Category Archives: Chichester photographer

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. 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also posted in Advice for Clients, advice for new photographers, Chichester wedding photographer

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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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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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

 

 

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I need a wedding photographer – but I don’t like having my picture taken!

It probably comes as no surprise that with  many of  the couples I work with, at least one of them will be nervous about having their picture taken.

Perhaps the main skill of a wedding photographer is putting people at their ease, or at least making them a bit less nervous! You can have all the photography skills in the world, but when you’re working with people, especially people who are not used to posing for photographs, interpersonal skills are even more important.

Building a good relationship with my clients is essential to building trust, and if the people I working with trust me to do a good job, it helps them to relax.

If you are getting married soon these are my top tips if you are nervous  about being photographed.

Enjoy your Day

The simplest and best tip of all. You’ll love your wedding day and that joy will be written all over your face. Every couple I’ve photographed has had this particular glow about them, a combination of happiness and excitement that photographs really well. Your wedding is not just another day and the photos you receive will reflect that.

I’ll take Pictures, and Most of the Time you Won’t even Know 

The majority pictures I shoot at a wedding are not posed pictures. I’m taking pictures while you’re doing something else, little things like declaring you wedding vows or walking down the aisle!  Generally, you are not even aware of being photographed, so the photos are natural . These photos are also more ‘real’. nervous grooms look nervous, emotional mums cry and children try to take it all in. The fact that I’m telling a story rather than trying to create too many posed images means there’s less onus on the bride and groom to pull a happy face and pose for the camera. It’s a win-win. You get to enjoy your wedding day and get great pictures in the process.

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You are Going to Look your Absolute Best.

Remember that this isn’t just another day. Everyone will dress to the nines, hairdressers and make-up artists will groom you to perfection. You are going to look fantastic. On a day when you are going to look so great it isn’t it important to have a record of it? That’s what I am there for.

I’m Here to Help you.

New clients tell me that they are nervous about being photographed all the time. Many couples will have never hired a photographer before. They don’t realise that being photographed by a professional photographer is very different to being photographed by friends or family. I know how to help you look your best and will offer advice and help where needed. 

I have photographed people of all shapes, ages and sizes, so very little throws me and I have plenty of experience of making all sorts of different people look their best. From experience, I’ll be familiar with my local venues and where the best photo opportunities are. I have literally hundreds of weddings under my belt. I am here to help. If you hve a good side or a feature you’d like minimised, just tell me and I’ll oblige. Woken up with a spot or blemish on the big day? That’s what Photoshop is for.

Make sure you get a shoot before your wedding day

I always like to shoot with my couples before their wedding day. It can be an engagement shoot or a pre-wedding meeting at your venue.  That’s where can understand of how they are in front of the camera. From there I’ll know I have to do to make you look you best. I can coach you and offer advice that I might not have time to do on your wedding day. If we arrange an enagement shoot, I can show you how to stand, what to do with your hands and all the other things that turn an awkward photo into a great one. 

If a couple works with me beforehand, they can see what I can do to make them look great, so they’ll trust me to do a good job on the day. They’ll relax a little bit more and worry a little less. That in itself makes the pictures better.

 

There is no reason why even the most photo-phobic bride or groom can’t have brilliant photos of their wedding day. It’s all down to the skill of your photographer to put you at ease. The main thing is to communicate those fears to your photographer so he can help you. There are lots of things he can do to make your experience less stressful, and help you look your best. Remember photographers want the photos to turn out well, just like you do.  They’ll always be happy to help.

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Model Portfolio – Ben de la Fuente

Model Portfolio A Model Portfolio is a great opportunity to work with new talent.

Shooting a model portfolio is an interesting challenge. You are usually with someone who is potentially very photogenic, but you have no idea how they will be once you get them in front of the camera. Over the years I have got much better at directing people than I used to be. I don’t think there is any substitute for doing a lot of something. It’s only through experience that you can become good at putting someone at their ease. I have learned different tricks that work with different people. If all else fails there is always persistence!

Model Portfolio

Working on location can be easier for new models

I am very fortunate that there are many beautiful locations close to me. Ben met me down on West Wittering beach. Working on location with new models is preferable as it is less imposing that working in the confined space of the studio. New models can often freeze when you use studio flash to photograph them. It is better to photograph them in natural light as shooting with flash can feel more constrictive, especially if the lights are close.

I usually shoot model portfolio at a leisurely pace, usually spending a couple of hours with the client. I find new models need a bit of time to relax. If I see things that are wrong I like to slowly guide someone into doing things differently, not criticise from the get go. Positivity is the only way you can help someone who is not used to being photographed. It is an exercise in building confidence and trust and working from there. The shoot should end on a high, not dwindle through lack of ideas or progress.

I really liked working with Ben and it was great to see him grow in confidence as the shoot went on.

Toby

If you would like to see more of this type of work go to my commercial photography page

 or if you’d like to book a shoot yourself please get in touch

 

Model Portfolio

 

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New Forest Wedding Photographer – Minta and Will

Minta and Will’s New Forest Wedding – a day to cherish.

The New Forest is a beautiful location for a wedding. Will and Minta were blessed with a beautiful summer’s day for their country style wedding. They both looked amazing which made my job easy as there were so many great photographs take right through the day. Everything was stunningly well put together. The horse-drawn carriage was a particularly nice touch and something I don’t see working in the South Downs – it’s far too hilly!

Minta got ready at her house before travelling a short distance to a beautiful old Church in Brockenhurst, a favourite for a New Forest Wedding. We then all returned to to the house where a beautiful marquee was set up in the garden. Cooling glasses of Pimm’s were waiting for the guests (but not for me of course!). The weather was pleasantly warm as it so often is in late Summer. Thankfully it stayed dry despite it raining both the day before and the day after. The God’s were really smiling on us!

Celebrations continued into the evening with an ABBA tribute band playing out the first dance.  Campfires were lit in the garden so everybody could stay warm as the night drew in. This was a New Forest wedding to remember.

Package Details

Will and Minta opted for the Celebration Package. This gave them plenty of coverage and the flexibility of having all of their files on USB. I met them at the wedding venues beforehand to ensure that I was fully prepared and I had a good idea of what they wanted from their wedding day. I delivered the files by file transfer first. That way Will and Minta had an opportunity to make any changes before I delivered the USB. I also put together a gallery so family and friends could order prints

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New Forest wedding

 

Wedding Details:

Time of year: Late Summer/Early Autumn

Wedding Package: 8 hour Celebration Package

Location: The New Forest

 

Toby

Wedding Photographer in Sussex and Hampshire

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Portrait Photography Tips – Stop down for the close up!

If you are shooting a full length portrait, you can afford to open up the aperture, as the distance from your sitter will mean you still have reasonable depth of field

Portrait photography is probably the most practised photographic discipline. One of the most common portrait photograhy tips given to beginners in portrait photography is to shoot with a long lens and shoot it wide open, or at least close to wide open. You only have to look at the growth in choice of fast prime lenses to realise that this advice has well and truly taken hold in the digital era.

portrait photographer West Sussex

This portrait was shot at f22 on a large format camera, which is equivalent to f8 with full frame digital. The extra depth of field allows both eyes to be in focus, but the background is still blurred. As the lens is also close to it’s optimum aperture the image really pops and comes to life.

Headshots – the agony of the near miss!

Like almost every photographer, I went through a phase of shooting wide open or very close to it. Although I used to get very nice shots, I also got a lot of near misses. Close up at f2.8 with a portrait lens, depth of field is razor thin. If the eyeball is in focus, the tips of the eyelashes would be blurred. There are few things more frustrating in photography than thinking you have the perfect shot just to find it is just a touch off when you review it on the monitor at home.

We don’t think of portraits as action shots, but no sitter is ever really still, and if you are hand-holding the camera neither are you. People sway slightly when they are standing and it is there relatively tiny movements that can wreck a shot if you shoot close-up and wide open.

If you are shooting a head shot, even a quite a conservative aperture has little depth of field. If you shoot a 85mm at 1.5 metres (a generous head and shoulders framing) at F5.6 the depth of field is is 10cm. Enough for the nose, the eyes and the ears to be in focus, but no more than that. The background will still be blurred, but you have a bit of leeway if the subject moves a little. You can also afford to be a bit more spontaneous, as you don’t have to refocus with every tiny movement.

It is a lot easier to get the shot, but the overall effect is not hugely different.

Close down as you close up.

Distance to subject and aperture are the two major factors that control depth of field.  If you were on a shoot and were shooting half body shots at F2.8 (85mm lens) and then closed in to shoot heads without adjusting your aperture, your depth of field would drop from 20cm to 2cm!! Generally speaking it always makes sense to close down your aperture as you get closer unless you are going for a specific look. Think of distance and f-stop in the same way as you think of  shutter speed and aperture for exposure, change one and you should at least consider changing the other.

 

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Aperture Priority – The Best Shooting Mode for Wedding Photography

 

Aperture Priority Example

Control of Aperture is essential for making an image like this successful

“Real Professionals Shoot Manual”

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.

My Journey away from Manual Mode

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.

Switching to Digital

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.

Aperture Priority

Aperture Priority (or Av Mode) – The Speed Of Auto, The control of Manual.

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. I 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.

Most of the time it’s just not possible to use a separate meter.

Imagine you are 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 change, the exposure will still be correct.

Aperture Priority gives me my main control over the look of an image.

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 Are Good Enough (Most of the Time).

Modern camera meters will get exposure right 95% of the time. Often not using them can almost feel like an affectation. Weddings are hard work and it makes sense to let technology help you where appropriate.

I Can Concentrate on Image Making not Technicalities.

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 come up with a simple way of working that I can rely on and I stick to that.

Events move Quickly, and I Need to Capture them.

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.  Aperture priority gives me the perfect balance of control and automation.

It’s better in low light.

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. Then I adjust ISO to get a usable shutter speed. This way I’m always at the best ISO I can get away with.

 

In Conclusion (and some Caveats)

I have stopped using manual mode for fast paced situations. I can use aperture priority successfully because 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 their photography more seriously, learn your craft. Use manual mode on your camera until you fully understand shutter speed and aperture.

Online tutorials often try to persuade you that photography is easy. That you don’t have to know the technical stuff. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a free lunch. You still need a good grounding in the technical 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. From experience, you can then make the best choice to suit the situation.

 

Happy Shooting!

Toby

I am a Sussex Wedding Photographer and Commercial Photographer

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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