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!