's nothing quite like seeing the excitement and joy when a groom slips the ring on his bride's finger

... and the slightly phased reaction of most grooms when the favour is reciprocated!

Joking aside, I can remember the butterflies of my own wedding, and it always gives me so much pleasure to capture these unique moments

After the confetti line, Neil and Emma were super keen to zip away to Goodwood Aerodrome, just a mile or so down the road.  Big fans of planes and cars, they got permission for us to grab a few quick shots out by these fantastic planes out on the airstrip.

Caption: "I told you it would have been easier to book a car"

Formerly a wartime RAF airfield, Goodwood Aerodrome has grown from a tiny satelite airfield to a flying school and centre for flying excellence.  The fantastic choice of buildings and planes left us a bit breathless given we only had a few minutes to grab some fun shots.

We got as far as the motor circuit and race track, but as grey clouds loomed and the clock ticked ever closer to party time, we reluctantly turned back to the venue.

All too soon it was time for us to whizz back to the hotel for the Wedding Breakfast and speeches

although some of the younger guests had already peaked early

others were just getting into their stride

All the frivolity was put aside for a few moments, as Neil and Emma wanted very much to do a balloon launch tribute to a dear departed family member.

It was an emotional moment for everyone, with tears and hugs.  But the couple, family and friends were so supportive of one another, that the mood of togetherness and celebration soon returned.

So much so that in amongst the formal group shots, there was space for a little bit of horseplay

"Do Dean Martin"

"Who?"

The superb wooded private driveway of Goodwood Estate was the perfect setting for a romantic walk.  I love how the wind catches Emma's veil...

And I love how the trees so perfectly frame this young couple's tender moment.

...not to say it was all soppy kisses and tender moments... this was after all a rock and roll wedding as well

with room, sure for some cute stuff

... and some more kissing as the guitar amp cake was cut with a sword

but as the first dance got underway

it was clear that rock and roll

was here to stay

and things got a little wild on the dancefloor

as the band rocked out

taking the mood up a few notches, along with the volume

oh, and pants.  Did we mention pants?

All in all, a glorious, fabulous, splendid rock and roll wedding occasion.  Congratulations and love to Emma and Neil.

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TONY & KATE'S HERTFORDSHIRE WEDDING

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TONY & KATE'S HERTFORDSHIRE WEDDING

Sometimes you meet a young couple and there is something so generous about their spirit, and so serendipitous about the day, that everything just falls into place.  I won't ever forget how Tony's simple and humble recommendation "I think there's a field just up here with quite a nice view when the sun goes down"  would result in a red gold glory of poppies and the sunlight.  Possibly the most dramatic and beautiful sunset of the summer of 2016 and we were right there.  But enough about us, this is about them.  Tony and Kate, and the story of their day.

Which started off in brisk and elegant fashion at the Sun Inn in Hitchin, a beautifully, tastefully restored 16th century coaching inn located in the heart of one of Hertfordshire's many charming market towns.

While you can arrange to have your whole wedding ceremony and reception at The Sun, Tony had opted for reception only.  And a little groom prep. 

One of my favourite ring shots ever, achieved in a couple of minutes with the help of some optics behind, and a purple shot glass to balance the bands on.  Look close enough and you can make out a ring-reflection selfie.

But enough about me, meet the boys.

Tony and his best man, looking suave, dapper and handsome, as they tog up for the big day ahead

with of course, the help of a stiff drink, a good pair of cufflinks...

...and...er... a couple of goes on the roundabout in the market square!

Meanwhile, down the road at Kate's house, the mood was surprisingly calm and serene

with ample time for me to capture some of the lovely bridal details

Dad's garden had been carefully and lovingly tended, with a bit of extra attention, knowing that we might well have time to grab a few shots out there.

Beautiful Kate, elegant and modest as a true English Rose, was the perfect model, allowing me to experiment a little with the light and grab these portraits, which, because we had that little extra bit of time, I could make look a little like paintings.

It's a curious irony of wedding photography that often has to be explained - most weddings are summer weddings when the sun is bright and high, and yet us photographers take to the shade.  These shots show why a little.  See how the light reflects back onto the girls, so that even though they are shaded, their skin seems to have this lovely glow. 

A nervous moment for Tony when a car identical to the one driven by his father-in-law-to-be turned up twenty minutes early.  When he'd finally recovered from a close encounter with a near heart attack, it turned out of course to be the bridesmaids arriving just on time. 

St Mary's Church in Hitchin is the largest parish church in Hertfordshire and is remarkably large for a town of the size of Hitchin.  This has been cited as evidence of how Hitchin prospered from the wool trade. The present church stands on the site of two previous churches and dates from the 14th and 15th centuries, with its tower dating from around 1190.  As well as being generously proportioned and impeccably restored, it is also wonderfully light inside.  No gothic gloom here.

As Tony's expression testifies.  The vicar, by way of a bonus, it should be said is a lovely, warm, generous and good humoured priest, welcoming all with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.

While every photographer will strive to capture the bride arriving...

... I think we all treasure those delicious candid moments of apprehension as the groom waits inside

Owner of the highly successful production company HitchinTV, Tony has a keen eye himself, and was eager to try all kinds of different portrait shots.  I think I may have gone a little over-gothic with this one, but it was the one overcast moment of the day, so I like to think at least we were being in some way true to the day.

Back at the Sun Inn, meticulous preparations had seen the reception room beautifully decorated with restrained good taste.

While the party got started, Tony was keen to see if we could grab the sunset shot we had talked about.  We jumped in his car and he showed his true Italian heritage by racing across town with all the speed and dexterity of a Formula 1 driver keen to get home for his champagne dinner.  And boy was it worth the pedal to the metal.  

When we arrived at the chosen location, we were greeted by this stunning field of poppies. Capturing a sunset is always a matter of luck - will cloud cover ruin it?  Will there be too little cloud to make it truly dramatic.?

On this occasion we were blessed with one of the loveliest and most dramatic summer sunsets.  

And as dusk quickly settled in we even had a go at a Gone With the Wind moment.

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KATRINA AND BEN'S WHITEHALL WEDDING

Katrina and Ben chose the wonderful One Whitehall Place as their venue for both the ceremony and the reception of their London Summer Wedding. 

“We’d love you to shoot our wedding video and our photography”

Being both a photographer and videographer, this is always my favourite booking.   Though sadly I can’t clone myself, and of course Ben and Katrina hadn’t expected me to be in two places at once either, meaning I brought in one of my team of videographers to work alongside me.  

One of the specialities of Delirious Films is that we can offer an all-in package.   Working with videographers and photographers across the country, I tailor every wedding to suit each couple, which means sometimes I shoot stills, and sometimes video. 

On this occasion – as I had always wanted to capture the ambience and atmosphere of this beautiful Victorian building with it’s chandeliers and pillars, its history and architecture, I took the helm as photographer and director and hired in my best videographer to shoot the movie.

On arrival, the chaps decamped to the Churchill’s Bar, drinking in not just the g&t’s but also the wonderful atmosphere of a glorious history. 

Churchill was not the only political titan to debate and relax, within the National Liberal Club’s walls: Asquith, Lloyd George and many others shared a glass and a frank exchange of views here.  Churchill’s Bar captures this spirit. It’s a place of tranquility and character: of strong words, softly spoken. Ideal for a drinks reception, for small-scale gatherings or a postprandial chat. In the spirit of this great intellectual heritage, as you can see, the boys were deep into a serious debate.  Probably about the merits of beer over gin. 

Meanwhile Katrina was getting ready in the Ladies’ Room on the top floor, a wonderful, discrete and stylish space that brought out Katrina’s already highly-developed spirit of glamour.

The ceremony took place in the The Reading and Writing Room, a magnificent room that can accommodate 120 people, with its floor to ceiling windows that allow natural daylight to flood the room. The windows provide enviable views of modern day London, looking out across the Thames to the London Eye and the South Bank.

 

As Katrina's mother is Russian, part of the ceremony was  the “Bread and Salt” tradition for  when the groom’s mother greets the bride and groom. In the old days, the groom’s mother presented the couple with “Bread and Salt” at the groom’s family house when the bride moved in to live. Nowadays, as a rule, most couples of course live separately from their parents and after an official marriage ceremony or a wedding, the “Bread and Salt” ritual takes place right in the banquet hall where the wedding celebration takes place.

The bride and groom break off pieces of bread, dip them in salt and feed each other. These actions symbolize that they’ll never be without the necessities of life and they will always take care of each other.

When it came to the formal family portraits, luck was on my side.  The best end of the library had been cleared, prior to dinner, and there was just space enough to fit and light close family members.  With a handy five minutes on my side, I quickly set up a backlight flash to help balance the sunlight, and a studio soft box to give this group shot the Downton Abbey feel.  

Then it was out for a quick couple of portraits and romantic shots for the film on Hungerford Bridge, overlooking the Thames, Big Ben, and the London Eye.

This last shot is one of my favourites, and is actually a still from our film that accompanied the photoshoot.  Feel free to take a look at the film here:  

and do please feel free to leave a comment, if you enjoyed these pictures, thanks for reading. 

Adam

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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.

 

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CATRIONA & TOBY'S KENT ENGAGEMENT SCOTNEY CASTLE

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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!

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SAMMY & CRAIG'S SPRING ENGAGEMENT, VIRGINIA WATER

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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!

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