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10 Tips to help your Wedding Group Photos Run Smoothly

Group photo

Group photos can be fun and run smoothly as long as you plan properly beforehand. Here are 10 tips for great group photos.

Ideally, all your group photos should be agreed with your photographer at your wedding planning meeting. I usually advise my clients to set aside about 45 minutes for group photographs. Most wedding schedules allow between one and two hours between the ceremony and the wedding breakfast. Around an hour and a half would be the average.

So, if you allow 20 mins after the wedding for everyone to have a drink and congratulate the newlyweds, 5 or 10 minutes or so to corral everyone for a confetti shot you generally have a total of one hour to fit photos into. I don’t like to schedule all of this time as it is important to have a bit of leeway in case people disappear or are just difficult to round up.  I prefer to work pretty quickly and keep things moving. Your guests’ enthusiasm can start to wane if things move too slowly.

There are plenty of things you can do to make sure this part of the wedding runs smoothly, and is enjoyable for you and your guests. These are my top ten tips to ensure group photos don’t become a chore that frustrates you and bores your guests.

1.Make Sure You Have a List.

The first step into making sure your group photos run smoothly is to agree a list of photos with your wedding photographer beforehand. Your photographer can guide you as to how long he thinks it will take and advise you if you have missed anything. If you are pressed for time in your wedding schedule the best way to make sure you run to time is to not have too many small variations in your list, or combine related shots into one larger group. For example, shoot bridesmaids and ushers as one group instead of photographing them separately. I always bring two or three hard copies if the list to each wedding. One for me and another for whoever is helping me round people up.

2. Start with large groups and gradually send people away.

It’s usually best to start off with the largest groups as people are easier to round up just after the ceremony, and less likely to have wandered off. Also guests tend to be smartest early on in the wedding, and loosen ties and take off jackets as the day goes on. Things like that can be hard to spot in a group of 120 people! Whittle the groups down so that immediate family and closest friends are last, as they are usually the most invested in having photos taken with you.

wedding photography in west sussex

3. Ushers and Bridesmaids are Best for Rounding People Up.

I like to have someone working with me to round up the the next group of guests. At the same time, I can concentrate on the current shot. This should be someone who knows who most of the guests are. Say I need Auntie Mavis for the next photo. Someone who knows her can go and fetch her more quickly than an assistant. That’s why it is best to persuade an usher or bridesmaid to be the shot wrangler, it makes things a lot quicker.

 4. Can People get Refreshments while they are Waiting?

Whenever possible, it is better to shoot groups at the wedding reception where guests can get refreshments while waiting to be photographed. If I shoot group photos at the church I tend to work to a fairly short list and then complete them at the reception. This is especially true in the height of the summer. Don’t let people wait around in the hot sun without access to water. This is especially true if you have older guests or small children in the wedding party.

wedding photographer in west sussex

5. Prioritise Older Guests.

If you have elderly or frail family members at your wedding make sure they are photographed quickly. Don’t leave them standing around. If you can make sure there is a place to sit nearby, so much the better.

6. Keep your Shooting Location close to the Wedding Guests.

This can be a real time saver. If the groups are shot even two minutes from where everyone is gathering it will take a minimum of four minutes to find that missing person or go and get a missing bouquet. This time can really add up if there are 20 groups to get through. Therefore, always make sure that your shooting location makes logistical sense as well as being nice to look at.

group photos sussex wedding photogrpher

7. Make allowances for complicated family situations.

Sometimes the bride or groom’s parents might be divorced or remarried. Often both birth and step parents are attending the wedding. In situations like this make sure your photographer knows exactly who is who. He or she doesn’t want to inadvertently cause offense or embarrassment. Sometimes this means shooting extra group photos so that everyone feels valued and included. Other times it just means carefully arranging individuals so no one feels uncomfortable.

8. If your list is too long – split it up.

There is nothing that says you have to shoot all of your group photos in one long session. You can just as easily break the list down and shoot groups at different times during the day. Groom and Bridal parties before the ceremony, family after the ceremony, and friends after the meal can work well. Breaking group sessions down into 10 minute chunks can make them a lot more manageable.

9. Make sure you have a plan for bad weather.

If you are unlucky and it rains on your wedding day, have a contingency plan. You might be able to use an indoor or sheltered are. Alternatively, have a decent supply of umbrellas, but having a plan will put your mind at ease. Nothing guarantees that it won’t rain on your wedding day like buying half a dozen white umbrellas!

10. Enjoy Yourself

I often tell my clients it’s my job to worry and your job to enjoy yourself. Do all your planning beforehand and then let the professionals at your wedding look after you. That is what we are all here for. From my point of view, the happier the wedding party is, the easier it is to take great photos of them. Keeping you happy makes my job much easier!

 

Tobias Key is a wedding photographer in Chichester, West Sussex. 

 

Posted in Advice for Clients, bride portraits, Brighton wedding photographer, Chichester photographer, Chichester wedding photographer, Hints and Tips, wedding photographer, wedding photography

Film Camera Review – Minolta Autocord TLR

Minolta Autocord ReviewI bought my Minolta Autocord on something of a whim. I had been searching for a ‘walkaround’ film camera for a while. Compact cameras were where I started, with the Olympus XA and MjuII, which I liked but didn’t quite gel with. I wanted more control. After that I got hold of an EOS 3 but that was perhaps a little too close to the digital cameras I used, and the batteries are expensive. I found myself at a crossroads. For most of my career, I had really been more of a user of 120 film than 35mm. I still have a Pentax 67 system, but decided years ago that it was too big for casual carrying. So I ended up looking for a portable 120 camera, and settled on a TLR.

TLR camera

One of the unforseen advantages of shooting with a waist level finder is that it makes it much easier to shoot younger children. All film images shot on Kodak Tri-X.

The search for a TLR

I had never shot in the square format, despite being a photographer for 20 years. Going straight from 35mm to 6×7 after university and never looking back. I stuck to the same aspect ratio when I started to shoot 4×5.  So I decided to shake things up and started looking for a TLR. The obvious choice would have been a Rolleiflex but I had rarely even seen one in the flesh. So I wasn’t that keen on buying one off of Ebay without knowing much about them, especially with so many different models that look so similar.

Luckily, I have a very good vintage camera shop near me, that gets TLRs in fairly regularly. The bad news, such is the popularity of these cameras that they barely last a day in the shop! Worse still the stock isn’t on the internet so you have to go in and just see what’s there. Luckily it is on one of my regular routes  so I got into the habit of popping in a couple of times a month. I was looking for a Yashica or Minolta Autocord, and one day a decent user Autocord was there on the counter. Taking a deep breath, I got out my debit card and took the plunge.

First Impressions of The Minolta Autocord

Minolta Autocord TLR

To test out the Autocord I brough it along to a few weddings I shot during the summer. I found it great for candid portraits like this one, and a real conversation piece.

The Minolta Autocord is a handsome camera. It feels solid but isn’t too heavy. My camera is an early version, made around 1956-8. It’s an unmetered version with an Optiper shutter that maxes out at 1/400. The shutter goes in the old Europen progression so from 1/400 the speeds are 1/200, 1/100, 1/50 etc.  I have a digital meter that matches some of those speeds, but for others I just pick the closest speed. Mechanical speeds on a 60-year-old camera aren’t that accurate anyway. 

You can see the shutter speeds and f-stops in these two windows. The two little arrows point to the lever that operates that function. Neat!

The focusing mechanism is very cool. Instead of using a knob on the side of the camera, the Autocord has a lever underneath the taking lens. This means that you can hold and focus the camera with your left hand and trip the shutter and wind on the film with your right hand. This is a much better ergonomic arragement than the Yashicas where you focus with your right hand via a knob and then have to switch hands to wind it on.

The Rokkor lens on the Minolta is excellent. It is a 75mm f3.5 of Tessar design. Sharp enough wide open, and gets progressively better as you stop down, I wouldn’t hesitate to use this lens for professional work. Lots of people claim that this lens gives the Planar-equipped Rolleis a run for thier money and is better than the Tessar lensed Rolleicords and ‘flexes. All I know is it’s plenty good enough. 75mm equates to about 40mm in 35 mm terms. The lens focuses down to 1 metre, not close enough to do a tight headshot but OK for about a 1/4 length portrait.

Minolta Autocord Review

Viewfinder

The viewfinder is a little dim but totally fine in good light. I don’t think mine has ever been cleaned – it may well get better with a thorough CLA. It lacks any kind of focussing aid like a split screen or prism, so you have to use the magnifying glass to be sure of focus. As with all cameras with a waist level finder you see an image that is right way up, but reversed left to right.  If you press in the middle of the hood cover, the hood converts into a sports finder. 

Minolta Autocord Review

Winding On

Winding the camera on takes a bit of getting used to. You have to rotate the handle forward to wind the film on, then wind it back again to cock the shutter. It’s easy enough to get into the rhythm of doing it after a few rolls.

Film loading

Film Loading is straightforward but difficult to do without putting the camera down. The camera has an interlock and I have had no trouble with frame spacing with my copy. Mine will only take 120 film.

Other Features

The Minolta Autocord has a PC socket and can switched between X-Sync for electronic flash, and M-Sync for flash bulbs so make sure you have it on the right setting if you don’t want blank frames. 

There is a cold shoe on the side for fitting a flash but you will still need to connect a PC cable for the flash to work.

My camera also features a self timer, a standard tripod socket, and a shutter locking ring.

Film Camera Review

Straps

Minolta Autocords sport two types of strap lugs. A standard type where a strap can just loop through, and a Minolta specific type which will only accept a type of strap that pretty much doesn’t exist anymore. I was unlucky enough to have the second type. I like to have a strap for extra security so I use a wrist strap that screws into the tripod. The drawback with this is you can no longer put the camera upright on a flat surface.

 

Conclusions

Minolta Autocord

The Minolta was described as ‘fully automatic’ in the 50’s. I’m not sure you could get away ith that now!

A good camera gets out of your way while you make great pictures. One of the great things about all-manual cameras is that they have no modes or gimmicks, and this offers you a kind of creative clarity. The Minolta Autocord is one of these cameras. It is ergonomically very sound, and performs superbly. Like all older cameras it has a narrower set of applications than a modern DSLR but it is none the worse for that. You have to shoot to its stengths, you can’t pick a style and bend the camera to it so easily. It is an excellent candid or street portrait camera, great for working thoughfully. I found it harder to use for action because of the reverse image in the viewfinder. It’s always disconcerting to move one way while the viewfinder image moves the other. 

I like the fact I don’t have to worry about batteries, and the camera is beautifully quiet. The shutter is very smooth and I am sure I’ll be able to handle this camera at pretty low speeds with practise. I like the quality of the negtives it produces. Sharp, but not aggressively so, with a nice 3d depth to them and decent bokeh.

Another great plus point is its portability. I easily fits into my main kit if I forego one of my lenses, so I can carry it with my digital camera easily.  On its own it’s light enough to carry around all day, so it means I have a nice camera with me even if I’m not going out with photography as my main priority. It doesn’t elicit groans from my children when I pick it up, which is always a good thing!

All in all it’s easy to see why this camera is considered a classic. It is one of the first Japanese cameras to take on the Germans on their own terms rather than just making cheap and nasty copies. When the Minolta Autocord was introduced the Nikon F was still 3 years away. It is a great TLR option for the photographer who is more concerned with making good pictures than presticious labels. A definite keeper in my collection.

Toby

Wedding Photographer in Sussex and Hampshire

Commercial Photographer

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Posted in Analogue Photography, Film Photography, Hints and Tips Tagged , , , , |

Business Portraits

 

Business Portraits –  Case Study – Pallant Chambers

Corporate portraits have become increasingly important in the internet era. As face to face to meetings become more rare, online portraits become the way that clients get to know you. Studies show that putting your photo on your website can drastically increase convertions, so getting a headshot is one of the best business investments you can make. If you are a larger company, a business profile with portraits of all your staff demonstrates the size and scope of your company.

Pallant Chambers is a legal practise specialising in civil law. The brief was to produce formal but friendly portraits. The practice is a real mix of ages and gender. Therefore, it was imperative to come up a with a format that would be flattering to everyone. In addition, business portraits have to be tailored to each company individually. The tone of the portraits must fit in with the company image.

Barristers are busy people and Pallant Chambers has people working all across the south east. Therefore the portraits were spread across three sessions in the afternoon. Many of the barristers had to attend court in the morning. I was happy to fit in with their schedules, especially considering the nature of their work.

The Shoot

I used the company boardroom to take the portraits after the usual funiture moving that goes with this type of work. Everyone was lit with two lights and a reflector. I spent about 10 minutes with each sitter, which usually consists of a few minutes coaching and explaining  before actually taking some shots. I never actually limit my time with people. Sometimes you get the shot in a few frames with some people and have to do considerable work with others. 10 minutes for a business portrait is very much an average figure.

If you would like to book portraits for your firm visit my Business Headshots page for details and availability.

Toby

Commercial Photographer in Sussex

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Commercial Photography on Location for Trinity Insurance


Commercial Photography in Chichester
img_2274 img_2601 Business Photography by Tobias Key

Commercial photography on location has become an increasingly large part of my professional life over the last couple of years.

It is something I really enjoy doing. Each job is so different and there are so many interesting challenges.This project was for Trinity Insurance is a specialist firm providing insurance cover to our armed forces.

The brief was to produce a selection of images to use in their advertising, but without making our models identifiable. All of our models were serving soldiers and this just seemed prudent in the current climate.

It is always a challenge to produce photos that go against the normal rules of their genre. It also makes things more interesting. Together, we came up with some ideas that still had a human element to them. We had access to a barracks and its training facilities so there were plenty of location options. 

I thought natural light augmented with reflectors or diffusers was the best option for creating the images. This is my favourite way to work in sunlight. You get what you see, nothing can fall over and there aren’t any issues with batteries and triggering. I can work quickly, and I don’t have to worry about recycling tmes.  Used carefully, the results are very natural but still have a polish.

The nature of our location meant we went from bright sunlight to dim wooded areas and had to keep a consistent feel in the edit. We were lucky not to get any very green lighting from the wooded areas. Fortunately they weren’t so dark as to cause problems with noise either. Commercial photography on location can often produce unforseen problems, especially on a job like this where a site visit wasn’t possible. This is why often I only use about 25% of the equipment I bring to a shoot – better this than being caught out!

Commercial Photography on Location

Toby

Commercial Photographer in Sussex

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How to Avoid Wedding Scammers

Wedding Upwaltham Barns

It’s a favourite news article. Every wedding season there are the same stories. Terrible wedding photographers, laughable wedding cakes, half-dead wedding bouquets. Although these stories may seem funny when you see them on Facebook, the reality is that these scammers ruin what is supposed to be the happiest day of someone’s life. The sad fact is wedding scammers are on the rise. Attracted by easy money and the fact that most suppliers require payment in advance, scammers target bargain conscious and unwary couples. It is all too easy to create a website with stock photography and wait for the unsuspecting to contact you.  Couples end up with something much worse than what they paid for, or in some cases the supplier doesn’t show up at all.

How do you spot a genuine photographer from a fake or inexperienced one?

 

If the price is too good to be true there’s probably a catch.

While there are bargains at all levels of wedding pricing, when the price gets too low you should really wonder about the viability of that business, especially if you are booking a year or more in advance. To prove it, just do some simple maths. The peak wedding months are April-September and December. That’s only 28 Saturdays and 28 Fridays in wedding peak time. Taking in to account diary clashes (you can only take one wedding a day) and workload (most weddings are probably 3 days work for a decent photographer) it’s unlikely that most wedding photographers shoot that much. 30-35 weddings (including off peak ones) is probably a reasonable target for a wedding photographer to be doing ‘okay’. Not super busy, but not starving either. 

Now if you come across a photographer who charges £500 for a wedding, their turnover would be £15,000 to £17,500 based on those estimates. Even if they booked every peak Friday and Saturday in the whole year their turnover would only be £28,000 and their costs would take up most of that figure.

So ask yourself the question. “How can my photographer be in business if his prices are so low?” or better still ask him or her. There are legitimate reasons why a photographer might not charge much. It might not be their main source of income, or they may be starting out and portfolio building. If that is the case they should tell you honestly.

Does their website list a business address and phone number – and can you verify it?

Google is your friend when it comes to checking addresses and phone numbers. Most established busness will have verified their address and phone number with Google. You can spot this by looking for the little shield with a tick on it on their Google Business page. They should also appear on Google maps if you look them up.

Social Media and Blogging

Reputable photographers will generally use social media or blog regularly. Annie Leibovitz might be able to get away without having a website, but the rest of us have to hustle online to get work. If you research a photographer, and they have little in the way of regular blogs or social media posts, that should at least give you pause. If a photographers website is fake, it might be more obvious if you look at social media. Does their profile contain memes and very random photos, or is it a selection of work that is in the same style? Do see pictures from venues and locations that you recognise and are local to you and the photographer?

Can you Meet your Photographer before the Wedding?

The easiest way to find out if your photographer is bona fide is to arrange to meet them in person before booking. Anyone who is not genuine will go out of their way to avoid meeting you. I almost always meet every client a couple of times before the wedding, and if I don’t it’s usually because they live overseas and are flying back for their wedding. Even then I’ve met with parents or talked via skype. There really is no excuse for a photographer to keep you at arms length if they are trying to get you business. 

Check their website

There are things you should look for when you check a photographer’s website. Firstly, you really need to see sets of pictures from one wedding, not lots of galleries cobbled together from a lot of wedding. Wedding photography is  about consistency, a photographer needs to be able produce a high standard of work across a whole wedding day, not be great at one part but terrible at another. Secondly, their galleries should mention names and locations. If a scammer is trying to trick you, one of the ways to do it is to lift someone else’s work and pass it off as their own. Generally, if they do this they won’t steal work that was shot close to them as the chances of getting caught are too high. So they’ll steal work from photographers away from their local market, in other parts of the country or abroad.

If you want to see just how common this is go to Photo Stealers and see page after page of ‘photographers’ trying to trick the unwary.

In Conclusion

Generally speaking, you still have to be very unlucky to be caught out by a scammer. Most are found out pretty quickly and vanish as swiftly as they arrived. Simple common sense checks should prevent you making a mistake that will ruin an otherwise perfect day.

Don’t have nightmares!

Toby

Wedding Photographer in Chichester, West Sussex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Advice for Clients, advice for new photographers, Chichester photographer, Chichester wedding photographer

Zooms vs. Primes for Wedding Photography

Photographer Chichester

Zooms versus Primes is one of those topics that seems to really divide photographers. Some people swear by prime lenses and would never use anything else, others say they couldn’t do without the flexibilty that a zoom offers. So what should you choose to ensure you can do the best possible job for your clients on their wedding day? Rather than stick slavishly to one type of lens, I have found that certain types of lens are best used in particular situations.

Consider your own circumstances.

Nobody knows what challenges you face day to day better than you do. A Californian photographer who shoots in beautiful sun drenched vinyards has very different circumstances to a British wedding photographer who works mainly in gloomy old churches. Likewise, venues and officiants vary as to how strict they are with photographers. In my area I know that registry offices are usually very relaxed about you moving around. Clergy can be very strict, putting you at the back of the church and not letting you shoot for large parts of the ceremony.

Over the years I have built up a collection of zooms and primes. I switch what I carry in my primary bag depending on where I am shooting and the weather on the day. I keep another bag with everything else in the car. So you shouldn’t lured into copying photographers you admire whose shooting environments don’t match yours.

A Short Note about Fatigue.

A really important thing to consider and rarely talked about. When choosing what to put in your camera bag think about its weight. How easy it is going to be to carry that bag around all day? Putting too much into your bag will mean you start to flag after a few hours. Managing fatigue is an essential part of succesful wedding photography. Carrying a heavy bag also means you run the risk of a chronic back injury. It takes a second to lift something awkwardly and injure your back. Recovery can take weeks and there are few things less fun than shooting a wedding with a bad back. So when picking what lenses you need, always remember there is a limit to what you can carry.

Zoom vs Primes Round 1 – when is a zoom lens best?

When you are stuck in one place.

Wedding Photographer Sussex

The one time I find really can’t do without a zoom is if I am shooting a smaller civil ceremony. These are usually in a town hall or similar venue. Invariably with these types of wedding you are stuck behind the registrar, and there isn’t space to move around. The ceremony is short and all the key moments happen in about 5 minutes. To get any kind of variation in the shots you have to have a zoom. I prefer a 24-105mm as I feel that a 24-70 doesn’t have enough reach for ring shots or close ups on faces. It also opens up the possiblity of shooting the kiss on about a 50mm and then quickly zooming out to show the room while they are still kissing. These quick changes won’t work with primes, even with two cameras. 

When you need to be fast and flexible.

Chichester Photographer

There are large parts of a wedding where events are unpredictable. You have lots of shots to capture in a short amount of time. You can move around, but things happen so quickly that you can’t necessarily get to where you’d like to be in time. These sort of situations are all about framing and reacting fast. It’s not so much about bokeh and lighting. I work quickly and try to keep myself aware of as much as possible as events unfold.

Zooms vs. Primes Part 2 -When is a Prime Best?

 

Chichester Photographer

Low Light

Shooting in low light is the number one reason why I wouldn’t leave the house without a prime lens. There are so many situations in the average wedding day where light isn’t ideal. You want to get the shot without sending your camera’s ISO into the stratosphere. There are occasionally shots that you just can’t get unless you are shooting at f1.4 AND sending your camera’s ISO into the stratosphere. Ultimately you never want to get into a situation where you just can’t get the shot with the equipment you have in your hand.

You could counter that when it get too dark it’s probably best to start using flash. Any wedding photographer who has been around a while will tell you not everywhere permits flash. If that happens in the wrong venue on a gloomy day could find yourself in serious trouble if you don’t have a fast prime.

A note about image stabilisation.

In theory, image stabilisation should give you the ability to handhold a zoom in similar levels of light to a prime lens of much wider aperture. There is of course one drawback – people move. So even if you can handhold your zoom at 1/15th of a second, any movements from your couple will be blurred. You can counter this by waiting for still moments. However, this isn’t going to help you when the bride walks up the aisle. As a general rule I don’t like to go below 1/125 when shooting people.

Adding a bit of Magic

Sussex Wedding Photographer

Although modern zooms and primes are very close in overall quality, good primes can have that extra bit of magic that really makes a picture. This can make a real difference to your most important photos. From couple shots to the first dance, I rely on primes to give me that extra something special. I tend to use primes for all of my more set up shots. Not only does it give me that extra little bit of quality, it makes me think in that focal length. I can visualise 50mm shots or 135mm shots and that helps me pick out locations.

When you need to Tidy up the Background.Sussex Photographer

There are a lot of situations where the backgrounds to your photos will be less than ideal. Cluttered hotel rooms or tables covered in plates and glasses are recurring challenges. While it’s always best to tidy things if you can, sometimes it’s not possible or there is no time. In these situations, being able to blur your background is a godsend. The wider the aperture of your lens, the more you can get away with.

Conclusion – Why you should have Zooms and Primes in Your Arsenal.

There are certainly situations in a wedding day that are better suited to either a prime or a zoom. Another compelling reason to have both is that you can back up you most important lenses with a different lens that can do the same job. So your 50mm prime can back up your standard zoom, or you 135mm prime could back up your 70-200. This way you can back up your lenses without actually having to buy two of anything. It also offers more creative options and flexibility. I tend to work with two cameras. Often with a zoom on one body and a prime on the other. In critical portions of the wedding, my back up is on my shoulder, ready to shoot. There is no point having a back up in the back of your car during the ceremony!

More important still you should priortise your lenses to suit your style. I don’t own a wide angle prime as I am not a huge fan of shooting people with anything wider than 50mm. I do have 16-35mm zoom that covers part of my standard zoom in case of failure though. If you favour zooms, you might feel that buying cheaper primes gives you cover without breaking the bank.

And Finally.

Remember the golden rule. Never get into a situation where you can’t take a useable picture of what’s in front of you. I have had a few equipment breakdowns over the years. I don’t think my clients ever knew. Put together a kit that ensures you can do the same.

Toby

I am a Wedding Photographer in Sussex, UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in advice for new photographers, Equipment Reviews, Hints and Tips, Lens Reviews, Wedding Photographer Chichester, West Sussex Wedding Photographer Tagged , , , |

Shooting Large Format Portraits On Location – A Hands-On Guide.

 

Large Format Portrait

I have been shooting large format portraits in my personal work for the last five years.

This is partly for aesthetic reasons, and partly to give myself a break from digital photography when I am shooting for fun. That is not to say that I apprieciate what digital can offer. I do, but using a view camera is very different. It gives me a new challenge, and a new perspective in how to approach the portrait.

Many photographers are intimidated by the idea of shooting film and the thought of using such a large and archaic camera. In reality, a view camera is a very simple device. There is genuinely nothing complicated about it, it is just a very well made box!

Each step in setting up the camera is simple. But there are quite a few steps and forgetting one usually wastes a sheet of film.

If you know your basics, and understand the camera’s strengths and limitations, large format photography straightforward, if not simple. Like any camera, there are only three essential controls, aperture, shutter speed and focus. For portraits, the only movements you really need are front rise and fall, and these are only to help composition. I shoot with a monorail camera and tripod weighing close to 6kg, and it is just not practical to compose using the tripod head. It is much easier to set the tripod straight and level and use camera movements to fine tune your composition.

What catches the novice out is not the difficulty of any particular step. Each step is easy. It is missing any of these simple steps out that often leads to a wasted sheet of film.

Large Format Portraits

Walking around a 40 acre site like the Weald and Downland Museum with a large format camera takes a certain degree of planning.

It was July when I got a press pass to shoot at The Weald and Downland Museum’s Living History Festival . I regularly shoot commercial photography for the museum, so I already had a good relationship with them. It also meant I knew where everything was and how to get there without having to wander around too aimlessly. One of the first questions you ask yourself when shooting large format is “How am I going to get all my heavy camera gear to where it needs to be to take pictures? Preferably without hurting my back or having a heart attack”. 

Getting from place to place

Working in a large open air museum is a challenge. The buildings are spread out over a 40 acre site, and most of it is hilly. Thousands of people go there at the weekend so you can find yourself parked a good few minutes walk from the museum proper. It is not so straightforward to nip back for a lens or extra film holders. 

Commercial Photographer SussexSet up and Gear

I prefer to set up my camera up from the boot of my car, attach it to a tripod and walk around with it like that. I pad one shoulder with my dark cloth so the tripod doesn’t dig in to my skin. Then I  hang my camera bag on the other shoulder. A back pack would probably distribute the weight better, but I do need easy access to my holders. My camera is a Toyo-View 45C monorail. It is more portable than a lot of rail cameras, but not exactly a featherweight. A field camera would be a lot lighter, but most lack the bellows extension I need for shooting close with my longer lenses. A monorail is also nicer to shoot with once it is set up. Mine has geared movements, and is very stable and precise.

I decided to stick with one lens, my Schneider 210mm APO Symmar. Not only is it my most used lens, it is also a spectacular performer in all condtions. I can honestly say I didn’t realise how good lenses could be until I got this one.

One of the essential skills of large format photography is knowing what to leave out of the accessories bag. I decided to stick with one lens, a loupe, and a light meter so that I could pack in as many film holders as I could.

I packed 15 holders in my bag, enough for 30 shots. The plan was to take two pictures of every subject I chose. Normally, I work in a way that I direct people until I think I have the shot I want, and expose one sheet of film. I then shoot another sheet which is usually a close duplicate of the first shot. When it comes to processing I split the two sheets into different batches for development. That way if there is some problem with exposure or a user error in the development process, I know that I have a back up of the image. Of course this does mean you have to label all your holders and keep notes. However, it does cut down the risk of disaster.

Approaching strangers to take their picture is something that a lot of photographers dread.

The great thing about using a large format camera is that it is a good conversation piece. People often seek me out to talk about the camera. If I ask to take someone’s photo, they are usually happy to pose for me.

After a hard day shooting,  it was interesting to meet another photographer at the end of the day and compare notes. He was telling me how hard it was for him to get people to pose for him, and how disinterested they were with the process, he was using a Nikon DSLR and profoto flash.

I had totally the opposite experience, the re-enactors were very interested in the camera and the whole process. They wanted to know how it all worked and the fact the method was so close to how a Victorian might have taken their picture had huge appeal. I had as many subjects as I could handle. After photographing each person I exchanged details, and made sure everyone got a photo in the next couple of weeks. I think this is a really important thing to do and helps keep people open to other photographers taking their picture.

Routine is everything when shooting large format portraits.

It is important to make the portrait making process as easy as possible for your sitter. I prepared by setting up my camera as much as could beforehand. So I set my exposure and zeroed the camera’s tilts and shifts. I also made sure that the camera focussed to about 10ft.  Even mostly set up, the camera is still slow to shoot, so a mastery of small talk is often a necessity.

Once I have everything set up, I get my subject to pose by standing next to them and getting them to mirror what I do. I then go back to the camera and I get my subject to look at the camera instead of me -you can’t look through a view camera once the film is inserted and people will instinctively look at me rather than the lens. I have found you have to be quite vocal when shooting portrits this way. You can’t shoot a lot of shots hoping that some magic will happen. You have to make the magic, then take the shot. Suprisingly, now that I am used to it, I prefer not looking through a camera when I am taking someone’s picture. It is easier to look directly at someone and really increases your connection with them. Different methods yield different results, and that’s exciting.

I would recommend large format photography to anyone. I have learned so much shooting this way and much of it is applicable to other formats. Changing your camera can often change your photographs, and there is no bigger change than a view camera.

Toby

I am a professional photographer based in Chichester, West Sussex, England.

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Posted in Analogue Photography, Brighton photographer, Chichester photographer, Chichester portrait photographer, Editorial Photography, Film Photography, Hints and Tips Tagged , , , , , , |

Canon 135mm F2L Lens Review – A Wedding Photography Favourite.

Canon 135mm F2L

A shot the really shows where the Canon 135mm F2 shines. Smooth bokeh, fantastic colour and a wonderful depth to the photograph.

The Canon 135mm F2L is one of the older lenses in Canon’s line up, but is still an excellent performer.

I had come to that time, usually at the end of a busy summer wedding season, when it’s time to decide what gear is due for replacement.  My 85mm had been in my bag for a good few years now, and while it was still working perfectly, it had seen a LOT of use. So, I decided to put it into semi-retirement. I was generally happy with it and used it for most of my formal couple shots. However, one frustration was it was not long enough to shoot from the back of a very dim church. My mind turned to the 135mm F2L. Could this lens work for my couples shots and work for inside the church?

Image Stabilisation vs. Large Aperture.

There are two ways of approaching low light photography. Once you have gone as far as you want to in raising the ISO, you can either open the aperture up, or drop the shutter speed. Both have their downsides. If you open the aperture up you risk having too shallow depth of field to keep everything you need in focus. If you drop the shutter speed too far you lose the ability to freeze movement. Canon users generally have the choice of fast unstabilised lenses, or stabilised ones that are generally one stop slower.

Personally, I don’t like to use shutter speeds slower the 1/125 when I am shooting people. I find that you can’t freeze spontaneous gestures at slower speeds, so I would always favour a wider aperture over image stabilsation. I also thought that a Canon 135mm could replace BOTH my 85mm and 70-200 in many situations. These could be demoted to my stand-by bag I keep in the boot of my car and save some weight. I am not fanatical about weight saving, but weddings are always long days, and anything you can do avoid fatigue is worthwhile. So I took a deep breath, got out my debit card, and bought the Canon 135mm F2L.

Zooms vs. Primes for Weddings.

While there are photographers who will argue strongly for either primes or zooms, the reality is you need to have both. Personally I favour primes, but in the day to day reality of a pro’s life you will find yourself in situations where you can’t move around and zooming is the only way to control composition. On the other hand, primes have that bit more character that can just make a shot special. So I have found myself with zooms and primes to cover all my favourite focal lengths. 

The Canon 135mm has been my go to lens when I want a telephoto lens that has a bit of magic, and it has always provided it in spades. It has a certain look that is very individual. I can easily pick out shots made with this lens in my own work, but it is isn’t a gimmicky look.

I’ve found it to be fast and accurate to focus, very flare resistant, and built to Canon’s normal good standards. The focus ring is large and nicely dampened. It is small and light compared to its zoom cousins. It just churns out fantastic photos and never gets in the way. One of Canon’s all time classic lenses.

 

Toby

Wedding Photographer Sussex and Hampshire

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Posted in advice for new photographers, Chichester photographer, Chichester wedding photographer, Equipment Reviews, Hints and Tips, Lens Reviews, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , |

Ede’s House Wedding Photography – Ed and Erin

 

Ede’s House is a very popular wedding venue right in the middle of Chichester. It is ideal for smaller weddings of up to 80 people. Many of Chichester’s hotels and local attractions are just a short walk away, great if you have family and friends coming who need accomadation. They can turn your wedding in a fab mini-break!

The History of Ede’s House

Ede’s House was built in 1696 and has served many purposes thought its long history. Starting life as a residential property, this stunning Georgian Mansion was bought by the County Council in 1916. It served as offices until the construction of County Hall in 1936. Ede’s house then became the County Library from 1938 until 1967 when the Library moved to its present location in Tower St. In 1967 it became the Records Office until 1989 when a new purpose built records office opened in Orchard St. It was at this point the council fully restored the house and it became the beautiful venue it is today. As well as weddings, the venue is available for private hire and there are historical tours of the building around once a month.

The Wedding

This is one of the wedding venues closest to me – it’s less than five minutes walk from my house. So I often find myself here, and it’s always a pleasure. The ceremony rooms are lovely, and the rear staircase is a godsend for large group photos. Best of all I don’t have to worry about parking for once! Ede’s House can cater for anything up to 80 guests for a wedding ceremony, and a booking is normally two hours. Most couples I have worked with have gone on to have their wedding breakfast somewhere else, with many couples opting for one of the reception venues that Chichester Cathedral runs in its properties like the Vicar’s Hall or 4 Canon Lane.

Ed and Erin’s wedding ran to this format with the Wedding Breakfast being at The George in Eartham.

It was a fantastic day and with good planning we were able to cram a lot into their  4-hour Essentials Booking. I covered from bridal preparations to the speeches, and left before the wedding breakfast was served.

I really enjoyed shooting this wedding, Erin and Ed were a fun couple and it was a very special day.

If you would like to see more of my work visit my Featured Weddings gallery. Check out my Packages and Pricing or if you want to check availability contact me

 

Toby

Sussex Wedding Photographer

 

 

Posted in Chichester photographer, Chichester wedding photographer, Customer information, Sussex wedding photographer, Wedding Photographer Chichester, Wedding Venues Tagged , , , |