If you would like to see what I’m up to at the moment and all of my latest and favourite work, you can follow my instagram feed. I try to add new images daily!
If you would like to see what I’m up to at the moment and all of my latest and favourite work, you can follow my instagram feed. I try to add new images daily!
James and Katie got married in Shipley, near Horsham in West Sussex, in late summer. This West Sussex wedding was a combination of a traditional church service and a marquee on the Knepp Castle Estate. Knepp castle is an interesting venue. It is a 3,500 acre estate which is slowly being returned to a wild state after generations of dairy and arable farming. They have introduced longhorn cattle, tamworth pigs and well as exmoor ponies and the locally occurring roe deer and rabbits. The animals are all left behave as they would in the wild. Some such as the cattle and pigs are periodically harvested for meat. The aim is to produce a sustainable and economically viable landscape which is at the forefront of environmental conservation.
Shipley itself is known for being where the BBC Series Jonathan Creek was filmed. Luckily no dastardly crimes were discovered on the wedding day!
James and his party were resplendent in Scottish attire as befitted his familial roots. Katie Looked beautiful in a low backed wedding dress with her bridesmaids looking elegant in dark blue. James and Katie travelled in a beautiful classic Rolls Royce whilst the guests were ferried from the church via a vintage bus.
The wedding reception was bathed in September sunshine, and I was able to take some great photos against the beautiful backdrop of the Knepp Castle Estate and the day was rounded off with some traditional Ceilidh dancing as befitted the Scottish theme.
The philosophy was simple. The Olympus XA was designed as a camera you could always have with you. It is small, about the same size as a pack of cigarettes, yet has a bright prime lens, a rangefinder and full control over the aperture. Instead of a lens cap it introduced the clamshell design. Slide open the clamshell cover and the camera is powered on and ready for action.
I came across the Olympus XA in a secondhand camera shop quite by chance. I was looking for a cheap compact camera for my daughter’s French trip and came across this camera among the more ubiquitous fully automated zoom compacts that seem to be in every charity shop and car boot sale. I am very instinctive when it comes to cameras. My first test is pick a camera up and hold it to my eye. Before everything else I think a camera should feel good in the hand. The XA is small but handles well, it feels solid and the controls come easily to hand.
Often overlooked by more brand conscious photographers, the Olympus XA is still relatively cheap. You can pick one up for £50-£70 on Ebay, whereas many other premium compacts attract much higher prices in the used market. This is especially true of the Contax T series and the Ricoh GR’s. Both these models can go for over £200, sometimes nearer £300. Problem is these cameras are often not repairable now if they go wrong so buying one is always a risk. Price of compacts often has more to do with how fashionable or collectible the camera is rather than how capable, particularly in the case of some favoured lomography cameras, and compacts used by famous (or infamous) photographers. Olympus XA’s are cheap enough that it won’t be quite so painful if the camera breaks down, and common enough that it is relatively easy to find another.
Of course it doesn’t matter if a camera is cheap if the photos it produces are sub par. Luckily the optics in the XA are very good, and certainly capable of excellent results. The combination of features is excellent. There are no gimmicks, just things real photographers will find really useful. Best of all this is one of the few cameras that will genuinely fit into a coat or trouser pocket, and looks so unimposing no-one will give you a second glance. More often than not people have thought I was using a disposable camera because of the film advance wheel. The best camouflage for a photographer is not to be taken seriously and the XA’s size leads most people to dismiss it. Those of us who have been lucky enough to use one and see the results know better.
‘I don’t like having my picture taken’. This is the sentence that I hear more than any other when I meet clients. Personally, I think people are actually more concerned that they are ‘bad’ at having their picture taken. They feel awkward, they suddenly lose the ability to stand comfortably, they don’t know where to put their hands. A photographer is not just someone who owns a lot of flashy equipment or knows a lot about lighting and photoshop. The most important skill for any photographer who has wedding clients is people skills. Unless I can make you feel relaxed and happy, and bring out the best in you, no lens, no camera or piece of software is going to help. I have lots of different cameras, from brand new to forty years old. I would say that none of them is better or worse than the other in getting a great portrait – it’s the connection you make with the people you are photographing that counts.
Here is the catch though – there is often not enough time to build a relationship with your clients on their wedding day, or to coach and guide them through the dark arts of posing for photographs well. That’s why a pre-wedding shoot is so useful. I can gauge your personality in front of the camera, are you outgoing or quiet, thoughtful or mischievous. I can experiment with each couple and find out what works for them. I can direct you, shoot and show the pictures back to you. You get to see what works, and with that confidence and trust builds. You can be absolutely sure you are in safe hands. This makes your couple shots on your wedding day easier and quicker, and helps make the most of what will almost certainly be a busy schedule.
I usually book pre-wedding shoots on a Sunday, and try to make the session relaxed and unhurried. I have a great assortment of local locations to shoot at but often couples want to visit their wedding venue and use the engagement shoot to scout ideas for their wedding.
I offer free pre-wedding shoots with all of my packages because I strongly believe they help me do my job better. Every minute I spend with clients before the wedding improves the images they’ll receive on their wedding day. The key to great photography is building relationships with people, and to do that you have to meet with and talk to people. Good old fashioned customer service.
Portrait Photography – October Promotion
Throughout the month of October I’m going to be offering 10% off all my portrait packages. This includes October half term which is the best time to get Family portraits done in time for Christmas. If you would like to arrange a sitting just email me or give me a call on 07552 990080 mentioning the October Promotion. You can see a full list of my Packages and Prices here
Large format requires quite a lot of equipment in addition to the camera, so it’s a good idea to have a checklist of all things you need, especially if like me, you share some of that equipment with other set ups. It’s easy to forget something like your loupe or rocket blower, and it’s a real pain if you do.
I have also written a guide to loading large format film holders
You can keep your list in your camera bag so you can get into the habit of checking everything before you go. I keep mine on my smartphone, along with an app for depth of field calculation, and one that works as a light meter. A handy back up in case I forget my incident meter.
Your only two exposure controls are shutter speed and aperture, ISO is governed by your film choice, and set on your light meter. Your film holders should be labelled by film type and speed for reference.
Set up your tripod, making sure all the legs are locked in place. Fix your camera to the tripod, and attach a lens. Fully open up the aperture on the lens. Screw in your cable release to the shutter.
Large format photography is all about detail and resolution so make sure that you have a stable tripod to shoot with. Nothing is more frustrating than having sharpness-robbing vibration ruin your shots.
It’s best to start off with a straight and level camera, making sure that all tilts, swings and shifts are also zeroed. Most cameras will have detents on the main camera controls so the zeroed settings will just gently click into place. 4×5 has very shallow depth of field, so an inadvertently tilted or swung standard, or a camera that is not level can give you strange focus issues. It’s much easier to start with everything parallel and perpendicular. Also make sure that once you’ve zeroed the camera you lock off all the controls. That way you won’t get tilts or swings moving while you focus or vice-versa.
Use your dark cloth and focus the camera by eye. You don’t have to use a magnifier until later. Then begin to compose the picture using the ground glass. Remember you can use shifts to recompose the picture, you don’t have to move the tripod unless you need to change your point of view drastically. Once you have done this, try to work out what aperture you think you will need. Take a light meter reading to see how much light you have to play with, and try to figure out how much depth of field you think you need. There are smart phone apps that will help you with this, and make the process much easier. Generally, large format photographers shoot at around F11- F32. It’s not a rule, but most lenses are optimised for F22. The widest apertures are mainly there for ease of focusing. Try and use either F16 or F22 when you are starting off, it will be more forgiving of a beginner’s focusing technique. You can always experiment with shallow depth of field later.
Use your loupe to check that the image on the ground glass is sharp in all the places you want it to be. It is usually best to focus wide open then stop down to your working aperture to check you have enough depth of field. It is as this point you would use tilts and swings to maximise depth of field. Tilts and swings are not that difficult, but would take up too much space to deal with them here. So for now let’s assume you don’t have to use them. Once you are happy with focus check the corners of your image to make sure there is nothing creeping into the edge of frame. One of the beauties of a large format camera is you can compose your images very precisely, so make sure you take advantage of it.
Once you are happy with your focus and composition, lock down all the controls on your camera. Ideally, you should lock each control after you have finished adjusting it. That way you don’t inadvertently move any controls while adjusting something else. In reality, you may find yourself adjusting a couple of things at once, like tilt and focus, and will lock both down together once you have finished.
Take a meter reading and make your final shutter speed and aperture selection. I tend to do this quite late on because I live in the UK and the light can vary quite a lot with shifting cloud cover. Remember you can damage the shutter if you change the shutter speed when it is wound on, so always check before selecting your shutter speed. Once you have done this close the lens so the camera is light tight and ready to receive a film holder.
Take out you film holder and remove any surface dust with your blower. You can also tap the holder onto the palm of your hand to dislodge any dust on the film. It should fall to the bottom of the holder. Insert your film holder gently. Your camera should be locked down but it’s best to err on the side of caution in case something moves. Double check that the lens is closed and the camera is light tight. Remove the dark slide. You are now ready to expose the film. Use the cable release to trip the shutter in one smooth stroke. As an extra precaution some photographers stand slightly away from the camera to avoid causing any vibrations. If you are a portrait photographer sometimes standing behind the camera can help you judge the correct moment of exposure. Once you have tripped the shutter carefully reinsert the dark slide with the black (exposed) tab facing out. Put the holder somewhere safe and then check the ground glass to see that focus hasn’t shifted. At this point many photographers make another duplicate exposure for safety. That of course is up to you.
If you have found this tutorial useful please share it and help keep film alive.
Look at of my large format photography
If I had a penny for every time I had heard this in a photography forum, I could have given up wedding photography years ago and bought my own island. The sad fact is that photography forums are not really a great place to learn about photography. More often than not one or two ‘strong characters’ will voice an opinion and then their acolytes will repeat it until all opposition is crushed. Forums are more about clashes of egos than real photography advice, with one or two notable exceptions. Often the best real world choice is worked out by photographers in the field, not armchair enthusiasts with an axe to grind. I have shot in manual mode only for prolonged stretches and I do still use it if that is the best option, but for wedding photography or anything where things can unfold quickly, I find aperture priority the best choice.
Like most young photographers who started shooting film, I was taught to shoot in manual mode and a separate light meter. I used black and white film and slide film. Slide film has a very low tolerance for exposure error so measuring light with an incident meter was a must. If you don’t know, an incident light meter measures the light falling on a subject and disregards its tone, so the reading is always accurate. In an ideal world this is the best choice, trouble is, this isn’t an ideal world!
I have always loved street photography, and it is something I have done for pleasure for many years, but more often than not the lighting conditions are not ideal. In many ways this was my training for becoming a wedding photographer. For years I shot in manual, mainly because I used a rangefinder (A Voightlander Bessa R) and it only had a manual mode. This was fine when the light was consistent but a total pain if it wasn’t. I would meter and set my camera up for sunlight only to miss shots in the shade or vice versa. On days with broken sunshine the light would be a constant frustration and I would have to constantly refer back to my meter. In the end I spent more time checking my light meter than I did shooting pictures and I knew something had to change.
When I switched to digital for my 35mm work I started to play around with my technique to suit the new equipment I was using. I found that the in camera metering was good enough. Most of the time, I could let it do its own thing and the exposures would dead on. I had enough experience to know when they wouldn’t be, and in those situations I would override the camera. I found that using aperture priority mode meant I spent more time looking for pictures and less time worrying about camera settings.
When I started shooting weddings, I found that my aperture setting was one of the main weapons in helping me turn the chaos of a wedding into beautiful images. Aperture choice is one of the main determining factors towards the look of a photograph, and use it to blur out the busy backgrounds that can ruin wedding shots. Weddings move fast, too fast for for fiddling around with your camera if the light changes, so a degree of automation is a real necessity. Here are the reasons why I prefer Aperture Priority over Manual in a wedding environment.
If you a positioned at the back of the church during the ceremony and the light changes, you can hardly walk up the aisle, take a quick incident reading off the bride’s face and retire back to your station. If you are using the camera’s built in meter there is very little point in setting the camera manually when the camera would set itself to the same way automatically. If I feel that the camera has got it wrong I use exposure compensation. That way if the light levels drop the exposure will still be correct.
Depth of field can have a decisive effect on the look of an image. F2.8 will look very different to F11. Once the shutter is fast enough to freeze motion you can’t tell the difference between 1/500th and 1/2000th so Shutter Priority mode does not offer the same aesthetic control especially as your aperture will change in variable light and change the look of the images.
Modern camera meters will get exposure right 95% of the time, so not using it can almost feel like an affectation. Weddings are hard work and it makes sense to let technology help you where appropriate.
The less I have to worry about technical concerns, the more I concentrate on creativity. Ultimately creativity is what people are hiring me for, so I make sure I’m not getting to bogged down in the technical side of things. I’ve some up with a simple way of working that I can rely on and I stick to that.
I’m not a fan of making the bride and groom repeat anything. I think you can tell when something is fake so I treat every event at a wedding as a one shot deal. That means I have to think fast, be flexible and react to things as they happen. I don’t have time to keep fiddling with my camera, so aperture priority gives me the perfect balance of control and automation.
I can often find myself at the ragged edge of low light capability at weddings. If things are getting tricky, I use aperture priority to decide what needs to be in focus in the frame and then adjust ISO to get a usable shutter speed. This way I’m always at the best ISO I can get away with.
I have stopped using manual mode for fast paced situations, but one of the reasons I can use aperture priority successfully is I have enough experience to know when the camera is likely to be caught out. If you are a beginner or intermediate who wants to take his or her photography more seriously, I still recommend a prolonged length of time learning to use manual mode on your camera. Too often today, workshops and online tutorials try to persuade you that photography is easy and you don’t have to know the technical stuff. Well unfortunately there is no such thing as a free lunch, and understanding photography at its most basic is still a necessary grounding in the craft of image making. Aperture priority is a great tool but it is not a replacement for a good photographic brain. The real skill in photography is learning what to do in a myriad of circumstances, and choosing the best compromise to suit the situation.
I try to update my blog every week with useful advice for photographers and clients. If you would like to be kept up to date, like my Facebook Page.
Now that weather has (finally!) warmed up and the evenings are lighter it is a great time to book a family photo shoot. I am offering a sale on all portrait packages to kick start the Summer. The offer is valid until 30th April 2015 but you can book your appointment on any available slot until 30th September 2015. The portrait session can be for yourself, or given as a gift to your loved ones. I have a range of gift certificates available, please ask for details. To book your sitting just go to the contact page and mention the offer in your message.
The portrait sitting can take place anywhere withing 20 miles of Chichester and I am more than happy to give you advice on the best locations.
Includes a two hour photography session and a £100 credit to spend on prints or digital products.
All images are transferred to an online gallery so you can pick your favourites.
Photo editing and retouching included. Including removing blemishes, and making composite group photos from several exposures if to fix blinking eyes or wriggling toddlers if necessary!
Includes a two hour photography session and a 9×12 print mounted into a 11×14 classic black frame (£ 250 value).
Full Online Ordering with a 10% Early Bird discount for 14 days from going live.
Photo editing and retouching included as above.
This is a no holds barred premium service for clients who want to produce large framed prints. (Print size 16×20″ and over).
Portrait sitting up to 4 hours.
Package Includes a 20×24″ Framed print mounted into a 24×28″ Classic Black Frame (£599 value).
Full Online Ordering with a £100 credit and 20% early bird discount for 14 days from going live.
A free hi-res digital copy of any framed product ordered.
Southend Barns opened in the summer of 2012. Since then it has firmly established itself at the very top rung of wedding venues in Chichester. It is located in Donnington, a village to the just to south of the city. This is a 10 minute drive or taxi ride from central Chichester. It is an ideal location if you will have a lot of guests staying in hotels in the area.
The venue itself consists of three main areas. The Dairy Barn, which is the ceremony room with a capacity of 150. The Threshing Barn, which accommodates 150 for seated dining, and 200 for the evening reception. And finally the Milking Parlour which is a luxurious bridal suite. These buildings surround a large well tended lawn as well as a covered outside area named the Collecting Yard. The covered outside area is a great addition to a barn venue and unique in the Chichester area as far as I know. It is big enough to shoot small to medium sized group photos under. This makes the venue a lot more weather proof (not that it ever rains in Sussex!) and the area is heated by a lovely wood burning fire on winter days or chilly evenings. The standard of decor throughout the venue is beautiful and well thought out. White walls and pale wood make the Dairy Barn feel light, airy and modern without losing any of its period charm. Exposed woodwork and high ceilings make the Threshing Barn an impressive sight for all your guests. The Collecting Yard has a really excellent level of furnishing for an outdoor area, and you could happily sit out there for hours.
From a wedding photographer’s point of view it is a very straightforward venue to work at, the decor has been well thought out and the attention to detail is excellent. I don’t think there is a single part of the venue that doesn’t make a nice backdrop to photos. Everything is close together so guests are always on hand for group photos. The gardens are divided up so you can photograph the bride and groom without all the guests looking on. This makes the couple far more relaxed, and really helps the photos.
If you look on my Featured Weddings Page you can see James and Amanda’s wedding at Southend Barns in its entirety.
Visit Southend Barns website.
George and Leah got married right in the middle of last summer’s heatwave at Upwaltham Barns, right in the heart of the beautiful South Downs. I know how hard it can be to shoot in very hot weather, so my camera bag was weighed down as much by water bottles as it was by lenses. I liberally applied sunblock as well, as it is very easy to get burnt to a crisp without even realising it on days like this as I have learnt to my cost in the past. There is nothing worse than shooting groups, you start to feel that you are getting burnt, and there is nothing you can do about it!
I was particularly lucky at this wedding that I got an opportunity to shoot with George and Leah as the evening light drew in and we got some really beautiful shots. One of the biggest challenges for a wedding photographer is dealing with available light, whether it is a gloomy Saxon church or shooting groups in the middle of the day. I have my tricks and things I’ve picked up over the years that help make the best of any situation, but a photographer has no greater ally than good light, and no light is better than the golden sunshine of a summer’s evening.
Ihave worked at Upwaltham Barns many times
All images Copyright Tobias Key 2006-2014. Tobias Key Photography 7 Orchard Avenue, Chichester PO19 3BE Tel. 07552 990080